Research

Here is a collection of my papers and presentations, organized by theme. Please see my CV (September 2022) for a comprehensive list of works.

Clausal word order in Cherokee: effects of information structure, thematic role, and variability (with Benjamin Frey)

While Cherokee clauses are known to have highly flexible word order, the principles that determine speakers’ preferences, and their interaction, have not been extensively described. Using a quantitative corpus analysis, we show that word order preferences are probabilistically predicted by both information structure (ex. new information precedes given information) and thematic properties (ex. agents precede themes). We further show that these factors are independent and that they interact cumulatively to determine word order preferences.

Presentations:

  • November 19, 2021. (with Benjamin Frey). Clausal word order in Cherokee: a corpus approach and its formal implications. UC Davis Language Group. [slides]

Recursive classifier projections in Mandarin, phase extension and distinctness (with Yiwen Peng)

We examine the distribution of pre-nominal classifiers and noun-classifier compounds in Mandarin Chinese and propose that (i) noun-classifier compounds are formed by head movement to a regular Classifier projection, and that (ii) compound structures can reveal a recursive ClassifierP structure. Restrictions on the availability of ClP recursion provide new support for phase extension (Den Dikken 2007) and the distinctness condition (Richards 2010). The proposal yields a new explanation for why adjacent heads of articulated functional sequences are often not simultaneously visible.

Papers:

  • Hsu, Brian and Yiwen Peng. To appear. Positions of Mandarin classifiers in and out of compounds: implications for Distinctness, selection, and projection. Submitted to WCCFL 39 proceedings. [submitted draft] [draft on lingbuzz]

Presentations:

  • Hsu, Brian and Yiwen Peng. 2021. Positions of Mandarin classifiers in and out of compounds: implications for Distinctness, selection, and projection. Poster presented at WCCFL 39. [poster]

Probe competition and blocking

I investigate properties of language patterns in which a specifier position can be filled by multiple types of items, but no more than one at a time, a competition pattern that often results from bundling (see Coalescence work below). These patterns provide new support for a syntactic theory where outcomes of derivational steps are determined by Optimality-Theoretic constraint interaction. Probabilistic aspects of the pattern further support a grammar with weighted constraints, where the relative probabilities of output candidates are computed from their harmony scores (Maximum Entropy Harmonic Grammar)

Papers:

  • Hsu, Brian. 2021. Harmonic Grammar in phrasal movement: an account of probe competition and blocking. In NELS 51: Proceedings of the fifty-first annual meeting of the North East Linguistic Society, ed. by Alessa Farinella & Angelica Hill. Amherst, MA: GLSA. [submitted draft] [draft on Lingbuzz]

Presentations:

  • Hsu, Brian. 2020. Harmonic Grammar in phrasal movement: an account of probe competition and blocking. Paper presented at NELS 51. [slides]
  • Hsu, Brian. 2020. On Coalescence, phrasal movement, and probe competition. USC Syntax+. [handout]

Determiner co-occurrence and DP structure (with Saurov Syed)

This project examines cross-linguistic variation in possible co-occurrence among non-article determiners (demonstratives, proper names, pronouns, possessors) and its implications for theories of nominal functional structure and its variation. The patterns provide new evidence that the semantic components of indexicality (e.g. possession, person, deixis, identifiability, inclusiveness) correspond to distinct syntactic features, and that languages vary in the number of functional projections that can simultaneously instantiate them (see work on Coalescence below).

Papers:

Presentations:

  • Hsu, Brian and Saurov Syed2018. Co-occurence of non-article determiners as a window on variation in DP-structure. CamCos 7, Cambridge, UK. [Handout]

Phonological idiosyncrasy in Gradient Harmonic Grammar

These works discuss exceptional/idiosyncratic patterns in phonology, and argue in favor of formal analyses within Harmonic Grammar with gradient symbolic representations (a.k.a. Gradient Harmonic Grammar). The Language and Linguistics Compass paper is an overview article of the theory. The Phonology paper discusses the distribution of French nasal vowels and liaison [n], and shows that Gradient Harmonic Grammar is uniquely able to account the fact that exceptional liaison patterns resemble regular patterns found in different prosodic contexts in the language. These patterns result from a predicted interaction of scaling of constraint violations by prosodic context (see work below with Karen Jesney) and contrastive activity levels in underlying forms.

Papers:

Presentations:

  • Hsu, Brian. 2018. Predicting exceptional prosodification effects in Gradient Harmonic Grammar. Poster presented at AMP 2018. [poster][references handout]
  • Hsu, Brian. 2018. Scalar constraints and gradient symbolic representations generate exceptional prosodification effects without exceptional prosody. Paper presented at WCCFL 36. [Handout]

Coalescence, Feature Scattering, and variation the left periphery

This work examines cross-linguistic variation in the realization of  the clausal left periphery, looking mainly at verb-second phenomena with varying degrees of strictness. I argue for a theory that allows multiple category features to be bundled on single heads (i.e. Feature Scattering). Rather than situate the operation in the lexicon or in a postsyntactic component, I argue that bundling takes place during the syntactic derivation, via an operation called Coalescence. This leads to several new proposals on the syntactic triggers of head movement vs. phrasal movement, and a redefinition of the EPP property.

