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LSA Summer Institute 2007 Stanford University Information Structure and Word Order Variation LSA.323.

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Presentation on theme: "LSA Summer Institute 2007 Stanford University Information Structure and Word Order Variation LSA.323."— Presentation transcript:

1 LSA Summer Institute 2007 Stanford University Information Structure and Word Order Variation LSA.323

2 Outline for July 6th Introductions Syllabus / course requirements Overview of course Information structure Data and corpora Word order variation Theoretical preliminaries

3 Instructors Betty J. Birner Northern Illinois University Gregory Ward Northwestern University

4 Office Hours Stanford office location: 460-212 Office hours: After class (in 380-380Y) By appointment

5 Readings and Bibliography Text/Readings: All readings are available on-line (on the course website on CourseWork). Powerpoint slides will be made available (on CourseWork) a few hours after class. Bibliography: A partial bibliography of information structure and word order variation available at:

6 Requirements Your grade will be based on three equally- weighted components: 1) Prospectus. The prospectus describes your intended project ( 1 p.), including the intended topic, hypothesis, corpus, and some key references. The prospectus is due (via email) by the Friday of the second week of class (7/13).

7 Requirements 2) Data sample. At least 50 tokens of the phenomenon to be studied, with the surrounding context (somewhere between several sentences and a paragraph or two for each token, depending on the hypothesis being investigated). The data sample is due (via email) by the Friday of the third week of class (7/20).

8 Accessing On-Line Corpora To access Stanfords on-line corpora: Fill out, sign, and return the license form. Go to for a list of corpora and instructions on how to access them. (You need to ssh.) Corpora currently available for LSA.323: TIPSTER CALLHOME (American English) American National Corpus Treebank-3

9 Accessing On-Line Corpora The corpus TA is Scott Grimm (; you do *not* need to contact him to access the Corpus tutorial: Monday, 12:00 p.m. Education 334. Request a box lunch? We are grateful to the folks at Stanford for arranging to have these corpora available to us. Thank them.

10 Requirements 3) Abstract. The abstract ( 1 p.) summarizes your research question, hypothesis, methodology, and findings. The abstract should be of a form and quality suitable for submission to an academic conference (e.g. LSA). The abstract is due on the Friday of the fourth week of class (7/27). Collaborative work encouraged!

11 Class I, July 6 th : Theoretical preliminaries REQUIRED READING: Prince, Ellen F. 1992. The ZPG letter: Subjects, definiteness, and information-status. In S. Thompson and W. Mann, eds., Discourse Description: Diverse Analyses of a FundraisingText. Amsterdam / Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 295-325.

12 Class II, July 10 th : Preposing and postposing REQUIRED READING: Ward, Gregory and Betty J. Birner. 2001. Discourse and information structure. In D. Schiffrin, D. Tannen, and H. Hamilton, eds., Handbook of Discourse Analysis. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. 119-137.

13 Class III, July 13th: Argument reversal and inferential relations PROSPECTUS DUE REQUIRED READING: Birner, Betty J. 2006. Inferential relations and noncanonical word order. In B. Birner and G. Ward, eds., Drawing the Boundaries of Meaning. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: Benjamins. 31-51.

14 Class IV, July 17 th : Clefts and equatives REQUIRED READINGS: Prince, Ellen F. 1978. A comparison of wh-clefts and it-clefts in discourse. Language 54:883-906. Ward, Gregory. 2004. Equatives and deferred reference. Language 80:262-289.

15 Class V, July 20 th : Functional compositionality DATA SAMPLE DUE REQUIRED READING: Birner, Betty J., Jeffrey P. Kaplan, and Gregory Ward. 2007. Functional compositionality and the interaction of discourse constraints. Language 83:323-349.

16 Class VI, July 24 th : Cross-linguistic extensions REQUIRED READING: Kaiser, Elsi and John C. Trueswell. 2004. The role of discourse context in the processing of a flexible word-order language. Cognition 94.2:113- 147.

17 Class VII, July 27 th : Roundtable discussion FINAL ABSTRACTS DUE

18 Information Structure Given vs. new information Sentences with all new information are informative, but rare: This guy sent a letter to a friend in a big city about a controversial topic. Sentences with all given information are common, but uninformative: She did. Most sentences contain a mixture of given and new information: My friend John sent one of his friends in New York a letter about the depression hes been suffering from.

19 Information Structure IS is but one factor that affects word order variation; others (taken from the course description for LSA.341 Paraphrase and Usage) include: length / syntactic weight animacy / agency semantics of the relevant phrasal head predictability…

20 Information Structure In this course, well be focussing on specific syntactic constructions (the micro level) with an eye to forming significant generalizations across constructions (the macro level). While our emphasis will be on English (see, however, Class VI), there are many interesting questions that are raised cross-linguistically: What happens in language contact situations? What about bilinguals? How and when do children acquire word order variation?

21 Data and Corpora Native-speaker intuitions vs. naturally- occurring data (NOD): pros & cons The Google Syndrome: NOD is an unrefined resource; needs analysis. Converging sources of data: NOD Psycholinguistic data (e.g., experiments, brain imaging) Intuition data (both from analyst and informants) Moral: each type of data has its advantages and limitations.

22 Data and Corpora Our analyses are based on a corpus of Standard American English, consisting of several thousand tokens of naturally- occurring data (all in accord with our intuitions). Written sources include newspapers, magazines, novels, nonfiction books, academic prose, and portions of the Brown Corpus.

