The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, September 3rd, 2012

ESSL organizational meeting 9/6

The Experimental Syntax and Semantics Lab will hold an organizational meeting on Thursday 9/6 at 5:15 pm in 32D-831.

Summer news

We have a few summer news tidbits from faculty and students to add to those that we reported during our summer issue:

Wayne O’Neil, together with Maya Honda, worked again at the Navajo Language Academy workshop, teaching a three-week introduction to linguistics course to twenty or so Navajo teachers and educators. NLA’s linguistics workshop, housed this summer at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff AZ, has met each summer since 1997, moving from site to site on or near the Navajo Reservation. Paul Platero (PhD 1978) and Peggy Speas (PhD 1986) also taught at this summer’s workshop. The Navajo Language Academy (formerly the Navajo Linguistic Society) was founded by Ken Hale in 1974.

Norvin Richards gave invited talks at National Tsing Hua University (“Generalized Contiguity”) and at ISCLL 13 at National Taiwan Normal University (“Affix support and the EPP”).

Grad student Sam Steddy delivered a talk titled “Palatalisation Across the Italian Lexicon” to a UCL audience comprised of linguists and Italian teachers. The talk was organised by the London Phonology Seminar.

Grad students mitcho (Michael Erlewine) and TC Chen spent two months in Taiwan doing fieldwork on Atayal, an indigenous Formosan language. Both worked on Squliq Atayal as spoken by speakers in Fuhsing township and additionally TC went back to the Mayrinax Atayal-speaking tribe she has worked with in the past. It was a fruitful summer full of restructuring, modals, mysterious case markers, questions, wonderful informants, delicious food, and typhoons. (mitcho was supported by an NSF EAPSI award.)

While in Taiwan, TC gave a talk at the Austronesian Formal Linguistics Association (AFLA 19) on “Restructuring in Mayrinax Atayal” and mitcho spoke at National Tsinghua University on “Kaqchikel Agent Focus: evidence from multiple extraction constructions.”

[1] Mountains of Fuhsing township Mountains of Fuhsing

[2] Watching our informant chat online in Atayal Watching our informant chat online in Atayal

Course Announcements, Fall 2012

24.943: Syntax of a Language (Family)
Seminar on Topics in East Asian Syntax and Semantics
Jim Huang & Shigeru Miyagawa

M2:30-5:30 (32-D461)
Alternate weeks at Harvard, M3:30-6:00 (Boylston 303).
The first class (9/10) will be at MIT.

We will cover some recent topics in East Asian linguistics that have important theoretical implications.

Issues include:
- agreement/topic/focus
- NP structure
- intervention effects
- wh-questions — “why”
- ellipsis
- case alternation
- argument structure

24.964: Topics in Phonology
The phonetics and phonology of sentence prosody
Edward Flemming

W 10-1 (32-D461)

This course will provide an overview of the phonetics and phonology of sentence prosody. Topics will include:
- English prosody - intonation, prominence and phrasing, ToBI transcription
- Phonetic implementation of prosody
- Focus-marking
- Prosodic and syntactic phrasing
- Cross-linguistic variation
- Instrumental and experimental techniques - pitch tracking, resynthesis

24.965: Morphology
Adam Albright & David Pesetsky

T10–1, 32-D461

Topics in the structure of words and their components. What is the evidence for structure below the level of the word? What (if anything) distinguishes word structure from sentence structure? What principles account for the order of morphemes? How does morphological structure influence the phonological shape of complex words? Why does morphology sometimes fail to express syntactic/semantic differences (one affix, two functions), and how do multiple morphemes compete to express the same meaning? The big question underlying the course will be: is there a distinct morphological grammar, or can morphological phenomena all be understood as arising from the interaction of syntax and phonology?

24.979: Topics in Semantics
Kai von Fintel & Sabine Iatridou

F11-2, 32-D461

We will discuss current research on expressions of preference and priority, including deontic modals, imperatives, desiderative attitudes, and so on. The seminar will feature several guest speakers (Ana Arregui, Fabrizio Cariani, Cleo Condoravdi, Thony Gillies, Magda Kaufmann, Dilip Ninan, perhaps more), some of whom will be semi-regular participants as well.

24.S94: More on Questions
Danny Fox

Schedule: 3 hour meetings, twice a week (W-F-W-F-W-Th) during the weeks of September 24-October 5*
Location: 32-D461 (mostly)

In this class I will try to develop an argument for a treatment of pair-list readings of multiple wh-questions that I made in a 2010 seminar (taught with Irene and Kai). The starting point is Dayal’s proposal that questions are associated with a maximality presupposition – the requirement that one true member of the Hamblin-denotation entail all true members. As Dayal shows, maximality accounts for uniqueness in simple singular wh questions (Which boy came? is associated with the inference that exactly one boy came). Dayal’s proposal, which provides the basis for a family of accounts of negative islands and related phenomena, fails to derive the pair list readings of multiple wh-questions, such as `which boy read which book?’. I will try to argue that this problem can be resolved if multiple questions denote families of questions, derived from logical forms that obey Richards’ tucking-in generalization. The rest of the class will investigate various issues that have a potential bearing on the proposal: issues pertaining to quantificational variability in questions, to pair-list reading that arise from normal quantification (e.g. which book did every boy read?), and to the nature of superiority.

