The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, February 18th, 2013

No Syntax Square This Week

Syntax Square will not meet this week because we are on a Monday schedule on Tuesday.

There are still quite a few slots available for the semester: 2/26, 3/12, 3/19, 4/2, 4/9, 4/30, 5/7, 5/14. Please contact T.C. or Ruth if you have any ongoing/complete syntactic work or interesting articles/books you’d like to present.

Ling-Lunch 2/21 - Abhijit Debnath

Speaker: Abhijit Debnath (Centre for Neural and Cognitive Sciences, University of Hyderabad)
Title: Search for a Minimal Agent Predicate Link preference in Recursive Agent Distribution Strategy for Embedded Clauses
Date/Time: Thursday, Feb 21, 12:30-1:45p
Location: 32-D461

(Joint work with Gautam Sengupta (University of Hyderabad).)

Full abstract is available (pdf).

The current paper reports two reading experiments in Bangla, (also introducing an ongoing ERP experiment) carried out in order to ascertain whether a Minimal Agent Predicate Association could be a the default preference that results in increase of processing complexity when the number of association links between any agent and the predicates of the sentence (which are the verbs either in matrix clause or embedded clause) increases. Bangla provides a more sensitized design for the tests by providing the location of the matrix verb (having control information) at the end of a sentence (like Japanese).

ESSL Meeting 2/21 - David Gow

Speaker: David Gow
Date/Time: Thursday, Feb 21, 5:30pm
Location: 32-D831
Title: Imaging interaction: Using Granger causality analysis of MRI-constrained MEG/EEG to understand the dynamic processes that support speech perception and enforce phonotactic constraints


Traditional behavioral techniques and BOLD imaging provide important tools for identifying the components of linguistic and cognitive processes, but are severely limited in their ability to support strong inferences about the dynamic interactions between those components. In this presentation we will present an alternate approach that uses well-established statistical methods rooted in simple intuitions about causality to track the evolving interactions between different brain regions during the perception of spoken language based on high spatiotemporal resolution reconstructions of cortical activity. We will discuss applications of this technique to exploring the role of top-down lexical influences on speech perception and the role they play in producing and enforcing phonotactic regularity.

MIT Linguistics hikes in the White Mountains

To celebrate Presidents Day and the joy of being a linguist, a group from Martin Hackl’s Experimental Syntax and Semantics Lab went on a snow-shoeing hike in the White Mountains.  As of press time, they had not returned …  But Mitcho’s photos make it clear that they did reach their destination!

LFRG 2/22 - Ayaka Sugawara

Speaker: Ayaka Sugawara, presenting work in collaboration with Martin Hackl, Su Lin Blodgett (Wellesley college), and Ken Wexler.
Date/Time: Fri Feb 22, 11:30am
Location: 32-D461
Title: Scalar Presupposition and the Generation of Alternatives in the Acquisition of Only


This talk presents a novel account of a curious and ill understood phenomenon of L1-Acquisition concerning only (Crain et al. 1992, 1994 a.o.). Our account is based on the assumption that only always triggers a scalar presupposition (in addition to presupposing the prejacent) as well as on Fox & Katzir’s (2011) mechanism for generating the set of alternatives relevant for the interpretation of only. In support, we present new data from ongoing experiments indicating that the factors identified by our account modulate children’s success in interpreting sentences with only.

MIT at AAAS 2013

Last weekend, the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science took place in Boston, including several talks and panels devoted to linguistics, with MIT faculty and alumni well-represented.  Our own Michel DeGraff presented his paper “A Null Theory of Creole Formation” in a session on historical syntax that formed part of a day of sessions on the Biology and Evolution of Human Language, which also featured papers by Tony Kroch (PhD 1974) and Mark Liberman (PhD 1973).  Earlier in the day, a session on The Bases of Human Language in Human Biology included talks by Stephen Anderson (PhD 1968) and David Poeppel (BCS PhD 1995).

Michel DeGraff at AAAS 2012