The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, December 7th, 2009

Syntax-Semantics Reading Group 12/07: Kathryn Davidson  

The final syntax-semantics reading group meeting of the semester is on Monday at 11:30am in room 32-D461. Kathryn Davidson will give a talk titled “Question-Answer Clauses in American Sign Language” (joint work with Ivano Caponigro).

Abstract: In American Sign Language (ASL), a common rhetorical strategy is to pose a question and answer it, seemingly as one prosodic unit. We show that in fact these questions and their answers form a single syntactic and semantic unit that can even be embedded within larger clauses. Futhermore, these clauses clearly consist of a full question and its answer, not a relative clause structure. Issues arise concerning how the question and answer combine syntactically and semantically, and I will outline our proposal, inspired by previous analyses of pseudoclefts in languages like English. Ultimately, we disagree that the Question-Answer Clause is a pseudocleft, suggesting that this analysis works much better for the clauses in ASL than for typical pseudoclefts. I’ll end by discussing the issue of exhaustive and non-exhaustive answers, and how to account for their distribution in Question-Answer Clauses in ASL.


Phonology Circle 12/07: Maria Giavazzi  

Time: Monday 12/7, 5pm, 32-D461
Speaker: Maria Giavazzi
Title: Perceptual effects of stress on consonantal contrasts: Preliminary results

I am going to present results from an acoustic study investigating the effects of primary stress on the acoustic realization of stop bursts in Italian. I will then show preliminary (partial) results from a perceptual experiment suggesting that stressed-conditioned differences on stop bursts affect the confusability between stop and affricates before front vowels. I use these experimental results to provide a Dispersion Theoretic analysis (Flemming 1995, 2001) of Italian palatalization as a case of neutralization of the velar-affricate contrast in non-stress adjacent positions. Finally, I will propose that similar effects of stress on the realization of adjacent consonants could have been the trigger of a further prosodically conditioned consonantal process namely assibilation /t-i/ sequences in Finnish.

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Ling-Lunch 12/10: Alya Asarina  

Join us for the last ling-lunch of the semester:

Speaker: Alya Asarina
Time: Thurs 12/10, 12:30-1:45
Place: 32-D461
Title: Modal Adjectives in Uyghur