Investigating Information Structure: theoretical and methodological perspectives — Henry Davis & Michael Rochemont
Information Structure (IS) is relevant to every area of linguistic investigation. It finds expression in natural language in intonational and segmental phonology, and in morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. The last couple of decades have seen an explosion of work on its ramifications for theoretical and experimental research in the phonetics/phonology, phonology/syntax, syntax/semantics, and semantics/pragmatics interfaces, and in areas as diverse as field work, corpus linguistics, psycholinguistics (L1 and L2 acquisition and processing), L2 pedagogy, language disorders, historical linguistics, computational linguistics, and neurobiology. In this course, we investigate the central theoretical notions of IS (focus, givenness and topic), with a special emphasis on the methodological issues that they give rise to in both experimental and fieldwork contexts. For example, how do we go about establishing IS generalizations in an understudied language with few and often elderly speakers? What constitutes sufficient evidence for an IS generalization? How much context is enough? Can we investigate the syntax and semantics of IS without examining its phonological and phonetic effects, and vice-versa?
Alternation: exploring the morphology-phonology borderlands — Gunnar Hansson & Doug Pulleyblank
Our focus of attention in this graduate seminar is alternations, their analysis, and how they figure in the demarcation and division of labour between morphology and phonology and in models of the interface between these two components of grammar.
What counts as genuine “phonological” alternation vs. something else (“just morphology”, “allomorphy”, “listed exceptions”, “inflectional classes”)? Is this a linguistically valid distinction? What are the relevant criteria?
● productivity, frequency, generality?
● phonological conditioning?
● limitation to particular sets of lexical items or morphological constructions?
● phonological naturalness (nonarbitrariness)?
● parallels with phonotactic generalizations (surfacetrueness)?
We will approach these topics from different perspectives, considering for example their implications for issues of representational complexity and abstractness, learnability, lexical representation and storage, etc. Drawing on a variety of morphophonological phenomena (e.g. exceptionality, derived environment effects, nonconcatenative exponence, prosodic morphology, reference to domains or boundaries) and types of alternation (assimilation, epenthesis, polarity, etc.), we will examine these in the light of different theoretical models of phonology and morphosyntax and the interface between these components of grammar.