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Speculations on the syntax of adverbial clauses

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  • UserProf. Liliane Haegeman (Universit√© Charles de Gaulle, Lille III/ STL - UMR 8163 CNRS)
  • ClockFriday 18 May 2007, 10:00-12:00
  • HouseG-R06, English Faculty.

If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Theresa Biberauer.

NB: This talk is also part of the Li8 (Structure of English) course.

Speculations on the syntax of adverbial clauses

English (‘central’) adverbial clauses are incompatible with argument fronting (1a) (Haegeman 2006) and with markers of epistemic modality (1b) (Nilsen 2004), while initial adjuncts are allowed (1c).

#1. When this book I find, I will buy it. (bad)

#2. I will come when it may be warmer. (bad)

#3. When next week he’s not here, I’ll call him. (okay)

I will first review an earlier analysis (Haegeman 2003 etc.) of these data in which I related the absence of topicalisation in adverbial clauses directly to the absence of illocutionary force, as encoded by a specialised functional head, ‘Force’ (Rizzi 1997). I will show that this analysis poses a range of theoretical and empirical problems.

In the presentation I will propose an alternative analysis according to which the absence of topicalisation in adverbial clauses such as (1a) is accounted for by assuming that such clauses are derived by movement of a (possibly null) operator to the left periphery. (For movement analyses of adverbial clauses cf. Geis 1975, Larson 1987, 1990, Dubinsky & Williams 1995, Penner & Bader 1995, Demirdache & Etxebarria 2004, Bhatt & Pancheva 2002, 2006.) Some suggestive cross linguistic and diachronic evidence will be provided in support of this analysis. A movement analysis of adverbial clauses allows us to account for the patterns displayed in (1) as well as for a number of other phenomena such as:

(i) the fact that a specific set of adverbial clauses in English (‘peripheral adverbial clauses’) are compatible with topicalisation and with markers of epistemic modality (Haegeman 2006); (ii) the fact that adverbial clauses are more easily compatible with clitic left dislocation in Romance; (iii) the fact that among adverbial clauses in French a distinction is to be found between those that licence stylistic inversion of the subject without requiring any additional trigger and those that require a specific trigger for stylistic inversion (Lahousse 2003, 2005).

Time permitting I will speculate whether the movement analysis may also account for the difference in the distribution of epistemic and evidential modal markers in central and peripheral adverbial clauses.

This talk is part of the SyntaxLab series.

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