The Circle is a weekly forum dedicated to discussion of the descriptive, experimental, and theoretical study of syntax and semantics, featuring presentations of ongoing research by members of the Berkeley Linguistics Department and other departments, as well as discussion of previously published works.


Fridays, 3:00-4:30pm


1303 Dwinelle Hall


Virginia Dawson

Erik Hans Maier


University of California, Berkeley
Department of Linguistics


23 february
Steven Foley (UC Santa Cruz) and Maziar Toosarvandani (UC Santa Cruz)
Variation and uniformity in constraints on clitic combinations

Languages that have clitic pronouns frequently prohibit certain combinations of these clitics (e.g., the Person-Case Constraint). Why do these constraints restrict just clitic pronouns, not arguments more generally? And, why are only some combinations of clitics prohibited and not others? We identify two patterns in the clitic combinations that are allowed across languages and across phi-domains (across person and gender). These patterns arise, we propose, from how clitics are licensed syntactically; certain asymmetries point, in particular, to the universal role played by a cyclic version of Agree in clitic licensing. The attested variation across languages in how they constrain clitic combinations can then be derived entirely from variation in their lexicons.


9 february
No Meeting (44th Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society)

2 february
Deniz Rudin (UC Santa Cruz)
Rising Intonation: Declaratives, Interrogatives, and Imperatives

In this talk, I present an account of the contribution of steep, monotonically rising intonational tunes (L* H-H%) to the meaning of an utterance. Presupposing a tripartite division of utterance meaning into sentence meaning (a.k.a. denotation), proposed update, and speaker commitment (e.g. Farkas & Bruce 2010, Farkas & Roelofsen 2017), I give a treatment of the L* H-H% tune as communicating that the speaker is making no commitments by virtue of their utterance (cf. Truckenbrodt 2006). I show that this account both explains why L* H-H% is the `default’ intonation for interrogatives, and is able to derive the distribution and characteristic biases of rising declaratives (q.v. Gunlogson 2001, Gunlogson 2008, Malamud & Stephenson 2015, Westera 2017, Jeong to appear) entirely from pragmatic reasoning about the speaker’s choice to use a rising declarative instead of a falling declarative or polar interrogative. I close with an empirical discussion of the discourse behavior of imperative sentences accompanied by the L* H-H% tune, which have gone largely ignored in prior literature (though see Bolinger 1989 and Portner 2015), and show that behavior to pose insurmountable problems for the only prior formal account of rising imperatives of which I am aware (Portner 2015), as well as significant problems for prior accounts of the basic meaning of imperatives (especially Kaufmann 2012 and Condoravdi & Lauer 2012). I extend my account of the L* H-H% tune to rising imperatives, proposing a novel tripartite division of the meaning of utterances of imperative sentences building on prior proposals for their denotations (e.g. Kaufmann 2012, von Fintel & Iatridou 2017), update potential (e.g. Portner 2004, Starr to appear), and commitment status (Condoravdi & Lauer 2012, 2017).

26 january
Round Robin

All are welcome to present data, questions, or ideas related to syntax and semantics for discussion and feedback. According to hallowed tradition, names of those who want to present will be drawn from a hat and presenters will have up to 5 minutes to discuss their topic.

19 january
No Meeting