The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, April 19th, 2010

Formal Approaches to Mayan Linguistics this Friday-Sunday!

FAMLi logo
On April 23-25, our department will host the first-ever international workshop on Formal Approaches to Mayan Linguistics (FAMLi). This NSF-funded conference will bring together specialists from Europe, North America, Mexico and Guatemala, to discuss the unique properties of Mayan languages — and the light they shed on language in general. FAMLi features 15 presentations, a poster session, and invited talks by Judith Aissen, Heriberto Avelino, Ximena Lois, B’alam Mateo-Toledo, and Norvin Richards. A particularly exciting (and unprecedented) feature of this workshop is the fact more than half of the presentations will come from linguists who are also native speakers of Mayan languages. The organizing committee is headed by our own Jessica Coon, currently writing her dissertation on Chol, a Mayan language of Chiapas, Mexico, and Robert Henderson, a third-year graduate student at UC Santa Cruz and specialist in the Mayan languages of Guatemala — as well as fourth-year grad student Kirill Shklovsky, Tseltal specialist and designer of the FAMLi logo, and Katie Franich of Boston University.

The official languages of the conference are English and Spanish, but all speakers have been encouraged to include English in their handouts. We hope you all can make it!!

Pritty Patel-Grosz to speak at CUNY - 4/20

This Tuesday (4/20), Pritty Patel-Grosz has been invited for the second time to present at CUNY Syntax Supper. She will be presenting her current research project, “Anaphor Agreement Displacement Effects”. See the announcement at http://web.gc.cuny.edu/dept/lingu/.

No Phonology Circle this week

Phonology Circle will not meet this week due to the Patriots Day holiday. We resume next week with a talk by Jae Yung Song of Brown University.

Upcoming talks:

  • Apr 26 Jae Yung Song (Brown University)
  • May 3 Igor Yanovich and Donca Steriade
  • May 10 Donca Steriade
  • May 17 Ari Goldberg (Tufts)

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

No Syntax Square this week

Due to the Tuesday holiday, there will be no Syntax Square this week. If you would like to lead a discussion, there are two available dates remaining: April 27 and May 4. Please email Claire (halpert@mit.edu) to volunteer for a spot.

LFRG Wednesday 4/21: Paolo Santorio on bindable indexicals

WHO: Paolo Santorio (MIT Philosophy)
TITLE: Modals are monsters: On indexical binding in English (SALT Practice Talk)
WHEN: April 21st, Wednesday, 4PM - 5:30PM
WHERE: tentatively, 32-D461; if we are not there - there will be a note on the door
WHAT EXACTLY (abstract): click here

Ling-Lunch 4/22: Shigeru Miyagawa

Speaker: Shigeru Miyagawa
Title: Primacy of Person Agreement: Revisiting Jaeggli and Safir’s Morphological Uniformity for Pro-drop
Time: Thurs 4/22, 12:30-1:45
Place: 32-D461

Pro-drop is typically correlated with rich agreement (Jespersen 1924, Perlmutter 1971, Rizzi 1978, Taraldsen 1978). However, languages such as Chinese evidence pro-drop without any overt agreement (Huang 1984). To account for both types, Jaeggli and Safir (1989) propose that languages that are morphologically uniformly complex (e.g., Romance) or uniformly simple (Chinese) allow pro-drop, calling it “Morphological Uniformity” (MU). In this talk, I will flush out some of the empirical issues associated with pro-drop to try to understand what is behind MU. An important observation made in the 1990s is that not all instances of pro-drop are associated with a pronominal element (Huang 1991, Otani and Whitman 1991). Oku (1998) shows that in some cases the empty element is the site of noun-phrase ellipsis (NPE). His work shows that the distribution of pro and NPE can be predicted by and large from the presence or absence of agreement: only pro is allowed in the presence of agreement; NPE is only allowed in the absence of agreement (see also Saito 2007). Based on recent studies by Miyagawa (2010), ?ener and Takahashi (to appear), and Takahashi (2008, 2010), I will show that when there is no morphological indication of agreement whatsoever at finite T, the default is to interpret person agreement at T, leading to the possibility of pro but not NPE. This is the morphologically uniformly simple phenomenon in MU and it characterizes Chinese, which shows person agreement at T without any morphology. Data from Basque and Japanese provide further evidence for this new version of MU.