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Colloquium: Kenyon Branan
February 24, 2023 @ 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm
Speaker: Kenyon Branan (Universität Göttingen)
Title: Syntax-phonology interactions and the Left Edge Ban
Syntax is commonly supposed to be autonomous, in the sense that it operates independent of considerations of other modules of the grammar, such as the phonology or the semantics. In this talk I develop an argument against the autonomy hypothesis: the syntax, in some cases, must make reference to phonological considerations in determining whether or not a syntactic operation, such as movement, should take place. The argument consists of two main parts: identifying a plausible restriction on phonological form that might motivate movement, and then demonstrating that syntactic movement does indeed take place to satisfy the restriction in question.
Towards the first goal, I discuss the Final-over-Final Condition (Sheehan, Biberauer, Roberts and Holmberg 2017), a purportedly universal ban on certain recursive syntactic complementation structures. I discuss case studies from Finnish, Georgian, and Uyghur-Mandarin code-switching that suggest, minimally, that the FOFC should be thought of as a requirement that holds at PF. I further suggest that the FOFC be assimilated to a more general restriction on prosodic structure, termed the Left Edge Ban, discussed in extensive detail in Branan (under contract). This ban, crucially, may be satisfied by moving elements in the offending configuration to other postions in the clause.
Towards the second goal, I provide a reasonably detailed discussion of a process of negation-triggered object preposing in Skou [Skou; Papua/Papua New Guinea]. While the language is generally SOV, and displays fairly inflexible word order, the arguments of a small class of verbs in the language must appear in a post-verbal position. However, in the context of a post-verbal negation particle, the aforementioned post-verbal arguments are obligatorily preposed. Noting that the presence of these post-verbal arguments between the verb and negation would lead to a violation of the Left Edge Ban, I suggest that movement is motivated to avoid violating this ban. I first show that a number of syntactic processes distinguish pre-verbal and post-verbal objects, and that arguments preposed under negation take on all relevant properties of pre-verbal objects, suggesting this movement takes place in the syntax. I further show that this process of object preposing fails to target a singular identifiable position in the clause, suggesting that preposing is not triggered by a syntactic feature located on a particular head (see also Kučerová 2007, Richards 2021 for arguments of this form). The most straightforward account, then, is one where movement takes place directly to create a well-formed phonological representation.
This suggests that we need a grammatical architecture where the syntax is allowed access to at least some phonological information, which comes into conflict with the autonomy hypothesis.