The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, September 13th, 2010

Phonology Circle 9/13, 5pm - Organizational Meeting

The MIT Phonology Circle resumes this coming Monday, 9/13, at 5pm in 32-D831

There is no talk scheduled for this week, so this will be a brief organizational meeting in which we determine the schedule for the semester. If you wish to present some time during the semester but cannot attend the meeting, please let me know that, too. Also, if you have papers that you wish to discuss in a week when there is no talk, you can propose those, as well.


NECPhon4- Sat, October 9th

Save the date! The fourth annual Northeast Computational Phonology Workshop will take place this year on October 9th. If you are potentially interested in presenting something at it, please let Adam know as soon as possible. (We need to know how many presenters there will be by September 24th)

For information about preceding years’ events, see the websites for NECPhon 1, NECPhon 2, and NECPhon 3.


Syntax Square 9/14: Bronwyn Bjorkman

Join us for the first Syntax Square of the semester!

Speaker: Bronwyn Bjorkman
Title: A (brief) history of exceptions to the Coordinate Structure Constraint
Time: Tuesday 9/14, 1-2PM
Place: 32-D461

If you are interested in presenting your work or leading a discussion of someone else’s work this semester, email Claire Halpert (halpert@mit.edu) or Natasha Ivlieva (ivlieva@mit.edu).


LFRG 9/15 1:30-3pm - David Spivak

This week, David Spivak from the MIT math department will give a talk, briefing us on his ideas and asking for our input.

WHO: David Spivak (MIT Math)
WHAT: Communication Networks
WHEN: September 15, 1:30PM-3:00PM
WHERE: 32-D831


Every person has his or her own ideolect, or way of using language; in fact every subculture has its own language. I propose that every interacting group, however small, has its own language. Two people engaged in conversation have a common ground, which each can use to explain new concepts to the other. As they learn from each other, the common ground grows with shared terminology and experience, and the ability to communicate new concepts is enhanced.

Consider then the network of all human interactions. These interactions are not all “2-way”: when three people have a group conversation it brings a different dynamic than when only the pairs can privately converse. I’ll explain how the geometric notion of “simplicial complex” can be used to model a network of n-way interactions.

Thus every node and every n-way connection in a network has its own language and worldview. To make this precise we must define what these worldviews are. To that end, I’ll explain what a category is and give several examples. Then I’ll propose that we can model worldviews as categories. The network of human interactions becomes a “sheaf” of categories on a simplicial complex: local languages interacting to create a higher-order entity trying to understand its world.


Pre-announcement: MIT Workshop on Comparatives 11/13-14

This fall MIT will be hosting a weekend workshop on the syntax/semantics of comparative constructions.

MIT Workshop on Comparatives
November 13-14 2010 at MIT

Recent crosslinguistic studies of comparative constructions such as Beck, Oda and Sugisaki (2004; “Parametric variation in the semantics of comparison”; Journal of East Asian Linguistics, 13: 289-344) and Kennedy (2007; “Modes of comparison”, Proceedings of CLS 43) among others have not only broadened our understanding of how natural language expresses comparison, but also raised theoretical issues of how languages can differ both semantically and syntactically in what types of comparison can be expressed in what forms. The aim of this workshop is to provide an opportunity for linguists in the Cambridge area (and beyond) who are interested in this topic to share their recent findings and discuss their implications on the crosslinguistic typology of comparative constructions.

Invited speakers: * Rajesh Bhatt, UMass Amherst * Bernhard Schwarz, McGill * Roger Schwarzchild, Rutgers * Junko Shimoyama, McGill

All are invited to attend. Please contact Yasu or mitcho if you are interested in presenting or would like to otherwise get involved.


Ling-Lunch 9/16: Pranav Anand

Speaker: Pranav Anand (UC Santa Cruz)
Title: The role of upward monotonicity in the interpretation of plurals: A view from image verification
Time: Thurs 9/16, 12:30-1:45
Place: 32-D461

Plural DPs possess the vexing capability to be inclusive, capable of allowing atomic reference in some sentences, but to be exclusive in others. The several proposals for this double?life (Krifka 1989, Sauerland et al. 2005, Spector 2007, Farkas & de Swart 2010) converge in analyzing the distinction in terms of pragmatic competition, suggested by dispreference for exclusive plurals in downward monotone (DM) environments. A number of analyses (Spector 2007, Farkas and de Swart 2010, Sauerland et al. 2005) connect this competition to the Strongest Meaning Hypothesis, suggesting that, other things being equal, an exclusive reading is preferred in UM contexts and an inclusive reading is preferred in DM ones. This talk examines this claim empirically in the context of image verification for bare plurals under each. Although acceptability responses do show that speakers verify exclusive plural readings significantly more often in the nuclear scope (NS) of each than in the restrictor (R), the effect size is small. This result comports with evidence that exclusive plurality is sensitive to the ecological settings defeating scalar inference (Khan et al. 2010) and argues that the principle driving exclusivity is a factor subject to strong situational reduction.

RUMMIT (Fall 2010) at MIT: 12/4

Another date to keep in mind: The Fall meeting of RUMMIT (Rutgers-UMass-MIT Phonology meeting) will take place at MIT on Saturday December 4. More details about the meeting will come closer to that date.


Grosz to speak at semantics colloquium in Frankfurt (9/14)

This week Patrick Grosz is off to give an invited talk at the semantics colloquium at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität in Frankfurt am Main. His talk, which will be on Tuesday 9/14, is entitled: “On German ‘doch’, an Element that Triggers a Contrast Presupposition”.


How I spent my summer vacation, continued

Some more news items concerning activities that members of the department participated in over the summer:

  • This summer mitcho presented “Two onlys in Mandarin Chinese” at the International Association of Chinese Linguistics conference at Harvard and worked with Linguistics concentrator Anton Nguyen on determining whether inline hyperlinks on the internet are constituents in their host sentences or not. He also helped code a new feature called “Panorama” at Mozilla which will be part of the Firefox 4 browser later this year.

  • Igor Yanovich presented a piece of work in modal logic at Logic Colloquium in Paris, and gave a talk about “non-standard theory” for vagueness at the linguistics departments of NYU and Utrecht University.