The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, April 13th, 2009

Phonology Circle 4/13 - Bronwyn Bjorkman

Please note: this Monday, Phonology Circle will meet at a special place and time, in order to allow participants to attend Kiparsky’s talk at Harvard at 4.

Time: Monday 4/13, 1:30-3:30pm
Location: 32-D461
Speaker: Bronwyn M. Bjorkman
Title: Uniform Exponence and Reduplication: Evidence from Kinande

In this talk I argue that verbal reduplication in Kinande (a Central Bantu language spoken in parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo) is subject to constraints enforcing identity between reduplicants of a single root.

Kinande verbal reduplication is typical for a Bantu language: a bisyllabic reduplicant is prefixed to the verbal stem (the root plus any suffixes), and means ‘quickly’ or ‘iteratively’. What is unique about the Kinande system, however, is that reduplication of morphologically complex bases is regulated by a Morpheme Integrity Constraint (MIC, Mutaka and Hyman 1990), which prohibits partial morpheme-copying: individual morphemes must be reduplicated in their entirety or not at all.

What is interesting is the form that reduplicants of morphologically complex verbs take in order to avoid violating the MIC (1b-d): such reduplicants are identical to each other and to the reduplicant of the bare, unsuffixed verb stem (1a):

(1) a. eri-huk-a to cook eri-huka-huk-a
b. eri-huk-w-a to be cooked eri-huka-huk-w-a or eri-hukwa-huk-w-a
c. eri-huk-ir-a to cook for eri-huka-huk-ir-a (*eri-huki-huk-ir-a)
d. mó-tw-á-huk-ire we cooked (yes.) mó-tw-á-huka-huk-ire (*mó-tw-á-huki-huk-ire)

The data in (1) present a challenge for a correspondence-based approach to reduplication (McCarthy and Prince, 1995): in (1b-c) we see that the reduplicant can correspond to a non-contiguous substring of the Base, and in (1d) the reduplicant contains a final [a] that is not present in the base at all.

To account for these data, I propose that Kinande reduplicants are subject to Output-Output (OO) constraints enforcing faithfulness between reduplicative morphemes themselves, not only between morphologically related whole words. Within a set of verbs sharing the same root, reduplicants are thus subject to two separate and sometimes divergent correspondence requirements: they are required by standard Base-Reduplicant (BR) faithfulness to be identical to their linearly adjacent base, but they are also required by OO constraints to be identical to all other reduplicants within the root-defined set (RED-Uniformity). When BR and OO faithfulness requirements compete, the result is optionality, as in (1b). When the MIC rules out the BR faithful candidate, as in (1c-d), the uniform reduplicant is the only grammatical option.


4/13 Whatmough Lecture @ Harvard: Paul Kiparsky

Speaker: Paul Kiparsky (Stanford University)
Title: Words and Paradigms
Time: Monday 4/13, 4pm
Location: Harvard Hall 202 (2nd floor)


Ling Lunch - 4/16 - Guillaume Thomas

Speaker: Guillaume Thomas
Title: Incremental comparatives
Time: Thurs 4/16, 12:30-1:45
Place: 32-D461

In this talk I will investigate a form of comparison of superiority that one could call `incremental', as in (1) and (2):

(1) Give me (some) more coffee.
(2) Five customers bought a laptop yesterday, and one more customer bought a desktop this morning.

In its incremental reading, the request in (1) is satisfied even if the quantity of coffee that I receive is less than the quantity of coffee that I got before. In the same way, (2) is true even in case only one customer bought a computer this morning. Incremental readings are not attested with all predicates under all conditions, cf. (3) and (4):

(3) Bob was happy right after the talk, and he is going to be happier tonight at the party.
(4) The temperature rose by 4C yesterday afternoon, and it's going to rise some more this afternoon.

(3) entails that Bob will be happier at the party than he was right after the talk — hence, no incremental reading is available. (4) has an incremental reading according to which the temperature might rise by less than 4C this afternoon. And it might even be the case that the temperature fell down during the night, and rose back again before now. However, it has to be the case that the temperature rises from the degree it had reached yesterday afternoon — not from a lower degree. A proper analysis of incremental comparison must capture these restrictions on the availability of incremental readings.

