The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, May 12th, 2014

No LFRG this week

There will be no LFRG meeting this week.

Phonology Circle 5/12 - Suyeon Yun

Speaker: Suyeon Yun
Title: Consonant Cluster Splittability in English
Date/Time: Monday, May 12, 5pm
Location: 32-D831

When English speakers express incredulousness, annoyance, etc., they may insert a schwa in the middle of initial consonant cluster, e.g., ‘please’ —> `p-uh-lease’. In this talk I report results of a rating study that investigates acceptability of the schwa insertion in all types of initial clusters existing in English, and discuss what the significant predictors for the epenthesis are.

Ling-Lunch 5/15 - Wataru Uegaki

Speaker: Wataru Uegaki
Title: Cross-linguistic variation in the strategies of forming alternative questions: Japanese and beyond
Date/Time: Thursday, May 15, 12:30-1:45p
Location: 32-D461

(This is a practice talk for SALT.)

As Gracanin-Yuksek puts it in her recent WAFL talk, current issues in the syntax and semantics of alternative questions (AltQs) involve two main questions: whether AltQs involve deletion and whether they involve a covert scoping operation. Along these two dimensions, there are (at least) three analytic possibilities existing in the literature for the compositional semantic derivation of an English AltQ. One possibility is to analyze the disjunction as undergoing some form of covert scoping operation (Quantifying-in in Karttunen 1977, Larson 1985; focus semantics in Beck & Kim 2006), making it to take scope over the question-forming operator. The other two possibilities involve deletion in the second disjunct whose underlying structure is larger than its surface appearance. In one analysis, the underlying structure of the AltQ is a coordination of two questions, and no covert scoping operation is needed to derive the AltQ meaning (Pruitt & Roelofsen 2011). The other way is to assume both deletion and a covert scoping operation (Han & Romero 2004).

This paper contributes to this debate by focusing on AltQs in Japanese, arguing that they are underlyingly disjunctions of polar questions, along the lines of Pruitt and Roelofsen (2011). After presenting a Hamblin-semantic implementation of such an analysis, I will situate the Japanese-type AltQs in the new cross-linguistic typology of AltQs, which takes into account languages that disambiguate AltQs and Yes/No questions using distinct disjunction markers (such as Finnish and Basque). The resulting picture is that languages vary in the strategies they use in forming alternative questions: one with scoping and one with coordination of full CP-questions.

Post-doctoral fellowship for Rafael Nonato

In July, Rafael Nonato (PhD 2013) will start a post-doctoral fellowship in the
 Programa de Pós Graduação em Antropologia Social (Graduate Program in 
Social Anthropology) of the Museu Nacional  (National Museum) of UFRJ (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro), under the supervision of Prof.
 Bruna Franchetto. His research project will develop an a new account of switch-reference systems and 
related phenomena in the indigenous languages of the Americas.  Congratulations, Rafael, on this exciting project!

ESSL 5/15 - Benjamin Storme

Speaker: Benjamin Storme
Title: Present perfective and explicit performatives
Date/Time: Thursday, May 15, 5:30-7p
Location: 32-D831

In this talk, I will propose to extend Lauer (2013)’s analysis of explicit performatives with temporal and aspectual operators from Kratzer (1998) in order to account for the contrast in (1). The performative effect will only arise in LFs with present tense and perfective aspect.

(1) a. I promise that p. (good as a promise)
b. #I am promising that p. (bad as a promise)

I will also propose a revision of the classic analysis of the contrast in (2): the badness of (2a) will no longer be derived by postulating a semantic incompatibility between perfective aspect and present tense (present perfective LFs are needed to derive the contrast in (1)), but by a pragmatic constraint making present perfective LFs unlikely.

(2) a. #John does his homework. (bad to refer to an event happening at the moment of utterance)
b. John is doing his homework. (good to refer to an event happening at the moment of utterance)