The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, October 22nd, 2018

WAFL14 @ MIT and MIT @ WAFL14

MIT was the very proud host of the 14th Workshop of Altaic Formal Linguistics, which took place from Friday October 19th to Sunday 21st. This year’s edition celebrated the career of Prof. Shigeru Miyagawa, co-founder of WAFL (with Jaklin Kornflit). In his honour, a workshop was held on the day before the conference, featuring talks by friends, estimated colleagues, and former students.

MIT presenters at WAFL:

  • Dmitry Privoznov (4th year), Causality of passives and paradigmatic gaps
  • Colin Davis (4th year), Crossing and Stranding at vP in Altaic and beyond
  • Tatiana Bondarenko (2nd year), Combining CPs by Restrict: evidence from Buryat
  • Ömer Demirok (5th year) & Despina Oikonomou (alumna), Difficult Imperatives in Turkish

One of our recent alumni, İsa Kerem Bayırlı, was an invited speaker. He gave a talk on Concord in Altaic languages. Suyeon Yun, another alumna, was presenting.

Prof. Miyagawa’s speech at the dinner organized in his honour

Tanya Bondarenko presenting her poster

Musicians at the WAFL dinner: (left to right) Mongolian singer, Japanese shamisen player, traditional Turkish music band


LingPhil Reading Group 10/22 – on Percus & Sauerland (2003)

Vincent Rouillard will be continuing the De Re/De Dicto saga on the linguistic side with the influential Percus and Sauerland (2003). The meeting will take place on Monday 22nd in the 8th floor seminar room, i.e. the usual time & place.

Title : On the LFs of attitude reports

Author(s) : Orin Percus and Uli Sauerland

Abstract :

We argue that attitude reports with embedded pronouns have LFs that specifically describe “de se” attitudes. We offer some proposals for what the LFs of attitude reports look like.



MorPhun 10/22- Christos Christopoulos (UConn/Harvard)

Speaker: Christos Christopoulos (UConn/Harvard)
Title: Outward-sensitive allomorphy
Date and time: Monday 10/22, 5-6pm
Location: 32-D831

“I review the literature of counter examples to the Adjacency Condition (e.g. Allen 1979) in outward-sensitive allomorphy and argue that, viewed under a certain set of assumptions, these are no longer counter examples. I also discuss some issues related to the relevant set of assumptions.”

Syntax Square 10/23 - Elise Newman

Speaker: Elise Newman (MIT)
Title: vP infinitives in Wolof: on A’-movement to Spec vP
Date and Time: Tuesday, October 23, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461
In this talk, I will discuss infinitival relative clauses in Wolof. Or more accurately: infinitival clauses with gaps that show A’-properties. We will see evidence from clitic climbing and aspect that one such clause is small (vP-sized). These facts support a view of A’-movement that can target the edge of vP and stop there, even in the absence of higher A’ probes. We will additionally see that these clauses do not form a constituent with the DP that controls the gap, suggesting that they may attach higher as a type of adjunct purpose clause. This begs the question of how the gap comes to be associated with the matrix object. I will offer a preliminary analysis that these gaps are parasitic, which demands covert movement of matrix objects. Also featured in this talk are island sensitive resumptive pronouns!  

LF Reading Group 10/24 - Shumian Ye (Peking University/MIT)

Speaker: Shumian Ye (Peking University/MIT)
Title: Question bias, monopolarity, and presupposition
Date and time: Wednesday, October 24th, 1-2 pm
Location: 32-D461


Mandarin Chinese features diverse types of polar questions (A-not-A questions, ma-questions, ba-questions, intonation questions, etc.), and some polarity words (e.g. dui, meicuo, shide) exclusively used to answer biased questions. By using these polarity answers as a test for question bias, I will make the generalization that the monopolarity of IP domain is necessary for biased polar questions, whereas the bipolarity of IP domain is sufficient for neutral polar questions. Biased A-not-A questions, such as shi-bu-shi questions shown by (1), are argued to be C-neg-C questions in line with our generalization. (cf. Schaffar & Chen 2001)

(1)        Q: Ni    shi-bu-shi            xihuan   yuyongxue?                    A: dui./meicuo./shide.
                you   SHI-not-SHI        like        pragmatics                            right
                ‘You like pragmatics, right?’                                                  ‘Yes, you are right.’