It will be argued that incremental comparison arises from the use of a specific incremental comparison operator. Lexical ambiguity is supported by the absence of incremental comparison in languages that do not lack standard comparison of superiority (eg. German). The incremental comparison operator combines with a property G of eventualities and degrees, and asserts that G is satisfied by an eventuality E to some degree D. It also introduces a presupposition that a specific eventuality E' that is associated with a degree D' precedes E, such that G is satisfied by the sum of E and E', to the degree D plus D'. In other words, the incremental comparison operator asserts that G(E)(D) is true and presupposes that D increments a previous degree D' associated with a previous eventuality E'. It is argued that the reference to a sum of eventualities E+E' in the presupposition suffices to rule out unattested/limited incremental readings with examples such as (3) and (4).


Colloquium 4/17 - Hedde Zeijlstra

Date: 4/17/09
Time: 2.30pm-4pm
Place: 32-141 (the usual)
Speaker: Hedde Zeijlstra (University of Amsterdam)
Title: On the origin of Berbice Dutch VO

Intriguingly, Guyanese creole Berbice Dutch is a VO language, whereas both its substrate languages (Ijo languages, in particular Kalabari) and its superstrate (16th and 17th century Dutch) are OV (see Kouwenberg (1992)). Ever since the introduction of Bickerton’s bioprogram (Bickerton (1984) et seq), universalist creolists have taken Berbice Dutch to be a perfect illustration of VO as a default setting for basic word order.

We argue that the VO emergence in Berbice Dutch directly results from the grammatical structure of Kalabari and 17th century Dutch and therefore counts as an argument against this universalist claim that Berbice Dutch word order must result from a UG default setting.

Closer inspection on Kalabari and 17th century Dutch reveals (i) that, contrary to what has been assumed in. Kouwenberg (1992) and Lightfoot (2006), Kalabari does not exhibit any Verb Second effects and (ii) that 16th and 17th century Dutch still allowed VO object leakages. Given these facts, VO emergence in Berbice Dutch directly follows:

First Kalabari had no movement causing VO in their native language. Since Kalabari had no way of recognizing the V2 property, Kalabari speakers learning Dutch must have misinterpreted Dutch VO surface strings and subsequently overgeneralized VO to all sentence types. Further input however did not lead Kalabari speakers to reject their initial VO hypothesis and adopt a more complex OV+V2 hypothesis as the VO overgeneralizations were in compliance with the existing Dutch VO leakages. Finally, this explains why Dutch planters adopted counterintuitive VO in depth orderings: those VO constructions were not considered fully ungrammatical in those days. This opened up the way for the next generation to interpret this linguistic input as VO with exceptional leakage to OV. With the loss of syntactic flexibility, finally, word order for Berbice Dutch was set on VO.


Peter Graff to present at CLS

Peter Graff and T. Florian Jaeger will be presenting their talk, The OCP is a pressure to keep words distinct: Evidence from Aymara, Dutch and Javanese at the 45th Annual Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society.


Supernumerary Phonology Circle Talk 4/17 - Shigeto Kawahara

This week we have a special extra edition of Phonology Circle, featuring a talk by Shigeto Kawahara. Please note the special time!

Speaker: Shigeto Kawahara (Rutgers University)
Title: Probing knowledge of similarity through puns
Time: Friday April 17, 4-6pm
Location: 32-D831

This talk outlines the aims, results and future prospects of a general research program which investigates knowledge of similarity through the investigation of Japanese imperfect puns, dajare. I argue that speakers attempt to maximize the similarity between corresponding segments in composing puns, just as in phonology where speakers maximize the similarity between, for example, inputs and outputs. In this sense, we find non-trivial parallels between phonology and pun patterns. I further argue that we can take advantage of these parallels, and use puns to investigate our linguistic knowledge of similarity. To develop these arguments, I start with an overview of the results of some recent projects, and follow that with patterns that provide interesting lines of future research.

Mary Ann Walter to Middle East Technical University

Mary Ann Walter (PhD 2007), who has been a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Northwestern University, has accepted an Assistant Professor position at the Middle East Technical University, in Northern Cyprus. Mary Ann’s dissertation was about Repetition avoidance in human language. Congratulations, Mary Ann!