Feature sharing in agreement
This article discusses the mechanism of feature sharing in the analysis of agreement across theories. We argue that there are agreement phenomena that require an agreement mechanism which is both symmetric and feature sharing. Our main argument relies on a Latin nominalized clause construction which has until now remained ill understood. We show that this construction requires a feature sharing and symmetrical approach to agreement. We also show that phenomena in Tsez and in Algonquian that have so far been described in terms of long distance agreement lend themselves to a treatment in terms of feature sharing, and we look at the consequences for the theory of agreement. We show that there are also cases of agreement which resist a feature-sharing treatment. This means that we cannot pin down a single agree mechanism. Some agreement phenomena require feature sharing, others do not, and yet others are incompatible with feature sharing.
Are compound words represented as unitary lexical units, or as individual constituents that are processed combinatorially? We investigated the neuro-cognitive processing of compounds using EEG and a passive-listening oddball design in which lexical access and combinatorial processing elicit dissociating Mismatch Negativity (MMN) brain-response patterns. MMN amplitude varied with compound frequency and semantic transparency (the clarity of the relationship between compound and constituent meanings). Opaque compounds elicited an enhanced 'lexical' MMN, reflecting stronger lexical representations, to high- vs. low-frequency compounds. Transparent compounds showed no frequency effect, nor differed to pseudo-compounds, reflecting the combination of a reduced 'syntactic' MMN indexing combinatorial links, and an enhanced 'lexical' MMN for real-word compounds compared to pseudo-compounds. We argue that transparent compounds are processed combinatorially alongside parallel lexical access of the whole-form representation, but whole-form access is the dominant mechanism for opaque compounds, particularly those of high-frequency. Results support a flexible dual-route account of compound processing.
Aims and Scope
Earlier empirical studies on valency have looked at the phenomenon either in individual languages or a small range of languages, or have concerned themselves with only small subparts of valency (e.g. transitivity, ditransitive constructions), leaving a lacuna that the present volume aims to fill by considering a wide range of valency phenomena across 30 languages from different parts of the world. The individual-language studies, each written by a specialist or group of specialists on that language and covering both valency patterns and valency alternations, are based on a questionnaire (reproduced in the volume) and an on-line freely accessible database, thus guaranteeing comparability of cross-linguistic results. In addition, introductory chapters provide the background to the project and discuss its main characteristics and selected results, while a series of featured articles by leading scholars who helped shape the field provide an outside perspective on the volume’s approach. The volume is essential reading for anyone interested in valency and argument structure, irrespective of theoretical persuasion, and will serve as a model for future descriptive studies of valency in individual languages.
Russian FrameBank is a bank of annotated samples from the Russian National Corpus which documents the use of lexical constructions (e.g. argument constructions of verbs and nouns). FrameBank belongs to FrameNet-oriented resources, but unlike Berkeley FrameNet it focuses more on the morphosyntactic and semantic features of individual lexemes rather than the generalized frames, following the theoretical approaches of Construction Grammar (Ch. Fillmore, A. Goldberg, etc.) and of Moscow Semantic School (Ju. D. Apresjan, E. V. Paducheva, etc.).
A controversial issue in neuro- and psycholinguistics is whether regular past-tense forms of verbs are stored lexically or generated productively by the application of abstract combinatorial schemas, for example affixation rules. The success or failure of models in accounting for this particular issue can be used to draw more general conclusions about cognition and the degree to which abstract, symbolic representations and rules are psychologically and neurobiologically real. This debate can potentially be resolved using a neurophysiological paradigm, in which alternative predictions of the brain response patterns for lexical and syntactic processing are put to the test. We used magnetoencephalography (MEG) to record neural responses to spoken monomorphemic words ('hide'), pseudowords ('smide'), regular past-tense forms ('cried') and ungrammatical (overregularised) past-tense forms ('flied') in a passive listening oddball paradigm, in which lexically and syntactically modulated stimuli are known to elicit distinct patterns of the mismatch negativity (MMN) brain response. We observed an enhanced ('lexical') MMN to monomorphemic words relative to pseudowords, but a reversed ('syntactic') MMN to ungrammatically inflected past tenses relative to grammatical forms. This dissociation between responses to monomorphemic and bimorphemic stimuli indicates that regular past tenses are processed more similarly to syntactic sequences than to lexically stored monomorphemic words, suggesting that regular past tenses are generated productively by the application of a combinatorial scheme to their separately represented stems and affixes. We suggest discrete combinatorial neuronal assemblies, which bind classes of sequentially occurring lexical elements into morphologically complex units, as the neurobiological basis of regular past tense inflection.
We investigated neural distinctions between inflectional and derivational morphology and their interaction with lexical frequency using the mismatch negativity (MMN), an established neurophysiological index of experience-dependent linguistic memory traces and automatic syntactic processing. We presented our electroencephalography (EEG) study participants with derived and inflected words of variable lexical frequencies against their monomorphemic base forms in a passive oddball paradigm, along with acoustically matched pseudowords. Sensor space and distributed source modelling results showed that at 100-150 msec after the suffix onset, derived words elicited larger responses than inflected words. Furthermore, real derived words showed advantage over pseudo-derivations and frequent derivations elicited larger activation than less frequent ones. This pattern of results is fully in line with previous research that explained lexical MMN enhancement by an activation of strongly connected word-specific long-term memory circuits, and thus suggests stronger lexicalisation for frequently used complex words. At the same time, a strikingly different pattern was found for inflectional forms: higher response amplitude for pseudo-inflections than for real inflected words, with no clear frequency effects. This is fully in line with previous MMN results on combinatorial processing of (morpho)syntactic stimuli: higher response to ungrammatical morpheme strings than grammatical ones, which does not depend on the string's surface frequency. This pattern suggests that, for inflectional forms, combinatorial processing route dominates over whole-form storage and access. In sum, our results suggest that derivations are more likely to form unitary representations than inflections which are likely to be processed combinatorially, and imply at least partially distinct brain mechanisms for the processing and representation of these two types of morphology. These dynamic mechanisms, underpinned by perisylvian networks, are activated rapidly, at 100-150 msec after the information arrives at the input, and in a largely automatic fashion, possibly providing neural basis for the first-pass morphological processing of spoken words.