Loporcaro Stoll

Fakultäten » Philosophische Fakultät » Romanisches Seminar » Italienische Linguistik » Prof. Dr. Michele Loporcaro » Loporcaro Stoll

Completed research project

Title / Titel The morphosyntax of agreement in Tuatschin: acquisition and contact
PDF Abstract (PDF, 14 KB)
Summary / Zusammenfassung Verb agreement is a key property of the morphosyntax of many languages and has been one of the main research topics in different theoretical frameworks, given its crucial role in, e.g., encoding the participants in a sentence. This project aims at investigating the morphosyntax and the acquisition of agreement by children in a variety of Romansh, Tuatschin, from the perspective of language contact. Romansh varieties represent a paramount case of prolonged language contact in the Alps, having been in contact with (Swiss) German varieties for centuries. The choice of Tuatschin is primarily motivated by its endangered status, the multilingual environment in which speakers are immersed and children acquire the language, and the lack of a written standard for the variety, for which little material is up to date available. From a morphosyntactic point of view, Tuatschin possesses a wealth of features which are almost unparalled in Romance languages and typologically rare, such as verb-second word order and obligatory use of overt subject pronouns. These properties interact with a complex agreement system: in addition to verb endings, Tuatschin also displays a series of subject pronominal form, whose properties are partly reminiscent of (though not identical with) those of subject clitics occurring in Northern Italo-Romance, which further exacerbates the syntactic complexity of the agreement system. Such subject pronominal forms show a very interesting distribution. When in preverbal position, subject pronominal forms cannot co-occur with other lexical noun phrases or pronominal forms, while they can optionally be used in verb-second structures and inversion contexts, in alternation with free pronouns. In addition to optional subject pronominal forms, full subject agreement on verb endings can be suspended in particular contexts, such as before post-verbal subjects. These are complex syntactic features which pose extreme challenges for language acquisition, and allow for the testing of nativist vs. usage-based hyptoheses in language acquisition.
These issues are at present poorly understood, and pose several empirical and theoretical challenges for both
linguistic description and theoretical linguistics. This project aims to provide a corpus-based investigation of the
morphosyntax and acquisition of agreement in Tuatschin. The project will pay attention to the syntactic, semantic,
and pragmatic factors governing the presence or absence of agreement morphology, both with regard to subject
pronominal forms and verb endings, and to the possible influence of German varieties on the agreement system
of Tuatschin. In addition, we will address the issue of how children acquire such complex agreement morphosyntax,
interacting with word order and information structure, in a multilingual environment. The project also tackles
important theoretical issues: complex agreement systems like the one found in Tuatschin pose several challenges
for linguistic theory. In this respect, the basic question to be answered regards the hotly-debated syntactic
status of subject pronominal forms and the evidence for such status. The Romansh data, with its intricacies, is
particularly suited for such an investigation.
In order to reach a principled and exhaustive analysis of the phenomena to be investigated and to answer the
research questions outlined above, two large corpora of naturally-occurring speech both for adults and children
will be collected, transcribed, and annotated. The analysis will be conducted by applying methodological tools from
general linguistics, linguistic typology, and theoretical syntax. This project will fill significant gaps in Romance
and general linguistics. First, it will deliver new data and analysis on a broad range of theoretical and empirical
issues concerning agreement of crucial importance both for Romance and general linguistics. Second, the
project will be the first one to document and investigate child language acquisition in a Romansh variety through
a large corpus. Third, the project will be the first contribution to the investigation of the role of language contact
in the development of agreement in Tuatschin. Finally, the creation of the corpora will constitute a long-lasting basis
for the preservation and future studies of Tuatschin, and a valuable support for the development of effective language policies.
Publications / Publikationen Loporcaro, M (2007). On triple auxiliation in Romance. Linguistics, 45(1):173-222.

Loporcaro, M (2011). Phonological processes. In: Maiden, M; Smith, J C; Ledgeway, A. The Cambridge history of the Romance languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 109-154.

Loporcaro, M (2011). Syllable, segment and prosody. In: Maiden, M; Smith, J C; Ledgeway, A. The Cambridge History of the Romance Languages, vol. I, Structures (cap. II). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 50-108.

Loporcaro, M (2011). Syncretism and neutralization in the marking of romance object agreement. In: Maiden, M; Smith, J C; Goldbach, M; Hinzelin, M O. Morphological Autonomy. Perspectives from Romance Inflectional Morphology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 327-357.

Loporcaro, M (2012). Contact-induced change in personal pronouns: some Romance examples. In: Vanhove, M; Stolz, T; Urzde, A; Otsuka, H. Morphologies in Contact. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 207-225.

Loporcaro, M (2012). Non sappiamo come scriverlo, perciò non lo parliamo: mille e una scusa per un suicidio linguistico. Rhesis. International Journal of Linguistics, Philology, and Literature, 3(1):36-58.

Loporcaro, Michele (2015). Vowel Length from Latin to Romance. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Stoll, Sabine; Bickel, Balthasar (2013). The acquisition of ergative case in Chintang. In: Stoll, Sabine; Bavin, Edith. The acquisition of ergativity. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 183-207.

Project leadership and contacts /
Projektleitung und Kontakte
Prof. Michele Loporcaro (Project Leader)
Prof. Sabine Stoll (Project Leader)
Funding source(s) /
Unterstützt durch
SNF (Personen- und Projektförderung)
In collaboration with /
In Zusammenarbeit mit
Prof. Georg Kaiser, Konstanz Germany
Prof. Giampaolo Salvi, Budapest Hungary
Prof. Stephen Anderson, Yale United States
Prof. Elvira Glaser, Zürich Switzerland
Dr. Tanja Samardzic, Zürich Switzerland
Prof. Matthias Grünert, Fribourg Switzerland
Duration of Project / Projektdauer Apr 2015 to Apr 2018