I will derive the epistemic bias of shi-bu-shi questions by adopting Krifka’s (2017) analysis of outer/high negative polar questions in English. I propose that shi is an affirmative operator presupposing that the addressee believes the prejacent proposition is true, and bu is interpreted as a denial operator (~) instead of a negator (¬). That is, shi-bu-shi questions present two equal answer options – affirming φ and denying φ – both answers presuppose the addressee’s (i.e. the questioner’s) belief that φ is true.

Beyond shi-bu-shi questions, I will also discuss biased ma-questions like (2), to see whether we can derive the bias in such case by conveniently analyzing the question particle ma as a denial operator.

(2)        Q: Ni    zhi          xihuan   yuyongxue         ma?                  A: dui./meicuo./shide.
                you    ONLY    like        pragmatics         Q                            right
               ‘You only like pragmatics, right?’                                         ‘Yes, you are right.’



Phonology Circle 10/24 - Michael Kenstowicz

Speaker: Michael Kenstowicz (MIT)
Title: The Phonology and Phonetics of Chukchi Vowel Harmony
Date/Time: Wednesday, October 24, 5:00-6:30pm
Location: 32-D831


Chukchi has a dominant-recessive vowel harmony system that divides its full vowels into two disjoint sets: dominant {a,o} vs. recessive {i,u,e}. The presence of a dominant vowel anywhere in the word (stem, prefix, suffix) causes the recessive vowels to shift: i>e, u>o, e>a. The schwa vowel is compatible with both harmony sets.  The {a,o} vs {i,u,e} distinction does not constitute a natural division given the customary [high], [low] and [back] features. Based on typological and fragmentary internal evidence, Kenstowicz (1979) proposed [ATR] as the feature distinguishing the two groups: {a,o} [-ATR] vs. {i,u,e} [+ATR]. In this presentation (based on collaboration with Tokusu Kurebito), a phonetic analysis of a corpus of 40 words elicited from five Chukchi speakers is presented in an effort to determine if there is evidence supporting the ATR analysis. Our tentative conclusion is largely negative raising anew the question of basis for the Chukchi harmony and the analytic challenges it presents.


MIT Colloquium 10/26 - Sergei Tatevosov (Lomonosov Moscow State Univercity)

Speaker: Sergei Tatevosov (Lomonosov Moscow State University)
Title: On sociative causation and its wider implications
Time: Friday, December 26, 3:30-5pm
Place: 32-155

In this talk I address the phenomenon known as sociative causation, which is illustrated in (1) from Сavineña (Guillaume & Rose 2010):

(1)    E-ra-tu    ara-kere-chine    torta    Don Fransisco.
    1SG-ERG-3SG    eat-CAUS.SOC-REC.PAST    cake     Mr. Francisco
    ‘I had Mr. Francisco eat a cake with me’

Semantically, sociative causatives, as Guillaume and Rose indicate, involve a causer who does not only make “the causee do an action, but also participates in it, which is usually paraphrased with sentences like make someone do something by doing it with them or help someone do something”.
A crucial issue a theory of causativization has to address is the place of sociative causation within the wider spectrum of causativization phenomena, which include two other major types of causatives attested in natural languages, direct, or immediate, and non-direct ones. Relying on evidence from Tatar (Turkic), I propose that sociative causation reduces to the incremental relation between causing and caused subevents. In the emerging system, both ‘direct’ and ‘non-direct’ (= ‘not necessarily direct’) causation can be strengthened by the additional requirement that the two eventualities are incrementally related. I argue for a theory of syntactically represented event structure, where relations between its subevental components come out as a separate syntactic projection and show that a significant support for this proposal comes from spell-out patterns of sociative causatives.


TripleA 2019 at MIT

The Department of Linguistics at MIT is very happy to host the 6th edition of TripleA, a workshop that aims at providing a forum for semanticists doing fieldwork on languages from Africa, Asia, Australia, and Oceania.

The workshop will take place from May 31 to June 2, 2019. The Invited speakers are Diti Bhadra (Harvard), Sandra Chung (UC Santa Cruz), Virginia Dawson (UC Berkeley), and Ken Safir (Rutgers).
The call for presentations is now open. The relevant information can be found in this website. The deadline to submit abstracts is January 29th, 2019.