The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, April 1st, 2013

Syntax Square 4/2 - Ted Levin

Speaker: Ted Levin
Title: Successive-Cyclic Case Assignment: Case Alternation and Stacking in Korean
Date/Time: Tuesday, Apr 2, 1-2p
Location: 32-D461

In general, Case theory excludes the option of a DP receiving more than one Case. However, certain constructions arguably demonstrate that this is possible (e.g. see McCreight 1988, Bejar & Massam 1999, Richards 2013, and Pesetsky in press). In this talk, I will examine two separate, but related, phenomena which are problematic for theories which do not permit multiple case assignment - case alternation and case stacking. Case Alternation occurs when a DP displays one of two (or more) case markers in the same structural position. Case Stacking occurs when those two case morphemes are realized simultaneously. Korean demonstrates both phenomena as seen in (1).

(1a) Cheli-eykey/-ka/-eykey-ka ton-i     iss-ta
     Cheli-DAT/-NOM/DAT-NOM    money-NOM exist-DEC
‘Cheli has money.’

(1b) Swunhi-ka  Yenghi-eykey/-lul/-eyekey-lul chayk-ul cwu-ess-ta
     Swunhi-NOM Yenghi-DAT/ACC/-DAT-ACC       book-ACC give-PST-DEC
‘Swunhi gave Yenghi a book.’

In (1a), the subject Cheli displays dative-nominative alternation and stacking. Similarly, the indirect object Yenghi in (1b) displays dative-accusative alternation and stacking. I posit that the examples in (1) and related constructions can be captured if we adopt a cyclic view of case assignment. In Korean (and maybe in fact all languages) DPs receive case in every case assignment domain (i.e. phase) they occupy. Case alternation is captured in this system by restricting the pronunciation of stacked case morphemes via morphological rules.

Phonology Circle 4/3 - RUMMIT Practice Talks

RUMMIT, the Rutgers-UMass-MIT phonology meeting, will be held at UMass Amherst on Saturday, Apr 6. The program is available here (pdf). This week’s Phonology Circle will feature two practice talks for RUMMIT.

Date/Time: Wednesday, Apr 3, 3-5p (Note special date/time)
Location: 32-D461

Speaker: Aron Hirsch
Title: Weight effects on stress placement: syllables or intervals?

The distribution of stress is sensitive to the weight of rhythmic units such that heavier units more strongly attract stress. In this talk, we address the question as to what is the “unit” of weight. The traditional approach has been to link weight to syllable structure, with the domain over which weight is computed being the syllabic rime (i.e. nucleus + coda). Steriade (2012), however, has recently argued for an alternative non-syllable-based approach under which the domain for weight computation is the total vowel-to-vowel interval, i.e. the distance from the beginning of one vowel to the beginning of the next vowel. This talk reports preliminary results from a nonce word production experiment designed to arbitrate between the two approaches: is the unit of weight the syllable, or is it the interval?

Speaker: Juliet Stanton
Title: Predicting distributional restrictions on prenasalized stops

Previous studies on prenasalized stops have focused mainly on issues of derivation and classification, but little is known about their distributional properties. The current study fills this gap. I present results of a survey documenting positional restrictions on NCs, and show that there are predictable and systematic constraints on their distribution. The major finding is that NCs are optimally licensed in contexts where they are perceptually distinct from plain oral and plain nasal stops. (This is a shorter version of 3/11’s Phonology Circle talk.)

Ling-Lunch 4/4 - Ricardo Bermúdez-Otero

Speaker: Ricardo Bermúdez-Otero (University of Manchester)
Title: Lexical storage and cyclic locality in phonologically driven allomorph selection
Date/Time: Thursday, Apr 4, 12:30-1:45p
Location: 32-D461

If exponence proceeds cyclically, so that cycles define local domains for allomorph selection, then empirical evidence from the size of allomorph selection domains can be used to determine the size of lexically stored exponents. Spanish, for example, exhibits a well-known instance of phonologically driven allomorph selection in which allomorphs containing stressed [jé] and [wé] alternate with allomorphs containing unstressed [e] and [o]: e.g. cué nta ‘count/tell.3 SG’ ~ contámos ‘count/tell.1PL ’. In the deverbal adjective [N [V co ntá ] ble] ‘countable’, the monophthongal allomorph c onta- is chosen during the second cycle of the derivation, when stress moves to the second syllable. This instance of allomorphy must therefore involve competition between stems (i.e. between two exponents of the verb lexeme CONTAR), rather than between roots (i.e. between two exponents of the √-node √CONT ). Two lines of evidence support this analysis of the Spanish diphthongal alternation. First, the assumption of stem storage removes the need for declension diacritics in Spanish nominal and adjectival morphology. Secondly, it correctly predicts that, historically, lexemes that share a root but belong to different categories can cease to display the same allomorphic behaviour: e.g. the stem of the verb contár ‘count/tell’ still participates in the diphthongal alternation, whereas the stem of the noun cuénto ‘fable, fibb’ no longer does (cf. cuentéro ‘fabulist, fibber’). These results provide evidence against theories of morphology that restrict lexical storage to roots and to exponents of single functional heads.

