The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, February 25th, 2008

MIT BCS Colloquium - Jesse Snedeker - Feb 29

This week’s BCS colloquium speaker will be Jesse Snedeker (Harvard University)

Title: “Starting Over: International Adoption as a Natural Experiment in Language Acquisition”
Time and location: Fri 2/29 4:00 PM, 46-3002


This week’s LingLunch: Edward Garrett

Come join us for this week’s Ling-lunch talk, to be presented by:

Edward Garrett (Eastern Michigan University) and Leah Bateman (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)
“Impersonal Subjects Have No Taste”

WHEN: Feb 28, 12:30
WHERE: 32-D461

Abstract in pdf


MIT Linguistics Colloquium - Paul Boersma - Feb. 29

Friday, Feb. 29, 3:30 PM

Paul Boersma
University of Amsterdam

“Emergent ranking of faithfulness explains markedness and licensing by cue.”

I show computer simulations of an Optimality-Theoretic learner who starts out with a constraint set without any bias towards the natural; that is, the set itself has no preference (e.g. it has *Onset, *Coda, Onset, and Coda), and the initial ranking of every constraint is the same. The language environment of this learner, however, does have some biases: there are frequency biases (e.g. final coronals are more frequent than final labials) as well as transmission biases (e.g. the value of the feature [place] is harder to hear for nasals than for plosives). The simulations (assuming a parallel three-level model of phonology and phonetics) show that when the learner listens to this language environment, she will automatically come to rank her (place) faithfulness constraints according to both frequency (higher for labials than for coronals) and cue reliability (higher for plosives than for nasals). When subsequently using these rankings in her own productions, she will automatically exhibit phenomena traditionally ascribed to “markedness” and to “licensing by cue”.


Phonology circle - Sasha Makarova - Feb 25

This week’s Phonology Circle presentation will be by Sasha Makarova (Harvard University)
Feb 25, 5pm, 32-D831


Job Visit: Alexander Williams

Our fourth candidate in the syntax-semantics search, Alexander Williams, will be here on Monday and Tuesday Feb. 25 — 26.

Please come to his talk:

Monday, Feb. 25, 3 - 4:30pm
“Basics in complex causatives”


In the standard semantics for resultatives (like `pound it flat’), the object enters thematic relations only to the two constituent predicates. But grammatical evidence from a number of languages, Mandarin in particular, shows that this is wrong. Rather, both the object and the subject bear relations to the event of change described by the whole verb phrase, independently of any others they might enter. The arguments which demonstrate this clarify the analysis of natural language causatives, contra several recent discussions (e.g.Rothstein 2004). They also have broader consequences for our understanding of the relation between lexical predicates and the concepts they signify. I briefly oppose these to the different conclusions in Kratzer 2003.