The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, March 17th, 2014

LFRG 3/17 - CUNY poster presentations (encores)

Time: Monday March 17, 12-1:30
Location: 66-148
Subject: CUNY posters

This past weekend, MIT Linguistics presented two posters at the CUNY Conference on Human Sentence Processing (http://cuny14.osu.edu). Martin Hackl, Erin Olson, and Ayaka Sugawara presented “Processing asymmetries between Subject-Only and VP-Only”. Aron Hirsch presented “Exhaustivity and Polarity Mismatch”. Come to LFRG for an encore performance of these presentations! All are most welcome.

Phonology Circle 3/17 - Gillian Gallagher

Speaker: Gillian Gallagher (NYU)
Title: Evidence for featural and gestural representations of phonotactics
Date/Time: Monday, Mar 17, 5pm
Location: 32-D461
(Note special time and room)

In this talk, I present experimental results that assess Quechua speakers’ representations of two phonotactic restrictions and argue that the results are best accounted for in a model with both traditional phonotactic constraints on features and a distinct set of constraints on gestural coordination.

A repetition experiment compares forms that violate the cooccurrence restriction on pairs of ejectives and the ordering restriction on plain stops followed by ejectives, in both disyllabic (*k’ap’i, *kap’i) and trisyllabic (*k’amip’a, *kamip’a) stimuli. Accuracy on the cooccurrence restriction violating forms is constant across disyllables and trisyllables, and errors on these stimuli are consistently phonotactic repairs. For the ordering restriction, accuracy is higher in the trisyllables than the disyllables, and errors are evenly split between repairs and non-repairs. It is argued that the cooccurrence restriction is best analyzed as a phonotactic constraint in the usual sense, but that behavior on ordering restriction violating forms suggests that this constraint is largely encoded as a preference for particular gestural coordinations.

(Welcome back, Gillian!)


Syntax Square 3/18 - Ted Levin

Speaker: Ted Levin
Title: Towards an EPP-movement theory of control
Date/Time: Tuesday, Mar 18, 1-2p
Location: 32-D461

In this talk, I argue in favor of a Movement Theory of Control (MTC) as proposed by (O’Neil 1995; Hornstein 1999 et seq.). However, unlike previous proposals of this sort which argue that control-movement is triggered by thematic requirements of the controlling predicate (θ-features), I suggest that control, like raising, is triggered by EPP-requirements. In the first half of the talk, I motivate this alternative by building on the work of Legate (2003) and Sauerland (2003), arguing that raised arguments follow identical movement steps as those of controllers (contra e.g. Chomsky 2000, 2001; Baltin 2001). If raising and controlling arguments undergo identical movement operations, the most parsimonious analysis of the constructions is one in which the trigger of both operations is identical. As raising is thought to be triggered by EPP-features, I contend that we should reduce control to an instance of EPP-movement. In the second half of the talk, I argue that evidence from Japanese direct passives, a non-canonical control environment, force the adoption of an EPP-MTC.


Ling-Lunch 3/20 - Adam Szczegielniak

Speaker: Adam Szczegielniak (Rutgers)
Title: The syntax of the semantics of ellipsis
Date/Time: Thursday, Mar 20, 12:30-1:45p
Location: 32-D461

The talk argues for an analysis of ellipsis that combines:(i) the licensing of the antecedent-anaphor relationship in elided structures via mutually entailing Givenness, modulo focus (Rooth 1992, Merchant 2001) with (ii) a syntax based phase driven account of ellipsis (Rouveret 2012, Chung 2013, Boskovic 2014). The connection between the syntax and semantics of ellipsis will be the observation that the lower bound of a Givenness Domain is encoded in the syntax in the form of a [G] operator that can trigger overt XP movement (Kucerova 2012).

Data will come from Polish and other Slavic VP (1) and TP (2) ACD structures (Szczegielniak 2005, Craenenbroeck & Liptak 2006).

