The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Phonology Circle 4/22 - Sam Zukoff

Speaker: Sam Zukoff
Title: The Phonology of Verbal Reduplication in Ancient Greek
Date/Time: Monday, Apr 22, 5pm
Location: 32-D831

In this talk I put forward an analysis of reduplication in Ancient Greek, focusing on the behavior of consonant-initial roots in perfect-tense reduplication. Particular attention will be paid to two questions. First, how are we to analyze the underlying representation of reduplication in Ancient Greek? I will propose two potential analyses, and consider their theoretical and empirical implications, including asking briefly what is reduplication? Both potential analyses will promote the notion that Ancient Greek reduplication displays morphological fixed segmentism, and that we can explain the reduplicative patterns without referencing reduplicative templates or templatic constraints. Second, how are we to explain the differences in the shape of the reduplicant between roots beginning with different sorts of clusters (namely stop + sonorant versus other clusters)? I will propose a solution based on syllabification. Consideration of certain additional facts about syllable weight will require us to adjust the account slightly by appealing to minor re-ranking within a stratal OT model.

Syntax Square 4/23 - Gary Thoms

Speaker: Gary Thoms
Title: Remnant movement and discontinuous deletion
Date/Time: Tuesday, Apr 23, 1-2p
Location: 32-D461

In this paper I propose that chains are subject to a constraint that bans discontinuous deletion of copies. Initial motivation for this constraint comes from consideration of the properties of regular cyclic movement chains (considering data from Boskovic 2002), but then the rest of the paper is devoted to showing that this constraint is active in constraining remnant movement. Remnant movement is in principle possible, but only if it derives a representation which does not require discontinuous chain reduction. Evidence for this comes from two main sources: (i) a pervasive left-right asymmetry in possible RM derivations; (ii) variation in the availability of “true” VP-fronting. The former is supported by an analysis of the availability of “headless fronting” and extraposition-fed leftward movement, all of which fails to follow from existing theories of RM. The latter is supported by consideration of when fronted VPs behave like moved categories, with novel data showing that the ban on reconstruction into fronted VPs (Barss’ generalization) is lifted when the relevant representation does not fall foul of the discontinuous deletion constraint. I describe a few ways in which languages get around the RM problem presented by VP-fronting (“matching”” analyses, spelling out traces and not leaving traces) and indicate that this may in fact derive us a plausible typology of its language-internal and cross-linguistic distribution. I conclude by considering what kind of theory of movement and deletion this kind of constraint requires.

LFRG 4/24 - Ciro Greco and 4/26 - Edwin Howard

LFRG will meet twice this week.

Speaker: Ciro Greco (University of Milan-Bicocca)
Date/Time: Wed 24 April, 11:30 am (note special time!)
Location: 32-D831 (note special location!)
Title: “Are subject islands just subject islands? Experimental evidence from Italian”

Abstract TBA

Speaker: Edwin Howard
Date/Time: Fri 26 April, 11:30 am
Location: 32-D461
Title: “Superlative Degree Clauses: evidence from NPI licensing” (Practice talk for SALT 23)


Ling-Lunch 4/25 - Ayesha Kidwai

Speaker: Ayesha Kidwai (Jawaharlal Nehru University)
Title: EX-It: On the syntax of finite clause extraposition and pronominal correlates in Hindi and Bangla
Date/Time: Thursday, Apr 25, 12:30-1:45p
Location: 32-D461

In this talk, I revisit the familiar question of finite clause extraposition in Hindi and Bangla, and the co-ocurrence of this phenomenon with pronominal correlates in the matrix clause. Examining the facts from rightward scrambling, WH-construal and bound anaphora in the two languages, I will suggest that such a non-canonical rightward positioning of finite complements is effected by a generalised, and revised, version of TH/EX (Chomsky 1999/2001). I propose that while this ‘displacement’ is driven by interface conditions holding both at the PHON and SEM interfaces . Furthermore, I will suggest that that the distribution of correlate/expletive pronominals that may occur in construction with such finite clauses is fundamentally unrelated to the extraposition operation per se, and relates instead to a SEM interface requirement on the merger of complement CPs in the verbal projection.

No ESSL meeting this week

The Experimental Syntax and Semantics lab will not meet on 4/25.

Colloquium 4/26 - Mark Baker

Speaker: Mark C. Baker (Rutgers)
Date/Time: Friday 26 April, 3:30-5pm
Venue: 32-141
Title: On Dependent Ergative Case (in Shipibo) and Its Derivation by Phase


Focusing on new data from the Shipibo language (Panoan, spoken in Peru), I defend a simple “dependent case” theory of ergative case marking, where ergative case is assigned to the higher of two NPs in a clausal domain. I show how apparent failures of this rule can be explained assuming that VP is a spell out domain distinct from the clause, and this bleeds ergative case assignment for c-command relationships that already exist in VP and are unchanged in CP. This accounts for otherwise anomalous case patterns in ditransitives, reciprocals, and dyadic experiencer verbs. In contrast, applicatives of unaccusative verbs do have ergative subjects, and this is a notable success for the dependent case theory as opposed to popular theories according to which ergative is an inherent case. Finally, I show how case assignment interacts with restructuring to explain constructions in which ergative case appears to be optional. An additional theoretical implication of this work, I claim, is that it shows us more precisely where dependent case marking applies: not in the syntax proper, nor at PF proper, but precisely at Spell-Out, seen as the dynamic interface between syntax and PF.