Rose-Marie Dechaine


Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs

Affiliations to Research Centres, Institutes & Clusters


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

Epistemic (mis)alignment in discourse: what Spanish discourse markers reveal (2020)

In this dissertation, I explore how speakers of Peninsular Spanish keep epistemic alignment during a conversation by using two discourse markers: sentence initial 'si' and sentence final 'no' (Ortega, 1985; Montolío Durán, 1999; Schwenter, 2000b; Montañez Mesas, 2015; Schwenter, 2016b). I show that these two discourse markers operate at different conversational levels: 'si' keeps an alignment in the set of shared, public propositions, whereas 'no' keeps an alignment between the information states of the interlocutors.First, I focus on 'si' and its distribution. I show that 'si' is an illocutionary operator that marks that a proposition was already known by all interlocutors, hence forcing an alignment within the Common Ground. The sentence in which 'si' occurs is used in the conversation to reject the previous contribution due to a violation of a felicity condition. I use 'si' to show that speakers have two versions of the Common Ground: one representing what they themselves know, and the other representing what they believe the Addressee to know.I also discuss the distribution of 'no', which is used to align both beliefs and outcomes among interlocutors. It does so by requesting confirmation from the Addressee that the contextual update proposed by the Speaker is shareable and public. The sentence in which 'no' occurs is used in the conversation to confirm a bias held by the Speaker, either with respect to a belief or an outcome that is preferred.Finally, I offer a syntactic analysis of both discourse markers. I adopt an analysis based on proposals to include utterance-level information in the left periphery. I propose that 'si' is an illocutionary operator situated within the Complementizer Phrase, as high as ForceP, based on prosodic and syntactic evidence. I propose that 'no' occupies an even higher position, outside of Complementizer Phrase but still within the same clause. I follow recent analyses in the syntactic literature in calling this higher structure the Grounding layer (Thoma, 2016; Wiltschko and Heim, 2016). Within it, 'no' occupies the layer that represents the Addressee’s information state (as perceived by the Speaker).

View record

Syntax, prosody, and metrical structure in Blackfoot (2020)

This dissertation investigates the correspondences between syntactic, prosodic, and metrical constituents in Blackfoot (Algonquian), a polysynthetic language. I propose that the syntax-prosody correspondence is distinct from the alignment of prosodic and metrical structure. In a parallel constraint-based model of phonology, this predicts that a language might satisfy isomorphic syntax-prosody correspondence at the expense of prosodic and metrical alignment, or vice versa. To determine the generalizations in Blackfoot, I gathered data by conducting fieldwork with speakers and consulting published reference materials. Some arguments in the dissertation are based on original morphological and phonological analyses of Blackfoot stems.For the syntax-prosody correspondence, I hypothesize that each syntactic phase corresponds to a particular prosodic constituent by default. Specifically, the vP phase (the predicate of events), matches to a Prosodic Word (PWd) constituent, and the DP and CP phases match to Phonological Phrase (PPh) constituents. I model these relationships using a modified version of Match Theory (Selkirk 2011), where mismatches between syntactic phases and prosodic structure only occur in order to satisfy prosodic wellformedness constraints. For the relation between prosody and metrical structure, I hypothesize that the edges of metrical constituents align to different prosodic constituents (prosodic word, phonological phrase, or intonational phrase).Regarding structure in Blackfoot, I argue that a constraint which requires sister nodes within the prosodic structure to be of the same type outranks the syntax-prosody MATCH constraints. This forces each DP argument and also the remainder of the CP (e.g. the verbal complex) to be matched to a PPh constituent. The vP phase and every higher vP projection corresponds to a PWd constituent, which is distinct from the PPh. I argue that the metrical constituents in Blackfoot align to PPh edges, and that syllables frequently span PWd edges. This is a predicted outcome, given that the MATCH and ALIGN constraints are violable. The model I propose accounts for the correspondence relations in Blackfoot, and leads to a typology of predicted language types, with implications for extending Match Theory to account for polysynthetic languages.

View record

The syntax in Tlingit verbs (2020)

