Professor Jon Sprouse will be giving the third Fall Speaker Series talk this Thursday, November 18th at 3:30pm.

This will be virtual.

Below is the title and description of the talk.


Three vignettes about movement and experimental syntax


In this talk, I'd like to discuss three sets of studies currently in progress in my lab. At a theoretical level, these studies are united by their focus on the complex properties of syntactic movement. At a methodological level, they each demonstrate a different approach to using formal experiments to explore syntactic theory. And at a personal level, they give me an opportunity to share some of the interesting results that my students, postdocs, and I have found together. 

The first set of studies looks at an ERP known as the Sustained Anterior Negativity (King and Kutas 1995, et seq.), and asks whether it could be used as a diagnostic for movement dependencies. I'll first lay out three possible theories of the SAN based on current theories of working memory, and then present the results of two experiments in English and one in Korean designed to explore those theories using both movement and non-movement dependencies. (With Jayeon Park, Pietro Cerrone, and Nic Schrum).

The second looks at bridge phenomena, i.e., the possibility of moving out of an tensed embedded CP, and asks to what extent three non-structural theories can capture the variability we see across verbs: focusability (Erteschik-Shir 1973, Ambridge and Goldberg 2008), frequency (Liu et al. 2021), and prototype effects (Dabrowska 2013). To test these three theories, we have created a nearly exhaustive data set of 640 verbs in English containing extraction acceptability, negation tests of focusability, frequency, and various semantic similarity scores. (With Nick Huang and Diogo Almeida) 

The third looks at the consequences of systematically applying island effects as a diagnostic for movement in three constructions: extraposition in Russian, clitic left-dislocation in Italian, and d-linked wh-phrases in English. The results are potentially surprising in each case. (With Pasha Koval, Pietro Cerrone, and Sandra Villata)

Though these three vignettes will make for a data-dense talk, my hope is that the results will give us much to discuss about theories of movement and the value of experimental syntax in the discussion period.