The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, February 4th, 2013

Welcome to the Spring 2013 Term!  

Whamit! welcomes all the members of the MIT Linguistics community to the spring semester. The editorial staff is comprised of Adam Albright, Kai von Fintel, Michelle Fullwood, Ryo Masuda, and David Pesetsky.

We look forward to receiving items for inclusion in Whamit! throughout the semester, including reports of acceptance to conferences and journals. To submit items for inclusion please send an email to whamit@mit.edu by Sunday 6pm.

Hope to see you all at the Registration Day Lunch today at noon at the 8th floor lounge!


MIT Linguistics Colloquium Schedule, Spring 2013  

The updated schedule for this term’s MIT Linguistics Colloquium is posted 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 semester, Yusuke Imanishi and Wataru Uegaki.

March 8: Lisa Matthewson (UBC)
April 5: Sharon Inkelas (UC Berkeley)
April 19: Arsalan Kahnemuyipour (University of Toronto Mississauga)
April 26: Mark Baker (Rutgers)
May 10: Andrew Nevins (UCL)
May 17: Emmanuel Chemla (LSCP-CNRS (Paris))


Course Announcements, Spring 2013  

24.954 Pragmatics in Linguistic Theory
Instructors: Kai von Fintel and Irene Heim
Wednesday and Friday 10-11:30a, 32-D461

This intermediate level class will explore basic concepts and tools in five areas of linguistic pragmatics:

1. presuppositions
2. implicatures
3. indexicality
4. speech acts
5. focus

Throughout, we will provide pointers to current work on these topics.

The class presupposes familiarity with compositional intensional semantics, as developed in our introductory sequence (24.970, 24.973).

Students who take the class for credit are expected to attend class diligently, to do all required advance readings, to participate vigorously in class discussion, to submit occasionally assigned homework exercises, and to submit a final term paper on a topic related to the class.

24.956 Topics in Syntax
Uttering theory: topics in the relation between syntax and phonology

Instructor: Norvin Richards
Wednesday 12-3p, Room 32-D461

Current Minimalist theories posit a number of parametric differences between languages, which amount to stipulating the distributions of various types of overt movement. In this class we will spend the semester exploring the idea that we can reach deeper explanations for syntactic phenomena like these by allowing the syntax to make more reference to phonology thatn we are used to. I’ll argue for universal conditions on the phonological consequences of certain kinds of syntactic relations, and claim that some of the operations performed by the syntax (movement operations, in particular) are driven by the need to meet these universal conditions. In the end, the relevant parametric differences between languages will be independently necessary phonological and morphological ones, having to do with stress, prosody, and the distribution of various types of affixes.

The resulting theory will account for the distribution of overt wh-movement (in single wh-questions), EPP effects, and head-movement in a number of languages. Time permitting, we will go on to consider phenomena like scrambling and DP structure, and develop new answers to a variety of traditional and not-so-traditional questions (why is PRO always null? why are ergative languages with fixed word order typically either SOV or verb-initial? why do some languages, but not others, allow nominative subjects in infinitives (Szabolcsi 2007)? why can languages like Chichewa optionally leave wh in situ in all positions except for preverbal subjects, which must overtly move via clefting? why is extraposition to the right of the verb in German possible just when the VP has been topicalized (Haider’s puzzle)?). We’ll also discuss the consequences of the approach for the architecture of the grammar.

Registered students will be asked to do in-class presentations (either of relevant readings or of the student’s own research), and to hand in a (possibly very rough draft of a) final paper.

24.964 Topics in Morpho-Phonology
The analysis of cyclic and and pseudo-cyclic phenomena

Instructors: Donca Steriade, David Pesetsky
Mondays 2-5, 32-D461

Full syllabus is available here. (pdf)

In these lectures, we propose to explore some well-known problems in the functioning of the phonological cycle; to examine and debate some solutions. We will also document and solve some less well-known problems that bear some resemblance to the cycle. A central topic will be a proposed unified view of all cyclic-like interactions in phonology, based on recent work. A related important goal of the class will be the clarification or elimination (not yet sure which) of differences between cyclic computations, as motivated in phonology, and cyclic spell-out in syntax.

This is a collaborative venture. The two instructors will take turns proposing alternative solutions to problems laid out. Exercises will be designed to give a chance to all participants to engage in the debate. After completion, the problems will be discussed in class.

24.979 Topics in Semantics
“Free Relatives, Free Choice”

Instructors: Kai von Fintel, Sabine Iatridou
Mondays 10-1, 32D-461

This semester, we will explore the syntax and semantics of free relative constructions and of free choice expressions.


Phonology Circle 2/4 - Suyeon Yun  

There will be a special meeting of the Phonology Circle on 2/4, featuring a WCCFL practice talk by Suyeon Yun. (Please note the time!)

