Ivona Kučerová


assistant professor

Linguistics and Languages

McMaster University

ivona {guess what} alum {dot} mit {dot} edu


Research Interests and current projects

My research focuses on phenomena that shed light on the division of labor between narrow syntax and its interfaces, especially the syntax-semantics interface. In particular, I am interested in the question of whether semantic information can modulate syntactic derivation, and if so, how exactly the information is passed on to the narrow syntax module. This overarching question comprises several subquestions: (i) is the mapping between syntax and semantics isomorphic, or is it subject to some form of computational economy? (ii) what units of syntactic structure may directly access information from the semantic module? (iii) how do we define these syntactic units? (iv) once we isolate the semantic input, do syntactic operations obey locality and other deterministic restrictions hypothesized to hold of syntactic computations?

Syntax-semantics interface: presuppositions and their grammatical realization; information structure: givenness, focus, alternatives; word left periphery (second position phenomena, freezing effects); structure of DP (split constructions, NP versus DP, quantification); agreement and its semantic effects

Syntax: well-formedness conditions on syntactic structure; extension requirements of certain functional heads; null subjects, verbal mophology, head movement; Case; Case splits; ergativity

Morphology: inflectional versus derivational morphology; number, gender

Languages: Slavic, Germanic, Romance, Semitic, Inuit


I am currently the PI or a co-applicant on four major grants funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada:

  1. Bullet Grammatical vs semantic features: the semantics-morphology mapping, and its consequences for syntax (PI; co-applicant: Betsy Ritter, University of Calgary; collaborator: Nicholas Welch, University of Toronto; 2016-2021)

  1. Bullet The relation between definite and indefinite articles and free word order: a typological study (PI; SSHRC Insight Grant; 2012-2016)

  1. Bullet Sinâni: Inuttitut on the Edge (co-applicant; PI: Alana Johns, University of Toronto; SSHRC Insight Grant; 2015-2019)

  1. Bullet Copular agreement systems: Locality and domains (co-applicant, PI: Susana Bejar, University of Toronto; SSHRC Insight Grant; 2013-2018)

Syntax Lab and Prospective students

I lead the syntax lab at McMaster University and accept new students both at Master’s and PhD level. Please get in touch if you’d like to work with me. The full info about our graduate program in Cognitive Science of Language can be found here.

Current students:

Jitka Bartošová (PhD; syntax and semantics of DPs in Slavic)

Cassandra Chapman (PhD; sentence processing at the syntax-semantics interface)

Heather Stephens (Masters; semantics of pronouns in counterfactuals)

Sara Sturino (Masters; syntax)

Recent presentations and work in progress

a new talk on Nominative case as the syntactic reflex of person feature on D based on comparative data with numerals in Slavic (MOTH Syntax Workshop, University of Toronto, April 2016)

a presentation on the semantic and syntactic ambiguity of why-questions in English to be presented at the LSA 2016 (with Cassandra Chapman); we argue that English why-questions are systematically ambiguous between a reason and a purpose reading but the ambiguity arises only with propositionally complex predicates

Jitka Bartošová and Ivona Kučerová. 2015. Multiple-Agree conspiracy: On PERSON, animacy and copular agreement

(October 2015) - a case study that shows phi-features at the syntax-semantics interface may differ from phi-features within narrow syntax and that 3rd person animate DPs are [+PERSON] ; also some thoughts on feature-sharing in complex verbal heads (aux + past participle)

some thoughts on what constitutes a default feature value in the domain of agreement, what the contribution of phi-features is and whether it might depend on their syntactic environment [a handout of a talk at the Dog Days Workshop, University of Toronto, August 2015]

Ivona Kučerová. submitted. On two sources of phi-feature valuation and the consequences for syntactic computation: A case study from the Italian nominal inflection

Jitka Bartošová and Ivona Kučerová. 2015. Instrumental Situations: On Case Marking of Copular Clauses in Czech. Formal Approaches to Slavic Languages 24, NYU, New York, NY (May 2015)

some thoughts on ergativity and case splits [this is a 2012 GLOW talk; paper currently in preparation]

some thoughts on phi-Agree and timing in the nominal domain [joint work with Susana Bejar; paper in preparation]

Selected publications

Alana Johns & Ivona Kučerová. to appear. On the morphosyntactic reflexes of information structure in the ergative patterning of the Inuit language. In J. Coon, D. Massam, and L. Trevis: Oxford University Press Linguistics Handbook of Ergativity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ivona Kučerová. 2016. Long distance agreement in Icelandic: Locality restored. The Journal of Comparative Germanic Linguistics  19(1):49–74. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10828-016-9077-6.

[pre-print version]

Ivona Kučerová. 2014. The Syntax of Null Subjects. Syntax 17:2, 132—167.

Ivona Kučerová & Rachael Hardy. 2014. Two scrambling strategies in German: Evidence from PPs. Linguistics Society of America Extended Abstracts.

Jitka Bartošová & Ivona Kučerová. 2014. Against a unified NP-deletion analysis of pronouns: Evidence from demonstratives in Czech. In: Ludmila Veselovská and Markéta Janebová  (Eds.), Visibles Out There. Proceedings of the Olomouc Linguistics Colloquium 2014: Language Use and Linguistic Structure. Olomouc: Palacký University.

Ivona Kučerová.  2013. Perfect dependent case. In Podobryaev, Alexander (ed). Formal Approaches to Slavic Linguistics. The Second MIT Meeting. Michigan: Michigan Slavic Publications. 117-136.

Mojmír Dočekal & Ivona Kučerová. 2013. Semantic competition over morphological representations. A case study from Slavic. In E. Fuss, P. Brandt, Repairs. Interface explorations. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter,  31-54.

Ivona Kučerová 2012. Grammatical Marking of Givenness. Natural Language Semantics 20: 1, 1-30.

Ivona Kučerová 2012. The T-Extension Condition. Canadian Journal of Linguistics 57: 3, 387-426.

Ivona Kučerová & Ad Neeleman (eds.). 2012. Contrasts and positions in Information Structure. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 354pp.

Ivona Kučerová. 2012. Toward a Phase Account of Dependent Case, University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics: Vol. 18: Iss. 1, Article 17.

Mojmír Dočekal & Ivona Kučerová. 2012. On the semantics of negative manner and degree questions: A case study from Czech. Proceedings of the 21st annual meeting of the Formal Approaches to Slavic Linguistics. The Bloomington, Indiana, meeting. 49-62.

Ivona Kučerová & with Anna Moro. 2012. On the structural and typal differences between mass and count nouns: Evidence from Romance. In Ana Aguilar Guevara, Anna Chernilovskaya, and Rick Nouwen (eds), Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 16, v. 2. 377-388. 

last updated April 2016