The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, February 8th, 2010

Conference Roundup

  • Three department members will be speaking at the Georgetown Linguistics Society meeting, Feb 12-14, Washington, DC. The conference topic is “Sound, structure, meaning: Explorations at the interface:”

    Bronwyn Bjorkman: The Syntax of Syncretism.
    Patrick Jones: Accounting for the Distribution of -ire within the verbal system of Kinande.
    Shigeru Miyagawa: Causatives and the Syntactic Nature of Words (invited talk).

  • MIT will be represented at the Workshop on Computational Modelling of Sound Pattern Acquisition, held at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Feb. 13-14, by Adam Albright, whose talk is “Well-formedness across the word: Modeling markedness interactions,” and by recent alumnus Giorgio Magri, who is presenting “An online model of the ‘early stage’ of the acquisition of phonology.”

  • Martin Hackl will be giving an invited talk at the Conference on Linguistic Evidence 2010: Empirical, theoretical and computational perspectives, held in Tübingen, Feb. 11-13. The title of his talk is “Processing quantifiers.”

  • Three students presented talks at the Berkeley Linguistics Society meeting (BLS 36) this past weekend, held February 6-7 in Berkeley, CA:

    Young Ah Do: Satisfying output-output faithfulness with excessive morphology: Evidence from Korean acquisition.
    Hrayr Khanjian: Negative concord in Western Armenian.
    Yasutada Sudo: Person restrictions in Uyghur indexical shifting.

  • Bronwyn Bjorkman presented a talk entitled “The morphological basis of default-to-opposite stress in Nez Perce” at the 15th Workshop on Structure and Constituency in the Languages of the Americas (WSCLA) held in Ottawa, Feb 5-7.

  • David Pesetsky and Jonah Katz gave a talk called “The identity thesis for language and music” on December 11, 2009, at Sounds and Structures: A workshop on relations between language and music, held in Berlin.

Phonology Circle - 2/8 - Patrick Jones

Phonology Circle resumes next Monday, with a brief organizational meeting followed by a talk by Patrick Jones. If you would like to present this semester, please come prepared to claim a date, or contact Adam ahead of time.

Speaker: Patrick Jones
When: Monday 2/8, 5pm
Where: 32-D831

Within Distributed Morphology, syncretisms (i.e. cases in which a morpheme appears in more than one cell of a morphological paradigm) are typically analyzed as resulting either from featural underspecification of Vocabulary Items or from feature-deleting Impoverishments of terminal nodes; apparent cases of syncretism that cannot be so explained are generally treated as “accidental” syncretisms in which two morphemes simply happen to have the same phonological shape. In this talk, however, I discuss a case of syncretism in Kinande (Bantu, D42) which, while it cannot be satisfactorily analyzed in terms of underspecification or impoverishment, cannot be analyzed as an instance of accidental homophony either. The syncretism involves the inflectional suffix */ire/*, which occurs both in forms expressing Perfect Aspect and in (a subset of) forms expressing Recent Past Tense. I show that the heterogeneous range of contexts in which */ire/*/ /appears precludes an Impoverishment-based or Underspecification-based account of its distribution. However, I also present evidence from phonological and morphosyntactic processes showing that it is a single */ire/*/ /morpheme - and not a number of homophononous */ire/*/ /morphemes - that appears in all of these contexts. I conclude with a discussion of possible mechanisms whereby the single Vocabulary Item */ire/*/ /is made to occur in the range of contexts in which it does.

BCS Special Seminar - 2/11 - Victor Kuperman

Speaker: Victor Kuperman, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Linguistics, Stanford University
Title: Probabilistic processing of morphosyntax
Time: Thurs 2/11, 12pm
Location: 46-3189

Gallagher awarded NSF Dissertation Improvement Grant

Gillian Gallagher has been awarded an NSF Dissertation Improvement Grant, for her project titled “Acceptability judgments and laryngeal phonotactics”. The grant will allow her to spend a month in Bolivia this spring, doing fieldwork on Quechua. Congratulations, Gillian!

Ling Lunch slots still available

There are still several slots available for ling-lunch this semester, including this coming Thursday (Feb 11). The full list of dates still available is: Feb 11, 18, and 25, and Mar 11.

If you are interested in giving a ling-lunch talk, please contact Alya and Bronwyn, stating which date(s) you would prefer. As always, ling-lunch will meet every Thursday from 12:30 to 1:45 in D461 in the Stata Center (Building 32).

The schedule of speakers will soon be posted to the department website; each week the title and abstract for the upcoming ling-lunch will also appear in WHAMIT.

Special Topic class announcement: New Media Projects For Haiti

Special Topic: New Media Projects For Haiti
2-0-7 (9 credits)

A project-based class to develop new technologies and educational tools that will contribute to progressive social changes in Haiti. We will explore viable contexts for promoting self-expression, communication, literacy and numeracy, and digital governance, given current challenges and strengths within the society. Topics will include sensors, language, music, computational methods for teaching and learning, civic engagement and social media.

Participants will choose a societal problem and devise a solution, with the goal of spending the last week of April in Haiti field testing and documenting their solution.

Guest lecturers will include Joe Paradiso, Michel DeGraff, Henry Lieberman, Judith Donath, Claudia Urrea, Chris Csikszentmihalyi and Charles Kane.

Barry Vercoe, Dale Joachim