The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, April 8th, 2013

Phonology Circle 4/8 - Ricardo Bermúdez-Otero  

Speaker: Ricardo Bermúdez-Otero (University of Manchester)
Title: Lexical storage and the cyclic reapplication of phonological processes
Date/Time: Monday, Apr 8, 5-6:30p
Location: 32-D831

This talk seeks to describe and explain the peculiar properties of phonological processes applying in cyclic domains smaller than the word, i.e. in sublexical domains. In stratal-cyclic phonological frameworks such as Lexical Phonology and Stratal Optimality Theory, such processes are assigned to the highest stratum in the grammar: the stem level. To characterize the stem-level syndrome, rule-based Lexical Phonology imposed special conditions on rule application at the stem level: stem-level rules were claimed to exhibit stratum-internal cyclic reapplication, to be structure-preserving, and to undergo blocking in nonderived environments. English stress assignment provides a classic example of cyclic reapplication within the same stratum: in a word like [WL [SL [SL imàgin-] átion-] less-ness], foot creation applies twice in the two inner stem-level cycles, and does not apply in the outer word-level domain.

The Lexical Phonology approach to the stem-level syndrome made a number of incorrect predictions. Notably, English has a large set of phonological processes whose domain excludes word-level suffixes, but which nonetheless do not show cyclic reapplication, structure preservation, or blocking in nonderived environments. The GOAT split in the London vernacular is a particularly salient example. In contrast, the stem-level syndrome has altogether dropped off the agenda in current optimality-theoretic frameworks relying on output-output correspondence. Such frameworks do not recognize the notion of cyclic domain, and so cannot sort phonological processes into classes according to domain size. This stance is also unsatisfactory insofar as it fails to account for striking generalizations: in particular, cyclic reapplication within the same stratum is only found at the stem level.

This talk outlines an alternative approach to the stem-level syndrome, where the special properties of stem-level phonological processes emerge from more fundamental grammatical mechanisms. I propose that the distinguishing trait of stem-level linguistic expressions is that they are stored nonanalytically, i.e. as whole output forms generated by the stem-level morphology and phonology. In contrast, word-level and phrase-level constructs are either not stored, or stored analytically (i.e. decomposed as strings of stem-level pieces). Given independently motivated assumptions about morphological blocking, together with the input-output faithfulness technology of Optimality Theory, these postulates about lexical storage make accurate predictions about the behaviour of stem-level phonological processes. Notably, cyclic reapplication turns out to be closely correlated with neutralization (Chung’s Generalization).

Bermúdez-Otero, Ricardo. 2012. The architecture of grammar and the division of labour in exponence. In Jochen Trommer (ed.), The morphology and phonology of exponence, 8-83. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [See pp. 15-40.]


Syntax Square 4/9 - Coppe van Urk on Bruening  

Speaker: Coppe van Urk
Date/Time: Tuesday, Apr 9, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461

This week’s session of Syntax Square will be a discussion of Benjamin Bruening’s manuscript No such thing as defective intervention, which will be led by Coppe.


Ling-Lunch 4/11 - Storme and Brohan & Kolachina  

This week’s Ling-Lunch will feature two shorter talks.

Date/Time: Thursday, Apr 11, 12:30-1:45pm
Location: 32-D461

Speaker: Benjamin Storme
Title: Hittite present tense and its interaction with aspect

In this talk, I will show that Hittite, which has a present tense (PRES) and an asymmetric imperfective morphology (IPFV versus zero), patterns basically as English and Japanese.

When PRES refers to the utterance time, IPFV and zero are in complementary distribution: IPFV associates with eventives, and zero with statives (cf English examples in (1)). IPFV has a wider use than the English progressive, though: it must also be used in generic sentences with an eventive predicate.

(1a) *John builds a house (now).
(1b) John is building a house (now).
(1c) John is in his office (now)
(1d) *John is being in his office (now).

When PRES does not refer to the utterance time but to an interval in the future, the restriction on eventives no longer holds, as in Japanese.

When PRES refers to an interval in the past in its so-called « historical present» use, the situation is more contrasted: in one text, it behaves as PRES referring to the utterance time (eventives have to associate with IPFV) ; in another text, it behaves as PRES referring to an interval in the future or as PAST (eventives don’t need to associate with IPFV, as it is the case for English historical presents).