Bermúdez-Otero, Ricardo. 2013. The Spanish lexicon stores stems with theme vowels, not roots with inflectional class features. Probus 25(1).

Turkshop office hours 4/4

Because of the Smolensky talk this Thursday, we will not have a lab meeting this week. Instead, mitcho and Hadas will be in the 8th floor lounge between 4-6pm to help Turkshop participants solve any problems they may have encountered with their experiments (note unusual time/location!). The next Turkshop meeting will take place on 4/11.

Whamit Acquisition Shocker 4/1: No Poverty in This Stimulus

It has now been officially confirmed that Whamit!, the independent voice of MIT Linguistics for more than five years, has been acquired by Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp for almost $3.4 million dollars.  Though described by some as a “brazen attempt to silence a brave beacon of hope in a gray sea of otherwise identical boring linguistics department blogs all starting with the letter wh”, others have denied the presupposition, claiming that it is merely an implicature.  In a carefully worded statement released earlier today, Murdoch promised no “change in editorial” policy under his leadership.  ”Whamit will continue to bring you those fabulous pumpkin-carving pictures  you love each Halloween, and there is no current plan to curtail Whamit’s award-winning, hard-hitting crime coverage.  Only now we will do it with verve.”  Verve could not be reached for comment.  Meanwhile a viral video insisted “there will be some changes made”, others beans, and still others expressed relief that Whamit had at least not been acquired by Fox News.  Participating in the negotiations over the sale were over nineteen current MIT faculty, graduate students, recent alums, current visitors, former visitors and former alums.  Speaking off the record, noted semanticist Irene Heim commented that “it will take us the rest of our lifetime to drink the champagne that they spilled that evening”, but declined to elaborate.

LFRG 4/5 - Paolo Santorio

Please join us at LFRG this week for a talk by a recent MIT PhD in philosophy:

Title: Exhaustified Counterfactuals
Speaker: Paolo Santorio (University of Leeds)
Date/time: Fri April 5, 11:30am
Location: 32D-461

Standard accounts of counterfactuals make use of a notion of closeness or similarity between worlds, whether in the semantics proper, or in the mechanisms of context change associated to utterances of counterfactuals. I present evidence that this is a mistake. The phenomena that Stalnaker and Lewis took to be hallmarks of closeness—-in essence, apparent failures of monotonocity—-are better explained by systematic exhaustification of scalar items in the antecedents. This suggests that counterfactuals are monotonic in the antecedent position, both on a static and a dynamic understanding of logical consequence. I (somewhat tentatively) explore how a monotonic account of this kind can deal with a number of standard issues in the literature, including reverse Sobel sequences and failures of transitivity in the logic of counterfactuals.

Toosarvandani to Santa Cruz

Maziar Toosarvandani, who has been an exciting presence in our department for the past two years as an American Council of Learned Societies New Faculty Fellow, is concluding his fellowship this Spring, and has accepted a tenure-track position as Assistant Professor of Linguistics at UC Santa Cruz. During his time at MIT, Maziar taught both semantics and syntax classes, a seminar on the syntax and semantics of the Iranian languages, and two undergraduate field methods (on Zazaki and Uyghur) - while continuing his own research on Southern Paiute. Congratulations on your new position, Maziar - we will miss you!!

Isa Bayirli in Germany

Over the spring break, first-year graduate student Isa Kerem Bayirli was in Germany for two events: he gave a talk entitled “On Suffixhood” at the University of Potsdam, and he later gave the talk at the Workshop on Verbal Morphosyntax held at the University of Stuttgart. Isa reports both sessions were exciting and thought-provoking.

MIT Linguistics in the Öld World

This week are several MIT Linguists in Sweden, for the 36th annual meeting of Generative Linguistics in the Old World.  Presentations and posters by current MIT linguists and recent alums at the GLOW Colloquium and associated Workshops include:

Adam Albright and Giorgio Magri: Perceptually Motivated Epenthesis Asymmetries in the Acquisition of Clusters

Robert Berwick:  Darwinian Linguistics

Bronwyn M. Bjorkman: Accounting for the absence of coreferential subjects in TP coordination

Patrick Grosz and Pritty Patel-Grosz: Structural Asymmetries - The View from Kutchi Gujarati and Marwari

Ivona Kučerová : Long-Distance Agreement in Icelandic revisited: An interplay of locality and semantics

Norvin Richards and Coppe van Urk: Dinka and the architecture of long-distance extraction

Sam Steddy: Palatalisation Across the Italian Lexicon

Gary Thoms: Anti-reconstruction, anti-agreement and the dynamics of A-movement

Maziar Toosarvandani and Coppe van Urk: The directionality of agreement and nominal concord in Zazaki

Charles Yang: Tipping Points