The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, June 25th, 2012

Special summer issue  

Dear readers,

We know we promised you a summer respite from Whamit!, but so many news items (both glad and sad) accumulated over the past few weeks that we felt a special issue was merited.  There might be more issues over the summer (the newswatch never stops!), but otherwise we will return as promised in September.

-the Editors


Gribanova talk at Polinsky Lab, Harvard  

Speaker: Vera Gribanova, Stanford (joint work with Dasha Popova and Christopher Potts)

Title: “The interaction of syntax and information structure in three kinds of Russian ellipsis”
Date/Time: Thursday June 28, 3pm
Location: Polinsky Lab, 2 Arrow St., Cambridge, 4th floor. Dial “400” at the intercom, and somebody will buzz you up.

This talk compares the syntactic and discourse properties of three types of clause-level Russian ellipses: (a) polarity ellipsis, in which a polarity item is stranded in Pol, the sister of which (TP) is elided (Kazenin, 2006); (b) Aux-stranding VPE, in which an auxiliary appears in T, the sister of which is elided (Kazenin, 2006); and (c) verb-stranding verb phrase ellipsis (VVPE), in which a verb moves out of the ellipsis site (vP) to Asp, thereby being stranded (Gribanova to appear a,b). Taken together, this yields a cascade of ellipsis licensing heads in a structure like (1).

Each type of ellipsis may leave behind a phrasal remnant to the immediate left of the stranded element. The grammatical function of this element, and its possible discourse interpretation(s), vary across the three different types of ellipsis in a surprising way, given (1): polarity (“high”) ellipsis and VVPE (“low” ellipsis) pattern together and are more restrictive, while Aux-stranding VPE is more permissive.

The talk aims to address this puzzle in two ways. First, we provide a way of understanding the discourse status of phrasal remnants in the different types of ellipsis in the framework of Questions Under Discussion (Büring, 2003, inter alia). Second, we explore a syntactic solution to the puzzle that capitalizes on the idea that VVPE moves the verb higher than was originally suggested by Gribanova (to appear a), as high as Pol. Similarities between the two types of ellipsis are therefore the result of identical syntactic positions of the verb in VVPE and polarity markers in polarity ellipsis. Differences between the two types — in particular, the availability of a post-verbal subject in VVPE but a ban on post-polarity subjects in polarity ellipsis — are attributed to the idea that the size of the ellipsis is smaller in VVPE than it is in polarity ellipsis.

Halpert to Minnesota  

Fifth-year student Claire Halpert has accepted a tenure-track position as Assistant Professor of Linguistics at the University of Minnesota (where the list of her distinguished colleagues will include Hooi Ling Soh, PhD 1998).

Congratulations, Claire!! Great news!!!


Student doings since we last wrote  


Shosuke Haraguchi

Shigeru Miyagawa has written to us with some sad news:

“I’m saddened to inform you that Shosuke Haraguchi passed away on June 8th. According to a posting by a linguist in his group at Meikai University, the cause of the death was a stroke. He fell ill in his Meikai office and was taken to a hospital where he died. He was 68. Shosuke received his Ph.D. from MIT in 1975 and had been a pillar of the linguistics community in Japan.”

Haraguchi was a pioneer in the investigation of Japanese phonology from the perspective of autosegmental theory, and remained an active investigator of both phonology and syntax throughout his career, and a strong supporter of younger researchers in Japan.


Pesetsky, Bobaljik, Moltmann, Pancheva, Guha and cast of thousands at LISSIM 6  

David Pesetsky is just back from teaching a two-week class on nominal case at the 6th Linguistics Summer School in the Indian Mountains (LISSIM 6) in Sidhbari, a town in the Kangra Valley in Himachal Pradesh (the state just north of Punjab, where the Himalayas begin).  The faculty list was a real 1990s MIT Linguistics reunion, including Jonathan Bobaljik (PhD 1995) (who taught his new book on the cross-linguistic morphology of comparatives, superlatives and inchoatives), Friederike Moltmann (PhD 1992) (who taught about her own new work on tropes), and mid-1990s visitor (and frequent returnee) Roumyana Pancheva (who taught a class about her research on comparatives and the entire history of work on the topic).  Among the twenty or so superb students in attendance was incoming first-year student Ishani Guha.  David writes: “It was a fantastic summer school, with the most engaged students and dedicated organizers that I have ever seen (not to mention great colleagues)”.  Click here for some photos!


Abrusan and Magri top CNRS competitions in France  

Recent alums Márta Abrusán  (PhD 2007) and Giorgio Magri  (PhD 2009) have both been successful in the most recent competitions for highly-prized positions at the CNRS in France.  To see les résultats first-class pour Abrusán, cliquer here, and to see the même chose pour Magri, click  ici.  Félicitations, Márta et Giorgio!!


McAllister Byun to NYU  

Tara McAllister Byun (PhD 2009) will be joining the Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders at NYU this fall in a tenure-track position. Tara has been an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Montclair State University in New Jersey since 2009. Congratulations, Tara!


Preminger monograph to be published  

Recent alum and visiting faculty member Omer Preminger has signed a contract with MIT Press to publish a monograph in the Linguistic Inquiry Monograph series, tentatively entitled Agreement and its Failures.  Congratulations, Omer!!