‘I will read every book that you will.’
‘I will read every book that you will.’

Based on the interaction of both (1) and (2) with (i) Negation (Witkos 2008, Zeijlstra 2013), (ii) post verbal subjects (Zubizaretta 1998, Gallego 2013), (iii) Subject in-situ (Alexiadou & Anagnostopoulou 2006), (iv) verb stranding (Gribanova 2013), (v) contrastive vs. presentational focus and topic (Neelman & Titov 2009, Konietzko & Winkler 2010), the following claims will be put forward and defended:

A. Ellipsis is triggered by an [E] feature that can be present on a phase head H (Gengel 2008). The feature targets H’s complement and marks Given strings as lacking PF (provided the string is in a mutually entailing relationship with the antecedent modulo focus, Merchant 2001).
B. Phase extension (Den Dikken 2007) is carried out via head movement, but is ‘closed’ when head movement is preceded by XP movement to a phase edge.
C. XP Movement to ‘close’ a vP phase results in XP Focus interpretation, subsequent movement can generate contrastive readings of the displaced XP.
D. Givenness movement is phase based, but Givenness domains are established via Functional Application (Kucerova 2012).
E. MaxElide (Takahashi & Fox 2005, Hartman 2011) is a condition on the placement of [E] features.
F. VP raising to Spec TP is a form of Predicate Inversion (Bailyn 2004, Den Dikken 2006) and can be driven by Givenness, that in turn feeds ellipsis.

My proposal that syntactically constrained movement can ‘feed’ an ellipsis site, combined with existing evidence that movement can ‘evacuate’ constituents from ellipsis sites (Vincente 2010), supports the claim that elided strings not only have syntactic architecture, but also that this structure participates both in syntactic and semantic computations that feed discourse.


Erlewine speaks for his supper at CUNY

Fifth-year student Michael Yoshitaka Erlewine (mitcho) will speak this Tuesday in New York at a CUNY Syntax Supper on the topic of “Anti-locality and anti-agreement”.  Mitcho’s talk will present a theory of the cross-linguistic specialness of local A-bar extraction of subjects in the Mayan language Kaqchikel and other languages.


Kotek to McGill with Mellon Fellowship

Heartiest congratulations to fifth-year student Hadas Kotek, who has accepted a two-year Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at McGill University!!


ESSL/LFRG 3/20 - Yimei Xiang

Time: Thursday, March 19, 2014, 5-30-7
Location: 32-D831
Speaker: Yimei Xiang (Harvard)
Title: Exhaustification, Focus Structure, and NPI-licensing

It is well-known that NPI any must stay in DE contexts. However, any can also be licensed within the c- command domain of only. In particular, any part of the any-phrase can not be focused. Previous studies attribute the licensing effect in (1a) to the Strawson-DE condition. However, this condition has been argued to be neither necessary nor sufficient (Crnic 2011, Gajewski 2011). I will show how an exhaustification-based theory (Krifka 1995, Lahiri 1998, Chierchia 2013) captures the (anti-)licensing effects in (1a-c), and then discuss various potential syntactic theories (Rooth 1996, Wagner 2006 a.o.) for focus-association, so as to explain the ungrammaticality of (1d).

(1) a. Only JOHNF read any paper.
b. *John only read ANYF paper.
c. *John only read [any PAPER]F, (he didn’t read every book).
d. *John only read any PAPERF, (he didn’t read any book).


MIT linguists@CUNY Sentence Processing Conference@Ohio State

MIT linguists had three poster presentations at this week’s 27th Annual CUNY Conference on Human Sentence Processing:  Exhaustivity and polarity-mismatch by Aron Hirsch (at the Special Session on Experimental Pragmatics), Processing asymmetries between Subject-Only and VP-Only by Martin Hackl, Erin Olson and Ayaka Sugawara, and Computing the structure of questions: Evidence from online sentence processing by Hadas Kotek and Martin Hackl.



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.


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).


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).