Orfitelli at LEL Research Seminar

Posted on November 29, 2015 by



Sheffield’s Robyn Orfitelli will be presenting at the last LEL Research Seminar of 2015, on the acquisition of the middle voice.

The talk will be on Tuesday 1st Dec at 4.15pm in Samuel Alexander A101 as usual, followed by wine, crisps and dinner. Here’s the abstract:


One of the most discussed puzzles in language acquisition is that children are delayed in acquiring adult comprehension of verbal passives and subject-to-subject raising (1a-b), but show very early comprehension of numerous other forms of A-movement, including subject-to-object raising and unaccusatives (2a-b).

I have previously argued that the cause of this split is that the sentences in (1) violate locality restrictions on movement, making them impossible for young children to derive. In this talk, I discuss a new, relatively understudied A-movement structure: the middle voice (3). Middles present an important data point in acquisition, because current syntactic diagnostics are unable to unequivocally establish whether or not their movement violates locality restrictions. I present new experimental data that bears on this question and fits middles within a growing typology of A-movement acquisition.

  1. a. Leonard was seen (by William).
    b. Leonard seems (to William) to be eating soup.
  2. a. William wants Leonard to be eating soup.
    b. William arrived.
  3. Teachers make great mentors.
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