The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, April 28th, 2014

LFRG 4/28 - Roman Feiman

Speaker: Roman Feiman (Harvard)
Time: Monday, April 28, 12-1:30
Place: 66-148
Title: How abstract is LF? Differences between quantifiers, similarities between operations

Recent work in psycholinguistics (Raffray and Pickering, 2010) has shown that Logical Form representations can be primed — that how people resolve one scope ambiguity will affect their resolution of another ambiguity with different noun content. This suggests that once constructed, mental representations of the relationships between quantifiers are abstracted from the specific sentence and can be reused. We extend Raffray and Pickering’s paradigm to investigate priming across ambiguous sentences with varying subject quantifiers, using “Every”, “Each”, “All of the” and bare numerals. Priming aside, we find very large differences in the overall biases of these quantifiers to take wide or narrow scope relative to an indefinite object quantifier — large enough to swamp many others factors that have been argued to drive scope ambiguity resolution (e.g. linear order, c-command, thematic hierarchy). We also find that LF representations can be primed for all quantifiers, and that the priming is of the same magnitude for all of them, but only as long as the quantifier words in prime and target trials are the same. This finding suggests that the priming paradigm targets a common operation (like QR), which can act on all quantifiers equally. At the same time, we find no priming across sentences with different quantifiers (except from one bare numeral to another), suggesting that all of the quantifier words we tested have separate representations at LF, and that the common operation responsible for within-quantifier priming is unparsimoniously stored, redundant within the lexical entry of each quantifier. Taken together, these findings call for a different kind of theory of LF — one where there are generalized quantifiers and common operations applying to them (with these operations stored lexically), but also one where differences between individual quantifiers have a strong effect on their scoping behavior.

Syntax Square 4/29 - Mia Nussbaum

Speaker: Mia Nussbaum
Title: A “that-trace effect” in Welsh
Date/Time: Tuesday, Apr 29, 1-2p
Location: 32-D461

A-bar extraction in Welsh, both short- and long-distance, shows a certain subject/non-subject asymmetry: subject extraction requires a special non-agreeing verb form. I develop a Pesetsky and Torrego (2001)-style analysis, whereby movement of a nominative wh-phrase preempts T-to-C movement and results in the observed lack of agreement. I then look at the subjects of focused and copular sentences, and the interaction between long-distance wh-extraction and the so-called “focus complementizer”.

Ling-Lunch 5/1 - Norvin Richards

Speaker: Norvin Richards
Title: Prosody and scrambling in Tagalog
Date/Time: Thursday, May 1, 12:30-1:45p
Location: 32-D461

I’ll present an overview of the basics of Tagalog prosody, comparing Tagalog with Irish as described by Elfner (2012). We’ll also see how prosody is affected by Tagalog scrambling, and I’ll offer a hypothesis about why some languages have this type of scrambling and others don’t; the idea will be that we can predict, once we know everything about the prosody of a language, whether it will have scrambling.

Linguistics Colloquium 5/2 - Matt Gordon

Speaker: Matt Gordon (UC Santa Barbara)
Title: The tonal phonology of Koasati: Hybrid prominence and prosodic typology
Date/Time: Friday, May 2, 4:15-5:45p (Note special time)
Location: 32-141

Although prosodic systems have traditionally been bifurcated into two camps, those with stress and those with tone, recent advances in our typological knowledge paint a far richer picture of prosodic variation, including languages with neither stress nor tone, languages blending stress and tone, and diverse types of interactions between intonation and stress/tone. In this talk, I will discuss ongoing research with Jack Martin (College of William and Mary) on the prosodic system of Koasati, an endangered Muskogean language spoken in Louisiana and Texas. Koasati words and utterances feature a complex array of pitch events, most of which are attributed to a combination of lexical/grammatical tone and intonational boundary tones. Some, however, are suggestive of pitch accents projected from a word-level stress system. Two recurrent themes hold of tonal events contributed by each of these prosodic systems: an avoidance of tonal crowding and tonal polarity effects whereby a high tone is accompanied by a leading low tone. The talk will compare from a diachronic perspective Koasati’s multidimensional prosodic system to the strikingly diverse set of prosodic systems found within the Muskogean family and beyond.


WSCLA (Workshop on Structure and Constituency in the Languages of the Americas) 19 was held this weekend on the St John’s campus of Memorial University. First-year student Michelle Yuan gave a talk on Person restrictions in Inuktitut portmanteau morphology. Jessica Coon ‘10 (McGill) gave a talk entitled Little-v agreement: Evidence from Mayan. Heidi Harley ‘95 (University of Arizona) gave a talk about A revised picture of external argument introduction: Conflicting evidence from Hiaki.

WAFL 10 @ MIT This Weekend

The Workshop on Formal Altaic Linguistics, which started here at MIT, returns for its tenth meeting this weekend, May 2-4. The term ‘Altaic’ is understood to include Turkic, Mongolic, and Tungusic languages, as well as Korean and Japanese.

The program schedule is available here. The invited speakers are Katja Lyutikova & Sergei Tatevosov (Moscow State University), Masha Polinsky (Harvard) and Koji Sugisaki (Mie University).

The organizers ask that those who are planning to attend pre-register at the website.

NELS 45 @ MIT This Fall

The 45th annual meeting of the North East Linguistic Society will be held at MIT next semester, Oct 31-Nov 2. The invited speakers are Heidi Harley, Roger Schwarzchild, and Kie Zuraw. In addition to the main program, a special session titled The Phonological Consequences of Morphological Structure is being organized.

The conference website and the abstract submission page are now up — abstract submission deadline is July 1.