Whamit!

The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, October 25th, 2010

Phonology Circle 10/25 - Youngah Do  

Speaker: Young Ah Do (MIT)
Title: Foreignness, Word Structure and Lexical Stratum
Time: Monday 10/25, 5pm, 32-D831

In many languages, loanwords undergo a different set of phonological rules from native items: loanwords sometimes allow a subset of the structures present in native phonology (Kenstowicz 2005), they might allow a superset (Inkelas, Orgun, and Zoll 1997) or two can be disjunctive (Jurgec 2009). All such phenomena could be due to (a) unfamiliarity of loanwords or (b) formal marking as a member of distinctive lexical stratum.

I support hypothesis (b), showing a Korean case in which phonological behavior of loanwords and native items with similar frequency behave differently: loanwords are more resistant to alternations. Interestingly, a lexical strata effect is found only from morphologically complex words: foreign compounds resist native alternations, but lexicalized monomorphemic items don’t (e.g. ‘sun light’ ? [s?n lait] vs. ‘lonely’ ? [lolli]). To analyze this result, I separate indexed Faithfulness constraints (Itô and Mester 1995, Pater 2000) into two components—Input-Output and Output-Output correspondence constraints.

In some cases, however, compounds participate in native alternations; (1) when native inflectional suffix is added (e.g. ‘sun light-i(nom)’ ? s?l lais-i) and (2) when a native morpheme is at the right edge of compound (e.g. back madang ‘yard’ ? ba? mada? vs. c?k ‘red’ napkin ? c?k nap?kin). Assuming that (1) an inflectional suffix is head of the word and (2) Korean posits head of compound at the right edge of the word, I argue the head is always relevant in determining the stratal behavior. Notably, the only constraints where head makes a difference are OO-F constraints, so processes are free to apply within foreign monomorphemic words.

Upcoming talks:
Nov 1: Sverre Stausland Johnsen (Harvard)
Nov 8: Natalie Boll-Avetisyan (Potsdam)
Nov 15: Michael Kenstowicz (MIT)
Nov 29: RUMMIT Practice talks
Dec 6: Suyeon Yun (MIT)

You can view the current, up-to-date version of the schedule here (click ‘agenda’ to see the schedule as a list), or subscribe via iCal here.

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BCS Cog Lunch 10/26 - Peter Graff  

Speaker: Peter Graff (MIT)
Title: Constraints on Possible Meanings
Time: Tues 10/26, 12pm
Location: 46-3189

The meanings of natural language determiners can be understood as relations between sets (Barwise and Cooper, 1981). It has since been noted that natural language determiners are crucially constrained in the set relations they can express. One influential formalization of this typological pattern is Conservativity (Keenan and Stavi, 1986), a constraint taken to universally hold for all denotations of natural language determiners. In this talk we propose a second universal generalization over possible denotations in natural language, which we term Myopia. We show that this constraint not only excludes many denotations of natural language determiners previously excluded by Conservativity, but also generalizes to predicates of all other lexical categories, including nouns, verbs, adpositions and adjectives. We go on to present evidence from an on-line artificial determiner learning study (N=217), showing that both Conservativity and Myopia are active in determiner learning. Conservative determiners are easier to acquire than non-conservative myopic determiners, which in turn are easier to acquire than non-conservative non-myopic determiners providing further evidence that absolute typological universals may have different relative impact on language learning.

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Syntax Square 10/26 - Patrick Grosz  

Please join us for Syntax Square this week. Patrick Grosz will be leading a discussion on the link between the syntax of utterances (specifically focusing on their left periphery) and their use in conversation. This discussion will touch on the work of Rizzi (1997, 2001), Haegeman (2003, 2006, 2010) and Coniglio (2009).


Speaker: Patrick Grosz
Title: Where is the Force?
Time: Tuesday, October 26, 1-2PM
Place: 32-D461

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Ling-Lunch 10/28 - Filomena Sandalo & Charlotte Galves  

Speakers: Filomena Sandalo & Charlotte Galves, UNICAMP (Brazil)
Title: Grammaticalization of enclisis in the history of Portuguese
Time: Thursday, October 28, 12:30-1:45pm
Location: 32-D461

In the history of European Portuguese, from the 16th to the 19th century, clitic-placement underwent significant changes with respect to the environments where enclisis obligatorily occurs. In this paper, we argue that the architecture of grammar proposed in Distributed Morphology (Embick and Noyer, 2001, 2006) can shed a light on this change. We analyze enclisis as the result of post-syntactic rules and we argue that the change involved a shift in the operation which displaces the clitic from Prosodic Inversion to Lowering, accounting for the different environments where enclisis obligatorily occurs across time. Moreover, the employment of such a view of the architecture of grammar allows us to interpret this shift as a case of grammaticalization, thus broadening the treatment of this concept in the framework of Generative Grammar. The traditional schema of grammaticalization includes two different moments (cf. the discussion in Askedaal, 2008). The first one has to do with the change in categorization accompanied by semantic bleaching. The second one consists of further steps of phonological dependency and reduction. Roberts and Roussou (2003) propose a generative account of the first moment in terms of the emergence of new functional words out of lexical words. In their approach, grammaticalization is associated with structural simplification, which they argue is a natural mechanism of change. Here we consider the next step. We show that the framework of Distributed Morphology, which proposes a view of Grammar Architecture that models up the articulation between Syntax, Morphology and Phonology, allows us to define a path of grammaticalization in terms of whether the rules responsible for the movement of morphemes access syntactic structures or not.

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Conference Roundup  

mitcho (Michael Yoshitaka Erlewine) recently presented “On the scope and position of Mandarin sentence-final éry?” at the first Rencontres d’Automne de Linguistique Formelle at the University of Paris 8. The talk is similar to his previous talks on the Mandarin “only” word, but with a slightly different scope and position.

MIT linguists will be out in force at the Workshop on Altaic Formal Linguistics (WAFL VII), held at USC this weekend, October 29th-31st. The following students are on the program:

  • Alya Asarina and Jeremy Hartman: ‘Null nouns and the locus of agreement in Uyghur subordinate clauses’

  • Yusuke Imanishi: ‘Another Missing Link – A View from Right Dislocation in Japanese’

  • Junya Nomura: ‘Adpositional comparatives in Japanese’

  • Alya Asarina: ‘Case and meaning in Uyghur nominalized clauses’ (alternate)

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