Title: The Role of Acoustic Cues in Nonnative Consonant Cluster Repairs
Speaker: Suyeon Yun
Date/time: Mon Feb 4, 10:30am
Location: 32D-461

This paper describes a comprehensive typology of consonant cluster repairs in loan adaptation, namely vowel epenthesis and consonant deletion, and crosslinguistic asymmetries concerning sites of epenthetic vowels and deleting consonants. I argue that presence or absence of certain acoustic cues play a crucial role in determining the site of epenthesis or deletion to achieve perceptual similarity between the source language input and the borrowing language output, and provide a P-map (Steriade 2008) analysis of the typology.


Syntax Square 2/4 - Ted Levin and 2/5 - Hrayr Khanjian  

Syntax Square is scheduled for Tuesdays at 1-2pm this semester. The organizers are Ruth Brillman and Tingchun Chen — please contact them for scheduling issues, if you have ongoing or completed syntactic work you’d like to share, or if there’s an interesting article/book you’d like to discuss.

This week, there are two sessions of Syntax Square for WCCFL practice talks.

Speaker: Ted Levin
Title: Untangling the Balinese bind: Binding and voice in Austronesian
Date/Time: Monday, Feb 4, 1:30-2:30p
Location: 32-D461

Full abstract is available. (pdf)

Voice alternations in Balinese interact with binding phenomena in a way that appears problematic for standard views of the A/A-bar distinction. In simple sentences, movement to Spec-TP does not create new antecedents for binding, suggesting that Spec-TP is an A-bar position. In raising constructions, however, movement to the higher Spec-TP does create new antecedents for binding, behavior expected of an A-position. This paradox is dubbed the Balinese Bind by Wechsler (1998), who uses the phenomenon to demonstrate the superiority of HPSG approaches. In this paper, I argue that the paradox is illusory, and that Balinese Spec-TP is an unambiguous A-position, if we adopt a new account of the Balinese voice system and the Agree-based theory of Binding advanced by Rooryck and Vanden Wyngaerd (2011).

Speaker: Hrayr Khanjian
Title: Complementizer concord in Western Armenian
Date/Time: Tuesday, Feb 5, 1-2p
Location: 32-D461

Full abstract is available. (pdf)

This paper accounts for the typologically unique double headed CP structure found in Western Armenian (WA), as an instance of concord. Certain CPs in WA can have two heads, where one is head-initial and the other is head-final. For these phrases, it is possible to omit one of the heads, and end up with either a head-initial or head-final phrase. These double headed CPs present two major challenges which I present solutions for. First, how to account for the phonological and syntactic differences between the head-initial and the head-final CPs. Second, how to compositionally derive the desired semantics of the doubly headed CPs.


LFRG 2/6 - Mitcho Erlewine and Isaac Gould  

The first LFRG meeting is a practice talk for WCCFL by Mitcho and Isaac this Wednesday.

Future meetings are tentatively planned for Fridays at 11:30. Please contact this semester’s organizers, Edwin Howard and Miriam Nussbaum, if there is a scheduling conflict or if you would like to present something.

Speaker: Michael Yoshitaka Erlewine and Isaac Gould
Title: Domain Readings of Japanese Head Internal Relative Clauses
Date/Time: Wednesday, Feb 6, 11:30a
Location: 32-D831

The structure and interpretation of Head-Internal Relative Clauses (HIRC) differ from head-external variants, and these differences are not yet well understood. We present a study of the interpretation of Japanese HIRC with quantificational heads, and show novel evidence that the HIRC corresponds to the domain of the quantifier, rather than its witness set. We propose that HIRC denote the maximally informative set which can be the domain of the HIRC’s head quantifier. Sources of inter-speaker variation will also be discussed.


Ling-Lunch to be held on Thursdays  

Ling-Lunch will keep its usual schedule of Thursdays 12:30-1:45p in 32-D461. Please contact the term’s organizers, Isa Kerem Bayirli and Despina Oikonomou, if you would like to present a talk.


No ESSL Meeting This Week  

There will be no meeting of the Experimental Syntax and Semantics Lab this week; the first meeting will be next week, day and time TBA.

If you are interested in participating in the lab meetings or in attending the Turk workshop that will take place during 3 or 4 lab meeting time slots throughout the semester, please indicate your availability in this Doodle poll. The Turk workshop will meet for the first time on the last week of February and then every 2-3 weeks after that, depending on participants’ schedules. Please contact Hadas if you have any questions; we will announce the lab meeting time and more details about the Turk workshop later this week.


