Lefteris Paparounas will be defending their dissertation, titled Voice from syntax to syncretism, on November 17 at 12 noon EST. 

The defense will take place in person in the Linguistics Library (open to everyone with building access), and on Zoom.


Title: Voice from syntax to syncretism 


Supervisor: David Embick

Committee: Julie Anne Legate, Florian Schwarz, Martin Salzmann (Universität Potsdam), Elena Anagnostopoulou (University of Crete)


This dissertation provides an investigation of the syntactic, morphological and interpretive properties of voice on the basis of a number of case studies from Modern Greek. The focus throughout is on diagnosing aspects of the syntax of argument introduction, and on reconciling these with the morphology and interpretation of argument relations. In so doing, I show that the core properties of the Greek voice system can be insightfully captured under an understanding of grammatical architecture where morphology is both syntactically informed and autonomous in the way it interprets and adjusts the output of the syntax.

The dissertation takes as its starting point a central fact concerning the realization of voice in Greek, namely, Voice syncretism, whereby a number of arguably distinct argument-structural configurations opposed to the active syncretize into the same set of morphological exponents. In Chapter 2, I show that the analysis of this phenomenon is illuminated by that of a second crucial fact of Greek verbal morphology, namely, Voice displacement: though we expect Voice distinctions to reside low in the syntactic structure, in Greek they appear indexed on word-peripheral affixes. A sharpened understanding of the two phenomena makes it possible to defend and make precise an analysis that links nonactive morphology to the absence of a thematic subject, and that affords nonactive, but not `active', a privileged status at PF.

This perspective on the origins of Voice syncretism raises vexing questions for the syntax of verbal reflexives, one of the syncretizing categories par excellence. Verbal reflexives and reciprocals systematically bear nonactive morphology even though, unlike passives and their ilk, their surface subject is clearly linked to the agent role. In Chapter 3, I resolve the puzzle by showing that Greek evidences true unaccusative reflexives, whereby a structure employing a single syntactic argument originating low in the verbal phrase yields a reflexive interpretation. The resulting analysis sheds light on the nature of reflexive interpretations broadly construed, and on the differences between pronominal and verbal reflexivity more specifically.

Finally, Chapter 4 takes up the issue of argument introduction in (stative) passives in Greek. After establishing that eventive passives bear the structural profile that ensures their systematic participation in the syncretism, I deploy eventive passives as a comparandum against which to probe the issue of inheritance of verbal properties in the stative passive. I uncover a range of novel generalizations that suggest the event and argument structure of the stative passive is distinguished from the eventive, and argue that the contrasts follow if Greek stative passives instantiate a `small' mixed category, effectively an instance of complex head formation.