Tlingit verbs appear to be single phonological words but they are constructed from a large number of distinct morphological elements that correspond to argument structure, event structure, aspect, mood, modality, tense, and qualia. Previous analyses have accounted for the verbal morphology of Tlingit with opaque position class template systems. These systems present the internal structure of verbs as arbitrary and do not address the many dependencies between elements. This dissertation argues that the Tlingit verb implements a regular syntax with each morpheme instantiating a syntactic terminal. Ordering within the verb word is a consequence of regular syntactic structure with all dependencies between elements reflecting selection and agreement phenomena. The verb-internal syntax requires no extraordinary theoretical mechanisms: Tlingit verb morphology is neither unique nor problematic from a theoretical perspective.To demonstrate this argument, this dissertation develops a formal theoretical model of Tlingit verbal structure within the Minimalist Program framework. An acategorial root forms the basis of the syntactic structure, encoding the majority of lexical properties. Other verbal morphology is either functional heads such as v, Voice, and Asp, or minimal lexical elements such as D pronouns or N incorporates. As well as phonological form and encyclopedic meaning, roots also encode valency, qualia, durativity, stativity, and irrealis, along with other morphosyntactic properties. These properties influence both the syntactic functions and semantic interpretations of the functional heads, so that the syntax and semantics of each head is contextually dependent, fully predictable and compositional. Long distance dependencies arise from selection, movement, and agreement between heads. Every morpheme either saturates or restricts an event or an argument, thus predictably contributing to the structure and interpretation of the whole verb. Movement and spellout are determined by phases which correspond to regular domains in the phonological verb word and phrase. Careful attention is paid to many supposedly irregular or lexical phenomena, showing that most are extensions of regular phenomena, and that some actually reflect underdocumented grammatical patterns. The results of this research have many implications for linguistic theory and for related Na-Dene languages and provide a robust analytical foundation for Tlingit language teaching and revitalization.

View record

The syntax of A'-dependencies in Bamileke Medumba (2020)

In this dissertation, I investigate the syntax of A′-dependencies (wh-movement, focus movement, relativization and topicalization) in Bamileke Medumba, a Grassfields Bantu language spoken in the Western Region of Cameroon. I first examine the in-situ/ex-situ partition with Medumba wh-/focus construals and propose an analysis in which the necessity of movement is driven by interpretation. This approach correctly predicts structural and semantic differences between in-situ and ex-situ wh-questions and foci in Medumba. Thus, they differ in Medumba with regard to: (i) exhaustivity –– in that in-situ wh-questions and foci are non-exhaustive whereas their ex-situ counterparts are exhaustive –– (ii) question-answer pairs –– in that the information-theoretic structure of the answer must match the information-theoretic structure of the question –– and (iii) fragment answers –– in that fragment answers to in-situ wh-questions are not focus-marked whereas fragment answers to ex-situ wh-questions are focus-marked. I also examine A′-agreement, analyzed as the reflex of Phasal-Agree. I show that A′-agreement is not only a crucial diagnostic for A′-movement, for Phasal-Agree and for the locality of movement (cyclic phase-by-phase movement (Biberauer and D’Alessandro 2006; Chomsky 2000, 2001; van Urk 2015; van Urk and Richards 2015)) but also a diagnostic for intermediate phases. Finally, I examine resumption in Medumba A′-construals. Resumptive pronouns in Medumba surface both in island violation contexts (including apparent complement CPs analyzed as disguised adjunct clauses) as well as in contexts where there is absolutely no island violation (root clauses), where they alternate with gaps. I argue that resumptive structures are derived in Medumba via the economy principle of Last Resort (Koopman and Sportiche 1986; Rizzi 1990; Chomsky 1991, 1998; Shlonsky 1992; Bobaljik 1995, Lasnik 1995; Ura 1996; Pesetsky 1997; Collins 2001; Bošcović 2011). To get a unified account of resumptive structures in Medumba, I propose that Last Resort is conditioned by syntactic and semantic constraints. Syntactic Last Resort derives resumptive pronouns in Medumba island violation contexts, to salvage A′-dependencies that would otherwise result in ungrammaticality. Semantic Last Resort is a condition on interpretation that derives resumption in configurations that would otherwise result in ambiguity.

View record

Belief-of-existence determiners: evidence from the syntax and semantics of Nata augments (2019)

This thesis makes two inter-related claims about the augment (a.k.a pre-prefix or initial vowel) based on evidence from Nata (Eastern Bantu, E45). Syntactically, the Nata augment is the realization of the functional category D(eterminer). The view that the augment is D is consistent with the claimthat argument expressions are DPs, while predicate nominals obligatorily lack the D shell (cf. Longobardi 1994; Matthewson 1998; Déchaine and Tremblay 2011 and others). Semantically, I argue that the D distinction in Nata is solely based on speaker’s belief of existence. Beyond Nata, I claim that the core notion of existence is pertinent to other Bantu languages as well. The thesis challenges the widely held view that the D position is necessarily related to specificity or definiteness. I demonstrate that, once definiteness and specificity are controlled for in a precise fashion, the true contribution of Nata Ds as belief-of-existence Ds can be discerned. Cross-linguistically, the Bantu belief-of-existence D intersects with Salish assertion-of-existence Ds. In Salish, existence is asserted based on the speaker’s personal knowledge (Matthewson 1998). In Nata, this requirementis lacking. The Nata belief of existence D thus behaves as “the weakest D”, as it does not require a speaker to have personal knowledge of the individual. The theoretical implications of this analysis are twofold. First, existence Ds come in (at least) two guises, belief-of-existence versus assertion-of-existence. Second, existence Ds—in both Bantu and Salish—differ from “common ground” Ds of the type found in English, with the latter (but not the former) coding definiteness/specificity.