23 Data and Corpora Oral sources include personal conversations, TV shows, films, interviews from Working (Terkel 1974), and transcripts of the 1986 Challenger Commission meetings. (Are screenplays oral?) Style: formal vs. informal; planned vs. unplanned Data not collected randomly (problems with sampling) Statistics on frequency of one non-canonical construction: preposing (e.g., That one I like.)

24 The Preponderance of Preposing Is preposing more common in writing or in speech? In formal or in informal contexts? Issues to consider: The relationship between writing and speech Does a marked word order compensate for the absence of prosody? Does a marked word order amnesty phonological dispreferences? As a complex syntactic construction, would a marked word order be more like to occur in written (i.e. planned) language?

25 The Preponderance of Preposing My valiant attempt to compare the written and spoken language of a single speaker (Richard M. Nixon) was inconclusive. In his book Six Crises, there were a total of 9719 sentences and 69 preposings, for a ratio of 140:1. How does this compare with other constructions? Problems in counting (especially by machine): Nixon: That you don't want to answer, huh? Dean: The more we work on it, the more questions we see--- Nixon: ---That you don't want to answer, huh? [The Presidential Transcripts. 1974:95]

26 Word Order Variation Each language provides its speakers with a wide range of paraphrases: truth- conditionally-equivalent syntactic variants. Truth-conditional equivalence: the gold standard of word order variation.

27 Word Order Variation Basic word order vs. marked word order Are all marked word orders optional? Do all speakers use word order variation?

28 Examples of Word Order Variation in English I. Transitive sentences Pat ate that banana.

29 A. Preposing constructions 1.Topicalization That banana Pat ate. (This one she gave away.) 2.Focus preposing A: Did Pat eat this banana? B: No. That banana Pat ate.

30 A. Preposing constructions 3. Proposition assessment a) Proposition affirmation They said Pat would eat that banana, and eat that banana he did! And what a banana it was, too! (#And it was what a banana, too!) A: Pats amazing. B: That she is! A: Whatll it be? B: Two hot dogs, please. A: Two hot dogs it is! (# It is two hot dogs!)

31 A. Preposing constructions 3. Proposition assessment (cont.) b) Proposition suspension Im upset that Pat ate a banana, if eat a banana he did. c) Proposition denial (Epitomization) Chomsky, youre not. Stupid, shes not.

32 B. Passive (get and be) 1. Passive with by-phrase That banana was eaten by Pat. That banana got eaten by Pat. 2. Passive without by-phrase That banana was eaten. That banana got eaten.

33 C. Cleft constructions 1. it-clefts (clefts) It was that banana that Pat ate. It was Pat who ate that banana. 2. wh-clefts (pseudo-clefts) What Pat ate was that banana. (The one) who ate that banana was Pat. What Pat did was eat that banana. 3. reverse wh-clefts That banana is what Pat ate. Pat is (the one) who ate that banana. 4. th-clefts Thats a banana that Pat ate. Thats Pat who ate that banana.

34 D. Inversion Eating that banana is Pat.

35 E. Gapping Chris ate the orange, and Pat, that banana. 1.Pseudo-gapping Chris wont eat that banana, but Pat will, this one.

36 F. Right-node raising Pat bought and Chris ate a banana.

37 G. Left-dislocation That banana, Pat ate it. Pat, she ate that banana.

38 H. Right-dislocation He ate that banana, Pat. Pat ate it, that banana. 1.Right-dislocation with concomitant copula deletion Tasty piece of fruit, that banana.

39 I. Heavy NP shift Pat gave to Chris that huge overripe banana from Brazil.

40 J. Dative alternation (ditransitives, double object construction) Pat gave Chris that banana. Pat gave that banana to Chris.

41 K. Particle movement Pat ate that banana up. Pat ate up that banana.

42 L. Extraposition That Pat ate that banana is unfortunate. Its unfortunate that Pat ate that banana.

43 M. Combinations (partial) 1.Cleft + passive with by-phrase It was that banana that was eaten by Pat. What was eaten by Pat was that banana. 2.Inversion + passive with by-phrase Being eaten by Pat is a banana. 3.Reverse wh-cleft + RD Thats what I want, that banana.

44 L. Combinations (cont.) 4.Reverse wh-cleft + LD + passive That banana, thats what was eaten. 5.Cleft + gapping It was Chris who ate the orange, and Pat, that banana 6.Gapping + inversion + passive with by- phrase + proposition suspension Being eaten in a frenzy by Chris was that orange, and by Pat, that banana, if eaten they were.

45 Examples of Word Order Variation in English II. Intransitive sentences A lovely fountain is in the garden A lovely fountain stands in the garden.

46 1. Locative In the garden is a lovely fountain. In the garden stands a lovely fountain. 2. Non-locative Also lovely is the fountain in the garden. A. Inversion

47 B. Existential there-sentences Theres a lovely fountain in the garden. There is in the garden a lovely fountain.

48 C. Presentational there-sentences There stands a lovely fountain in the garden. There stands in the garden a lovely fountain.

49 D. Combinations (partial) 1. Existential there + preposing In the garden, theres a lovely fountain. 2. Presentational there + preposing In the garden there stands a lovely fountain. 3. Inversion + cleft It was there that stood a beautiful fountain from the mid-1800s.

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