Cross-Methodological Approaches to Syntax and Semantics (XMASS) minilab
The XMASS minilab was initiated thanks to the Primus program of the Charles University and its Faculty of Arts (2019-2022). Its aim is to study natural language syntax and semantics without any a priori methodological or framework-based bias. Members of the XMASS minilab come from different theoretical backgrounds (from generative to usage-based) and use a variety of methods (experiment, corpus, typology, fieldwork). The cross-methodological concept of the minilab has crystalized from the conviction that different methods and even frameworks are complementary and can be fruitfully combined in the quest for the understanding of various linguistic phenomena.
Current/Upcoming projects (see below)
From interrogatives to relatives (2019-2022)
Modelling the question-statement opposition in Slavic languages/QueSlav (2022-2024)
Klára Matiasovitsová (L1 acquisition) profile
Adam Pospíšil (Arabic, fieldwork)
Jakub Sláma (corpus, usage-based) profile
Hana Strachoňová (sign language) profile
From interrogatives to relatives
From interrogatives to relatives is funded by the Primus program. Our starting point is a set of cross-linguistic generalizations about the behavior of wh-words and wh-constructions, suggesting a consistently asymmetric relation between wh-interrogatives and wh-based relatives (a paper on these is in preparation):
- While interrogative or correlative wh-in-situ is commonplace, there is no wh-in-situ in headed or free relatives (or it is extremely rare).
- If wh-words in interrogatives and relatives move to different positions, relative ones always move higher.
- Relative pronouns are identical or mophologically derived from interrogative ones; never conversely.
- Sortal wh-paradigms get reduced on the way from interrogatives through correlatives and unconditionals to free and headed relatives.
- The following robust implicational tendencies hold: If L uses wh-words for headed relatives, it uses them for free relatives; if it uses them for free relatives, it uses them for correlatives and/or unconditionals; if it uses them for correlatives and/or unconditionals, it uses them for interrogatives.
The project investigates various issues related to the above generalizations, including the compositional semantics of relative pronouns, the typology and nanosyntax of relative and related pronouns, L1 acquisition of English and Czech wh-words in various wh-constructions, microvariation of wh-word use in Arabic vernaculars, competing relativization strategies in Czech, and wh-words and relative clauses in the Czech Sign Language.
Šimík, Radek. 2021. Free relatives. In Daniel Gutzmann, Lisa Matthewson, Cécile Meier, Hotze Rullmann, and Thomas E. Zimmermann (eds.), The Wiley Blackwell companion to semantics. John Wiley & Sons. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118788516.sem093
Šimík, Radek. 2020. Doubling unconditionals and relative sluicing. Natural Language Semantics. 28(1), 1-21. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11050-019-09157-4
Biskup, Petr and Radek Šimík. 2019. Structure of conditional and (cor)relative clauses: New evidence from locality. In Maggie Baird and Jonathan Pesetsky (eds.), NELS 49: Proceedings of the 49th Annual Meeting of the North East Linguistic Society, Volume 1, 135-144. Amherst, MA: GLSA Publications.
Šimík, Radek. 2018. Ever free relatives crosslinguistically. In Uli Sauerland and Stephanie Solt (eds.), Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 22, Vol. 2, 375-392. Berlin: Leibniz-ZAS. https://ojs.ub.uni-konstanz.de/sub/index.php/sub/article/view/112
Modelling the question-statement opposition in Slavic languages (QueSlav)
The QueSlav project is funded jointly by the Czech Science Foundation
(GAČR) and the German Research Foundation (DFG).
It is a collaboration between the Charles University (PI: Radek Šimík) and the
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (PI: Roland Meyer).
The project will start in October 2022. We currently search for PhD candidates.
The project investigates various types of polar questions and focuses on languages which, despite their genealogical closeness,
make use of a whole range of question-encoding strategies, including sentence-initial
verb/auxiliary placement (Czech), use of particles (Polish, Russian), placement of
prosodic prominence on the verb (Russian), and use of boundary tones (all languages).
In addition, the languages under investigation have a rich repertoire of discourse particles,
polarity items, and question tags which are often sensitive to the statement–question
(or declarative–interrogative) distinction, as well as different bias inferences,
and which can be exploited for diagnosing the relevant properties of the investigated
utterance/sentence types. Our leading research question is whether the type of
form used for the expression of polar or bias meanings influences the conveyed
semantics and pragmatics. According to the null hypothesis, question semantics
is universal. The competing hypothesis we put forth is that the type of form
correlates with different semantics. Syntactic strategies – which are by assumption
more deeply entrenched in the grammatical system – lead to more specified semantics
than prosodic strategies, which in turn exhibit stronger reliance on pragmatic and
contextual cues. Polar questions are thus used as a window into the general issue
of the semantics–pragmatics divide. Our approach to addressing the theoretical
question is distinctly empirical. We plan on a series of experimental studies of
acceptability, offline and online management of polar questions, their answers,
and their contextual bias. Besides informing current theories, we wish to attain
a better understanding of polar question formation and bias in questions in Slavic,
to foster experimental semantic/pragmatic methods in general and to contribute
to a more adequate cross-linguistic typology of polar questions.