PhD Alumni

Andreas Trotzke Freiburg

Rethinking syntactocentrism: Lessons from recent generative approaches to pragmatic properties of left-periphery-movement in German

ErstbetreuerProf. Dr. Jürgen Dittmann
ZweitbetreuerProf. Dr. Wolfgang Raible

In this thesis, I show that Ray Jackendoff’s notion of syntactocentrism is misguided, since characterizing the concept this term refers to as a dogmatic assumption that does not lend itself to participate in the general field of mentalist linguistics does not do justice to both recent models of mainstream generative grammar and to the conceptual consequences of applying these concepts to specific phenomena like the pragmatics of left-periphery-movement in German. Chapter 1 approaches the notion of syntactocentrism by sketching its initial conception in the 1950s and 1960s. I clarify why even Jackendoff considers this nascent perspective on grammatical knowledge to be a quite reasonable view, given the by-then available approaches to phonology and semantics. In chapter 2, I amend Jackendoff’s claim that recent syntactocentrism ignores progress in both phonology and semantics and entirely dispenses with formal accounts of these components. To arrive at this conclusion, I first sketch the recent generative conception of syntax and then illustrate approaches to phonology and semantics that, although explicitly situated within the framework of syntactocentrism, both offer detailed formal accounts and cover crucial insights from research in phonology and semantics gained since the 1950s. Chapter 3 demonstrates that Jackendoff misses another crucial point in his discussions of syntactocentrism by marginalizing and sometimes even ignoring significant changes involved in the recent shift from representational to derivational syntactocentrism. Based on this up-to-date notion of syntactocentrism, chapter 4 shows two theoretical alternatives to syntactocentrism: Cognitive Linguistics and the Parallel Architecture. I point out that bridging the gulf between syntactocentrism and its theoretical alternatives is not inconceivable but a quite realistic enterprise. I finish this chapter by arguing in favor of a comparison of the syntactocentric view with its alternatives in light of the amended notion of syntactocentrism developed in chapters 2 and 3. Chapter 5 undertakes such a comparison with respect to the Parallel Architecture and shows that, once the consequences of the recent changes within syntactocentrism are taken seriously, some points of convergence between recent syntactocentrism and the Parallel Architecture can be demonstrated. I reduce the comparison of recent syntactocentrism and the Parallel Architecture to tractable size and thus focus on the analysis of one specific phenomenon, namely the pragmatics of left-periphery-movement in German. I argue that the strong derivational view of syntactocentrism implies significant points of convergence with conceptual aspects of the Parallel Architecture. First, both approaches share the assumption that a direct interaction between phonology and semantic interpretation is required in order to deal with phenomena like prosodically-expressed focus or contrast. Second, both models imply that this interaction is established by pragmatic rather than by syntactic factors and, third, both accounts regard pragmatics as an independent component. In order to look also for convergence between recent syntactocentrism and Cognitive Linguistics, chapter 6 compares an approach to language evolution that is based on the general conception of derivational syntax exemplified in chapter 5 with an account that is associated with concepts of Cognitive Linguistics. I highlight that both the computational and the communicative view regard recursive operations of the mind as a sine qua non for the emergence of grammar and that both accounts postulate a representational format that contains these recursive operations. In chapter 7, I conclude by summarizing the main results of this thesis and by turning to the question whether these results vindicate the notion of syntactocentrism as used by Jackendoff.


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Current research

DIS-AGREE (Grant: The European Campus „Seed Money“)

Das geisteswissenschaftliche Projekt aus der Linguistik steht unter der Leitung der Universität Freiburg und wird gemeinsam mit den Universitäten Basel, Haute-Alsace und Strasbourg umgesetzt. Information und Kontakt

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Tuesday, 19th November, 9-12pm
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Mittwoch, 20. November 2019, 18:15-19:45 Uhr
Redefining endangerment and indigenousness. The case of Chabacano (Vortragsreihe "Visibilizar lo invisible: lenguas indígenas del mundo iberorrománico")


Ab 1. Dezember 2018 stehen Ihnen als assoziierte ProfessorInnen unserer Schule Prof. Dr. Juan Ennis, U. La Plata / Buenos Aires; Prof. Dr. Mar Garachana, U. Barcelona, Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Gülich, U. Bielefeld und Prof. Dr. Michael B. Buchholz, I.P.U. Berlin als BetreuerInnen und/oder GutachterInnen zur Verfügung. Wir begrüßen die neuen KollegInnen in unserer Runde!

Am 15.Oktober 2018 wurde das Corpus Salcedo von Pieter Muysken veröffentlicht. Es wurde in Freiburg und Basel in Zusammenarbeit mit einem internationalen Team editiert und kann nun über das in Freiburg entwickelte Korpusverwaltungstool moca3 (Daniel Alcón) genutzt werden.


PhD Scholarships Hermann Paul Scholarships in Linguistics 2019

The Hermann Paul Scholarships in Linguistics 2019 in Basel went to Ye Ji Lee. Congratulations!

PhD Scholarships Hermann Paul Scholarships in Linguistics 2018

The Hermann Paul Scholarship in Linguistics 2018 in Basel went to Joelle Loew. Congratulations!

PhD Scholarships Hermann Paul Scholarships in Linguistics 2017

The Hermann Paul Scholarships in Linguistics 2017 in Basel went to Robert Reinecke and Valentina Saccone. Congratulations!

Hermann-Paul-Preis für herausragende Dissertationen

Seit Winter 2018 verleihen wir jährlich den Hermann-Paul-Preis für herausragende Dissertationen.