The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, March 8th, 2010

LFRG 3/8: Hadas on indefinite and definite amount relatives in Romanian  

WHAT: Talk
WHO: Hadas Kotek
TITLE: An indefinite amount relative: evidence from Romanian
WHEN: March 8, 11.30AM - 1PM
WHERE: 32-D831


I will present some data and ideas about so-called definite and indefinite amount relatives in Romanian. I identify two main differences between these two constructions - to do with the kinds of information that they presuppose, and the kinds of readings that they allow. I suggest an analysis that deals with (at least some of) these facts, and then open the discussion to talk about some residual issues, most importantly regarding so-called “substance readings” of amount relatives, and to similar phenomena in your favorite language.


Phonology Circle - 3/8 - Michael Kenstowicz  

Speaker: Michael Kenstowicz, MIT
Title: Vocale Incerta, Vocale Aperta
Time: 5pm, 32-D831

It is well known that Standard Italian distinguishes between open and closed mid vowels in stressed syllables and that this contrast is neutralized in unstressed syllables. Less well known is a process which realizes mid vowels as open when stress shifts from an unstressed to a stressed syllable of the base, as in numero but nume?ric. This process can be detected in certain isolated corners of the derivational morphology and more systematically in loanword adaptation. In the first part of this presentation we document the process and in the second we explore two alternative phonetic motivations: sonority enhancement under stress and dispersion in F1-F2 vowel space.


Syntax Square 3/9: Omer Preminger  

This week in Syntax Square:

Omer will present (and maybe even discuss) some nifty data from a talk he heard at the LSA in January, by Johanna Nichols and David A. Peterson, with the dramatic title “Contact-induced spread of the rare Type 5 cIitic,” concerning data from 6 different languages in the Nakh-Dagestanian family (eastern Caucasus, Russia/Georgia/Azerbaijan).

Time: Tuesday 3/9, 1-2PM
Place: 32-D461


Ling-Lunch 3/11: Peter Jenks  

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

Speaker: Peter Jenks (Harvard)
Time: Thurs 3/11, 12:30-1:45
Place: 32-D461
Title: Quantifier float, adverbs, and scope in Thai

Novel data in Thai suggest that quantifier float, properly analyzed, lends further merit to the idea that quantifiers and argument NPs do not always join the clause as a single DP. More specifically, Thai data suggest that quantifier float occurs when an adverb is base generated in its scope position, triggering covert movement of an argument NP. Thai has SVOAdv word order, with floated quantifiers appearing in adverbial positions. I present arguments against a “pure” stranding analysis, where the NP is always generated Q-internally and then moved, as well as arguments against Q-float as extraposition. However, island sensitivity and the interpretation of these quantifiers suggest that they are directly associated with argument NPs by movement. In order to resolve this conflict, I rely on three notions: a) base generation of FQs in their scope positions b) QR via movement or reconstruction to somewhere in the Thai middlefield by an NP and c) generalized VP-raising. I will also try to show that that this analysis can account for the typology of quantifier float in classifier languages, which is limited to languages which allow the DP-internal order N-Q-Cl.


MIT Linguistics Colloquium 3/12 - Paul Portner  

Speaker: Paul Portner (Georgetown University)
Time: Friday, March 12, 2010, 3:30pm-5pm
Location: 32-141
Title: Imperatives and the Analysis of Permission and Choice

Despite the fact that they are sometimes seen as being canonically associated with the function of imposing a requirement (e.g., ordering), imperatives can easily be used to give permission, including free-choice permission:

  1. Take an apple!
  2. Take an apple or a pear!
  3. Take any piece of fruit you like!

Because they are inherently directive, imperatives are likely to prove revealing as we seek to understand the phenomena of permission and choice. It is well known that imperatives can instantiate a wide range of pragmatic “readings”, including orders, suggestions, and requests, often without any special marking. This fact suggests that the various subtypes of imperatives differ from one another primarily in their interaction with context. Permission imperatives and imperatives in free choice sentences are like other imperatives in this regard.

I will present a dynamic analysis of imperatives which are used to give permission, including free choice permission with disjunction, which draws crucially on two theories: a treatment of imperatives which says that they help to impose an order on the worlds compatible with the common ground (Portner 2004, 2007), and a semantics for disjunction based on alternatives (e.g., Alonso-Ovalle 2006). I will also discuss the relevance of this analysis to our understanding of free choice with modal sentences, though my main point here will be that different types of modals need to be distinguished and studied more carefully than they have been in the past.