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


15 december
No Meeting (Finals Week)


8 december
LSA Practice Talks

1 december
Linguistics 221 Project Presentations

24 november
No Meeting (Thanksgiving)

17 november
Nicholas Rolle (Berkeley)
A hybrid OT-DM model: Support from a morphological conspiracy in Degema
(Practice talk for UCSC SPOT (Syntax-Prosody in Optimality Theory) workshop and LSA 2018)

This paper supports a hybrid model of Distributed Morphology (DM) termed OT-DM. In OT-DM, the spell-out from the syntactic module is a candidate set which are all potentially subject to DM operations, decomposed into a series of violable OT constraints. OT-DM is superior in accounting for a morphological conspiracy in clitic constructions in Degema. A conspiracy here is understood in the sense of Kisseberth (1970) and Prince & Smolensky (2004), where distinct input-to-output mappings are unified as the result of a single markedness constraint. This paper dovetails with a growing body of work supporting an OT-DM model (Noyer 1992; Trommer 2001, 2002; Lahne 2010; Tucker 2011; Foley to appear; Dawson to appear), and directly contrasts with a Rule & Repair DM model (Arregi & Nevins 2012).

10 november
No Meeting (Veterans Day)

3 november
Round Robin

All are welcome to present data, questions, or ideas related to syntax and semantics for discussion and feedback. 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.

27 october
No Meeting

20 october
Stefan Keine (USC)
Reconstruction two ways (joint work with Ethan Poole)

In many cases, moved constituents do not have to be interpreted in their landing site with respect to scope, but are able to reconstruct. Broadly speaking, there are two ways of modeling such reconstruction: (i) syntactic reconstruction (SynR) interprets the moved element in its launching site at LF, whereas semantic reconstruction (SemR) interprets the moved element in situ, but translates the trace into a higher-typed variable. Classical evidence for or against either account comes from interactions with binding theory, but the judgments are contested and mostly confined to English. Based on evidence from Hindi-Urdu, we observe intricate interactions between scope reconstruction, reconstruction for referential opacity, and reconstruction for binding theory, the full scope of which, we argue, remains unaccounted for on theories that recognize only SynR or only SemR. Instead, we propose that a hybrid account is warranted, where SynR and SemR coexist, but have different empirical properties. We then return to English and suggest that at least some of the disagreement about the relevant generalizations stems from a failure to control for intensionality.

19 october
Stefan Keine (USC)
Special meeting time: Thursday Oct 19th, 5:30-7 pm
Agreement reversals and the directionality of Agree (joint work with Bhamati Dash)

We observe an instance of apparent reversal of agreement directionality in Hindi-Urdu and discuss its consequences for the theory of Agree. Empirically, we show that in the normal case, verb agreement in Hindi exhibits a top-down preference: agreement is controlled by the structurally highest accessible DP. We then demonstrate that under the right circumstances, this directionality flips to a bottom-up preference: agreement is then established with the lowest accessible element. We argue based on this reversal that given a probe P on head H, (i) P's search space must not be confined to H's complement, but that it must also comprise H's specifier, (ii) search into H's specifier is a secondary process, which arises only if search into H's complement has failed, and (iii) such upward search is strictly bounded: no elements higher than HP can be reached. We show that this pattern provides evidence against current accounts in which Agree is only upward. We furthermore argue against an account of this pattern in terms of bidirectional Agree. Our own account attributes this pattern to probe projection (building on Rezac 2009 and Bejar & Rezac 2009). On this account, Agree is strictly downward looking, but able to iterate. The apparent upward agreement and directionality reversal in Hindi then follow from the cyclicity of Merge and Agree.

13 october
NELS practice talks

Boris Harizanov (Stanford) and Line Mikkelsen (Berkeley) - Resumption and cyclic chain reduction in Danish VP left dislocation

Hannah Sande (Georgetown) and Peter Jenks (Berkeley) - Cophonologies by phase

Virginia Dawson (Berkeley) - Implicating ignorance: Epistemic indefinites in Tiwa (poster)

6 october
WECOL practice talks

29 september
WECOL practice talks

22 september
Bernat Bardagil-Mas (Groningen)
Verbal inflection and clause type

In this talk, I examine and discuss novel data concerning verbal morphology in Panará. Previously believed to inflect for aspect (Dourado 2001), Panará verbs present an inflectional paradigm that appears to be sensitive to both clause type and mood. First, I show that none of the verbal inflectional forms correspond to a nominal form of the verb. I also provide supporting evidence for clause type agreement in Panará. Finally, I argue that there is no case-marking alignment split in the system of pronominal clitics. I also discuss the diachrony of such a system in an otherwise solidly accusative language family, with ergativity constrained to nominal environments.

15 september
No Meeting

8 september
Line Mikkelsen (Berkeley) and Vera Gribanova (Stanford)
Danish VP ellipsis revisited

In this talk, we show that Danish verb phrase ellipsis is transparent for wh-movement and A-movement, but not head movement. Even though finite main verbs demonstrably move outside of the verb phrase in non-elliptical root clauses, a finite main verb cannot escape VP ellipsis. We provide an explanation of this fact, bringing together recent work by Lobke Aelbrect and Craig Sailor on the licensing of ellipsis with the understanding of head movement developed by Boris Harizanov and Vera Gribanova (2017).


Aelbrecht, Lobke (2010) The syntactic licensing of ellipsis. Amsterdam/New York: Benjamins.

Harizanov, Boris and Vera Gribanova (2017) Whither Head Movement? Submitted.

Sailor, Craig (to appear) The Typology of Head Movement and Ellipsis. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory.

1 september
Round Robin

Summer ends and the Round Robin returns! 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.

25 august
No Meeting