The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Sunday, March 16th, 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.


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).


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!!


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.