Jonathan Havenhill

Morphosyntactic Variation

I have a long-standing interest in morphosyntactic variation in nonstandard varieties of German, particularly Bavarian. Intraspeaker variation presents a challenge for most theories of morphosyntax, which are better equipped for dealing with deterministic allomorphy.

Bavarian exhibits a pattern of variable relative pronoun omission whereby relative pronouns can optionally be omitted, but only under certain morphosyntactic conditions. Moreover, Bavarian is unusual because when the relative pronoun does appear, it violates Doubly-filled COMP, which in languages like English and standard German prohibits the use of both a relative pronoun and a complementizer in the same clause. I argue that variable relative pronoun omission in Bavarian is best captured through a model grounded in Distributed Morphology, with the addition of variable Impoverishment. I demonstrate that the patterns observed in Bavarian cannot be captured by competing proposals, such as the combinatorial variability algorithm, or under the standard mechanisms of Distributed Morphology.


Havenhill, Jonathan. 2016. Relative clauses in Bavarian: A distributed morphology approach to morpho-syntactic variation. Proceedings of the 50th Annual Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago. [PDF]