The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, November 18th, 2013

Phonology Circle 11/18 - Ryo Masuda  

Speaker: Ryo Masuda
Title: The morphophonology of verb doubling in Chechen/Ingush
Date/Time: Monday, Nov 18, 5:30p
Location: 32-D831

As described by Conathan & Good (2001) and Nichols (2011), Chechen and Ingush (Northeast Caucasian) exhibit a case of word-level reduplication, henceforth verb doubling, in which the presence of a clause chaining clitic ‘a on a simple intransitive verb triggers insertion of an infinitival form of the verb (1).

(1) Ahwmad sialxana wa ‘a wiina dwa-vaghara
Ahmed yesterday stay.INF & stay.ANT DEIX-go.WP
‘Ahmed, having stayed yesterday, left.’ (Chechen)

The doubling is blocked in complex verb constructions with a preverbal particle (2), object, or deictic marker in the verb phrase.

(2) Ahwmada, kiexat jaaz ‘a dina, zheina
Ahmed.ERG letter write & do.CVANT book read.PRES
‘Ahmed, having written a letter, reads a book.’ (Chechen)

I argue that this instance of verb doubling is a consequence of a prosodic requirement on the chaining clitic, namely to be enclitic to a non-final stressed element (cf. Good 2005). I then situate the Chechen/Ingush case within a larger body of clitic placement and verb doubling phenomena, whose accounts have included appeals to the syntactic component of the grammar (Franks and Bošković 2001), and discuss consequences for the syntax-phonology interface.


Syntax Square 11/19 - Ruth Brillman  

Speaker: Ruth Brillman
Title: Too tough to see
Date/Time: Tuesday, Nov 19, 1-2p
Location: 32-D461

This talk argues for a deep syntactic similarity between gapped degree phrases (GDPs) and tough-constructions (TCs). Building on novel observations as well as previous findings (Akmajian 1972, a.o.), I argue that GDPs contain a tough-movement structure within them, plus an additional layer of syntactic structure particular to GDPs. I argue that TCs, and the TC core within GDPs, involve both an A-step and an A-bar step (cf. Hicks 2007, Hartman 2012). This explains the syntactic and semantic similarities and differences, between the two constructions.


Ling-Lunch 11/21 - Aron Hirsch  

Speaker: Aron Hirsch
Title: Presupposition projection and incremental processing in disjunction
Date/Time: Thursday, Nov. 21, 12:30-1:45p
Location: 32-D461

Presupposition projection in conjunction shows asymmetries sensitive to the linear order of the conjuncts: presuppositions project cumulatively out of the first conjunct, and out of the second conjunct only if not entailed by the asserted content of the first conjunct. One possibility is that this asymmetry is linked to general processing considerations. This predicts similar asymmetries to be observable in complex sentences with other sentential connectives. A well-known counter-example is disjunction. The existence presupposition triggered by the definite description the bathroom does not project in (1) (Partee 2005), independent of order:

(1) Either there is no bathroom, or the bathroom is in a funny place.
Either the bathroom is in a funny place, or there is no bathroom.

The aim in this talk is to show that disjunction in fact does show linear order asymmetries consistent with conjunction, and is directly supportive of presupposition evaluation being integrated with incremental parsing.

We build the argument in three steps. (i) We identify a confound in (1) which interferes with projection in both orders, making (1) not a fair test case for global projective asymmetry (Gazdar 1979). (ii) We construct new examples which remove the confound, and show that to the extent that these elicit a stable intuition, the intuition is asymmetric. (iii) We report experimental results demonstrating that even with the confound in place, examples like (1) show traces of asymmetry at an intermediate stage of parsing, predicted by the processing account we advocate.


Donca Steriade Speaks at Harvard, 11/22  

Faculty member Donca Steriade will be giving a talk at Harvard’s GSAS Workshop on Indo-European and Historical Linguistics this Friday.

Speaker: Donca Steriade
Title: Latin t-participles and t-derivatives: a new analysis
Date/Time: Friday, Nov 22, 4:30p
Location: Boylston Hall 103

Full abstract is available here (pdf).