General programme, activity sheet

Thursday 18 September, 2014 11:30 to 12:00 Oral presentation
Code switching: the origin of syntactic dependencies
Authors: Luis López, M. Carmen Parafita Couto


Dependencies between a head and a phrase are a fact of language: dependency between T and the DP “subject”, dependency between v and THE DP "object", between wh-phrase and C. Since Chomsky (1981) it has also been assumed that these dependencies are involved in movement: either the need to establish a dependency triggers movement (Chomsky 1988) or movement is a consequence of the dependency (Chomsky 2000). Over the years, generative grammar has vacillated regarding the trigger of these dependencies: is it a property of the head (C,T,v) or a property of the XP (Case on the DP) that generates the need of a dependency? Let’s call these hypothesis the H-hypothesis and the XP-hypothesis. This paper tries to contribute to this debate by using Spanish-English code switching (CS) data. As is well known, the verb and the object need to be adjacent in English but not in Spanish. The work of Johnson 1991, Koizumi 1993 and many other pieces of work leads to a particular type of answer: English object raises to a position (to the right of v), while the Spanish object can stay in situ (or maybe moved to the right, that’s unimportant). The order VAdvObj is ungrammatical in English because a dependency between v and Obj has not been satisfied. This extra condition is absent in Spanish. Taking these assumptions for granted, we can use Spanish/English CS as a way to test the competing H and XP. 40 Spanish-English bilinguals born and raised in Puerto Rico participated in the study, which included two online grammaticality judgment tasks. First experiment. Let’s assume that H triggers dependencies (and therefore hosts the feature whose lack of satisfaction may lead to ungrammaticality). If so (1) would be grammatical and (2) ungrammatical: (1) Juan cocinó cuidadosamente/carefully the omelette. (2) Juan cooked cuidadosamente/carefully la tortilla Let’s assume XP triggers dependencies. Then (1) is ungrammatical and (2) is acceptable. Second experiment. Participants were presented with sentences like (3) and (4). In these examples, the determiner and the verb are in the same language, while the actual noun phrase is in the other language: (3) Juan cocinó cuidadosamente/carefully la omelette. (4) Juan cooked cuidadosamente/carefully the tortilla. This sort of example allows us to separate the contribution of D and N to the make-up of the dependency. The results will be discussed beyond the realms of code-switching to develop new insights into what code-switching can tell us about syntactic dependencies and the language faculty more generally. References Johnson, Kyle. 1991. Object Positions. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 9, 577–637. Koizumi, Masatoshi. 1995. Phrase Structure in the Minimalist Program. Unpublished Doctoral dissertation, MIT, Cambridge, MA.
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Paper session A1
Place: Room 0

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