David Pesetsky inducted as 2013 LSA fellow  

At the LSA Annual Meeting in January, David Pesetsky was officially inducted as a 2013 Fellow of the Linguistic Society of America, for “distinguished contributions to the discipline”. David joins an impressive group of MIT faculty who have been elected as LSA fellows, include Irene Heim (in 2012), Morris Halle (in 2006) and Noam Chomsky (in 2007). As David noted at this time last year, the list of fellows also includes four former faculty, and about a sizeable fraction of the current fellows (22 of 84) are alumni of our PhD program.

A photo of the momentous occasion can be found here.

Congratulations, David!!


MIT linguists at the LSA, WCCFL  

MIT was particularly well represented at the Annual Meeting of the LSA from Jan 3-6 in Boston, with 26 presentations (plenary, invited talks, regular talks, and posters) by current MIT affiliates, and many many more by past affiliates.

On Friday David Pesetsky delivered an invited plenary address, with the title: “Что дѣлать? ‘What is to be done?’

In addition, the following talks and posters featured MIT presenters:

  • Adam Albright and Youngah Do: Featural overlap facilitates learning of phonological alternations
  • Jonathan Barnes, Alejna Brugos, Elizabeth Rosenstein, Stefanie Shattuck-Hufnagel, Nanette Veilleux: Segmental sources of variation in the timing of American English pitch accents
  • Robert C. Berwick: Languages do not show lineage-specific trends in word-order universals
  • Robert C. Berwick, Marco Idiart, Igor Malioutov, Beracah Yankama, Aline Villavicencio: Keep it simple: language acquisition without complex Bayesian models
  • Young Ah Do: Children employ a conspiracy of repairs to achieve uniform paradigms
  • Young Ah Do and Michael Kenstowicz: The Base in Korean noun paradigms: evidence from tone
  • Ellen Duranceau: Open access at Massachusetts Institute of Technology: implementation and impact (In symposium: Open Access and the Future of Academic Publishing)
  • Michael Yoshitaka Erlewine: Locality restrictions on syntactic extraction: the case (but not Case) of Kaqchikel Agent Focus
  • Michael Yoshitaka Erlewine and Isaac Gould: Domain readings of Japanese head internal relative clauses
  • Michael Yoshitaka Erlewine and Hadas Kotek: Intervention effects and covert pied-piping in English multiple questions
  • Kai von Fintel: Taking an Open Access Start-up Journal to the Next Level (In symposium: Open Access and the Future of Academic Publishing)
  • Suzanne Flynn, Janet Cohen Sherman, Jordan Whitlock, Claire Cordella, Charles Henderson, Zhong Chen, Aileen Costigan, James Gair, and Barbara Lust: The Regression Hypothesis revisited: new experimental results comparing child and dementia populations refute its predictions
  • Peter Graff, Paul Marty, and Donca Steriade: French glides after C-Liquid: the effect of contrast distinctiveness
  • Aron Hirsch and Michael Wagner: Topicality and its effect on prosodic prominence: the context creation paradigm
  • Samuel Jay Keyser: Generative grammar at MIT
  • Hadas Kotek: Intervention, covert movement, and focus computation in multiple wh-questions
  • Paul Marty and Peter Graff: Cue availability and similarity drive perceptual distinctiveness: a cross-linguistic study of stop place perception
  • Paul Marty, Peter Graff, Jeremy Hartman, and Steven Keyes: Biases in word learning: the case of non-myopic predicates
  • Shigeru Miyagawa: A typology of the root phenomena (In symposium: The Privilege of the Root, co-organized by Shigeru Miyagawa and Liliane Haegeman)
  • Sruthi Narayanan, Elizabeth Stowell, and Igor Yanovich: Ought to be strong
  • Gregory Scontras, Peter Graff, Tami Forrester, Noah D. Goodman: Context sensitivity in collective predication
  • Daeyoung Sohn: Absence of reconstruction effects and successive-cyclic scrambling
  • Maziar Toosarvandani: Coordination and subordination in Northern Paiute clause chaining
  • Rory Turnbull, Paul Marty, and Peter Graff: Complementary covariation in acoustic cues to place of articulation
  • Suyeon Yun: Phonetic grammar of compensatory lengthening: a case study from Farsi

In addition, a large contingent of MIT linguists is off to Arizona this weekend to present at WCCFL 31:

  • Tingchun Chen: Restructuring in Squliq Atayal
  • Michael Yoshitaka Erlewine and Isaac Gould: Domain Readings of Japanese Head Internal Relative Clauses
  • Michael Yoshitaka Erlewine: The (anti-)locality of movement: the case (but not Case) of Kaqchikel Agent Focus
  • Hrayr Khanjian: Complementizer Concord in Western Armenian
  • Theodore Levin: Untangling the Balinese Bind: Binding and Voice in Austronesian
  • Suyeon Yun: A Unified Account of Nonnative Cluster Repairs