From animal communication to Zurich German

An IGM workshop with Stephen R. Anderson

On July 4th, a workshop will take place with Stephen R. Anderson (Yale University). The workshop offers PhD students and Post-Docs the opportunity to discuss questions relating to their research projects in a small group. We plan three thematic blocks, which all relate to Anderson's research topics: animal communication, clitics, and flexivity in morphology. In brief contributions each contributor introduces the research context, relevant data, and open questions with respect to his or her research project. The main focus of the workshop will be on open discussion. 


The workshop is organized by IGM and financially supported by the PhD Program Linguistics and the URPP Language and Space.


Monday, 4th July 2016, Deutsches Seminar, SOD-0-002


Contribution by




Introductory Remarks


Hanna Ruch (URRP Language and Space), Yvonne Zürcher, and Judith Burkhart (Department of Anthropology)

The function and mechanism of vocal accommodation in humans and other primates



Florian Sommer (Department of Comparative Linguistics/URRP Language and Space)

The Reflexive in Lithuanian – A Wackernagel-Affix?


coffee break


Rik van Gijn (Department of Comparative Linguistics)

Multivariate comparative morphology


Manuel Widmer (Department of Comparative Linguistics)

The distinction between word-level and phrase-level affixation and its implications for historical linguistics


Stephen Anderson & participants

Discussion: Clitics


lunch break at restaurant “Dozentenfoyer” (at own expense)


Anja Hasse (German Department)

Suffix hopping in Zurich German


Patrick Mächler (German Department)

„When the poor become rich“: On the role of type frequency and system-adequateness in inflection class change in (post-)Proto-Germanic strong verbs


coffee break


Tania Paciaroni (Romance Department)

Allomorphic complexity in Italo-Romance


Stephen Anderson & participants

Discussion: Morphological Change and Variation


General Discussion at bar “Apotheke” (Zürichbergstrasse 17)


We’re meeting for a casual dinner at restaurant “Zeughauskeller”, Bahnhofstrasse 28a (near Paradeplatz), at 20.00 (at own expense).


Tuesday, 5th July 2016, KOL-F-123


Contribution by



Stephen Anderson (University of Yale)

Is Morphology Really About “Morphemes”?

In thinking about the relation between form and content in internally complex words, there are two broadly distinct traditions, both of which can cite Saussurean antecedents. One sees such words as essentially syntactic constructions made up of atomic form-content units, or morphemes. The other sees theme as wholes, deriving aspects of both their form and their content through rule-governed relations to other words. The morpheme-based approach largely dominated twentieth century thinking, although it was strongly questioned beginning already in the 1960s.


The most prominent current view in the morpheme-based tradition is that of Distributed Morphology. Central to that theory are the principles that (a) all relations between form and content result from the presence of strictly local atomic units, functionally minimal signs or ‘morphemes’ that serve as the terminal elements of syntactic representations; and (b) there is no separate ‘morphology’ governing the presence of these elements within words, their distribution being controlled entirely by the syntax of the language.


This talk questions both of those assumptions, arguing that (a) form-content relations are more general and many-to-many than can be accommodated by the strictly local and monotonic nature of morphemes; and (b) the principles governing the internal organization of words are distinct, both language-internally and more generally, from those governing the organization of phrases and sentence. These results favour inferential over lexical approaches to word structure, in the terminology of Stump (2001).