Luigi Burzio

Professor Emeritus


Curriculum Vitae (PDF)

Research Interests: Theoretical linguistics, devoted to the study of the human language faculty. Specifically: Theoretical phonology, morphology, and syntax; Romance Linguistics.

Recent and Ongoing Work: 
A New Perspective on the Phonology - Morphology Connection
(Flash 5 movie)

Earlier Work:

Some of my earlier work was devoted to the study of the argument structure of verbs, and helped establish the hypothesis (known as the "unaccusative hypothesis") that the apparent subject of certain verbs (like fall, exist) is in fact the object in argument structure (See Publications, Area A) . That work shed light on the patterns of case marking and auxiliary selection in some of the Romance languages. One of the factual observations made in that work later became known in linguistics as "Burzio's generalization".

Other work has been devoted to the principles controlling the expression of pronominal coreference (See Publications, Area B). It argues that in choosing an element to express coreference, options are organized according to the hierarchy reflexive > non-reflexive pronoun > name. This hierarchy reflects a principle of economy of referential expression, as reflexives lack any independent reference, while names have full independent reference and pronouns lie in between. In a structure like John saw himself/ *him, this principle will impose the reflexive pronoun (the referentially most parsimonious), excluding the non-reflexive pronoun him (when read as coreferential with John). The same principle will also impose the (more parsimonious) pronoun him in He thought that Mary saw him/ *John, hence excluding the name John (when read as coreferential with he). Other principles sensitive to the structural distance between a pronominal and its antecedent will sometimes independently exclude the reflexive option, as in the last example, where himself would be barred, hence inducing selection of the non-reflexive pronoun --the next best choice. Beside the above hierarchy, the work in question identifies several other hierarchies which appear to hold language-universally. These concern the structural distance just alluded to, and the conditions under which reflexives can felicitously agree with their antecedents.

In one further line of research, I have studied the patterns of morphological case (See Publications, Area C). I have argued that the apparently "naive" view of traditional grammar that case (Nominative, Accusative, Dative, etc.) simply encodes grammatical relations (subject, direct object, indirect object) turns out to be surprisingly correct. That view is generally taken to be false in contemporary work in light of certain counterexamples, such as I expect him to leave, where him is demonstrably the subject of leave and yet bears Accusative Case. What makes this reappraisal possible is understanding the grammar as an optimization system (as in Optimality Theory, see below) rather than as a system of inviolable conditions (a view also entailed by my work on pronominal coreference). Apparent counterexamples to the naive view can be reduced to principles acting under specific circumstances, that overcome the more general association of cases and grammatical relations. The latter association is thus only a violable condition rather than a false one.

While I remain interested in issues of syntactic theory such as those just described, in recent years I have turned to the area of phonology and word structure (morphology). My book Principles of English Stress (Cambridge, 1994. ASIN 0-521-44513-2) offers radically new solutions to a number traditional problems of English morpho-phonology, such as vowel length allomorphy, as in divi:ne/ divinity; obli:ge/ obligatory; genera:te/ generative, fi:ni:te/ infinite; Elizabeth/ elizabe:than (where colons mark long or diphthongized vowels), and the distinction between re-stressing and non-restressing suffixes, as in párent/ parént-al (re-stressing) versus américan/ américan-ist (same stress). Those solutions rely on a constraint-based approach to morpho-phonology which I have proposed in that work, and which has subsequently converged with the "Optimality Theory" of Prince and Smolensky (see Articles D, H). See 'Recent and Ongoing Work'.


050.205 The Structure of English
050.316/616 Morpho-Phonology
050.320/620 Introduction to the Syntax of Natural Languages (Syntax I)
050.325/625 Sound Structure in Natural Language (Phonology I)
050.327/627 Advanced Topics in Sound Structure (Phonology II)
050.227/427 Topics in the History of the Romance Languages
050.822 Research Seminar in Syntax
050.823 Research Seminar in Sound Structure
050.824 Research Seminar: Lexical Representation
050.825 Research Seminar in Optimality Theory


Argument Structure (Syntax)
Pronominal Coreference (Syntax)
Case (Syntax)
Stress and other (Phonology, Phonetics) 
Phonology-Morphology connection


1994: Principles of English Stress, Cambridge University Press.
ASIN 0-521-44513-2 

1986: Italian Syntax: A Government-Binding Approach, Reidel, Dordrecht (xiii+468 pp.).
ISBN 90-277-2014-2 & 90-277-2015-0. 


