The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, October 29th, 2012

No Phonology Circle This Week

Remaining schedule:
Nov 5 - Maria Giavazzi
Nov 12 - holiday
Nov 19 - Keiichi Tajima
Nov 26 - Suyeon Yun
Dec 3 - open
Dec 10 - LSA practice talks


Syntax Square 10/30 - Coppe van Urk

Speaker: Coppe van Urk
Title: Predication, predicate fronting, and what it takes to be a verb (Jessica Coon, NELS43)
Date/Time: Tuesday, Oct 30, 1-2p
Location: 32-D461

Coppe will present Jessica Coon (McGill)’s recent talk at NELS43. The full abstract is available here (pdf).


Ling-Lunch 11/1 - Ivona Kučerová

Speaker: Ivona Kučerová (McMaster University)
Title: Spell-out-dependent Case assignment and split ergativity
Date/Time: Thursday, Nov 1, 12:30-1:45p
Location: 32-D461

In my previous work (Kučerová 2011) I proposed that the presence or absence of what is often analyzed as dependent Case (ACC/ERG) depends on the size of the syntactic structure which spells out such a “dependent” Case. The actual case assignment reflects which heads are strong phase heads and as such constitute a Spell-out domain.This talk elaborates on the idea of Spell-out dependency and extends it to the domain of split ergativity. If we apply this approach to morphologically and syntactically ergative languages (Bittner and Hale 1996), the spell-out-dependent hypothesis predicts that there should be three distinct types of split ergative systems, a prediction which is confirmed by the descriptive generalization in Coon 2012. A further prediction is that case splits should not be restricted to ergative systems but should occur in accusative systems as well. As we will see, this prediction is borne out as well.

ESSL meeting 11/1 - Paul Marty

Title: Scalar implicatures: working memory and a comparison with `Only’.
Speaker: Paul Marty
Date/Time: Thursday, November 1, 5:30pm
Location: 32-D831


A Scalar Implicature (SI) arises when the use of a weaker expression (e.g., some politicians are corrupt) implies the denial of an alternative sentence (e.g., not all politicians are corrupt). The cognitive effort associated with the processing of SIs involves central memory resources (De Neys and Schaeken 2007). The goal of the present investigation is to locate this previous result within the current psycholinguistic debate, and to understand at which level of SI processing these resources are specifically involved. Using a dual-task approach, we show that (i) tapping participant’s memory resources interferes with the derivation of SIs, whereas (ii) it does not affect the interpretation of sentences with only involving similar mechanisms (e.g., only some politicians are corrupt). We explain how these findings suggest that the central memory resources are not involved in (some of) the core sub-process at the source of SIs, and discuss how this new difference between SIs and only bears on recent linguistic debates on the division of labor between grammar and pragmatics.

Linguistics Colloquium 11/2 - Satoshi Tomioka

Speaker: Satoshi Tomioka (University of Delaware)
Date/Time: 3:30 - 5pm
Venue: 32-D461
Title: Conventionally Implicated Questions


There is a type of adjunct (unselected) embedded question in Korean and Japanese that is unlike any known type of embedded question. The form itself is innocuous; Q, p. Its meaning, however, seems rather complex. (I) The speaker asserts p, and (II) the speaker does not know the answer to Q, but (iii) the speaker speculates that the answer to Q would be a reasonable/likely cause of p. We argue that this type of embedded question is functionally a root questions but belongs to the conventional implicature (CI) tier in the sense of Potts (2005). We therefore claim that the domain of CI be expanded so as to include question meaning as well. It will also be shown that the speaker’s ignorance and the speaker’s speculation on the causal link can be derived pragmatically, making it unnecessary to represent them in the semantic representation.