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GRS LX 865 Topics in Linguistics. Week 3. More optional infinitives, this time with meaning. Harris & Wexler (1996). Child English bare stems as “OIs”? In the present, only morphology is 3sg - s . Bare stem isn’t unambiguously an infinitive form. No word order correlate to finiteness.

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Grs lx 865 topics in linguistics

GRS LX 865Topics in Linguistics

Week 3. More optional infinitives, this time with meaning

Harris wexler 1996
Harris & Wexler (1996)

  • Child English bare stems as “OIs”?

    • In the present, only morphology is 3sg -s.

    • Bare stem isn’t unambiguously an infinitive form.

    • No word order correlate to finiteness.

  • OIs are clearer in better inflected languages. Does English do this too? Or is it different?

  • Hypotheses:

    • Kids don’t “get” inflection yet; go and goes are basically homonyms.

    • These are OIs, the -s is correlated with something systematic about the child syntax.

Harris wexler 19961
Harris & Wexler (1996)

  • Exploring a consequence of having T in the structure: do support.

  • Rationale:

    • Main verbs do not move in English.

    • Without a modal or auxiliary, T is stranded: The verb -ed not move.

    • Do is inserted to save T.

    • Predicts: No T, no do insertion.

Harris wexler 19962
Harris & Wexler (1996)

  • Empirically, we expect:

    • She go

    • She goes

    • She not go (no T no do)

    • She doesn’t go (adult, T and do)

  • but never

    • She not goes (evidence of T, yet no do).

  • Note: All basically options if kids don’t “get” inflection.

Harris wexler 19963
Harris & Wexler (1996)

  • Looked at 10 kids from 1;6 to 4;1

    • Adam, Eve, Sara (Brown), Nina (Suppes), Abe (Kuczaj), Naomi (Sachs), Shem (Clark), April (Higginson), Nathaniel (Snow).

  • Counted sentences:

    • with no or not before the verb

    • without a modal/auxiliary

    • with unambiguous 3sg subjects

    • with either -s or -ed as inflected.

Harris wexler 19964


43% inflected


< 10% inflected

It not works Mom

no N. has a microphone

no goes in there

but the horse not stand ups

no goes here!

Harris & Wexler (1996)

Harris wexler 19965
Harris & Wexler (1996)

  • Small numbers, but in the right direction.

  • Generalization: Considering cases with no auxiliary, kids inflect about half the time normally, but almost never (up to performance errors) inflect in the negative.

  • If do is an indicator of T in the negative, we might expect to see that do appears in negatives about as often as inflection appears in affirmatives.

  • Also, basically true: 37% vs. 34% in the pre-2;6 group, 73% vs. 61% in the post-2;6 group.

Harris wexler 19966
Harris & Wexler (1996)

  • Also, made an attempt to ascertain how the form correlated with the intended meaning in terms of tense. (Note: a nontrivial margin of error…)

    • Inflected verbs overwhelmingly in the right context.

Harris wexler 19967
Harris & Wexler (1996)

  • Last, an elicitation experiment contrasting affirmative, never (no T dependence for adults), and not.

    • Does the cow always go in the barn, or does she never go?

    • Does the cow go in the barn or does she not go in the barn?

    • Do you think he always goes or do you think he never goes?

    • Do you think that he goes, or don’t you think that he goes?

Harris wexler 19968
Harris & Wexler (1996)

  • Designed to test a processing load type hypothesis: the extra load of not might be alleviated by leaving off the -s.

  • If that’s the case, we’d expect never and not to behave the same way—in fact, never might be harder, just because it’s longer (and trigger more -s drops).

Harris wexler 19969
Harris & Wexler (1996)

  • Affirmatives inflected often, not inflected rarely, never sort of inbetween.

  • Looking at the results in terms of whether the question was inflected:

  • Kids overall tended to use inflection when there was inflection in the question.

  • When the stimulus contained an -s:

    • affirmative: 15 vs. 7 (68%)

    • never: 14 vs. 16 (48%)

    • not: 4 vs. 12 (25%) —quite a bit lower.

Hoekstra hyams 1998
Hoekstra & Hyams (1998)

  • Root infinitives are a crosslinguistically attested phenomenon.

  • Fn. Children use both don’t and doesn’t. H&H suggest don’t might be a case where do is supporting n’t (rather than tense). When inverted (i.e. in utterances like Doesn’t he want to go?), the inflection is always correct according to them.

Hoekstra hyams 19981
Hoekstra & Hyams (1998)

  • Quick notes contra Radford and the no-functional-projections approach:

  • Sure, English uses bare stems. But what about the other languages that use actually marked infinitives? That infinitival marker is assumed to live in a functional projection.

