UCL Psychology and Language Sciences


Linguistics Seminar Talk - Dominique Sportiche

08 December 2022, 4:00 pm–5:30 pm

Linguistics seminar

Seminar Title: On self

Event Information

Open to



Klaus Abels


Lecture Theatre 118, Chandler House
Wakefield Street

Seminar Title: On self.

Abstract: Elements like self  (même in French) following a pronoun (e.g. it self, elle même) yields an anaphor in English (and French) in other languages as well, subject to a locality requirement. How? And why does this locality requirement take the form of Condition A of the Binding Theory? And why is there a Condition A at all? And why are such forms also used as intensifiers (not only in English and French but in many languages), apparently without a reflexive reading but with distinct  distributional restrictions and interpretations (cf. e.g. Eckardt 2002, Gast 2006, Ahn 2010)? In addition, English self and cognates in other languages (but not même) can be prefixed to predicates (e.g., self-identify) with correlated interpretive effects. How do these arise?
Proposals in the classical paradigm, e.g., Chomsky  1986 or Charnavel and Sportiche 2016,  do not address, or provide answers to, these questions. Alternatives (Cresswell 1973, Reuland 2011, Lechner 2012, Sauerland 2013) do try to address some of these questions but will be shown to be unsatisfactory. Yet hopefully, answers should fall out from the architecture of syntactic theory, in particular how Condition A comes about, and from the intrinsic properties of such elements (as  it self).
I will sketch a proposal attempting to answer these questions, in part at least. Its central idea is that when accompanying a pronoun y, selfis a binary predicate with two arguments x and the pronoun y, and, as standard, a (quasi) identity function on its first argument (self(y)=y). Relativizing x yields intensification; Moving it to a theta position yields reflexivization.

About the Speaker

Dominique Sportiche

Professor at UCLA Linguistics Department

Dominique Sportiche works on formal syntax. He has focused on the theory of constituent structure, and properties of the syntax/semantics interface (especially in French and the Romance languages) as they bear on the architecture of syntactic or grammatical theory and on cognition in general. He has published work on phrase structure, agreement, clitics, and reconstruction phenomena. His current theoretical interests and ongoing works include phrase structure and the functional sequence, the internal structure of VPs, reconstruction phenomena, and the binding theory. From an empirical standpoint his work focalizes primarily on various aspects of the syntax systems of English, and of French and the Romance languages (complementizers, relative pronouns, reflexive constructions, binding theory). In recent years his work has extended to the relation between linguistic theory and (i) linguistic impairment (in Huntington’s disease patients), (ii) very early acquisition of syntax and (iii) grounding theoretical choices in more systematic methods of data collection and control (particularly regarding the binding theory, and the French complementizer system).

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