Papers:

  • Hsu, Brian. 2021. Coalescence: A unification of bundling operations in syntax. Linguistic Inquiry. 52(1): 39-87. https://doi.org/10.1162/ling_a_00372. [accepted draft on Lingbuzz]
  • Hsu, Brian. 2017. Verb second and its deviations: an argument for Feature Scattering in the left periphery. Glossa 2(1): 35. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/gjgl.132
  • Hsu, Brian. 2016. Unification of Feature Scattering and M-Merger as Coalescence. In NELS 46: Proceedings of the 46th Meeting of the North East Linguistic Society: Volume 2, ed. by Christopher Hammerly & Brandon Prickett, 133-146. Amherst, MA: GLSA. [Prepub. draft] [NELS 46 handout]

Book reviews:

Presentations:

  • Hsu, Brian. June 2020. On Coalescence, phrasal movement, and probe competition. USC Syntax+. [handout]
  • Hsu, Brian. January 2020. Prominence-based licensing in head movement and phrasal movement. Paper presented at the LSA 2020 Annual Meeting. [slides]
  • Hsu, Brian. May 17-19, 2019. Prominence-based licensing in head movement and head bundling. Poster presented at the Parameters Workshop in Honour of Lisa Travis, McGill. [poster]

Scalar positional constraints in Harmonic Grammar (with Karen Jesney)

This project proposes a new account for a range of positional licensing and positional markedness effects in Harmonic Grammar, arguing that weighted constraints can be scaled according to contextual degrees of prosodic or morphological prominence. Weighted and scaled constraints account for attested typologies with a reduced constraint set, while avoiding overgeneralization predicted by indexed positional constraints in Optimality Theory. Aspects of this work are taken up in my work on gradient symbols in grammar (above on this page).

Papers:

  • Hsu, Brian and Karen Jesney. 2018. Weighted scalar constraints capture the typology of loanword adaptation. In Proceedings of the 2017 Annual Meeting on Phonology, ed. by Gillian Gallagher, Maria Gouskova & Sora Yin. Washington, DC: Linguistic Society of America. [handout] [paper available online]
  • Hsu, Brian and Karen Jesney. 2017. Loanword Adaptation in Québec French: Evidence for Weighted Scalar Constraints. In Proceedings of the 34th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics, ed. by Aaron Kaplan, Abby Kaplan, Miranda K. McCarvel & Edward J. Rubin, 249-258. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla. [available at Cascadilla Proceedings Project]
  • Hsu, Brian and Karen Jesney. 2016. Scalar Positional Markedness and Faithfulness in Harmonic Grammar.  In Proceedings of the 51st Annual Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society, 241-255. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society.[Prepublication draft] [handout]

Presentations:

  • Hsu, Brian and Karen Jesney. 2017. A scalar constraint approach to the typology of loanword adaptation. Poster presented at the Linguistic Society of America 2017 Annual Meeting. [poster][handout]
  • Hsu, Brian and Karen Jesney. 2015. Weighted scalar constraints and implicational process application. Paper presented at the 23rd Manchester Phonology Meeting (MFM 23). [MFM 23 handout]

Variation in Bangla complementizer order as syntax-prosody interaction

This work provides an interface account for variation in the ordering of the complementizer je in Bangla; je is obligatorily initial in postverbal embedded clauses, but non-initial in preverbal embedded clauses. I argue that non-initial complementizer placement is derived by lower-copy spell-out within the extended CP domain, and that the pronunciation of a lower copy satisfies a prosodically-motivated constraint that disfavors je at an intonational phrase edge.

Papers:

  • Hsu, Brian. 2015. Variation in Bangla complementizer order at the syntax-prosody interface. In NELS 45: Proceedings of the 45th Meeting of the North East Linguistic Society: Volume 2, ed. by Thuy Buy & Deniz Özyıldız, 35-44. Amherst, MA: GLSA. [Prepublication draft] [Poster] [Handout]

Prosodic domain span constraints

Markedness-reducing phonological processes can fail to apply across sufficiently large prosodic junctures. These papers account for such effects in Optimality Theory by positional markedness constraints violated when a marked structure is fully contained within the span of an indexed prosodic constituent. These constraints also predict the emergence of marked sequences within extraprosodic morphemes. The CLS paper applies these constraints to the distribution of French nasal vowels, and accounts for liaison as the result of exceptional prosodification. Aspects of this are revisited in my work on gradient symbols in Harmonic Grammar (above on this page).

Papers:

  • Hsu, Brian. 2019. Exceptional prosodification effects revisited in Gradient Harmonic Grammar. Phonology 36: 225-263. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0952675719000125. [accepted draft on Lingbuzz]
  • Hsu, Brian. 2015. Constraining exceptionality as prosody-morphology mismatch: a study of French nasal vowels. In Proceedings of the 49th Annual Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society. [Prepublication draft]
  • Hsu, Brian. 2014. Unifying phonotactics and derived environment blocking through prosodic constraint indexation. In Supplemental Proceedings of the 2013 Meeting on Phonology, ed. by John Kingston, Claire Moore-Cantwell, Joe Pater, and Robert Staubs. [Available at AMP online proceedings]

The ClP/NP split in bare nouns

Looking primarily at French, I propose a distinction between two classes of bare nominals, true bare Noun Phrases (NPs) and those that project Classifier Phrases (ClPs). This accounts for several differences between bare predicate nominals and those with articles, and two classes of verbal idioms. Among other differences, only NPs denote gradable properties, and only ClPs allow the insertion of articles without additional modification.

Presentations:

  • Hsu, Brian. 2012. Two Categories of Bare Nouns: Evidence from French. Talk presented at Going Romance 2012. KU Leuven. [Handout]