Lingua e Stile, XXI, 4 (1986): Giorgio Graffi
L'Indice, IV, 5 (1987): Giulio Lepschy
Studies in Language, 12, 1 (1988): Adriana Belletti
Language, 64, 1 (1988): Donna Jo Napoli
Romance Philology, 42, 4 (1989): Giulio Lepschy
Lingua Nostra, L, 2-3 (1989): Paola Benincà 


Submitted: 'Constraint Violability and the Chain Condition'‚  for a special issue of ReVEL (Revista Virtual de Estudos da Linguagem)  
Submitted: 'Derived Environment Effects’, for The Blackwell Companion to Phonology, Wiley-Blackwell. Marc van Oostendorp, Colin Ewen, Elizabeth Hume, and Keren Rice, eds.
Under revision: 'Lexicon and Grammar: unequal but inseparable', ms. Johns Hopkins University.
Submitted: ‘The Anaphoric and Pronominal System’ for The Syntax of Italian, G. Longobardi, ed. Cambridge University Press.
2007:   Wayment, Adam, Luigi Burzio, Donald Mathis, Robert Frank ‘Harmony versus Distance in Phonetic Enhancement’, in Emily Elfner and Martin Walkow (eds), Proceedings of NELS 37. GLSA Publications, Amherst. MA.    
2007:   ‘Phonologically conditioned syncretism’, in Selected Proceedings of the 5th Décembrettes: Morphology in Toulouse, ed. Fabio Montermini, Gilles Boyé, and Nabil Hathout, 1-19. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project.
2007:   ‘Fidélité Output-Output en phonologie: les  réseaux italiens’. In E. Delais-Roussarie et L. Labrune (eds.). Des  sons et des sens: données et modèles en phonologie et en  morphologie. Collection Langues et Syntaxe. Editions Hermès-Lavoisier, Paris, 91-124.

2007:   Burzio, Luigi and Niki Tantalou 'Modern Greek Accent and Faithfulness Constraints in OT', Lingua, Vol 117/6 pp 1080-1124.

2007:   'Phonology and Phonetics of English Stress and Vowel Reduction', Language Sciences 29 154–176.

