Clausal Arguments in Bantu and Beyond

Course time: 
Monday/Thursday 11:00 AM-12:50 PM
The 90, Room 202

How are clauses able to function as arguments of a predicate? What syntactic requirements must hold—of the predicate and/or the clause—to permit this relationship? What strategies do languages use to introduce clausal arguments—and what are the implications of these strategies for other aspects of the syntax? In this course, we will investigate these and related questions through the lens of the Bantu language family. The Bantu languages are a particularly interesting setting for this investigation in several respects. Bantu languages have a large number of clausal complementation strategies and often have morphologically complex complementizers; we can use these complex and morphologically rich strategies to explore the connections between particular clausal syntax and clausal distribution, phase effects, and modality (e.g. Baker et al., 2012; Diercks, 2013; Halpert, 2015, to appear). Comparing Bantu languages also allows us to isolate the effects that small variations in the syntactic properties of a clausal argument can have on the grammar very similar languages. After sorting out these patterns in the confines of Bantu, we will look at evidence of similar patterns in typologically unrelated languages (e.g. Aboh, 2010; Baker, 2011; Moulton, 2015). In particular, we will look at the behavior of finite clauses with respect to case (e.g. Stowell 1981, Kempchinsky 1992, a.o.), the distribution of phi features on different clause types in Bantu, the status of subject clauses, A- and A-bar extraction out of different clause types, and the expression of modality in the morphosyntax of Bantu complementizers. We’ll compare the Bantu picture to grounding puzzles and proposals concerning English clausal arguments (e.g. Stowell, 1981; Grimshaw, 1990; Pesetsky, 1991), to theories of clausal embedding as relativization (e.g. Aboh, 2010; Caponigro and Polinsky, 2011), and to the behavior of head-initial CPs in head final languages.