Research collaboration is common in our Department, with research teams consisting of different combinations of faculty, current and former students. One such a collaborative team is Miki Obata (PhD 2010, now associate professor at Tokyo University of Science), Sam Epstein and Marlyse Baptista. A paper by this trio just appeared in Lingua. In their paper, they explore one the fundamental tenets of modern generative grammar: the role of the so-called "third factor" in explaining cross-linguistic differences between languages. Using data from English as well as various Creole and Bantu languages, they show that many of the differences between these languages can be explained as different, but equally good, solutions to the problem of computational efficiency. Full bibliographic information of their paper, including an abstract, is given below.
Obata, Miki, Samuel Epstein & Marlyse Baptista. (2015) Can crosslinguistically variant grammars be formally identical? Third factor under specification and the possible elimination of parameters of UG. Lingua, 156:1-16.
Certain aspects of human knowledge of language (=UG) may well follow from more general laws of, e.g. (biological) computation, or physical law(Chomsky, 1965,2005). Minimalist derivation allows the possibility of deeper UG-independent explanation via third factor principles concerning ‘‘computationally efficient’’ satisfaction of the interfaces. This line of inquiry could in principle capture cross linguistic variation, without appeal to stipulated axiomatic parameters of UG describing the variants. Instead possible crosslinguistic derivational variation could in principle be deduced from points of underspecification in the definition of computational efficiency—which allow more than one way to optimally satisfy the interfaces (‘‘a tie for first place’’)—just as Richards(2008), Boeckx (2011) suggest. (For previous such analyses see e.g. Chomsky (1991,2008) and Epstein etal.(1998).) We seek to show that computational efficiency allows different relative rule orderings of: feature inheritance, Agree and wh Internal Merge. The different orders we examine are equally optimal—three rule applications are necessary and sufficient for convergence, but their ordering is irrelevant to the interfaces. Our main focus concerns variation in Complementizer agreement phenomena in Haitian Creole vs Cape Verdean Creole. Agreement variation between English and the Bantu language Kilega is also discussed.