The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, November 7th, 2011

Phonology Circle, 11/7 - Suyeon Yun

Speaker: Suyeon Yun
Title: Opacity and Serial Phonology-Morphology Interaction in Kyungsang Korean
Location: 32D-831
Time: Monday, Nov 7, 5:00pm


Kyungsang Korean shows an interesting noun-verb asymmetry where phonological processes interact opaquely in verbs but transparently in nouns; consonant cluster simplification (e.g., /kaps/ -> [kap] ‘price’) counterbleeds post-obstruent tensing (e.g., /cap+ta/ -> [capt’a] ‘to catch’) in verbal inflections (e.g., /malk+ta/ -> [malt’a], *[malta] ‘to be clean’) but not in noun inflections (e.g., /talk+to/ -> [talto], *[talt’o] ‘chicken’ + ‘also’). In order to explain both opacity and the noun-verb asymmetry, I will show stratal OT (Kiparsky 2000) is not an adequate solution for this puzzle and propose an analysis based on Optimality Theory with Candidate Chains (OT-CC; McCarthy 2007). In this approach, opacity between post-obstruent tensing and consonant cluster simplification will be explained by PREC (IDENT(TENSE), MAX). Adopting Wolf (2008), I will also claim that serial phonology-morphology interactions in candidate chains (Wolf 2008) can explain the noun-verb asymmetry in Kyungsang Korean. Specifically, highly ranked PREC(MAX, insert-affixN), which penalizes a candidate chain with the insertion of nominal affixes before violating MAX, will lead a transparent result in nominal inflections only. In addition, I will lay out a non-opacity account of the same data. Based on the difference in the base form between verbs (A-suffix form) and nouns (citation form), the noun-verb asymmetry in tensification will be explained by phonetic duration preservation of each base.

Syntax Square 11/8 - Claire Halpert and Jeremy Hartman

This week’s Syntax Square features NELS 42 practice talks by Claire and Jeremy.

Time/Date: Tuesday, Nov 8, 1-2p
Location: 32-D461

Speaker: Claire Halpert
Title: Structural case and the nature of vP in Zulu

The full abstract is available (PDF).

Bantu languages like Zulu have been claimed to lack Case Filter effects on the distribution of nominals (Harford Perez 1985, Diercks to appear). In this talk I argue against this view of Bantu as an exception to standard case theory. In particular, I propose that by adopting (1) Ndayiragije’s suggestion that there is a head that probes for DP in a manner familiar from case-checking in other languages, but which can check DPs not in need of case; and (2) Preminger’s (2009, 2010) proposal that agreement is obligatory where possible, but is permitted to fail without inducing a crash, I can account for two distinct puzzles in Zulu – the ‘conjoint/disjoint’ alternation (van der Spuy 1993; Buell 2005) and the distribution of augmentless nominals (Buell 2011) – if we assume that Zulu DPs are subject to the Case Filter just like their counterparts in other languages. Taken together, then, these two puzzles and their proposed solution suggest that Case Theory is perhaps fundamentally invariant across languages, despite a large amount of surface variation. They also provide evidence for Preminger’s theory of agreement.

Speaker: Jeremy Hartman
Title: (Non-)Intervention in A-movement: some cross-constructional and cross-linguistic considerations

It is well known that English is cross-linguistically exceptional in allowing constructions like (1), where subject-to-subject raising proceeds across an overt, full-DP experiencer:

(1) John seems to Mary to be happy.

Although this point has been the subject of much discussion (Kitahara 1997, McGinnis 1998, Boeckx 1999, Chomsky 2000, Collins 2005), the literature still lacks a satisfyingly predictive account of when and why English is able to avoid the standard ‘defective intervention’ effect. This paper makes both an empirical and a theoretical contribution to these questions. I begin by laying out an expanded set of intervention phenomena in English. Building on work in Hartman (2009), I present data showing that English does in fact display intervention in a variety of other NP-raising constructions. In other words, examples like (1) are the exception even within English: in several similar environments, the cross-linguistically typical effect is revealed. Next, I sketch an analysis of the newly expanded data set, inspired by Müller’s (2001) ‘Parallel Movement’ constraint. The analysis accounts both for the cross-linguistic variation between English and other languages, and for the cross-constructional variation within English.

Every farmer who owns a pumpkin

Continuing a tradition of knife-wielding artistry and even defying a storm that brought disaster in its wake, the second annual Massachusetts Institute of Technology Linguistically Informed Pumpkin Carving took place last Monday. Some of the results:

LFRG, 11/9 - Wataru Uegaki

Speaker: Wataru Uegaki
Title: Inquisitive knowledge attribution and the Gettier problem
Location: 32D-831
Time: Wednesday, Nov 9, 4:00PM-5:30PM (Please note the unusual day and time; Friday is a holiday)


The Gettier problem (Gettier 1963) in epistemology concerns cases of intuitively false knowledge attribution that is predicted to be valid by the traditional view that a knowledge consists of a justified true belief. This problem can be recast as a puzzle for the standard semantic analysis of “know”. In the situation described in (1), (2) is intuitively false. However, a semantics that equates knowledge with justified true belief predicts it to be true.

(1) Smith justifiably believes that Jones owns a Ford. (He saw Jones having a key of a Ford, washing a Ford etc.) He justifiably deduces from this belief that Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona although he is unopinionated about Brown’s whereabouts. It turned out that Jones in fact did not have a Ford, but Brown was in Barcelona.
(2) Smith knows that [Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona].

In this talk, I will provide a new solution to this puzzle by giving “know” a meaning that operates on a question-denotation (ie. a set of alternative possibilities) even when it combines with a declarative complement, making crucial use of the proposals in Alternative Semantics (Kratzer and Shimoyama 2002, Alonso-Ovalle 2006 a.o.) and Inquisitive Semantics (Groenendijk 2009, Groenendijk and Roelofsen 2009). In the proposed analysis, “x knows p” is true iff x has a justified true belief of an alternative contained in p, and x has no justified belief of any stronger alternative. I will also claim that a natural extension of the current proposal accounts for the selection restrictions of other attitude predicates, such as “believe” and “wonder”.

Ling-Lunch 11/10 - Amy Rose Deal

Speaker: Amy Rose Deal (Harvard University)
Title: Nez Perce embedded indexicals
Time/Date: Thursday, Nov 10, 12:30-1:45p
Location: 32-D461

Nez Perce is a language where indexical expressions embedded under speech and attitude verbs may show “shifty” behavior. I present a first empirical overview of this system in this talk. Nez Perce person and locative indexicals are like their English counterparts in showing immunity to modal quantification in matrix contexts. Once embedded in a speech or attitude complement, however, Nez Perce indexicals optionally show quotation-like behavior, even in the face of clear indications that the entire speech or attitude complement is not a quotation. I show that this phenomenon is not straightforwardly accounted for in terms of partial quotation or binding, configurations that can lead to exceptional indexicals in English. In response to a version of the “shift together” phenomenon identified by Anand and Nevins (2004) for Zazaki, I present an approach to Nez Perce indexical shifting which makes use of operators that manipulate contextual parameters. I conclude with evidence that indexicals shifted in this way need not be interpreted de se.