View record

Topics in Siamou Tense and Aspect (2015)

This dissertation examines the syntax and semantics of tense and aspect in Siamou (Niger-Congo, Kru), a language of Burkina Faso. Its purpose is twofold. First, it provides a description of the tense/aspect system of Siamou; to date, this part of the grammar has not been systematically investigated. Second, it tests and sharpens formal syntactic and semantic tools relating to tense and aspect on Siamou data. It shows that applying standard analyses to a previously unanalyzed tense/aspect system is effective. For example, existing tests for perfective and imperfective aspect are able to diagnose two of Siamou's aspectual morphemes. However, it also points out some key areas that need work, including how Siamou past tense implicatures arise, and what kind of modality Siamou future expressions encode. Chapter 1 provides background information on tense and aspect, describes the methodology used, and introduces topics covered in this dissertation. Chapter 2 provides an overview of properties of Siamou that are relevant to the description and analysis of tense and aspect in this language. Chapter 3, which is a morpho-syntactic description and analysis of the Siamou aspectual phrase, establishes that Siamou has a set of six aspectual suffixes that partition into three tonal classes: a low tone class, which includes -L, -è, and -ɲɛ̀n, a mid tone class, which includes -n and -a, and a high-low tone class, which includes -bɛ̂. This is followed by a theoretical chapter which develops a set of semantic diagnostics for perfective and imperfective aspect. Chapter 5 uses those diagnostics to show that one of the aspectual markers, the low tone suffix, encodes perfective aspect while another, the mid tone nasal consonant suffix, encodes imperfective aspect. Chapter 6 investigates the semantics of the right-edge particle ín, and argues that its primary meaning is past tense. I show that this particle also gives rise to a number of implicatures that are consistent with its primary meaning. Finally, chapter 7 examines Siamou's future expressions (ri. . .-a, bè. . .-a, and bè. . .-bɛ̂). I show that the future meaning makes use of three syntactic positions: finiteness, modality, and prospective aspect.

View record

Evidentiality in Nuu-chah-nulth (2013)

This thesis proposes that evidentiality is made up of three factors: a relation between an origo and a situation, a relation between an origo and a proposition, and a relation between a situation and a proposition. This claim is motivated empirically by the set of evidentials in the Ahousaht dialect of Nuu-chah-nulth, a Wakashan language spoken on the west coast of Vancouver Island in Canada. This language has seven evidentials, each of which encodes at least one of the three factors of evidentiality.The thesis begins by laying out the claim (Chapter 1), giving a brief outline of the grammar of Nuu-chah-nulth (Chapter 2), and going over the relevant literature on evidentiality (Chapter 3).Chapter 4 looks at the morphological and syntactic classification of the evidentials in Nuu-chah-nulth. I show that evidentials occur in several different syntactic domains, and are thus able to co-occur.I present a model-theoretic semantic analysis of my proposal in Chapter 5. The notions of origo, situation and proposition are formalized, as are the relations that hold between them. I also give the semantics of each of the evidentials in Nuu- chah-nulth.Chapter 6 addresses the question of how the origo is determined. I argue that three mechanisms are involved: 1) matrix-clause mood suffixes specify the origo; 2) embedding verbs lexically encode that their subject argument is the origo of their complement clause; and 3) in the absence of either of the previous two mechanisms, the origo is contextually determined.In Chapter 7 I show that the evidential component of meaning in a sentence does not have the same status as the propositional component of meaning. I propose a modification to the model given in Chapter 5 to account for this.Chapter 8 looks at the interactions between the semantics of temporal suffixes and evidentials. I show that the semantics of sensory evidentials requires them to precede tense, while the semantics of other evidentials do not impose any ordering with respect to tense.Finally, in Chapter 9 I summarize the claims of the thesis and turn to some unresolved questions.

View record

kâ-yôskâtahk ôma nêhiyawêwin : the representation of intentionality in Plains Cree (2008)

This thesis considers the reference system of Plains Cree, an Algonquian language spoken in Canada. I argue that the referential system of this language can be understood as coding distinctions in extentionality; it distinguishes between referents that possess perspectives (‘intentional’) and referents that do not (‘extentional’). With respect to perspectival possession, Plains Cree distinguishes four referential classes: (i) inherently extentional “Inanimate” referents, (ii) contextually extentional “Obviative” referents, (iii) contextually intentional “Proximate” referents, and (iv) unspecified “Animate” referents. I then show that the referential class “Obviative” is decompositional; it is constructed out of components that code referential dependency, which is the confluence of structural ordering and perspectival embedding. Finally, I consider the methodological issues raised by the study of referential types, showing how different data-collection methods interact with the semantics of perspectival possession.