  • Kids use both finite and nonfinite utterances at the same developmental point, so a maturational account seems not to work.

Interpretation and functional categories
Interpretation and functional categories

  • A basic premise of Hoekstra & Hyams (1998) is that tense is a means of connecting between the structural meaning and the discourse. Tense anchors a sentence in the discourse.

  • They propose that the relation between discourse (CP) and T must be signaled (to ground an utterance), and is signaled by different things in different languages.

    • Dutch: number morphology  only these have RIs?

    • Japanese: tense morphology

    • Italian, Spanish, Catalan: person morphology

Underspecification of number
Underspecification of number?

  • H&H propose in light of this that what’s wrong with kids has to do with number specifically. OI languages are those where number is crucial in the finite inflection.

  • H&H picked up on something about when these RIs seem to be used. It seemed that there are certain verbs that showed up in the nonfinite form, but others that didn’t.

Eventivity constraint
Eventivity Constraint

  • In particular, it seems that RIs show up only with verbs referring to events —not with verbs referring to states, not with auxiliary verbs. Finite verbs seem to have no such restriction. Original research on Dutch on French, also Russian.

  • Eventivity ConstraintRIs are restricted to event-denoting predicates.

Modal reference effect
Modal Reference Effect

  • The other thing is that RIs often have a “modal” meaning (can, will, must, want to..) (pretty dramatic in Dutch, German, French).

  • Modal Reference EffectWith overwhelming frequency, RIs have modal interpretations.

English weird
English = weird

  • English doesn’t seem to conform to the pattern. Ud Deen (1997) found:

    • plenty of bare stative verbs(*EC)

      • Man have it

      • Ann need Mommy napkin

      • Papa want apple

    • plenty of non-modal bare verbs(*MRE)

      • Dutch: 86% of RIs have modal meaning. Cf. 3%of finite forms.

      • English: 13% of bare forms have modal meaning Cf, 12% of finite forms..

Null modal hypothesis
Null Modal Hypothesis

  • A possible explanation for this is that RIs are simply utterances with an unpronounced modal. This would for the most part make sense.

    • Mommy (should) not go.

    • Eve (will) sit on (the) floor.

  • Explains why the verb is non-finite, explains why it behaves nonfinite (null modal is doing all the tensed verb stuff, like V2, etc.). A quite elegant explanation.

Problems with nmh rats
Problems with NMH (rats!)

  • RIs and finite utterances have different properties, but the NMH obliterates any distinction we can use to capture that (both are finite under NMH).

    • E.g., topicalization in German, Dutch, Swedish (all V2), which never occurs with RIs, but often occurs with finite forms.

    • E.g., wh-questions in German, Dutch, Swedish, French, which never occur with RIs, but often occur otherwise.

H h s hypothesis
H&H’s hypothesis

  • Number is an inflectional property both of the nominal and the verbal system.

    • though it arises in the nominal system.

  • Missing determiners and RIs are both a symptom of “underspecified” Number.

  • Spec-head agreementcommunicates number(under)specificationto the verb.

H h 1998 bucld
H&H (1998) BUCLD

  • Looked at Niek (CHILDES, Dutch).

  • They found that with “finite DPs”, the verb was pretty much always finite too.

  • They found that with “nonfinite DPs”, the verb was somewhat more likely to be nonfinite than with a finite DP, but still overwhelmingly favored finite DPs.

  • Only null subjects didn’t overwhelmingly favor finite V. (NS 45% nonfinite).

H h 1998 bucld1
H&H (1998) BUCLD

  • All things being equal, we might have expected a 1:1 correlation between finite DP subjects and finite V, if it were a matter of Spec-head agreement. We don’t have that. We have a one-directional relation.

  • If DP is finite, V is finite.

  • If V is nonfinite, DP is nonfinite.

H h 1998 bucld2
H&H (1998) BUCLD

  • In a sense, one setting “cares” about its partner in the Spec-Head relationship, and the other setting doesn’t.

    • Finite V seems not to care whether the subject is finite or not.

    • Nonfinite V does seem to care, and requires a nonfinite subject.

  • More specifically, there is a “default”, and the “default” does not need to be licensed (whereas non-defaults do).

H h 1998 bucld3
H&H (1998) BUCLD

  • In Dutch, 3sg is default.

    • 1sg verb licensed only by a 1sg subject.

    • 3sg verb licensed by any old subject.

  • In English, 3sg is not the default. It’s the one marked form.

