The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, February 11th, 2008

Welcoming new visitors  

We welcome two new visitors who have arrived this week:

  • Nabila Louriz (Assistant Professor, English Department at Hassan II University in Casablanca, Morocco)
    Visiting Scholar until July
    Research interests: loanword phonology
  • Georgios Spathas (PhD student, University of Utrecht)
    Post-Doctoral Fellow until December 08
    Research interests: syntax and semantics of gender features on bound pronouns, especially in Modern Greek

Phonology Circle  

The Phonology Circle will be meeting at 5—6 Mondays in 32D-831 again this semester. We will have our first meeting this Monday 11 Feb to plan the schedule for the term. If you cannot attend but would like to reserve a date, please contact Michael Kenstowicz (kenstow AT …)

[from Michael Kenstowicz]


MIT Linguistics Colloquium Spring Schedule  

Below is the spring schedule for the MIT Linguistics Colloquium:

February 15 - Klaus Abels, University of Tromso
February 29 - Paul Boersma, University of Amsterdam
March 7 - Bart Geurts, University of Nijmegen
March 14 - Roumyana Pancheva, University of Southern California
April 11 - Adamantios Gafos, New York University
April 18 - Henk van Riemsdijk, Tilburg University
May 2 - Jaye Padgett, UC Santa Cruz
May 9 - Junko Shimoyama, McGill University

The talks will take place on the aforementioned Fridays, at 3:30pm, in room 32-141, unless a specific change is announced.

[From the colloquium co-organizers, Jonah Katz and Omer Preminger]


Next syntax/semantics job talk: Doris Penka today at 3pm  

Doris Penka
Monday, 2/11, 3pm, 32D-461
“A cross-linguistically unified analysis of negative indefinites”

Abstract: Negative indefinites (English ‘nobody’,’nothing’ etc. and their counterparts in other languages) have been discussed controversially in languages that exhibit negative concord, i.e. where two or more morphologically negative elements contribute only one negation to the semantics. In this talk, I will bring negative concord together with two other phenomena that negative indefinites give rise to, namely scope splitting in German and distributional restrictions in the Scandinavian languages. Taken together, the discussed phenomena suggest that negative indefinites should not be analysed as negative quantifiers. Rather, negative indefinites are morpho-syntactic markers of sentential negation. I present a cross-linguistically unified analysis of negative indefinites and show how the three phenomena discussed follow from it. This analysis is based on the assumption that negative indefinites are semantically non-negative and must be licensed by a (possibly abstract) negation. It is proposed that negative indefinites cross-linguistically are of essentially the same nature and that differences between languages regarding their behaviour are due to parametric variation.


MIT Linguistics Colloquium - Klaus Abels - Friday, Feb. 15  

Klaus Abels
University of Tromso

“On Improper Movement”

February 15th, 2008, 3:30pm

Room 32-141

There will be a party in Klaus’ honor beginnning at 6:30pm at Pritty and Patrick’s place.


In this talk I propose to take a fresh look at the phenomenon of improper movement. How does (im)propriety of movement interact with remnant movement? How — with extraction from movement elements, i.e., with exceptions to the freezing principle? How — with a more articulated typology of movement relations than GB’s A/A’-distinction? On the basis of data largely from German and English, I reach the tentative conclusion that movement types must be ordered linearly.

If true, this gives rise to a more integrated and restrictive theory of movement than is currently available. I discuss one case, cross serial dependencies, where this restrictiveness is immediately apparent.


This week’s LingLunch: Omer Preminger  

Mark your calendar to come and join us this Thursday for a Ling-lunch talk by:

Omer Preminger (MIT)
“Basque Ling-Lunch Redux.”

WHEN: Feb 14, 12:30
WHERE: 32-D461


Part II of the Basque Ling-Lunch series will begin with a recap of Episode One - attendance of previous talk will not be assumed! - where it was shown that apparent cases of Long-Distance Agreement (LDA) in dialectal Basque do not in fact constitute a case of true LDA (construed as agreement that spans across the boundaries of established locality domains). I provide evidence that the cases in question fall into one of two categories: either (i) the apparent LDA relation is comprised of two separate agreement relations, “stacked” on top of one another, each of which is perfectly well-behaved with respect to the relevant locality restrictions; or (ii) the agreement relation in question spans the boundaries of neither DP nor CP, and is thus typologically unexceptional.

In this brand new episode, I turn to the distinction between Agree (conceived of as a relation between a probing head and a goal) and clitic-doubling (conceived of as the generating of a clitic which is matched in phi-features with a full argument DP). Certain asymmetries in the reach of so-called LDA when targeting dative noun-phrases and targeting absolutive ones suggest that absolutive agreement is an instance of Agree proper, whereas the dative (and ergative) exponents on the auxiliary are the result of clitic-doubling. In the climactic finale, I present an independent diagnostic for distinguishing Agree from clitic-doubling: when so-called LDA fails to obtain, the agreement-bearing form of the auxiliary is obviously ruled out; the question is whether what shows up is default agreement on the corresponding exponent, or rather an auxiliary form that lacks the relevant exponent altogether. I show that precisely in those relations hypothesized here to be Agree relations, failure of the relation results in default agreement-whereas in those relations hypothesized here to be clitic-doubling, failure results in the wholesale absence of the relevant exponent.


Ling Lunch Schedule Spring Semester 2008  

Ling Lunch Schedule
Spring Semester 2008

7. Joan Mascaró
14. Omer Preminger
21. Thomas McFadden (job talk)
28. Edward Garrett

6. Sverre Johnsen
13. Conor Quinn
20. Enoch Aboh

3. TBA (cancellation: open date)
10. Carmen Dobrovie-Sorin
17. Bob Ladd
24. Dong-Whee Yang

1. Elena Benedicto
8. Alya Asarina & Kirill Shklovsky
15. Nabila Louriz


Congratulations: Tapio MA  

Congratulations to Sophia Tapio for successful completion of her MA thesis, The Effects of Frequency and Composition on Production Duration in Morphological Processing.



Semantics and Linguistic Theory (SALT) 18 will take place March 21-23, 2008 at UMass Amherst. The program includes the following MIT people:

  • Jon Gajewski (UConn): More on quantifiers in comparative clauses
  • Paul Elbourne (Queen Mary, University of London): Implicit content and the argument from binding
  • Marta Abrusan (Institut Jean-Nicod/Collegium Budapest): Islands of contradiction: Presuppositional and negative interveners
  • Jon Nissenbaum (McGill) & Bernhard Schwarz (McGill): The scope of ‘too’ with gapped infinitival clauses (Poster)
  • Alan Bale (Concordia) & Hrayr Khanjian (MIT): Armenian classifiers and number marking (Poster)
  • Ezra Keshet (MIT): Only the strong: Restricting situation variables (Poster)
  • Pranav Anand (UC Santa Cruz) & Valentine Hacquard (Maryland): Epistemics, embedding, and sentience: A case for information states (Poster)

And last but not least, Philippe Schlenker (Institut Jean-Nicod/NYU) is giving an invited lecture on “Local contexts”.