View record

The syntax and semantics of clause-typing in Plains Cree (2008)

This thesis proposes that there are two kinds of clauses: indexical clauses, which are evaluated with respect to the speech situation; and anaphoric clauses, which are evaluated with respect to a contextually-given (anaphoric) situation. Empirical motivation for this claim comes from the clause-typing system of Plains Cree, an Algonquian language spoken on the Canadian plains, which morpho-syntactically distinguishes between two types of clauses traditionally called INDEPENDENT and CONJUNCT orders. In the current analysis, the INDEPENDENT order instantiates indexical clauses, and the CONJUNCT order instantiates anaphoric clauses. After laying out the proposal (chapter 1) and establishing the morphosyntax of Plains Cree CPs (chapter 2), the remaining chapters discuss the proposal in detail.Chapter 3 focusses on the syntax and semantics of indexical clauses (Plains Cree’s INDEPENDENT order). Syntactically, I show that there is an anti-c-command and an anti-precedence condition on indexical clauses. Semantically, I show that indexical clauses are always and only evaluated with respect to the speech situation, including the speech time (temporal anchoring), speech place (spatial anchoring), and speaker (referential anchoring).Chapter 4 focusses on the syntax and semantics of anaphoric clauses (Plains Cree’s CONJUNCT order). Syntactically, I show that anaphoric clauses must always be either preceded or dominated by some other antecedent clause. Semantically, I show that the value of temporal/spatial/referential dependent elements within an anaphoric clause is determined by an antecedent.Chapter 5 turns to the syntactic subclassification of Plains Cree’s CONJUNCT (i.e., anaphoric) clauses. I propose that there are three classes: chained clauses, adjunct clauses, and mediated argument clauses. I provide two kinds of diagnostics that distinguish these classes, and explore the consequences of this classification for argument clauses and complementation.Finally, Chapter 6 proposes a semantic subclassification of Plains Cree’s CONJUNCT (i.e., anaphoric) clauses. I propose that there is a direct mapping between the morphology and the semantics: one complementizer encodes presupposition of the proposition, the lack of a complementizer encodes a-veridicality of the proposition, and one complementizer is semantically unspecified (the elsewhere case). This means that Plains Cree’s clause-typing is fundamentally concerned with how the truth of the proposition is represented.

View record

Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

The syntax and semantics of gap and resumptive strategies in Iraqi Arabic D-linked content questions (2011)

This thesis examines Iraqi Arabic D-linked content questions of the type “Which woman saw Ragheb?”. I develop a syntactic and semantic analysis of both the gap and resumptive strategies of such D-linked content questions. Chapter 1 provides background information on Iraqi Arabic. Chapter 2 develops the syntactic analysis: the gap strategy is treated as an instance of full DP-deletion, with the deletion site being structurally ambiguous between a D-N and a D-phi-N structure. I further propose that the resumptive strategy is an instance of remnant DP-deletion with a D-phi-N structure, and treat the resumptive pronoun as a stranded phi-element. Chapter 3 relates the two syntactic structures — D-N versus D-phi-N — to the semantic distinction between the pair-list interpretation versus a natural-function interpretation. A pair-list reading is found when a question such as “Which woman did every man invite?” is answered with a list such as: “John, Sue; Bill, Lucy, …”. A natural function reading would answer the same question with a relational noun: “His sister.” In contexts where both the gap and resumptive strategy are possible, we observe the following: the gap strategy is ambiguous between a a pair-list and a natural function reading; the resumptive strategy only allows a natural function reading. I propose that the semantic ambiguity of the gap strategy reflects its structural ambiguity: if the deletion site is D-N, this corresponds to the pair-list reading; if the deletion site is D-phi-N, this corresponds to the natural function reading. As for the resumptive strategy, in contexts where the gap strategy is also possible, it is unambiguously interpreted with a natural functional reading; this is consistent with the syntactic remnant DP-deletion, which requires a D-phi-N structure. I further show that, in contexts where only the resumptive strategy is possible, economy considerations allow syntactic remnant DP-deletion to be semantically ambiguous between a pair-list and a natural function reading. Chapter 4 examines the syntactic and semantic parallels between D-linked content questions and genitive interrogatives and argues that the latter are inherently D-linked.

View record


Membership Status

Member of G+PS
View explanation of statuses

Program Affiliations

Academic Unit(s)


If this is your researcher profile you can log in to the Faculty & Staff portal to update your details and provide recruitment preferences.


Sign up for an information session to connect with students, advisors and faculty from across UBC and gain application advice and insight.