MIT Linguistics Colloquium Schedule, 2012-2013

The MIT Linguistics Colloquium schedule for this academic year is below. All talks are on Fridays, 3:30-5:00 p.m. in room 32-141 unless otherwise noted. For further information, please contact the organizers for this year, Iain Giblin and Yusuke Imanishi. This schedule is subject to change, especially for Spring 2013 — please visit the Colloquium webpage for updates.

Fall 2012

September 21: Paul Kiparsky (Stanford)
October 12: Pranav Anand (UCSC)
October 26: Sun-Ah Jun (UCLA)
November 2: Satoshi Tomioka (University of Delaware)
November 9: Mark Baker (Rutgers)
December 7: Edith Aldridge (University of Washington)

Spring 2013 (confirmed dates only)

March 8: Lisa Matthewson (UBC)
April 5: Sharon Inkelas (UC Berkeley)
April 19: Arsalan Kahnemuyipour (University of Toronto Mississauga)
May 10: Andrew Nevins (UCL)

Introducing Ling-12

The eleven members of the incoming graduate class — one of the largest ever — have provided us with brief introductions.

Isa Bayirili writes: “I grew up in a small, nice and historical city of Turkey, namely Antakya, also famous for its extremely delicious desserts. I got my BA in English Language Teaching from METU, Ankara and my MA in Linguistics from Bogazici University, Istanbul. In my MA Thesis, I was surprised by certain regularities in morphology that have been left to the territories of the lexicon and I tried to develop a syntactic account of what it is to be a suffix within the framework of Brody’s Mirror Theory. This led me to a restrictive theory of syntax and to certain hypotheses about what it is to be a verbal element. Currently, I am working on the question of what other morphological elements can be given accounts by making reference to other components of grammar (i.e. syntax and pragmatics). I am also interested in methodological issues confronting restrictive theory construction for syntax and I share concerns about giving content to the term biolinguistics.”

Ruth Brillman reports: “I grew up in Albuquerque, NM and got my BA in Linguistics at NYU (where I also dabbled in Anthropology). I’m interested in syntax and its interfaces. When not doing Linguistics, I enjoy riding my bike, drinking tea, and playing Scrabble.”

Anthony Brohan is originally from Montreal, Quebec. He earned bachelors degrees in Computer Science and Linguistics at Queen’s University in Ontario. His interests lie primarily in phonology, with an emphasis on experimental work. At MIT he hopes to develop more interests, including putting his CS background to work. Outside of linguistics, he enjoys being outside (hiking, camping, canoeing, climbing and more).

Ishani Guha reports: “I am from Kolkata in India, though my education in linguistics was entirely done at the University of Delhi. So far, I have enjoyed studying the syntax of relative clause constructions in Bangla [Bengali] and I am keen on taking that forward while discovering new areas of interest at MIT.”

Aron Hirsch is originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba, a small (and very cold) city in central Canada. He writes: “I graduated with a B.A. in linguistics from McGill University a year ago, and have since been working at the McGill Prosody Lab. I am interested in theoretical and experimental semantics, pragmatics, and syntax, with much of my work to date relating to their respective interfaces with prosody.”

Sudheer Kolachina was born in the state of Andhra Pradesh in South India, but he likes to think of himself as a pan-Indian as he grew up in different parts of the country. In search of something interesting to do after a Bachelor’s in Engineering (from DAIICT) and an MA in lingustics (from the University of Delhi), he decided to go to Language Technologies Research Center (LTRC), IIIT-Hyderabad to combine his engineering skills with his training in linguistics. During his three years at LTRC, in addition to building parsers and Machine translation systems, he spent a lot of time working towards building linguistic resources for Indian languages (Hindi and Telugu). He also worked on two less documented languages - Hamirpuri and Khasi, spoken in the Indian mountains. He recently submitted a thesis on non-local information in syntactic parsing for a Masters in Computer Science and Engineering. His main areas of interest include formal language theory, syntactic grammar formalisms and parsing, theories of discourse and quantitative methods in the study of linguistic phylogeny. He is keen on exploring new areas in linguistics in the future. Apart from languages, he is passionate about yoga and traveling.