    • 3sg verb licensed only by a 3sg subject.

    • bare verb licensed by any old subject.

Grs lx 865 topics in linguistics

  • The doggie bark.

  • He bark

  • Doggie sit here.

  • *Doggie barks.

  • *Het hondje hier zitten.

  • *He hier zitten.

  • Hondje hier zitten.

  • Hondje zit hier.

Cf sch tze wexler
cf. Schütze & Wexler

  • “…the English bare form is ambiguous between an infinitive … and a finite form…” (H&H98:101)

  • Although stated in different terminology, and addressing a slightly different arena of facts, the basic concept is the same as that in S&W96.

    • [+T+A] -> finite (-s)

    • [+T-A], [-T+A], [-T-A] -> “nonfinite” (stem)

      • but +A ones will have +A properties (e.g. NOM), just stem form. Same for +T.

English bare form infinitive
English bare form ≠ infinitive

  • S&W and H&H agree that the English bare form isn’t strictly speaking (necessarily) the true infinitive.

H h and interpretation
H&H and interpretation

  • Claim: RIs are interpreted as [-realized], the contribution of the infinitival morpheme itself.

  • Languages with an infinitival morpheme and actual RIs should show 100% modal ([-realized]) interpretation with RIs.

  • English, with a Ø infinitival morpheme, obscures the correlation; in practice, we expect only some (the actually infinitive) bare forms to be modal.

Epistemic vs deontic
epistemic vs. deontic

  • John must leave.

  • Deontic: About the way the world isn’t now but needs to be.

  • John must know French.

  • Epistemic: About the way the world is (now).

  • Seems to be a correlation between “eventivity” and modality type, in the adult language.

Modality and kids
Modality and kids

  • In other circles of research, people have proposed that kids basically “don’t have” epistemic uses of modality (John must be a genius) before about 3 years old—for whatever reason.

  • If that’s true, there’s only deontic modality (John must go to class).

  • If deontic modality only goes with eventive predicates, we’re done. Kids RIs are modal, necessarily deontic, hence necessarily with eventive verbs.

English must be different
English must be different

  • English bare forms are not (necessarily) infinitives, not necessarily modal, hence not necessarily deontic, eventive.

  • Hence, the EC and MRE seem not to hold of English, but for reasons we can now understand.

English be
English be

  • Becker (2000) BUCLD studied the interpretive patterns with the copula be in English (and when it is dropped).

  • Looked at Nina, Peter, and Naomi, 2;0 to 2;3-5.

    • existential: There is a man in the garden. Always there.

    • nominal predicative: John is a student. Just about always there.

    • adjectival predicative: John is tall, John is sick. There about half the time.

    • locative predicative: The book is on the table. Rarely there.

Becker 2000
Becker (2000)

  • Becker observes that this hints at a distinction between inherent and accidental properties of things. (“individual-level” vs. “stage-level”).

    • John is a boy. John is tall.

    • My pen is on the floor. John is sick.

  • Dividing adjectival predicates this way (tall vs. sick), we get about 80% be with individual-level and about 40% be with stage-level. Cf. around 20% with locatives.

    • Both 20% and 40% are considered low.

Becker 20001
Becker (2000)

  • Cf. the stative/eventive distinction?

  • Statives are kind of timeless, like individual-level predicates.

  • Eventives are kind of time-specified, like stage-level predicates.

  • They are different—John is sick is a stage-level stative—but they might respond to similar distinction.

    • Existentials (there’s a camel) unexpectedly always show up with be. Becker proposes that part of the way expletives like there work requires be to be there. (ed: MB’s exx. look like inverted locatives to me…)

Wexler 2000
Wexler (2000)

  • In terms of ATOM, Wexler suggests that be is special in that if either TP or AgrSP is missing, be is not spelled out at all. Be is the most inflected verb form in English, the most sensitive to both T and Agr.

    • am, are, is, was, were

  • Following a widely known analysis of Molly Diesing’s, he suggests that subjects of individual-level predicates start higher (outside VP, say in SpecTP). Thus, no need to omit either TP or AgrP for individual-level predicates, hence we should always find be.

Wexler 20001
Wexler (2000)

  • With respect to eventivity, Wexler raises doubts about whether it’s really about “eventivity” vs. “stativity” or whether we again have a “stage-level” vs. “individual-level” question.

  • For example, see/hear seem to actually be stative (*John is seeing/hearing the baseball game) but stage-level, while love is stative and individual-level. The first kind occur in the RI, the second kind don’t. Perhaps it’s really again stage-vs.-individual-level, where subjects start higher with individual-level predicates.

