The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, May 7th, 2012

ESSL Meeting 5/7 - Ayaka Sugawara

Speaker: Ayaka Sugawara
Date/Time: Monday, May 7, 5:30p
Location: 32-D461

In this talk, I’d like to discuss an experimental design to investigate children’s knowledge about alternative creation in sentences with a focus-sensitive operator “only.” Previous studies (Crain et al. 1994, Paterson et al. 2006) report that children make considerable mistakes when they interpret sentences with pre-subject only, arguing that children interpret only as if it is attached to the VP (Crain et al.), or children just ignore only (Paterson et al.).

This talk points out that their experiments did not provide sufficient contexts that a sentence with only presupposes (“a sentence with only presupposes that the proposition expressed by the prejacent is ranked low among the alternatives,” see Horn 1969), and argues that the solution that children resort to when they face such a presupposition failure is different from that of adults, which results in the high inaccuracy rate with pre-subject only cases. I also discuss the alternative generation system proposed in Fox & Katir (2010).

Series of experimental design to test this hypothesis are presented. The hypothesis predicts that a difference in manner of introducing characters in a picture ((1) vs. (2) for example) will make a significant difference in accuracy rate.

(1) Look, the goose got a balloon and a flag, the cat got a flag, and the frog got a balloon!
Puppet: Only the cat got a flag.

(2) Look, the goose and the frog got a balloon, the cat and the goose got a flag!
Puppet: Only the cat got a flag.


LFRG I 5/8 - Noah Constant

LFRG will meet twice this week. Please note the unusual time and location of this meeting.

Speaker: Noah Constant (UMass)
Date/Time: 5/8 (Tue) 11 am - 1 pm
Location: 32-144
Title: Witnessable Quantifiers License Type-e Meaning: Evidence from CT, Equatives and Supplements

Abstract (pdf)


No Syntax Square This Week

There is no Syntax Square talk this week.


Phonology Circle 5/9 - Gretchen Kern

Speaker: Gretchen Kern
Date/Time: 5/9 (Wednesday) 5 pm
Location: 32-D831
Title: Perceptual Similarity in Sonority Contours: Evidence from Early Irish Rhyming Patterns


This is a practice talk for the 7th Celtic Linguistics Conference in June.

This paper aims to explain the basis of Early Irish rhyme and lend support to the concept of phonological similarity in sonority contours. Previous evidence for sonority contour-based similarity has come from patterns of epenthesis in consonant clusters (Flemming, 2008; Steriade, 2006) arguing that the perceptual distance between C1C2 and C1VC2 is smaller when there is a steep rise in sonority between C1 and C2 because that rise is more similar to the one between C1 and an epenthetic vowel. Adapting this, I argue that in Early (Old & Middle) Irish rhyme, the relevant dimension of similarity was the sonority profile: the difference in sonority between the most and least sonorous points. This can be used to explain some puzzling facts about Early Irish rhyme, namely the division of rhymeable consonants into classes, the behavior of consonant clusters, and the behavior of rhymes of two syllables.


No Ling-Lunch This Week

There is no Ling-Lunch talk this week.


LFRG II 5/10 - Yasutada Sudo

Speaker: Yasutada Sudo
Date/Time: 5/10 (Thu) 10-11:30
Location: 32-D831
Title: Gender Presuppositions and Anaphora in Quantified Sentences


Presupposition projection in quantified sentences has been known as a recalcitrant problem for theories of presupposition projection, and many different accounts have been put forward (Karttunen & Peter 1979, Heim 1983, van der Sandt 1992, Krahmer 1998, Beaver 2001, Beaver & Krahmer 1998, Schlenker 2008, 2009, George 2008, Fox 2008, 2010, Chemla 2009, Sudo, Romoli, Hackl & Fox 2012). I will show that the gender presuppositions of bound pronouns pose a serious challenge to the existing theories of presupposition projection, and propose an analysis that solves the problem using the mechanism of cross-sentential anaphora. I will also claim that my analysis accounts for the different projection properties of different quantificational determiners in a uniform way.

Kotek, Miyagawa and Sugawara at CUNY

Hadas Kotek, Shigeru Miyagawa, Ayaka Sugawara and collaborators gave a poster presentation, “Perception of Japanese vowel duration contrasts by L1 and L2 learners of Japanese: An EEG/MEG study” at the McGovern Symposium on MEG (MIT) and 2012 Mismatch Negativity Conference (CUNY). This is a collaboration with the McGovern Institute for Brain Science and FL&L, MIT, and the EEG laboratory at the CUNY Graduate Center, on how MIT’s Very Fast Track-Japanese students’ perception of mismatches change as measured by EEG/MEG over the course of the one-semester study. Here is the link to the presentation poster.


Saturday Workshop on Scalar Implicatures

Next Saturday, May 12, MIT Linguistics will host a special one-day workshop on Cross-Discplinary Perspectives on Scalar Implicatures.. The workshop brings together researchers across a variety of disciplines to discuss linguistic, computational, and psycholinguistic aspects of scalar implicatures.  All are welcome - but bring your own scales!

Schedule (Visit the website for abstracts):
8:30-9a Breakfast/Welcome (32-D461)

9-10a Gennaro Chierchia (Harvard University): Three –ities: Unity of Scalarity and Polarity.
10-11a Roni Katzir (Tel Aviv University): A note on implicatures and focus
11a-12p Gerhard Jäger (University of Tübingen): Trust is good, strategic thinking is better.

12-1:30p Lunch (8th floor lounge)

1:30-2:30p Noah Goodman (Stanford University): Modeling language understanding as social cognition
2:30-3:30p Richard Breheny (University College London): tba

3:30-4p Coffee Break (32-D461)

4-5p Dave Barner (University of California, San Diego): Grammatical constraints on pragmatic inference (tentative/to be confirmed)
5-6p Jesse Snedeker (Harvard University): Good things come to those who wait

7p Dinner (tbd)


Bjorkman to Toronto for post-doc!

Bronwyn Bjorkman, PhD 2011, has accepted a SSHRC post-doc at the University of Toronto, where she will work with Elizabeth Cowper.  Congratulations, Bronwyn!!