2006: ‘Lexicon Versus Grammar in English Morphophonology: Modularity Revisited’ Korean Journal of English Language and Linguistics 6-3, 437-464.
2005: 'Sources of Paradigm Uniformity', in Laura J. Downing, T. A. Hall, Renate Raffelsiefen, eds. Paradigms in Phonological Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press: 65-106.
2004: 'Paradigmatic and Syntagmatic Relations in Italian Verbal Inflection'. In Julie Auger, J. Clancy Clements and Barbara Vance (eds.) Contemporary Approaches to Romance Linguistics, John Benjamins, Amsterdam: 17-44.
2003 'Output-to-Output Faithfulness: the Italian Connection', Lingue e Linguaggio 1, 69-104.
2002 'Surface-to-Surface Morphology: when your Representations turn into Constraints' in P. Boucher (ed.) Many Morphologies, Cascadilla Press. 142-177. (Preliminary version: ROA 341 0999;
2002: 'Missing Players: Phonology and the Past-tense Debate,' Lingua 112, 157-199.
2001: 'Zero Derivations', Linguistic Inquiry 32.4, 658-677.
2000: 'Segmental Contrast meets Output-to-Output Faithfulness' The Linguistic Review 17, 2-4, 368-384.
2000: 'Missing Players: Phonology and the Past-tense Debate,' in Kleanthes K. Grohmann and Caro Struijke, eds. University of Maryland Working Papers in Linguistics, vol. 10, 73-112.
2000 ‘The Rise of Optimality Theory' in Lisa Cheng and Rint Sybesma (eds) The First Glot International State-of-the-Article Book. New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 199-220.
2000 ‘Anatomy of a Generalization,' in Eric Reuland, ed. Arguments and Case: Explaining Burzio's Generalization, John Benjamins, Amsterdam. ISBN: 9027227551 & 155619918X
2000: ‘Anatomy of a Generalization,' in Syntactic and Functional Explorations: In Honor of Susumu Kuno, Ken-ichi Takami, Akio Kamio and John Whitman, eds. Kurosio Publishers, Tokyo. (updated version of article above).
2000 ‘Cycles, Non-Derived-Environment-Blocking, and Correspondence,' in Joost Dekkers, Frank van der Leeuw and Jeroen van de Weijer, eds. Optimality Theory: Syntax, Phonology, and Acquisition. Oxford University Press.
1999 "Anaphora and Soft Constraints," in Jon Franco, Alazne Landa and Juan Martín, eds. Grammatical Analyses in Basque and Romance Linguistics, John Benjamins, Amsterdam. (Updated version of 1998 article).
1999: ‘Italian Participial Morphology and Correspondence Theory,' in Geert Booij, Angela Ralli and Sergio Scalise, eds. Proceedings of the First Mediterranean Conference of Morphology. University of Patras.
1998, with Elvira DiFabi ‘Corrispondenze Accentuali,' in Miscellanea in Onore di Dante Della Terza, Edizioni Cadmo, Fiesole, Italy (443-457). 
1998: ‘Anaphora and Soft Constraints,' in Pilar Barbosa, Danny Fox, Paul Hagstrom, Martha McGinnis, and David Pesetsky, eds. Is the Best Good Enough? Optimality and Competition in Syntax' MIT Press and MIT Working Papers in Linguistics.
1998: ‘Multiple Correspondence,' Lingua 103, 79-109.
1997: ‘Strength in Numbers', in Viola Miglio and Bruce Morén, eds. University of Maryland Working Papers in Linguistics 5 (1997): Selected phonology papers from H-O-T 97, 27-52.
1996: ‘The Role of the Antecedent in Anaphoric Relations,' in R. Freidin, ed. Current Issues in Comparative Grammar, Kluwer, Dordrecht, 1-45. 
1996: ‘Surface Constraints versus Underlying Representation,' in: Durand, Jacques and Bernard Laks, eds. Current Trends in Phonology: Models and Methods. European Studies Research Institute, University of Salford Publications. (97-122).
1996: ‘Where English Prosody Meets Phonological Theory,' in Pérez Guerra, Javier, M.Teresa Caneda Cabrera, Marta Dahlgreen, Teresa Fernández-Colmeiro and Eduardo J. Varela Bravo, eds. Proceedings of the XIX International Conference of AEDEAN. Vig Universidade de Vigo. (51-65).
1995: ‘The Rise of Optimality Theory,' GLOT International 1.6, 3-7. University of Leiden.
1995: ‘On the Metrical Unity of Latinate Affixes,' in H. Campos and P.M. Kempchinsky Evolution and Revolution in Linguistic Theory: Essays in Honor of Carlos Otero, Georgetown University Press (revised version of 1991 article).
1994: ‘Weak Anaphora,' in G.Cinque, J.Koster, L.Rizzi and R. Zanuttini, eds. Paths towards Universal Grammar. Studies in honor of Richard S. Kayne, Georgetown University Press.
1994: ‘Metrical Consistency,' in E. Ristad, ed. Proceedings of the DIMACS Workshop on Human Language, American Mathematical Society, Providence RI.
1994: with Elvira DiFabi ‘Accentual Stability,' in M. Mazzola, ed. Issues and Theory in Romance Linguistics (LSRL XXIII), Georgetown University Press, Washington, D.C. 
1993: ‘English Stress, Vowel Length and Modularity,' Journal of Linguistics 29.2, 359-418.
1992: ‘Principles in Phonology,' in E. Fava, ed. Proceedings of the XVII Meeting on Generative Grammar (Trieste, February 22-24, 1991), Rosenberg and Sellier, Torino. 
1992: ‘On the Morphology of Reflexives and Impersonals,' in Christiane Lauefer and Terrell Morgan, eds. Theoretical Analyses in Romance Linguistics (LSRL XIX), John Benjamins, Amsterdam.
1991: ‘The Morphological Basis of Anaphora,' Journal of Linguistics 27.1, 1-60.
1991: ‘Grammatical Relations,' Oxford International Encyclopedia of Linguistics, Oxford University Press.
1991: ‘On the Metrical Unity of Latinate Affixes,' in Germán Westphal, Benjamin Ao, and Hee-Rahk Chae, eds. Proceeding of the Eigth Eastern States Conference on Linguistics, Department of Linguistics, Ohio State University. Reprinted in Rivista di Grammatica Generativa 16, 1-27.
1991: ‘English Vowel Length and Foot Structure,' in P.M. Bertinetto, M. Kenstowicz and M. Loporcaro, eds. Certamen Phonologicum II: Papers from the 1990 Cortona Phonology Meeting, Rosenberg and Sellier, Torino.
1989: ‘On the non-Existence of Disjoint Reference Principles,' Rivista di Grammatica Generativa, 14.
1989: ‘Prosodic Reduction,' in Carl Kirschner and Janet De Cesaris eds. Studies in Romance Linguistics, John Benjamins, Amsterdam.
1987: ‘English Stress,' in P.M. Bertinetto and M. Loporcaro (eds.) Certamen Phonologicum: Papers from the 1987 Cortona Phonology Meeting, Rosenberg and Sellier, Torino.
1983: ‘Conditions on Representation and Romance Syntax,' Linguistic Inquiry, 14, 193-221.
1982: ‘D-structure Conditions on Clitics,' Journal of Linguistic Research, 2.2, 23-54.
1978: ‘Italian Causative Constructions,' Journal of Italian Linguistics, 3.2, 1-71.

Other Affilliations:

Member faculty, Center for Language and Speech Processing, School of Engineering, Johns Hopkins University.

Member of editorial board for:

  • Georgetown University Press.
  • Linguistic Inquiry, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  • Probus, Mouton De Gruyter, New York.
  • Rivista di Grammatica Generativa, Unipress, Padova, Italy
  • The Linguistic Review, Mouton De Gruyter, New York.

Education & Experience:

Ph.D. in Linguistics and Philosophy, 1981 MIT, Cambridge, MA

PhD Dissertations directed

  • 1989: Sharon L. Shelly Object-Gapped Infinitivals in Romance, Harvard University.
  • 1990: Elvira G. DiFabio. The Morphology of the Verbal Infix isk in Italian and Romance, Harvard University.
  • 1996: Adamantios I. Gafos. The Articulatory Basis of Locality in Phonology, Johns Hopkins University.
  • 2000: Colin Wilson. Targeted Constraints: An Approach to Positional Neutralization in Optimality Theory. Johns Hopkins University.
  • 2009: Adam Wayment. Assimilation as Attraction: Computing Distance, Similarity, and Locality in Phonology. Johns Hopkins University (Robert Frank, Colin Wilson, co-advisors)