The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, March 10th, 2014

LFRG 3/10 - Manuel Kriz  

Speaker: Manuel Kriz (Vienna/Harvard)
Time: Monday, March 10, 12-1:30.
Location: 66-148

Sentences with definite plurals display a property known as ‘homogeneity’: (1a) is true if John read (roughly) all of the books, (1b) is true if he read none of the books. If he read half of the books, neither sentence is true.

(1)a. John read the books.
b. John didn’t read the books.

The talk will be devoted to presenting this phenomenon in greater detail - including the way it extends to collective predicates - and laying out the problem of homogeneity projection. A sentence like (2) with a definite plural embedded unter a quantifier still has an extension gap (i.e. cases where neither it nor its negation are true).

(2) Every girl read the books.

The development of a principled theory to derive which situations are in the extension gap of such sentences poses considerable difficulties. The lack of a fully satisfactory theory forces an exploration of these issues by way of demonstrating how and why the approaches that have been tried fail.


Phonology Circle 3/10 - Snejana Iovtcheva  

Speaker: Snejana Iovtcheva
Title: Paradigm Uniformity in the Bulgarian vowel-zero alternation
Date/Time: Monday, Mar 10, 5p (Note special time)
Location: 32-D461 (Note special room)

This paper proposes an analysis of the vowel-zero alternation in Standard Bulgarian using Output-to-Output (OO) correspondence. In particular, the paper proposes that the language has a general markedness M constraint that targets non-round mid-vowels [e/ә] in open/light medial syllables triggering a systematic Syncope in the inflectional <no.kәt, *nokә.t-i/nokt-i> and derivational <*nokә.t-ov/nokt-ov, nokәt.-če> morphology of the language. This M constraint is then shown to interact systematically with the phonotactics of the language producing expected exceptions to the Syncope process. More crucially, it is also shown that the M constraint interacts with symmetrical paradigm-internal (McCarthy 2005) Output-to-Output faithfulness F constraints, producing some unexpected exceptions such as in the case of masculine-inflected en-derived adjectives and plural-inflected ec-derived nouns <begl-e.c-i>.

Based on an analysis of the inflectional paradigm patterns, the paper claims that under the condition of uneven suffixal distribution, the under-application of the Syncope process in forms with more than one deletion site - as in <nokә.t-en/*nokt-en, nokәt.-n-a/*nokә.te-n-a> - is systematically controlled by intra-paradigmatic pressure for uniformity (Kenstowicz 1996), including majority-rules effects (McCarthy 2005).

The claim of paradigm-internal correspondence is further supported by the fact that while the Syncope fails to apply in certain inflectional forms, it is regular throughout the derivational morphology. Similar asymmetry between derivational and inflectional morphology is further observed in other phonological processes in the language, such as Palatalization.

Additional treatment of the post-positioned vowel-initial definite article and the specific vowel-initial numeral morpheme <(dva) nokә.t-a> provide a nice contrast that serves to demonstrate that while certain morpho-syntactic dependencies in the Bulgarian morphology obey asymmetric base-derivative dependencies (Benua 1997), the inflectional morphology can only be treated uniformly if we assume symmetric paradigm-internal dependencies.


Ling-Lunch 3/13 - Hadas Kotek  

Speaker: Hadas Kotek
Title: What intervenes where and why
Date/Time: Thursday, Mar 13, 12:30-1:45p
Location: 32-D461

In this talk I introduce new data on intervenetion effects in wh-questions which motivate a new empirical description of intervention configurations. I show that, contrary to descriptions of wh-intervention in the literature, (a) English superiority-obeying questions sometimes exhibit intervention effects, (b) such effects can sometimes be avoided in superiority-violating questions, and (c) non-interveners can be forced to act as interveners in certain environments. I discuss challenges that this landscape poses for current theories of intervention.


Colloquium 3/14 - Marcel den Dikken  

Speaker: Marcel den Dikken (CUNY Graduate Center)
Title: The attractions of agreement
Date/Time: Friday, Mar 14, 3:30-5p
Location: 32-141

Please see the full abstract here (pdf).

Agreement in specificational copular sentences is a complex matter, empirically as well as theoretically. Patterns that are attested are often not easy to make fall out from a restrictive theory of Agree relations; patterns that are not attested would sometimes seem hard to exclude. In this paper, I will try my hand at coming to terms with a number of prima facie problematic φ-feature agreement patterns in specificational copular sentences, with particular emphasis on pseudoclefts and their close relatives (though double-NP specificational copular sentences will also be addressed).


Brillman published in Studies in African Linguistics  

Congratulations to Ruth Brillman! Her paper about “Second person agreement allomorphy in Masarak” was published in Studies in African Linguistics.


MIT goes to WCCFL  

Several of our folks unaccountably left the subzero weather of Boston to travel to Los Angeles for the 32nd West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics (WCCFL) last weekend at USC.

Coppe van Urk presented a talk entitled Intermediate positions in Dinka: Evidence for feature-driven movement, and Juliet Stanton spoke on “Factorial typology and accentual faithfulness”. Yusuke Imanishi presented a poster entitled “Default ergative: a view from Mayan”, and Ted Levin presented a poster on “Balinese Pseudo-Noun Incorporation: Licensing under Morphological Merger”.

Invited keynote speaker Sabine Iatridou wins the prize for the longest talk title: “About determiners on event descriptions, about time being like space (when we talk), and about one particularly strange construction”.

As usual, there were plenty of familiar alumni faces giving talks, including Gillian Gallagher PhD’10 (NYU), Marlies Kluck (‘08-9 visitor, Groningen), Heejong Ko PhD ‘05 (Seoul National University), Tania Ionin BCS PhD ‘03 (Illinois), Susanne Wurmbrand PhD ‘98 (Connecticut), and former faculty visitor Rajesh Bhatt (UMass).