New papers in Psychonomic Bulletin & Review and Journal of Linguistics!

Ray Jackendoff and Eva Wittenberg had their paper Linear grammar as a possible steppingstone in the evolution of language accepted in the Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. Here is the abstract: 

We suggest that one way to approach the evolution of language is through reverse engineering: asking what components of the language faculty could have been useful in the absence of the full complement of components. We explore the possibilities offered by linear grammar, a form of language that lacks syntax and morphology altogether, and that structures its utterances through a direct mapping between semantics and phonology. A language with a linear grammar would have no syntactic categories or syntactic phrases, and therefore no syntactic recursion. It would also have no functional categories such as tense, agreement, and case inflection, and no derivational morphology. Such a language would still be capable of conveying certain semantic relations through word order—for instance by stipulating that agents should precede patients. However, many other semantic relations would have to be based on pragmatics and discourse context. We find evidence of linear grammar in a wide range of linguistic phenomena: pidgins, stages of late second language acquisition, home signs, village sign languages, language comprehension (even in fully syntactic languages), aphasia, and specific language impairment. We also find a full-blown language, Riau Indonesian, whose grammar is arguably close to a pure linear grammar. In addition, when subjects are asked to convey information through nonlinguistic gesture, their gestures make use of semantically based principles of linear ordering. Finally, some pockets of English grammar, notably compounds, can be characterized in terms of linear grammar. We conclude that linear grammar is a plausible evolutionary precursor of modern fully syntactic grammar, one that is still active in the human mind.

Andreas Trotzke and Eva Wittenberg had their paper Expressive particle verbs and conditions on particle fronting accepted in the Journal of Linguistics. Here is the abstract: 

In this paper, we propose a new distinction between expressive and non-expressive particle verbs in German. The basic observation for our proposal is that these two classes behave differently in the domain of particle fronting. In order to explain this difference, we will show that certain particle verbs are extreme degree expressions and that, therefore, a possible contrast across degrees makes fronting acceptable, even when the particle in isolation is non-contrastable. Our claims are supported by a rating study probing German native speakers’ intuitions about the likelihood of the occurrence of an utterance, without relying on acceptability judgments. We connect these new findings to other forms of non-information-structural fronting patterns that endow utterances with an emphatic flavor.

Please find the PDF’s of these papers on our Publications site.