The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, April 22nd, 2019

LF Reading Group 4/24 - Keny Chatain (MIT)

Speaker: Keny Chatain (MIT)
Title: What is wrong with doubles?
Time: Wednesday, April 24th, 1-2PM
Location: 32-D461

Abstract: In this talk, I show that for a sizeable class of adjectival operators (including comparatives, superlatives, excessives, samedifferent), standard and otherwise perfectly adequate denotations and LFs deliver problematic truth-conditions in sentences where two such operators occur, e.g. (1-2). This happens even though speakers recognize such sentences as well-formed and have consistent intuitions about their truth-conditions. These problems have been partially tackled in the literature (von Stechow (1984) under the label multihead comparatives, Meier (2000) for degree result clauses, and refs therein), but a one-size-fits-all solution, if it exists, remains to be found.

(1) Amelia carried the biggest elephant over the longest distance (relative reading)
(2) Every suspect read the same book at the same time.

After presenting the problem, I will explore three solutions: 1) an extension of von Stechow (1984), 2) a solution exploiting polyadic quantification inspired in spirit by Fox & Johnson (2016), 3) a postsuppositional account following Brasoveanu (2012). I will show that the challenges faced by all three solutions are daunting, if not insurmountable. I will suggest a revision of 1) but will mainly leave the puzzle open for the audience’s insights to express themselves freely.


Phonology Circle 4/24 - Jonathan Bobaljik (Harvard)

Speaker: Jonathan Bobaljik (Harvard University), joint work with David Koester (University of Alaska Fairbanks), Chikako Ono (Chiba University), and G. D. Zaporotskij
Title: Text setting in an Itelmen khodila (song)
Time: Wednesday (4/24), 5:30pm-6:30pm
Location: 32-D831

available here


Ling-Lunch 4/25 - Tatiana Bondarenko and Stanislao Zompi (MIT)

Speaker: Tatiana Bondarenko & Stanislao Zompí (MIT)
Title: Leftover Agreement in Kartvelian
Time: Thursday, 4/25, 12:30-1:50pm
Location: 32-D461

In this talk we argue that some instances of agreement result from probes interacting with unspelled-out features of lower agreement probes. We call such agreement Leftover Agreement, and show how it can account for the observed variation in number agreement across the four Kartvelian languages.

(1) a.  Georgian                      
‘She/he saw us.’
(Aronson 1990: 172)         

b.  Svan
‘She/he is killing us.’
 (Testelets 1989: 9) (2)

a.  Laz
‘She/he sees us.’
(Lacroix 2009: 294)

b.  Megrelian
‘She/he writes us.’
 (Kipshidze 1914: 076)

In Georgian and Svan, (1), the lower probe (the prefix) spells out both first-person and plural features of the object, so the higher probe (the suffix) does not find anything left over to agree with. In Laz and Megrelian, (2), however, the lower probe has spelled out only the person, but not the number feature of the object. This leftover feature is being agreed with and spelled out by a higher probe (the suffix -an / -a(n)). 
            In our talk, we will spell out our assumptions about the Kartvelian agreement system and discuss our implementation of Leftover Agreement, compare our proposal to other approaches (Halle & Marantz 1993, Harley & Lomashvili 2011, Blix 2016, Foley 2017, Thivierge 2018, a.o.), and show how it can be extended to the “inverse” agreement alignment with minimal changes.


Noam Chomsky’s 90th birthday celebration

Last Saturday evening, over 200 MIT Linguistics alums, colleagues, and friends gathered to celebrate Noam Chomsky’s spectacular 90th year. Here he is, blowing out his candles (not 90 of them, however):

photo credit: Eulalia Bonet

Bassi @ Workshop on Dependency in Syntactic Co-variance

Itai Bassi (4th year) presented his work on Fake Indexicals in the workshop on Dependency in Syntactic Co-variance that took place last week in Leipzig University. His handout can be found here.


Colloquium 4/26 - Aynat Rubinstein (HUJI)

Speaker: Aynat Rubinstein (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Title: Desire in motion
Time: Friday, April 26, 3:30-5:00pm
Room: 32-141

Motion verbs are famous for their tendency to undergo language change. Across languages, verbs meaning ‘come’ and ‘go’ become future markers, aspectual markers, modals expressing necessity, and more. Tracing the development of ‘come’ in Hebrew during its revival, this talk highlights yet another diachronic pathway that stems from motion: the pathway from motion to desire. Using goal-orientation as the essential meaning component of directed motion, I offer an analysis of the internally-motivated changes in the verb’s meaning, as well as changes instigated by language contact. The investigation supports the idea that meaning change is driven not by conventionalization of pragmatic inferences but by re-distribution of semantic content in possibly innovative syntactic configurations (Beck 2012, Beck & Gergel 2015, Condoravdi & Deo 2014).