Below you can find a representative collection of my papers and presentations. Please see my CV for a comprehensive list of works.

Coalescence, Feature Scattering and variation the Left Periphery

My recent research addresses the question of cross-linguistic variation in the realization of positions within the clausal left periphery, looking primarily at second-position phenomena with varying degrees of strictness. I argue for a theory that allows multiple category features to be bundled on single heads (i.e. Feature Scattering). Rather than situate the operation in the lexicon or in a postsyntactic component, I argue that bundling takes place during the syntactic derivation, via an operation called Coalescence. I further argue that Coalescence is motivated by a need to eliminate heads that are deficient for interpretation at PF.

  • Hsu, Brian. 2017. Verb second and its deviations: an argument for Feature Scattering in the left periphery. Glossa 2(1): 35. DOI:
  • Hsu, Brian. 2016. Unification of Feature Scattering and M-Merger as Coalescence. In NELS 46: Proceedings of the 46th Meeting of the North East Linguistic Society: Volume 2, ed. by Christopher Hammerly & Brandon Prickett, 133-146. Amherst, MA: GLSA. [Prepublication draft] [NELS 46 handout]

Scalar positional constraints in Harmonic Grammar (joint work with Karen Jesney)

This project proposes a new account of positional licensing and positional markedness effects in Harmonic Grammar (Legendre, Miyata & Smolensky 1990), arguing that weighted constraints are additionally scaled according to some degree of prosodic or morphological prominence. We argue that weighted and scaled constraints account for attested typologies with a reduced constraint set, while avoiding overgeneralization predicted by indexed positional constraints in Optimality Theory (Prince & Smolensky 1993/2004).

  • Hsu, Brian and Karen Jesney. 2017. Loanword Adaptation in Québec French: Evidence for Weighted Scalar Constraints. In Proceedings of the 34th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics, ed. by Aaron Kaplan, Abby Kaplan, Miranda K. McCarvel & Edward J. Rubin, 249-258. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla. [available at Cascadilla Proceedings Project]
  • Hsu, Brian and Karen Jesney. 2017. A scalar constraint approach to the typology of loanword adaptation. Poster presented at the Linguistic Society of America 2017 Annual Meeting. [poster][handout]
  • Hsu, Brian and Karen Jesney. 2016. Scalar Positional Markedness and Faithfulness in Harmonic Grammar.  In Proceedings of the 51st Annual Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society, 241-255. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society.[Prepublication draft] [handout]
  • Hsu, Brian and Karen Jesney. 2015. Weighted scalar constraints and implicational process application. Paper presented at the 23rd Manchester Phonology Meeting (MFM 23). [MFM 23 handout]

Variation in Bangla complementizer order as syntax-prosody interaction

This work provides an interface account for a puzzling variation in the ordering of the finite complementizer je in Bangla; je is obligatorily initial in postverbal embedded clauses, but non-initial in preverbal embedded clauses. I argue that non-initial complementizer placement is derived by lower-copy spell-out (Bošković 2001) within the extended CP domain (Rizzi 1997), and that the pronunciation of a lower copy takes place to satisfy a prosodically-motivated constraint that disfavors je at an intonational phrase edge.

  • Hsu, Brian. Variation in Bangla complementizer order at the syntax-prosody interface. In NELS 45: Proceedings of the 45th Meeting of the North East Linguistic Society: Volume 2, ed. by Thuy Buy & Deniz Özyıldız, 35-44. Amherst, MA: GLSA. [Prepublication draft] [Poster] [Handout]

Prosodic constraint indexation

In a common form of prosodic derived environment blocking, markedness-reducing phonological processes fail to apply across sufficiently large prosodic junctures. These papers account for such effects in Optimality Theory (Prince & Smolensky 1993/2004) by positional markedness constraints violated only when a marked structure is fully contained within the span of an indexed prosodic constituent. These constraints also predict the emergence of more marked sequences within extraprosodic morphemes. The CLS 49 proceedings paper applies these constraints to derive the distribution of French nasal vowels, and further proposes an account of liaison as the result of exceptional prosodification.

  • Hsu, Brian. 2015. Constraining exceptionality as prosody-morphology mismatch: a study of French nasal vowels. In Proceedings of the 49th Annual Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society. [Prepublication draft]
  • Hsu, Brian. 2014. Unifying phonotactics and derived environment blocking through prosodic constraint indexation. In Supplemental Proceedings of the 2013 Meeting on Phonology, ed. by John Kingston, Claire Moore-Cantwell, Joe Pater, and Robert Staubs. [Available at AMP online proceedings]

The ClP/NP split in bare nouns

Looking primarily at French, this work proposes a distinction between two classes of bare nominals, true bare Noun Phrases (NPs) and those that additionally project to Classifier Phrases (ClPs). The distinction is argued to account for a number of differences between bare predicate nominals and those with articles, and two classes of verbal idioms. Among other differences, I show that only NPs denote gradable properties, and that only ClPs allow the insertion of articles without additional modification.

  • Hsu, Brian. 2012. Two Categories of Bare Nouns: Evidence from French. Talk presented at Going Romance 2012. KU Leuven. [Handout]