The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, December 6th, 2010

Phonology Circle 12/6 - Suyeon Yun  

Speaker: Suyeon Yun (MIT)
Title: Implicational Universals in Compensatory Lengthening: A phonetically-based OT approach
Time: Monday 12/6, 5pm, 32-D831

Based on a crosslinguistic survey, Yun (2010) argues that the typological patterns of compensatory lengthening are not “hard” universals as suggested in the previous works (Hayes 1989, Kavitskaya 2002) but more adequately described as implicational relationships; (i) if the deletion of prevocalic consonants triggers compensatory lengthening, so does the deletion of postvocalic consonants, (ii) if the deletion of obstruents triggers compensatory lengthening, so does the deletion of sonorants, and (iii) if the deletion of non-adjacent consonants triggers compensatory lengthening, so does the deletion of adjacent consonants. It is shown that these typological patterns of compensatory lengthening are not random but originate from relevant phonetic and perceptual grounding. Based on the difference in relative perceptibility between the deleted consonants, the typological patterns of compensatory lengthening are explained by the universal rankings of perceptually-driven faithfulness constraints, adopting the P-map hypothesis (Steriade 2009). Also, language-specific patterns of compensatory lengthening can be analyzed in terms of variable interactions between the proposed faithfulness constraints and Id[V-length] prohibiting the change of input vowel length. To conclude, this phonetically-based OT account can explain both universal and language-specific patterns of compensatory lengthening in a unified way. Based on Yun (2010), this talk will give a more unified account of compensatory lengthening, more generally duration preservation, adding more data of compensatory lengthening through vowel deletion.

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.


Syntax Square 12/7 - Stefan Keine (UMass)  

Please join us for the final Syntax Square of the semester this Tuesday, 12/7. Stefan Keine from UMass Amherst will present his work.

Speaker: Stefan Keine (UMass Amherst)
Title: Deconstructing Switch Reference
Time: Tuesday, December 7, 1-2PM
Location: 32-D461

The term ‘switch reference’ refers to morphological marking on a verb indicating whether the subject of this verb is coreferent with the subject of another verb or not. Although switch reference has not received much attention in the theoretical literature, it poses a number of challenges to current theorizing in that it appears to require the use of referential indices, chains, non-local computation, etc. In this talk, I investigate how the switch reference facts can be reconciled with a strictly local, autonomous, and ‘blind’ syntax as envisaged within the Minimalist Program. My core proposal is that, despite appearance, the alleged switch reference markers do not in fact directly track reference relations. Rather, they constitute the context-sensitive spellout of a coordination head. In a nutshell, if two VPs are conjoined (with a single vP projection, and hence a single agent, above them), the coordination head is realized by some exponent A; vP coordination, on the other hand, leads to spelling out the coordination head as B. It follows that occurrence of A will coincide with a same subject interpretation. Marker B, by contrast, is compatible with an arbitrary reference relation between subjects. I will develop this hypothesis in more detail, and argue that it provides an account for a number of properties of switch reference systems that remain puzzling under an approach directly built around reference relations. Finally, I will identify places of cross-linguistic variation within the system.

12/8: Syntax-Semantics Experimental Lab special end-of-semester meeting  

What: Syntax-Semantics Experimental Lab special end-of-semester meeting
When: Wed. Dec. 8th 3:30pm (duration approx. 1.5 hours)
Where: 4th floor seminar room
Refreshments: Yes

Program for meeting includes:

  •  Review of the lab’s achievements for this semester
  •  Planned projects for next semester
  •  Possibilities of working with eye-tracker
  •  Outlook

As we’re planning on serving refreshments, please confirm (via email to micha.breakstone@gmail.com) you’ll be participating so that we can estimate accordingly.

Also, this meeting is open to anyone curious about the activities of the Syntax-Semantics Experimental lab, so if you’re interested in experimental work, don’t be shy!


LingLunch 12/9: Adam Szczegielniak  

Speakers: Adam Szczegielniak (Warsaw University/Harvard University)
Title: Degree/amount relatives, equative comparatives, and, as parentheticals
Time: Thursday, December 9, 12:30-1:45pm
Location: 32-D461

In this talk I will make an attempt to show that amount relative clauses and equal comparatives (identity of amount) have a common underlying derivation involving overt raising of [d amount] (Carlson 1977, Heim 1987, Landman and Grosu 1998, Pancheva 2006, Herdan 2008). Support for this claim will come from, among other things, indirect binding in amount relatives (Sharvit 1996). Differences between fully pronounced and elided amount relatives and comparatives will be shown to stem from restrictions on recoverability in ellipsis (Johnson 2001, Lechner 2001, Szczegielniak 2008). Furthermore, I will explore the possibility that in languages like Polish ‘as parentheticals’ (Potts 2002) are closely related to both comparatives and degree relative clauses not only because all three constructions utilize the same marker ‘co’, which is a hybrid of English ‘as’ and ‘that’ (Kayne 2000), but also because it will be shown that all three constructions require overt XP movement out of the CP and/or ellipsis, which will be argued to be a result of the inherent lexical requirements imposed by the marker ‘co’.

PDF Abstract


Bjorkman at OnLI  

Bronwyn Bjorkman presented a paper entitled “Towards a unified asymmetric semantics for and” at On Linguistic Interfaces 2 (OnLI), held at the university of Ulster, Belfast, December 2-4.