The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Phonology Circle 5/3 - Igor Yanovich and Donca Steriade

This Monday’s Phonology Circle presentation will be by Igor Yanovich and Donca Steriade.

Speaker: Igor Yanovich and Donca Steriade (MIT)
Title: Base priority effects in inflectional subparadigms: evidence from Ukrainian
Time: Monday 5/3, 5pm
Location: 32-D831

We present an analysis of stress in Ukrainian nouns that relies on two hypotheses about inflectional paradigms:

  1. Paradigms have articulated internal structure: in the present case, the plural of Ukrainian nouns forms a distinct subparadigm from the singular. It is separately evaluated by paradigm uniformity constraints (e.g. McCarthy 2005). It also functions as a distinct unit with respect to paradigm contrast constraints (Kenstowicz 2005).
  2. Relations between subparadigms are directional: some subparadigms have priority relative to others in a way that is comparable to the base priority effect obtaining between bases and their derivatives.

In derivational paradigms, base priority refers to the observation that the identity between bases and derivatives is obtained by adjusting the derivative’s shape, while keeping base properties constant (cf. Benua 1999). In a comparable way, we observe that when stress is computed in the inflectional paradigms of Ukrainian nouns, the entire singular subparadigm has priority: stress in the plural forms is adjusted to satisfy conditions of stem identity (within the set of plural forms) and stem distinctness (between the singular and the plural). By contrast, stress in the singular forms is computed as if the plural doesn’t exist. We suggest that the entire set of singular forms functions as a collective base for the plural subparadigm (see also Albright 2005 for related proposals).

Upcoming talks:

  • May 3 Igor Yanovich and Donca Steriade
  • May 10 Donca Steriade

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

Syntax Square 5/4: Kirill Shklovsky

Please join us for the penultimate meeting of Syntax Square this semester. Kirill Shklovsky will lead the discussion with a report from GLOW on “Switch Reference as an Interface Conspiracy,” by Stefan Keine (Leipzig).

Time: Tuesday, May 4, 1-2PM
Place: 32D-461

Public Defense 5/7: Gillian Gallagher

Gillian Gallagher will have a public dissertation defense this Friday, May 7, at 11 am in 32-155. The defense will begin with a presentation, which will be under an hour. There will be cherry scones and juice. Please come!

Title: The perceptual basis of laryngeal cooccurrence restrictions
Time: Friday, May 7, 11AM
Place: 32-155

The two main arguments in this dissertation are 1. That laryngeal cooccurrence restrictions are restrictions on the perceptual strength of contrasts between roots, as opposed to restrictions on laryngeal configurations in isolated roots, and 2. That laryngeal cooccurrence restrictions are restrictions on auditory, as opposed to articulatory, features.

Both long-distance laryngeal dissimilation, where roots may have one but not two laryngeally marked stops (MacEachern 1999), and assimilation, where stops in a root must agree in laryngeal features (Hansson 2001; Rose and Walker 2004) are given a unified account based on a grammatical pressure to neutralize indistinct contrasts. The contrast based analysis is supported by the empirical finding that certain non-adjacent sounds interact with one another in perception. Specifically, the perception of a contrast in ejection or aspiration is degraded in roots with another ejective or aspirate as compared to roots with another plain stop (e.g. the pair k’ap’i-kap’i is more confusable than the pair k’api-kapi). Roots that are minimally distinguished by having one vs. two laryngeally marked stops are confusable with one another (e.g. k’ap’i is confusable with kap’i), and thus languages may avoid having both types of forms. The analysis integrates long-distance phonological neutralizations with analyses of local neutralizations based on phonetic cues and contrast strength (Flemming 1995, 2004, 2006; Steriade 1997), showing that both local and non-local phenomena are driven by grammatical constraints against perceptually indistinct contrasts.

The interaction between ejectives and aspirates in Quechua provides evidence for auditory features. These two articulatorily disparate sounds pattern together in the cooccurrence restrictions of Quechua, showing that some feature must pick them out as a class. It is argued that ejectives and aspirates may pattern together because they share long voice onset time. It is shown that defining laryngeally marked stops based on their language specific auditory properties correctly accounts both for ejective-aspirate interactions in Quechua and also for the interaction between ejectives and implosives in Hausa and Tz’utujil. The results of a perception experiment further support the status of long VOT as a property to which the grammar refers.

MIT Ling Colloquium 5/7: Danny Fox

Speaker: Danny Fox (MIT)
Time: Friday, May 7, 2010, 3:30pm-5pm
Location: 32-141 (Stata Center)
Title: Negative Islands and Maximization Failure

The goal of this talk is to discuss various questions that arise in the context of attempts to reduce a class of weak islands to Maximization Failure (Fox and Hackl 2006, Fox 2007, Abrusan 2007, in press, Nouwen 2008, Abrusan and Spector 2008, in press, Shimoyama and Schwarz 2010). The basic idea that guides these attempts is that the the relevant islands arise from a maximality requirement that cannot be met on semantic/logical grounds.

The questions we will discuss pertain to the possible sources of this Maximization Failure (MF). According to Fox and Hackl, the source in certain degree constructions is the density of degree domains. However, in later work, it was pointed out that some of the results could be derived if alternative sources of MF are postulated, and Abrusan and Spector (A&S) present arguments for one specific alternative that I will be focusing on (quantification over degree intervals).

The more specific goals of this talk are the following: (a) to argue that density is necessary despite various observations made by A&S that seem to argue for intervals, and (b) to argue that there is yet another source for MF beyond those identified in recent literature and that this source for MF is responsible for another weak island observed in Spector (2008), and could also account for A&S’s observations.

MIT at ACAL 41

MIT will be represented at the Annual Conference on African Linguistics (ACAL 41), held in Toronto May 6-8, by two students. Claire Halpert will present a paper entitled “Zulu counterfactuals in and out of conditionals” and Patrick Jones will present “Glide formation does not neutralize an ATR contrast in Kinande.”