The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, February 27th, 2012

ESSL lab meeting 2/27 - Ayaka Sugawara

Title: Blocking Effects Reading Group
Speaker: Ayaka Sugawara
Date/Time: Monday, Feb 27, 5:30pm
Location: 32-D461

Please join us for the first meeting of a short two-session reading group on morphological Blocking effects. The goal of this group is to educate ourselves about theoretical and experimental work relating to blocking effects, and discuss ideas for an ERP study on blocking effects in English. This week, Ayaka will lead the discussion of theories of blocking effects. The second session, dedicated to ERP studies of blocking effects, will be held on March 12. As always, dinner will be served.

Syntax Square 2/28 - DaeYoung Sohn

Speaker: DaeYoung Sohn
Title: Word order restriction in a raising construction in a scrambling language.
Date/Time: Tuesday February 28, 1:00-2:00pm
Location: 32-D461

I will be discussing word order restriction in a raising, or topicalization, construction in Korean. It has been noted in the literature that scrambling is not completely free in languages like Korean and Japanese (e.g., Saito 1985; Miyagawa 1989), and Ko (2005) recently argued that some restrictions on scrambling can be explained by the theory of Cyclic Linearization (Fox and Pesetsky 2005). In the current study, I expand the empirical domain of study to the raising construction and show that a similar restriction holds there and does so more strongly than in scrambling. Specifically, I introduce two slightly different cases where word order is fixed with a raised DP: First, when a DP raises across another phrase(s) clause-internally, the word order relative to each other is fixed for good; secondly, when an embedded subject raises across a clause boundary, the relative order between the raised subject and the embedded object is fixed for good. Lastly, I show that when raising and scrambling co-occur in the same domain, they behave similarly with each other in a sense that they both lack a reconstruction effect with respect to reflexive binding. I provide a sketchy analysis for those facts in terms of Cyclic Linearization and Shortest Move (Richards 2001).

Phonology Circle 2/29 — Youngah Do and Michael Kenstowicz

The Phonology Circle will meet on Wednesday this semester, from 5–7 (except when otherwise announced).
This week’s meeting with feature a talk by Youngah Do and Michael Kenstowicz.

Title: Kyungsang Korean Accent Patterns: Lexical Drift, Loanwords, Novel Words
Date: Feb. 29 (W)
Time: 5:00–7:00
Location: 32D831

South Kyungsang is a pitch accent language with three lexically contrastive tonal patterns for monosyllabic nouns and four patterns for di- and tri-syllables. Our Phonology Circle presentation of last fall (10/26) focused on deviations from the etymologically expected accent class based on a word’s attested accent in Middle Korean. We showed that words are attracted to the statistically more frequent class and that this lexical drift tends to affect less frequent words (a common trait of analogical change Phillips 1984). Our data also indicated that sonorant codas, syllable weight, and the presence of fortis or aspirated consonants bias a word towards a particular accent class. In this presentation we show that these factors also emerge in a novel word experiment. We also present results of elicitations from 13 speakers designed to track the correlation between the well-known T > s analogy in the infection of nouns and the substitution of the High-High tonal pattern in place of the etymologically expected High-Low. We invite suggestions on the proper statistical measures to evaluate and present our results.

LFRG 3/1 - Ayaka Sugawara

Title: The English suffix -ish as a degree head
Speaker: Ayaka Sugawara
Date/Time: Thursday Mar 1, 10:00AM-11:30AM
Location: 32-D831

In this talk, I would like to discuss the semantics of the English suffix -ish. Little theoretical work has been done on the nature of the English suffix -ish, whose suffixation is highly productive (see Morris (2009) for descriptive work). Intuitively -ish modifies the degree of the base it appends to. Contrary to this naive view, I will argue that -ish is a degree head of type ⟨⟨d, ⟨e, t⟩⟩, ⟨e, t⟩⟩ (cf. “pos” of Kennedy (2007)). I will also discuss the consequences of this analysis on the semantic theory of gradable adjectives, especially their scale structures and the semantics of their positive forms. I will focus on -ish in Adjective-ish, but would like to discuss briefly Adverb-ish (such as now-ish or ?regularly-ish) and Noun-ish (such as childish or toy-ish).

Ling-Lunch 3/1 - Guillaume Thomas

Speaker: Guillaume Thomas
Title: The role of topic times in the computation of temporal implicatures: evidence from Mbyá.
Date/Time: Thursday, Mar 1, 12:30-1:45p
Location: 32-D461

(1) and (2) both entail that there is a time in the past of the time of utterance (TU) at which John is a teacher. However, (2) appears to entail that John is not a teacher at TU, while (1) only implicates it. In addition, (2) is infelicitous in a context in which John is dead at the time of utterance, contrary to (1).

(1) John was a teacher.

(2) John is an ex-teacher.

One might try to give a unified analysis of the past tense and ex-, but since one is a tense and the other a nominal modifier, one might as well be content with an analysis that hard-wires the additional properties of ex- in its denotation. Of course, if the past tense and ex- were synonymous, one would feel more pressure to come up with a unified analysis. As it turns out, this is the case in Guarani Mbyá, as illustrated in (3) and (4), which are interpreted as (1) and (2), respectively:

(3) Juan o-iko va’e-kue ñombo’ea.
Juan 3-be REL-PAST teacher
Juan was a teacher.

(4) Juan ñombo’ea-kue
Juan teacher-PAST
Juan is an ex-teacher.

I propose that -kue is a relative past tense in (3) and (4), and that its additional properties in (4) are due to the interaction of the past tense with independent constraints on the temporal interpretation of NPs. In this talk, I will focus on the inference that Juan is not a teacher at TU, which I argue is a scalar implicature triggered by -kue. The challenge is to explain why this implicature is obligatory in (4), while it can be blocked in (3). Doing so will lead us to a discussion of the role of discourse topics in the restriction of the domain of quantification of tenses. Time permitting, I will also give an analysis of the inference that Juan is alive at TU in (4).

New book by Shigeru Miyagawa

Shigeru Miyagawa
Today, February 27, is the publication date for Shigeru’s new book Case, Argument Structure and Word Order, in the Leading Linguists series published by Routledge. Here is a description of the book …

Over the years, a major strand of Miyagawa’s research has been to study how syntax, case marking, and argument structure interact. In particular, Miyagawa’s work addresses the nature of the relationship between syntax and argument structure, and how case marking and other phenomena help to elucidate this relationship. In this collection of new and revised pieces, Miyagawa expands and develops new analyses for numeral quantifier stranding, ditransitive constructions, nominative/genitive alternation, “syntactic” analysis of lexical and syntactic causatives, and historical change in the accusative case marking from Old Japanese to Modern Japanese. All of these analyses demonstrate an intimate relation among case marking, argument structure, and word order.

… and here is a nice article about it from the MIT News Office (with one little reporting glitch — can you spot it?).

Congratulations, Shigeru!!