The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, November 17th, 2014

Lectures by Emmanuel Chemla  

Emmanuel Chemla (CNRS) will be giving two lectures this week:

  • Tuesday 11/18 5:15-8PM; 32D-831
  • Wednesday 11/19; 3-6PM; 32D-461

Below is the abstract and information for the lectures:

We will ask how simple psycholinguistic methods can be relevant for the study of various questions in linguistic theory. We will start by discussing the case of scalar implicatures, where many illustrations can be found, both in terms of questions and methods, without a perfect alignement between the two, however. We will quickly move to other topics including questions, scopal relations, cumulative/distributive readings of plurals. The methods we will discuss include truth value and acceptability judgments, basic “priming” studies and response time studies. The hope is to demonstrate that these methods are useful and simple to deploy.

MITWPL announcement  

Three 2014 PhD theses are now available on the MITWPL webstore!

Also, both volumes of Irene Heim’s Festshrift are now out of print and available from the MITWPL webstore:


Kai von Fintel’s guide to publishing articles  

A public service announcement from Kai von Fintel - not just relevant for semanticists!


Irene Heim’s 60th birthday pictures  

On October 30, Irene Heim’s colleagues and students past and present gathered to celebrate her 60th birthday with the presentation of a Festschrift (that we already linked to in an earlier post) and a great party with food, drink, speeches and reminiscences. Master of ceremonies was Uli Sauerland. Irene also was presented with framed versions of the artwork for the Festschrift by Sarah Hulsey (PhD 2008).

(photo credit: mitcho Erlewine — thank you!)

From left to right: Sarah Hulsey, Irene Heim & Uli Sauerland; Irene Heim; Angelika Kratzer; Danny Fox; Kai von Fintel; Gennaro Chierchia; Barbara H. Partee; Mats Rooth & Uli Sauerland


LingLunch 11/20 - Loes Koring  

Speaker: Loes Koring (MIT/Utrecht)
Title: A visual signature of computation
Date/Time: Thursday, November 20, 12:30-1:45pm
Location: 32-D461

In this talk, I will present a new method to track argument reactivation during processing of intransitive verbs. In particular, I will show how the Visual World Paradigm can be used to obtain a precise record of (re)activation of the verb’s argument throughout the entire sentence. Using this method, we will see that the argument of unaccusative vs. unergative verbs is reactivated at a different point in time depending on their syntactic position. The timing difference is independent of the thematic role of the argument, as we will conclude from the behavior of theme unergative verbs.

Colloquium 11/21 - Karlos Arregi  

Speaker: Karlos Arregi
Title: How to sell a melon: Mesoclisis in Spanish plural imperatives
Date/Time:Friday, November 21, 3:30-5pm
Location: 32-141

Harris and Halle (2005) present a framework (hereafter, Generalized Reduplication) that unites the treatment of phonological reduplication and metathesis with similar phenomena in morphology, thereby accounting for the apparently spurious placement of imperative plural inflection -n in non-standard Spanish. For instance, alongside standard “vénda-n-me-lo” (“Sell it to me!”), where -n precedes enclitics, one also finds forms such as “vénda-me-lo-n” and “vénda-n-me-lo-n”, in which the plural suffix follows enclitics, with an optional copy of the suffix before them. More recently, Kayne (2009) has challenged their analysis, arguing that such cases should be uniformly treated in the syntax. In this talk, I reassess some of Kayne’s arguments, agreeing with his conclusion that the most important desiderata of any general analysis of these sorts of phenomena is restrictiveness, but contending that greater restrictiveness can be achieved through metaconstraints on the Generalized Reduplication formalism rather than through byzantine syntactic derivations. I present supporting data from morphological reduplication and metathesis phenomena in the Basque auxiliary system, demonstrating that they are better accounted for postsyntactically, and conclude with general remarks about the division of labor in word-formation.

MIT at NecPhon 2014  

The eighth meeting of the Northeast Computational Phonology Circle (NECPhon 2014) was held at NYU over the week end. Third year student Juliet Stanton gave a talk entitled “Rare forms and rare errors: deriving a learning bias in error-driven learning”.


MIT at SNEWS 2014  

The 2014 edition of the Southern New England Workshop in Semantics (SNEWS 2014) was held at UMass Amherst on Saturday. Three MIT students gave talks:

  • Fifth year student Wataru Uegaki: “Predicting the Variation in Exhaustivity of Embedded Questions”
  • Third year student Aron Hirsch: “An Unexceptional Semantics for Expressions of Exception”
  • Third year student Benjamin Storme: “Present perfectives in English and Romance”