Project Directors: Mark Baker and Ken Safir , Rutgers University

This research initiative explores how predicates select for clausal complements. Natural languages most typically make available several different clause types which can function as the complements to a verbal (or adjectival) matrix predicate and it is frequently possible, in a given language, to predict which of the several clause types in the language the predicate will select based on the lexical semantics of that predicate. Native speakers appear to acquire the typology of clausal complementation in their language without explicit instruction, which raises familiar poverty of the stimulus questions that imply a great deal of tacit knowledge about the consequences of what a verb means for the syntactic form of the complement it selects. Although work on the semantic and syntactic selection by verbs that take nominal or prepositional complements has been a staple of linguistic work for many years (as, for example, in the work of Levin and Rappaport, 1995 and much work on thematic roles), relatively little research has sought to use crosslinguistic contrasts to identify the key factors, or even the key generalizations, that should inform our account of how speakers arrive at the classification of clausal complementation in their native language. Our proposal is to use the Afranaph resources to explore this question.

This is attractive in that the African languages permit us to investigate two types of crosslinguistic comparison: comparisons between languages that are broadly different, both in history and typology (e.g. across Afro-Asiatic, Niger-Congo, and Nilo-Saharan), and comparisons among languages that are broadly similar, but differ in the details of clausal selection in ways that reveal smaller cleavages in classification (e.g., across the Bantoid languages).


Clausal Complementation Questionnaire (CCQ)

At present, there is no official process for establishing an ASP relationship with Afranaph as it is currently constituted. The project proposals that were presented at the Afranaph Project Development Workshop have developed working groups of scholars interested in increasingly well-defined areas of inquiry and are in the process of developing questionnaires for field research with our native speaker linguist consultants and additional consultants they will contract with on their own. Afranaph is willing to consider any project that is compatible with our goals and practices, and that will produce data of interest to those who would use the common database. If you are interested in developing an ASP, contact Ken Safir at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
To set the ball rolling, submit a project description, including the theoretical issues that motivate you, an idea of what sorts of empirical patterns you are looking for, and an idea of what the elicitation document would have to achieve to get at the data that interests you. Given that the resources of the Afranaph Project are finite, there are some concerns any proposal for an ASP should address. For example:
  • How likely is your project to add to the data that we have in a way that might have synergy with other existing projects and/or is it an area of theoretical interest that involves a rich empirical pattern which the project will not otherwise address?
  • Can a plausible argument be made that the empirical domain your project will explore is coherent, phenomenally (an evidence pattern) or theoretically (the data applies to a well-defined question), and is likely to lead to interesting crosslinguistic comparisons (either because there is interesting variation or an interesting lack of it)?
  • Can you reasonably commit your own resources to making your project a success? We generally prefer to deal with projects that have collaborators to spread the work and responsibility, or those who have some resources at their own institutions that can help to diminish the strain on Afranaph infrastructure.
  • Is there a plausible argument to be made that your project might eventually receive support outside Afranaph to cover its expenses?
You do not have to answer the last question, but if you can answer it affirmatively it does not hurt your chances.

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Afranaph Project

18 Seminary Place
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
Phone: 732.932.7289
Fax: 732.932.1370

General Afranaph business should be addressed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Ken Safir is available at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Kunio Kinjo is available at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.