The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, January 26th, 2009

Spring 2009 Colloquia  

There are seven colloquia scheduled for this semester:

2/27/09 - T. Florian Jaeger (University of Rochester)
3/6/09 - Lisa Travis (McGill)
3/20/09 - Anna Szabolcsi (NYU)
4/3/09 - Jeroen van Craenenbroeck (KU Brussels)
4/17/09 - Sharon Rose (UCSD)
4/24/09 - Daniel Buring (UCLA)
5/1/09 - Philippe Schlenker (Institut Jean-Nicod)

Unless otherwise announced, the talks will take place at 3:30pm, in
room 32-141.


This Week: IAP Class on Data Analysis  

Mike Frank and Ed Vul
Statistics and Visualization for Data Analysis and Inference

Mon Jan 26 thru Fri Jan 30, 1:00 - 3:00PM
Room 46-3189 M-R 1/26 – 1/29 and 46-3310 for F 1/30


A whirl-wind tour of the statistics used in behavioral science research, covering topics including: data visualization, building your own null-hypothesis distribution through permutation, useful parametric distributions, the generalized linear model, and model- based analyses more generally. Familiarity with Matlab, Octave, or R will be useful, prior experience with statistics will be helpful but is not essential. This course is intended to be a ground-up sketch of a coherent, alternative perspective to the “null-hypothesis significance testing” method for behavioral research (but don’t worry if you don’t know what this means).

Course Outline:

Visualization. Creating a visualization to understand experimental results. Simple univariate displays. Conventional multivariate displays. The repertoire of visual variables. Introduction of examples to be used throughout the course: simple behavioral experiments, complex behavioral experiments, and eye-tracking.

Permutation. Understanding what would have happened “by chance” through non-parametric tests, confidence bounds, and measures of effect size. Discussion of null-hypothesis significance testing and its limitations.

Distribution. Understanding the spread of data. Inferring parametric forms (Binomial, Gaussian, Poisson, etc.) as a convenient way of describing the structure of data. Effect size and Bayesian derivation of tests for parametric distributions, inc. binomial test, t-test, Cohen’s d, etc.

Models of Data 1: The Linear Model. What is a “model of data.” Basic assumptions of the linear model. The standard and generalized linear model and relationship to ANOVA. Bayesian derivation of the LM. Link functions and logistic regression. Effect size in a linear model. Introduction to multilevel models.

Models of Data 2: Bayesian Models. Constructing and testing more complex models of data. Bayesian models as a tool for creating models with complex task assumptions. Brief introduction to basic techniques for Bayesian inference.


Lisa Selkirk at Harvard - January 30  

Lisa Selkirk will be speaking in the Linguistic Theory Group at Harvard this Friday:

January 30th, 4:00pm
Boylston Hall 104
Elisabeth Selkirk, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
“Spelling out syntactic constituents as prosodic domains: match constraints and the syntax-prosodic structure interface”

Domain-sensitive phenomena of sentence phonology provide evidence for a parsing of phonological representation into three basic levels of constituency above the foot: intonational phrase (?), phonological phrase (?) and prosodic word (?), as shown, for example, in the Kisseberth 1994 study of the tonal phonology of the Bantu language Tsonga. On the basis of data from Tsonga and other languages it will be argued that the relation between syntactic constituency and phonological domain structure should be captured in terms of syntactic structure faithfulness constraints calling for syntactic clauses, phrases and words to match up with corresponding constituents of an independent prosodic structure representation (namely ?, ? and ?, respectively). Fully satisfying these interface Match constraints would produce a prosodic constituent structure that is isomorphic to the syntactic constituency and at variance with the so-called Strict Layer Hypothesis, creating systematic violations of the alleged prosodic markedness constraints Exhaustivity and Nonrecursivity (contra Selkirk 1986, 1995, Truckenbrodt 1999). This paper argues that the evidence supports a theory of the interface which takes an isomorphism between syntactic and prosodic constituency as an ideal. But the evidence also shows that this ideal may fail to be met, due to the role for prosodic structure markedness constraints like Exhaustivity, Nonrecursivity, prosodic minimality and so on, which may force the domain structure to conform to the (potentially conflicting) ideal of a phonological organization that is appropriate for pronunciation. Indeed, it is the role prosodic markedness constraints play in the characterization of phonological domain structure that makes the case that domain-sensitive phenomena are sensitive to an independent prosodic structure and not directly to syntactic structure. The working hypothesis is that the prosodic structure realization component of a grammar consists of an optimality theoretic ranking of interface Match constraints and prosodic structure markedness constraints. The claim is that such a grammar allows for a descriptively accurate account of the range of attested phonological domain structures in individual languages, and for a characterization of typological differences in domain organization found cross-linguistically.

Any theory of constraints on the relation between syntactic constituency and prosodic constituency must specify which types of syntactic constituency are relevant to phonology. It will be argued that Match Phrase and Match Clause each stand for a family of constraints. Match Phrase includes Match constraints distinguishing between phrases that are specifiers and those that are complement of the phasal heads ? (Chomky 2001) and Top0 (Kratzer and Selkirk 2007); the Match Clause constraints distinguish between comma phrases (Potts 2005) and those that are the complement of the phasal head C (Chomsky 2001, Pak 2008). Motivation for distinguishing subtypes of Match constraints comes from differences in their interaction with prosodic structure markedness constraints in different languages, expressible in terms of distinct constraint rankings.


Practice Job Talk: Raj Singh  

Raj Singh will be giving a practice job talk today (Monday 1/26), 10:55-11:55, in Room 32-D461:

“Symmetric and Interacting Alternatives for Implicature and Accommodation.”

The talk is geared to two interdisciplinary audiences (the Institute of Cognitive Science at Carleton University, and the departments of linguistics and philosophy at Yale), so feedback from psychologists and philosophers would be especially welcome.


MITing of the Minds 2009  

This year’s MITing of the Minds is the Fifth Annual MIT Philosophy Alumni Conference. The conference will showcase recent work in a variety of areas in contemporary philosophy. Presentations will cover topics in philosophy of science, philosophy of language, epistemology, and ethics, and will be accessible to a broad audience. Each day will feature talks by MIT faculty members, current students, and alumni of the graduate program.

Composed of talks by department faculty and graduate students of past and present.

Thursday, January 29th, and Friday, January 30th
9:30 am-5:45 pm
The Stata Center, 32-D461

All are welcome.

-> more info


CFP: Cornell Undergraduate Linguistics Collouqium  

Call for Papers

for the 3rd annual Cornell Undergraduate Linguistics Colloquium
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
April 4-5, 2009

UnderLings, the Cornell University undergraduate linguistics association, requests abstract submissions for the third annual Cornell Undergraduate Linguistics Colloquium. Student submissions at all levels are encouraged in a variety of subfields of linguistics, including but not limited to phonetics, phonology, syntax, historical linguistics, sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics, and language acquisition. Applicants pursuing a B.A., B.S., or equivalent degree are invited to submit a one-page abstract for a talk of no more than twenty minutes in length or for a poster presentation at our poster session. Abstracts should be submitted to culc2009@gmail.com by Friday March 6th, 2009. Please indicate whether you would like to be considered for a talk or for the poster session or both. There is a high probability that the conference proceedings will be published afterward, most likely in an online, widely-accessible format.

More information about the colloquium and online pre-registration will be available soon at http://conf.ling.cornell.edu/culc2009.

Please direct any questions to culc2009@gmail.com.