Speakers: Anthony Brohan and Sudheer Kolachina
Title: Backward Control in Telugu: An illusion?

(Based on squib for 24.951)

The phenomenon of Backward control is evidence of crucial importance when it comes to choosing between the two dominant approaches to control discussed in the literature- Hornstein’s movement theory of control (Hornstein, 1999) and Landau’s empty category-PRO coreferenced with the controller through Agree (Landau, 2001).In recent years, there have been claims about the existence of Backward control in Telugu, a Dravidian language (Haddad, 2007, 2009a,b) and a movement-based analysis has also been proposed to account for these structures. In this squib, we evaluate these claims by taking a closer look at the data on which they are based. The results of our study suggest that what appear to be backward control structures in Telugu are the result of a combination of constraints on the distribution of pro and scrambling effects. We also present an alternate analysis of the structures discussed in previous work which is supported by additional evidence from the language.

Y.A. Haddad. Adjunct control in Telugu and Assamese. PhD thesis, Citeseer, 2007.
Y.A. Haddad. Adjunct control in Telugu: Exceptions as non-exceptions. Journal of South Asian Linguistics, 2:35–51, 2009a.
Y.A. Haddad. Copy Control in Telugu. Journal of linguistics, 45(1):69–109, 2009b.
N. Hornstein. Movement and control. Linguistic inquiry, 30(1):69–96, 1999.
I. Landau. Elements of control: Structure and meaning in infinitival constructions, volume 51. Springer, 2001.


ESSL 4/11 - Turkshop IV  

What: Turk workshop, part 4
When: Thursday, April 11, 5:30-7
Where: 32-D461

This week will be the fourth part of the Turkshop. Our goal for this session is to discuss some basics of data visualization and data analysis. For this session, please download and install R 3.0: http://cran.r-project.org/ and R Studio 0.97.x: http://www.rstudio.com/ide/download/desktop. Materials and slides from the Turkshop can be found here: http://web.mit.edu/hackl/www/lab/turkshop/.


LFRG 4/12 - Wataru Uegaki  

Title: Question-answer congruence and (non-)exhaustivity
Speaker: Wataru Uegaki
Date/time: Fri April 12, 11:30am
Location: 32-D461


It has been observed that the exhaustive inference of question-answers arises only when the polarity of the answer matches that of the question (Spector 2005; Schulz and van Rooij 2006). For example, although B’s answer in (i) gives rise to the inference that Sue is the only person that B will invite, B’s answer in (ii) does not readily give rise to the inference that Sue is the only person that B will not invite.

(i) A: Who among Sue, Bill and Mary will you invite?
     B: I will invite Sue. [Exhaustive inference: I will not invite Bill and Mary.]

(ii) A: Who among Sue, Bill and Mary will you invite?
      B: I won’t invite Sue. [No exhaustive inference: I will invite Bill and Mary.]

Previous approaches to this phenomenon stipulate mechanisms that are specific to the polarity-mismatching question-answer pairs (Spector 2005; Schulz and van Rooij 2005). In this talk, I provide an account of the phenomenon in terms of an arguably general constraint on the generation of alternatives to be used in the calculation of exhaustivity. The idea relies on the assumption that an answer can be congruent to a question in different “degrees of strength”, extending the notion of question-answer congruence by Rooth (1992). The constraint requires that an alternative for an utterance given a question be at least as congruent to the question as the original utterance. I will discuss how this mechanism accounts for the basic paradigm while leaving several issues currently unresolved. If time permits, I would also like to compare the proposed constraint on alternatives with Katzir’s (2008) and Fox and Katzir’s (2011) mechanism for the generation of structural alternatives.


Pesetsky delivers Pinkel Lecture at UPenn  

On Friday, David Pesetsky delivered the 15th annual Pinkel Lecture at the Institute for Research in Cognitive Science at UPenn. He presented joint work with Jonah Katz on Language and music: same structures, different building blocks.


Young Ah Do to Georgetown  

We are very pleased to announce that fifth-year student Young Ah Do has accepted a position at Georgetown University as Visiting Assistant Professor in Phonology for the coming academic year. Congratulations, Young Ah!!