Lilla Magyar grew up in a medium-large town in the central-western part of Hungary and moved to a small village nearby when she was 14. She writes: “I graduated from the University of Pannonia with an MA / MEd in English language and literature and German language and literature, spent six months at the TU Chemnitz in Germany doing research and have also studied at ELTE TLP in Budapest (which might be known to some of you by the song “We are the world, we are the linguists”). My main area of interest is the phonology-morphology interface, especially variation and gradient / non-categorical phenomena, but I’m very much interested in sociolinguistics and psycholinguistics as well. In my free time, I enjoy reading books, listening to music, watching films, doing sports (such as swimming and aikido) and having fun with friends and family.”

Chris O’Brien grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He received a B.A. and M.A. in linguistics from Michigan State University. While at MIT, he’s interested in working on formal and experimental semantics. In his spare time, Chris enjoys watching old movies, particularly 1930s-40s screwball comedies.

Juliet Stanton is from Austin, Texas and she recently completed a BA in linguistics at Indiana University. She writes: “I’m mainly interested in phonology—some slightly more specific interests include inventories and phonotactics, as well as the interfaces among phonology, phonetics, and morphology. I am not committed to any one language or language family, but I did spend some time over the past year working on Saafi, an Atlantic language of western Senegal. Outside of linguistics, I enjoy reading, writing, listening to music, and spending lots of time outdoors.”

Benjamin Storme writes: “I was born and raised in Auvergne, France and moved to Paris to study Classics (Latin, Ancient Greek, Old French, etc.). I then studied Hittite at UCLA and finally Linguistics back in Paris. Besides Linguistics, I like among other things playing drums, watching movies, reading… My last name is akin to “storm”, but don’t ask me why there is an -e at the end: I have no clue (maybe it sounded more French!…).”

Samuel Zukoff hails from Summit, New Jersey, a suburb of New York City. He received a BA in Linguistics and Classics from Georgetown University, and has just completed an MA in Linguistics at University of Georgia with a concentration in Historical/Indo-European Linguistics. Sam’s Master’s Thesis was on reduplication in Ancient Greek. He reports: “I’m interested in phonology, historical linguistics, and language change, and particularly in applying contemporary linguistic theory to historical reconstruction. I work primarily on ancient Indo-European languages, including Ancient Greek, Sanskrit, Latin, and Classical Armenian. I’m a huge sports fan (a New York sports fan, but don’t tell any of the locals), I like board games, card games, trivia, and good beer.”

Welcome to the Fall 2012 semester!

Today, Tuesday Sept. 4, is Registration Day. Whamit!, the MIT Linguistics Department Newsletter appears every Monday during the semester. The editorial staff consists of Adam Albright, Kai von Fintel, Michelle Fullwood, Ryo Masuda, and David Pesetsky.

To submit items for inclusion in Whamit! please send an email to whamit@mit.edu by Sunday 6pm. At the beginning of the semester, we’re particularly interested in news about what members of the department did during the summer break.

Hope to see you all at the departmental lunch, 12pm at the 8th floor lounge!

Visiting Members for the Fall

We extend our warmest welcome to the visiting scholars and students for this term:

Visiting Scholars

  • Ana Arregui Assistant Professor, University of Ottawa
    Research in semantics and psycholinguistics.
  • Marika Butskhrikidze Associate Professor, College FAMA
    Research in phonology and morphology.
  • Maria Giavazzi Postdoc, Équipe de Neuropsychologie Interventionnelle at the Department of Cognitive Studies of ENS (Paris); MIT Linguistics PhD (2010)
    Research in phonology, phonetics, speech perception and in the cognitive neuroscience of language.
  • Xinzhong Liu Assistant Professor, Dept. of Chinese Literature and Language, Jinan University
    Has an expertise in phonetics of Chinese dialects. His current research is to transcribe and describe the different sounds in Chinese dialects especially in Southern China.
  • Tamina Stephenson Lecturer in Semantics, UMass Amherst; MIT Linguistics PhD (2007)
    Research in semantics and pragmatics.
  • Hisao Tokizaki Professor, Sapporo University
    Research in syntax, phonology, morphology, and their interfaces.
  • Asako Uchibori Professor, Nihon University
    Research in syntax (Japanese, Old Japanese, Japanese Sign Language) and language and the brain (first and second language processing experiments using fNIRS and fMRI).

Visiting Students

  • Dominique Blok Graduate Student at University of Utrecht
    Research description: Will try to create a formal account of Dutch and Flemish conditionals with modal verbs in the antecedent (‘may’ and ‘must’ respectively) that also appear to require a modal verb in the consequent. Will also compare these to similar constructions in English, German, and French.
  • Ivano Ciardelli PhD student at the Université de Bordeaux
    His research interests lie in between logic and language.
  • Ana Lúcia Pessotto dos Santos PhD student at Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (UFSC)
    Her research focuses on the semantics of the imperfect and the interaction between modality, tense and aspect, including the pragmatic consequences its contribution brings to the meaning of modals and other verbs in PB.