The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, March 1st, 2010

LF Reading Group 3/1- modal logic from a semantic perspective  

WHAT: Tutorial
TITLE: “Some things you want to know about modal logic, but don’t know you do”, by Igor Yanovich
WHEN: 11.30AM - 1PM
WHERE: 32-D831

The idea is to review, in an informal manner (read: without doing much technical stuff), several simple results from the modern period of modal logic development. Instead of focusing on different systems like K etc. and completeness, the tutorial will take the so-called semantic perspective and discuss modal logic as a tool for talking about relational structures in a certain way. Topics which are likely to emerge: the standard translation from modal logic into a fragment of first-order logic; bisimulations and bisimulation-equivalence; limits of the expressive power of the standard modal logic, and some ways to enrich it, etc.

Plus, if you want to learn something in particular - drop an email to Igor with your question. No guarantees, but he’ll try to answer it on Monday.

If you want to read, or at least browse, something before going to the meeting (or instead of going), read this:

It is a wonderful introductory chapter from the “Handbook of modal logic”, written by Johan van Benthem and Patrick Blackburn - two really important guys in current modal logic, who also happen to write very readable texts accessible even for beginners.


BCS Cog Lunch 3/2 - Marina Bedny  

Speaker: Marina Bedny (PhD, Postdoctoral Associate, Saxe Lab)
Title: Language in the visual cortices of congenitally blind adults
Time: Tues 3/2, Noon, 46-3310


Syntax Square 3/2: Hrayr Khanjian  

This week in Syntax Square:

Hrayr Khanjian will lead a discussion on modals and negative concord in Western Armenian.
Location: 32-D461
Time: Tuesday, March 2, 1-2pm


Ling-Lunch 3/4: Jessica Coon  

Please join us for this week’s ling-lunch:

Speaker: Jessica Coon
Time: Thurs 3/4, 12:30-1:45
Place: 32-D461
Title: Transitivity and Split Ergativity in Chol

In this talk I discuss two types of split ergativity and their interaction in Chol: aspect-based split ergativity (perfective vs. non-perfective), and a “split-S” system (unergative and unaccusative subjects pattern differently). I begin by showing that Chol makes an important distinction between those stems which subcategorize for internal arguments (transitives, unaccusatives, and passives) and those that do not (unergatives and antipassives). Specifically, all and only those stems which subcategorize for internal DP arguments are verbs. If a theta-role assigning stem combines with an internal argument DP, it is a verb; if not, it must be realized as a noun. I’ll argue that despite the appearance of aspect-based split ergativity, agreement marking in Chol follows a very simple rule: all internal arguments are marked absolutive and all external arguments are marked ergative. That is, Chol is robustly split-S. This is obscured, I show, by the fact that the non-perfective aspect markers are themselves verbs which embed nominalized clauses.

Though I focus on data from Chol, I discuss two points at which this analysis has broader implications. First, I discuss implications of the proposal that all and only verbs combine with DP complements. While this does not obviously appear to hold in other languages, we see hints of it elsewhere, for instance in the proposal that unergatives are always light verb constructions (Hale & Keyser 1993). Second, I show that in aspect-based splits in languages around the world we find evidence for a biclausal analysis of aspect-based split ergativity (see Laka 2006). Under the analysis proposed here, there is no split in agreement or case assignment; rather the difference between ergative-patterning and nominative-patterning clauses is reduced to the difference between simple versus complex clauses.


MIT Linguistics Colloquium 3/5- Alec Marantz  

Speaker: Alec Marantz (NYU)
Time: Friday, March 5, 2010, 3:30pm-5pm
Location: 32-141 (Stata Center)
Title: Locality Domains for Contextual Allosemy

At least since work within Lexical Morphology and Phonology, the issue of the connection between word structure and allomorphy has been heavily investigated by morphophonologists. Recent advances within Distributed Morphology (see in particular Embick 2010) have shown that the general cyclic architecture of a phase-based Minimalist Program syntax provides the proper locality domains for the interaction of information determining contextual allomorphy, although phonology- specific notions like adjacency also play a role, restricting possible interactions even more than what might be allowed within a cyclic domain. Less well understood are the parallel issues at the syntax/ semantics interface, namely the computation of possible meanings of morphemes in context. Against some recent work disputing claims in Marantz (1997, 2000) linking the domain of special meanings to phases and against recent proposals that the locality domains for phonology and semantics might differ, this paper clarifies the issues in contextual meaning determination and supports the idea that the locality domains for contextual allosemy are just those for contextual allomorphy. As a specific notion of phonological adjacency further constrains allomorphic interactions, so too does a semantic specific notion of “adjacency” constrain allosemic interactions and may restrict possible interactions among morphemes even more strongly than the general cyclic architecture of phases.


Phonology Circle resumes 3/8  

Phonology Circle will resume next week, with a presentation by Michael Kenstowicz. There are still open slots (see below); please let Adam know if you would like to present.

  • Mar 8 Michael Kenstowicz
  • Mar 15 [available]
  • Mar 29 [available]
  • Apr 5 Mafuhu Kitahara (Waseda University)
  • Apr 12 Haruka Fukazawa (Keio University)
  • Apr 26 Jae Yung Song (Brown University)
  • May 3 Igor Yanovich and Donca Steriade
  • May 10 Adam Albright

Access real-time updates on the web (click ‘agenda’ to see the schedule as a list), or through iCal


Richards’ monograph hits the stands  

Congratulations to Norvin Richards, whose LI Monograph, Uttering Trees, is now available from MIT press!

Advance praise for Uttering Trees:

“A brilliant book by one of the most creative minds in the field sets an example of how theory should be combined with data, vividly illustrating why syntactic research can be so exciting.” - Elena Anagnostopoulou

“[A] stimulating and provocative illustration of linguistic inquiry at its most satisfying.” - Noam Chomsky