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McMaster University

Faculty of Humanities

Work in progress

Syntax-semantics interface, agreement, labelling & such:

most of my current work concerns narrow-syntax features at the syntax-semantics interface, timing of derivations and the interactions of the interfaces; at the very core of our theorizing, we assume that a larger structure is represented by a label of its maximal projection or a phase (e.g., Chomsky 2013, 2015) but we do not have a good theory of which features form a label and what happens if there is more than one feature of the same type present in the search domain of a label; in previous work, I developed an explicit theory of how mapping syntactic features onto their semantic representations might look like. My ongoing work explores consequences of this approach and investigates the division of labour between syntax and semantics in the domain of features further.

Some related handouts:

  • a WCCFL 41 (May 2023) handout on Agree and agreement; our claim is that a probe can enter into only a single Agree relation with a particular goal — a principle we call “Agree only once”. If another relation is established between the probe and its goal,it must be post-syntactic but mediated by features made accessible by the primary Agree relation. We motivate this principle by investigating variable agreement with complex nominals but the condition is general and makes predictions for other syntactic relations based on Agree
  • I have further developed the insights from the joint work with Alan Munn about the methodological separation of syntactic features from their interpretation and morphological realizations in my newest work (Kucerova 2023, in preparation). I investigate the syntax of φ-features, specifically, grammatical gender, and argue for a system where the gender feature can – and does – undergo feature movement to higher functional projections which results in feature bundling with other features. I demonstrate that some of the diagnostics used in the literature to probe the gender feature in fact target other features the gender feature bundles with. To uncover the underlying narrow syntax feature structures our diagnostics must carefully separate post-syntactic reflexes from their syntactic underpinning. The typological space of gender systems can then be characterized in familiar terms of what has been dubbed the Borer-Chomsky’s conjecture, instead of postulating any special syntax or feature geometry for φ-features and their morphological realization in agreement.
  • a MayFest 2022 handout on ongoing work with Alan Munn on labelling, Agree, and agreement; our claim is that both sets and kinds of features that represent a syntactic object (what we call a `label’) can vary depending on what syntactic relation the object enters; the proposal accounts for variable agreement with coordinations and other complex nominals but the account is more general What has labelling ever done for us?
  • an application and refining the theory developed in my LI 2018 paper on phi-features on associative constructions
  • rethinking systematic homophonies in the domain of functional categories as a function of a polarity operation on syntactic features (i*star) (joint work with Adam Szczegelniak) Slavic meets Semitic: Nominal functional categories as underspecified heads
  • investigating gender-feature geometry of gender, with a special focus on neuter; this work argues that gender is not a cross-linguistically uniformed category, and that even within a single language different gender values can occupy distinct functional heads (result of feature movement to a higher functional projection); the proposal explains why some gender values in some languages are in complementary distribution with classifiers, while in others they do not, and why gender associates with animacy in some languages but not others: Slavic meets Semitic: Nominal functional categories as underspecified heads

Some older work in syntax in various stages of progress: