The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

LFRG 11/18 - mitcho (Michael Erlewine)

Speaker: mitcho (Michael Erlewine)
Title: Focus islands
Location: 32D-831
Time: Friday, Nov 18, 1:00PM-2:30PM


In this talk I discuss the phenomena of “focus islands”: that F-marked constituents cannot move out of the scope of focus-sensitive operators. This phenomenon was first noted by Tancredi (1990) for overt movement and Aoun & Li (1993) argued that this constraint also affects quantifier scope.

1. * [Whoi]F does John only like ti? (Tancredi 1990)
     Intended: ‘Who is the person x such that John only likes [x]F?’
2. A teacher only likes every [boy]F.
     a teacher > every boy, * every boy > a teacher (Aoun & Li 1993)

In this talk I share some work-in-progress thoughts on explaining focus islandhood. The presentation may (or may not) involve a discussion of recent literature on computing focus alternatives with or without variables in semantics (Shan 2004, Novel & Romero 2009).