The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, September 24th, 2012

Syntax Square 9/25 - Alexander Podobryaev

Speaker: Alexander Podobryaev
Date/Time: Tuesday, Sept 25, 1-2p
Room: 32-D461

I will discuss “Imposters”, a recent book by Chris Collins and Paul Postal about expressions referring to the speaker or the hearer that nonetheless seem to have 3rd person features (“yours truly”, “the present author”, “your highness” etc.). The presentation will focus on ways in which this book should or shouldn’t change our general understanding of syntax and semantics of phi-features.

ESSL 9/26 - Danny Fox

Speaker: Danny Fox
Date/Time: Wednesday, September 26, 6pm (note unusual date and time!)
Location: 32-D461
Title: TBA

This will replace the regular Thursday meeting of the Experimental Syntax and Semantics Lab.

Course announcement: “More on Questions”

*How much does this truck not weigh?

24.S94: More on Questions
Danny Fox
class website: https://stellar.mit.edu/S/course/24/fa12/24.S94/index.html

Times and locations:
Week 1, class 1 & 2: Wednesday 9/26 2:30-5:30pm; Friday 9/28 2:00pm-5:00pm (32-D461)
Week 2, class 3 & 4: Wednesday 10/3 2:30-4:30pm; Friday 10/5 2:00pm-5:00pm (32-D461)
Week 3, class 5 : Wednesday 10/10 2:30-5:30pm (32-D461)
Week 3, class 6 : probably Thursday 10/11 2:00-5:00 (or as arranged with class) (location TBA)

In this class I will try to develop an argument for a particular treatment of pair-list readings in 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 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 Richard’s 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 readings that arise from normal quantification (e.g. Which book did every boy read?), and to the nature of superiority.

Mitcho takes AIMM at Mayan Agent Focus

Fourth-year grad student Mitcho Erlewine travelled all the way to UMass Amherst, last weekend, to AIMM, the first American International Morphology Meeting, where he presented a paper entitled Dissociating the syntax and morphological realization of Mayan Agent Focus. Mitcho’s paper builds on fieldwork on Kaqchikel that began in the Spring 2011 version of 24.942: Grammar of a Less Familiar Language.