The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, February 17th, 2014

Syntax Square 2/18 - Coppe van Urk

Speaker: Coppe van Urk
Title: Intermediate movement is regular movement: Evidence from Dinka
Date/Time: Tuesday, Feb 18, 12-1p (Note special time)
Location: 32-D461

One problem in a derivational view of syntax is how intermediate steps of a successive-cyclic movement are triggered. To deal with this, several authors have suggested that intermediate movement is a special operation, not triggered like regular movement, either because it is not feature-driven or because it happens at a different point in the derivation (e.g. Heck and Mu ̈ller 2000, 2003; Chomsky 2000). This talk brings facts from Dinka (Nilotic; South Sudan) to bear on this issue, a language in which the left periphery interacts morphosyntactically with A ‘-movement in a number of ways. I show that, in these interactions, intermediate movement behaves just like regular movement. In particular, both consistently feed phi-agreement. I argue that this similarity can be captured if terminal and intermediate movement are established in the same way, and are feature-driven (Chomsky 1995; McCloskey 2002; Preminger 2011; Abels 2012).


Phonology Circle 2/18 - Takashi Morita

Speaker: Takashi Morita
Title: Prominence correspondence
Date/Time: Tuesday, Feb 18, 5:30p (Note special date)
Location: 32-D831

Prominent phonological units are likely to appear in metrically prominent positions. For instance, syllables with a more sonorous nucleus tend to constitute the head of a foot, receiving stress (de Lacy, 2002a,b, 2004; Kenstowicz, 1997). Likewise, high-toned syllables, considered more prominent than low- toned ones, tend to be placed in foot-head positions (de Lacy, 2002b).It has been suggested that syllables, just as feet, also contain a metrically prominent position: the first mora of their nucleus by default (Kager, 1993). Syllable-internal metrical prominence gives an explanation for preference of falling diphthongs over rising diphthongs. Given a language with the default falling metrical prominence contour, rising diphthongs in the language cause disagreement between metrical prominence and sonority; sonority rises in the diphthongs while metrical prominence falls in the domain. This is a motivation that syllable-internal metrical prominence also requires sonority to correspond just as in feet. Since sonority is sensitive to metrical prominence in both feet and syllables, tone, whose relation to foot-internal metrical prominence has been reported (de Lacy, 2002b), is also expected to be associated with syllable-internal metrical prominence. The present paper provides detailed evidence from Tokyo Japanese (TJ) for the mora-level correspondence between tone and metrical prominence, and gives an formal analysis of it within the framework of Optimality Theory (OT) (Prince and Smolensky, 1993/2004). Based on this evidence, we can com- plete the claim that metrical prominence, segmental prominence (or sonority), and tonal prominence must all agree, or at least must not disagree.


Hirsch gives evidence in Tübingen

Second-year student Aron Hirsch is back from the conference Linguistic Evidence 2014 in Tübingen, where he presented a paper coauthored with Martin Hackl, entitled “Presupposition projection and incremental processing in disjunction”.


No Ling-Lunch this week

There is no Ling-Lunch scheduled for this week.


Visting Members, Spring 2014

Please join us in extending our warmest welcomes (and welcome backs) to the visiting members of the department for this term.

Visiting Scholars

  • Larissa Aronin (Oranim Academic College of Education, Israel) is working on “developing the novel direction of ‘Multilingualism and Philosophy’” and “will continue philosophical discussion, interpretation and conceptualization of multilingualism in an age of globalization.”
  • Toni Borowsky (University of Sydney) works on phonetics and phonology, in particular using evidence from language games.
  • Tianshan Dai’s (Shenzhen Polytechnic University) research interests include biolinguistics, philosophy of language, and language acquisition.
  • Caroline Heycock (Edinburgh) works on syntax and the syntax-semantics interface, with particular reference to English and the other Germanic languages, and to Japanese. During her stay, Caroline is looking to work on three projects: “reconstruction effects, particularly in relatives; “embedded root phenomena”; and (incipiently) a project on possible connections between syntactic priming and attrition.”
  • Fuyin (Thomas) Li (Beihang University), who will arrive in June, has a project entitled “Bridging Cognitive Linguistics and Generative Grammar: Their Philosophical Basis.”
  • Tsuyoshi Sugawara (Ube National College of Technology, Japan) will arrive in April. His research interests include lexical semantics, semantics, and morphology.

Visiting Student

  • Alexandra Vydrina (National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilizations, Paris & LLACAN) is a PhD student whose interests include syntax, semantics, fieldwork, endangered languages, and Mande languages. She writes: “The topic of my PhD research is the typologically and theoretically oriented description of the Kakabe language (Mande), a minor language spoken in Guinea which has not been described before.”

MIT linguists to go to GLOW

Congratulations to 4th-year students Coppe van Urk and Ted Levin, who have each had a paper accepted to the next GLOW Colloquium, to be held this April in Brussels. The GLOW Colloquium will be immediately followed by the first Glow Spring School, at which our very own Norvin Richards will teach a course on Islands (alongside an array of MIT alums also teaching at the Spring school: Hagit Borer (PhD 1981), Philippe Schlenker (PhD 1999) and Charles Yang (Computer Science PhD 2000)).


Roger Schwarzschild to join MIT Linguistics faculty

We are delighted to be able to publicly announce that Roger Schwarzschild will be joining the MIT Linguistics faculty starting this Fall as Professor of Linguistics.

Roger received his PhD from UMass Amherst in 1991. He has taught at Bar-Ilan University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and since 1995 has been a member of the Linguistics faculty at Rutgers. Roger is one of the most creative and brilliant semanticists in the world. He has made profound contributions in many areas, including pluralities, focus, the semantics of indefinites, and most recently measure terms and comparatives. Much of his work is also devoted to the ways in which semantics interacts with other aspects of language, including pragmatics, syntax and phonology. Roger is known as one of the best explainers in the field: a great speaker and dedicated teacher. We consider ourselves lucky beyond words that Roger will be joining us, and look forward to welcoming him to MIT next Fall!


Michel DeGraff promoted to Full Professor

Heartiest congratulations to our colleague Michel DeGraff on his promotion to the rank of Full Professor!!


Wataru Uegaki at Maryland

Fourth-year grad student Wataru Uegaki was at the University of Maryland, College Park over the weekend for their 2nd Philosophy and Linguistics Conference (PHLINC2: Language and Other Minds). Wataru presented on “Emotive Factives and the Semantics of Question-Embedding.”


Pesetsky book featured in MIT News article

David Pesetsky and his recent LI monograph on Russian case morphology were featured in an MIT News Office article by Peter Dizikes, Cold case: A linguistic mystery yields clues in Russian.