Passives - A Cross-Linguistic Workshop

16–17 September 2017, University of Vienna, Austria

Workshop Description

How passive sentences are produced has been debated intensely in formal linguistics for more than half a century; see e.g. Hallmann & Kallulli (2013) for a thorough introduction to the history of the linguistic interpretation of passives and their relation to their active counterparts in grammatical theory. In GB syntax (Chomsky 1981), the generation of passives is typically attributed to A-chain formation motivated by Case absorption of a passive morpheme (Baker, Johnson and Roberts 1989): An internal argument which receives the patient theta role but not accusative Case must move to the grammatical subject position, a Case-marked position without a theta role. Other, earlier work has accounted for the production of passives, especially in Japanese (Kuno 1973), with the non-NP movement approach (Kuroda 1965, 1979). In the framework of the Minimalist Program (Chomsky 1995 et seq.), Hoshi (1994) proposes that the subject NP of a Japanese passive, which is base-generated at the Spec of the higher VP shell (SpecvP), raises to the Spec of IP (SpecTP) for Case reasons, while Boeckx (1998) treats Japanese ni direct passives, for example, on a par with tough-constructions as NP-movement without Case-absorption. Another avenue of research holds that passives are motivated by Case and theta role checking, following Hornstein (2001). More recent works puts passives in perspective with other voices and explore a more complex role carried by little v (e.g. Folli & Harley 2005).

Focusing on the economy of derivation, a question arises: Why is a passive sentence preferred in derivation even though it is more costly and arguably acquired later than its active counterpart? In addition, we could ask: Why can a passive sentence be interpreted differently depending on the context such as neutral and emotionally speaker-oriented in semantics and pragmatics? This workshop aims to discuss and uncover answers and solutions to such questions through the in-depth analyses of passives across different languages and populations from the interface perspectives between syntax, semantics, and pragmatics.

The invited speakers have all worked on passives for a long time. This ranges from groundbreaking work on dethematized subjects (Roberts 1987), the role of the lexicon (Ramchand 2008), the syntactic realization of v in passives and anticausatives (Kallulli 2007), and strictly local derivational approaches with cyclic LF and PF Spell-Out (Müller 2011) to passive morphosyntax in Italian dialects including indirect object/dative passives (Ledgeway 2000), and issues for language acquisition in Greek (Terzi & Wexler 2002). Kleanthes K. Grohmann and Maria Kambanaros are the workshop conveners and Eva-Maria Remberger is the local workshop organizer. The workshop receives partial financial support from the Department of Romance Studies and the Faculty of Philological and Cultural Studies at the University of Vienna.