Wexler 20002
Wexler (2000)

  • Finite null subjects. Hamann discussed this question: If null subjects are licensed by RIs, what should we say about the null subjects with finite verbs? W had previously said “topic drop”, but H showed that Danish kids’ use of null subjects with finite verbs correlated highly with the use of RIs in general.

Wexler 20003
Wexler (2000)

  • Are there really lots of null subjects with finite verbs? Perhaps not—perhaps some of the “finite verbs” are really the RIs.

  • Idea: There is no agreement marking per se (agreement is always null), but the form of the tense node differs depending on whether agreement is there.

    • If there are agreement features around, spell out “er” (“present”), regardless of the value or presence of tense features.

    • Past, “de”, otherwise “e” (default, infinitive)

  • Point: køb-erlooks like present tense finite, but it could be missing T (hence legitimately license NS).

Wexler 2000 vs danish
Wexler (2000) vs. Danish

  • That is,

    • [+Agr, +Tns] køb-er (present) (adult)

    • [-Agr, +Tns] køb-e (infinitive) no NS allowed

    • [-Agr, -Tns] køb-e (infinitive) NS allowed

    • [+Agr, -Tns] køb-er (“present”) NS allowed.

    • Predicts: No NS’s with past tense verbs like køb-de (since unambiguously +Tns, which is the thing that prevents NS). True?

Hamann 2002 vs wexler
Hamann (2002) vs. Wexler

  • Well, not really vanishingly small…

  • Jens (20-34 mos.s) 14/42 (33%) NS past.

  • Anne (18-30 mos.) 13/33 (39%) NS past.

  • Maybe we’ve got 3 functional projections?

  • TP is there. If either of the others are missing, no NS, but if both are missing NS is ok? That would give us a third.

A pause to regroup
A pause to regroup

  • English bare form is unmarked, only -s is unambiguously +T+A.

  • Do is a reflex of +T (and/or +A), and as expected, almost never in negative sentences was there a post-negation inflected verb (she doesn’t go vs. *she not goes).

  • The actual infinitive morpheme in English is Ø, so we can’t differentiate bare forms between infinitives and other bare forms.

  • The infinitive morpheme seems to carry modal meaning—in languages where you can see it you can tell. Effectively RI only with eventives.

A pause to regroup1
A pause to regroup

  • H&H propose that the languages which show OIs are those which rely (only) on number in their inflectional system. Those that don’t (Japanese [tense only], Italian [person]) seem to be immune. Hence, person is the special, possibly omitted thing for kids.

  • This isn’t really distinctly at odds with ATOM. Wexler suggests that the problem is with double-movement of the subject, but movement of the subject might itself be driven by person features in recent versions of the syntactic thy.

A pause to regroup2
A pause to regroup

  • H&H observed a correlation between specified (“finite”) subjects and verbal form.

  • Specifically,”finite” subjects seem to “cause” finite verbs. Not obvious why this would be under ATOM directly, but it might be something like what H&H suggest—there is feature sharing between the subject and the AgrP. It might be interesting to see if “finite” subjects necessarily always show the reflex of AgrP and not necessarily of TP.

A pause to regroup3
A pause to regroup

  • The presence of be seems to be correlated with something like the stative/eventive distinction: individual-level vs. stage-level properties.

  • Jury is probably still out on which is crucial, because there is such overlap.

  • Adult syntactic analyses put individual-level subjects higher, perhaps able to escape the UCC (*double-movement) requirement.

Bucld notes
BUCLD notes

  • Friday:

    • Hamann on French functional categories in normal vs. impaired kids

    • Kazanina & Philipps on comprehension of aspect by Russian kids

    • Berger-Morales & Salustri on RIs and bilingual acquisition?

    • Serratrice & Sorace on overt and null subjects in Italian mono- & bi-lingual acq.

  • Sunday:

    • Sigurjonsdottir on RIs vs. finite verbs in Icelandic.

    • Ud Deen: Underspec’d verb sand subject drop in Swahili

    • Salustri & Hyams: Analogue of RI stage in NS lgs?

Comments about nina13
Comments about nina13

  • When I did it…

  • I found about 70 relevant utterances (where there is a pronoun subject and the verb is unambiguous) to pass on to the “subjects” sheet.

  • Of those I omitted around 10 as repetitions or otherwise uninformative.

  • Be particularly careful about the lower bounds on these larger blocks—nina13 is a bigger file than peter07, and so you will occasionally need to increase some of the numbers to get all of the utterances in.

Grs lx 865 topics in linguistics

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