The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, November 9th, 2009

Ling-lunch openings: 11/19 & 12/10  

There are still two remaining openings for Ling-lunch this semester: 11/19 & 12/10. If you are interested in presenting your work on either of these dates, please contact Bronwyn Bjorkman (bmbjork@mit.edu) or Guillaume Thomas (gthomas@mit.edu).


Phonology Circle 11/9 - NELS practice talks, part 2 (Michaels)  

In this week’s installment of Phonology Circle, Jen Michaels will give a practice talk for NELS:

Time: Monday 11/9, 5pm, 32-D461
Speaker: Jennifer Michaels (MIT)
Title: To alternate or not to alternate: What is the boundary?

Abstract: http://web.mit.edu/nels40/program/abstracts/NELS40Michaels.pdf

Upcoming schedule: (contact Adam for open slots)

Nov 16 Igor Yanovich
Nov 23 OPEN
Nov 30 Sverre Johnsen
Dec 7 Maria Giavazzi

Stay up to date! Check out the online schedule, or subscribe via iCal


Syntax-Semantics Reading Group - 11/9 - Kirill Shklovsky and Yasutada Sudo  

Syntax-Semantics Reading Group: NELS practice talk on Uyghur indexicals

Time: Monday at 11.30AM in room 32-D461
Speakers: Kirill Shklovsky and Yasutada Sudo
Title: Shifted indexicals in Uyghur (NELS practice talk)
Abstract: here

We hope to see you there!


Ling-Lunch 11/12: Jonah Katz & David Pesetsky  

Please join us for Ling-lunch this week:

Speakers: Jonah Katz and David Pesetsky
Time: Thurs 11/12, 12:30-1:45
Place: 32-D461
Title: The Identity Thesis for Language and Music

This paper argues for the following proposal:

Identity Thesis for Language and Music:
All formal differences between language and music are a consequence of differences in their fundamental building blocks (arbitrary pairings of sound and meaning in the case of language; pitch-classes and pitch-class combinations in the case of music). In all other respects, language and music are identical.

In particular, we argue, developing but also extending earlier proposals by Lerdahl and Jackendoff (1983), that music, like language, contains a syntactic component in which headed structures are built by iterated, recursive, binary Merge. This is the component that Lerdahl and Jackendoff called Prolongational Reduction, which represents hierarchical patterns of tension and relaxation in tonal harmony. We further argue that the distinct component that Lerdahl and Jackendoff called Time Span Reduction is a musical prosodic component (a point anticipated by Lerdahl and Jackendoff themselves) — whose interface with the syntactic component is strikingly similar to the comparable interface between syntactic and prosodic structure in language.

Though our discussion takes Lerdahl and Jackendoff’s work as a starting point and touchstone throughout, our proposals also constitute a significant realignment of their model — necessary in order to reveal similarities between musical and linguistic structure that were not evident in their presentation. This realignment also reflects a distinction in goals between our proposal and theirs. Their work took as its starting point the question “Given a piece of music in a particular musical idiom I, what laws govern the class of analyses that a listener assigns to it in I?” Our proposals arise from a related but distinct question, more typical of generative linguistic work: “What general laws define the class of possible pieces in I?” That is, what is the grammar of I?

Our realignment of Lerdahl and Jackendoff’s proposals in light of the Identity Thesis allows us to ask questions not taken up in their work. For example, does Internal Merge (i.e. syntactic movement) apply in the construction of musical syntactic structure, in addition to External Merge? We argue that the phenomenon of cadence is an instance of exactly this: head-movement from the penultimate constituent of a musical passage (the dominant) to the final tonic chord.

Finally, we will suggest (but probably not have time to argue) that the output of musical syntax feeds a Tonal-Harmonic Component whose formal relation to the music syntax strongly resembles the relation between linguistic syntax and the semantic system that interacts with it — and is subject to a Principle of Full Interpretation with respect to that component.

(A draft of a paper related to this talk is available on LingBuzz.)

Conference Roundup  

We’d like to get back in the habit of announcing talks (or posters) given by members of our department. If you are giving a talk somewhere, or recently gave a talk, please email whamit@mit.edu with the name of your talk and the venue where you presented.

To get the ball rolling, here’s some news from last week and this week:

Two students presented papers at the Ehu International Workshop on Ergativity in Bilbao, Spain, November 4-6. Jessica Coon gave a talk entitled ‘Rethinking Aspectually Based Split Ergativity’ and Omer Preminger gave a talk entitled ‘Basque Unergatives, Case-competition, and Ergative as Inherent Case’.

Moving north, Jeremy Hartman gave a paper entitled `When e-GIVENness over-predicts identity’ at the 4th Brussels Conference in Generative Linguistics, November 9-10. Former visiting students Gary Thoms and Marlies Kluck also presented papers.

Coming back to Cambridge, a slate of MIT students will be presenting at NELS 40 this weekend:

Hadas Kotek (joint work with Alexander Grosu): ‘On ‘restricted degrees”
Jen Michaels: ‘To alternate or not to alternate: What is the boundary?’
Kirill Shklovsky and Yasutada Sudo: ‘Shifted indexicals in Uyghur’
Bronwyn Bjorkman: ‘The syntax of syncretism’
Gillian Gallagher: ‘Perceptual similarity in laryngeal cooccurrence restrictions’


NELS Reminder  

Don’t forget that NELS 40 is this weekend, November 13-15! For the full program and other information, visit the NELS40 website. See you there!