The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, December 8th, 2014

Happy birthday, Noam!  

On December 7th, Noam Chomsky turned 86. Happy birthday, Noam!

Noam Chomsky


Proceedings of FAJL 7 published by MITWPL  

MITWPL is pleased to announce the publication of the Proceedings of FAJL 7: Formal Approaches to Japanese Linguistics (MWPL#73). (Editors: Shigeto Kawahara and Mika Igarashi, 2014).


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Ling-Lunch 12/15 - Chris O’Brien  

Speaker: Chris O’Brien (MIT)
Title: How to get off an island
Date/Time: Monday December 15, 12:30-1:45
Location: 32-D461

Note the special date.

The grammar, it has been argued, possesses strategies for bypassing syntactic islands. Based on the selective island (SI) phenomenon, Cinque (1990) and Postal (1998) argue for a resumptive pronoun strategy for extraction from islands. Bachrach & Katzir (2009) argue that multiple dominance obviates islandhood, via a delayed Spellout (DS) mechanism. We argue that both SIs and DS islands arise from the same source, and that DS is the sole mechanism for escaping islands in wh-movement. Fox & Pesetsky’s (2009) implementation of DS and Johnson’s (2010) theory of movement conspire to predict the effects of the resumptive pronoun strategy in both sharing, and non-sharing, contexts; as well as why SI effects emerge in leftward, but not rightward, movement (Postal 1998).

Phonology Circle 12/8 - Adam Albright  

Speaker: Adam Albright (MIT)
Title: Faithfulness to non-contrastive phonetic properties in Lakhota
Date: Monday, December 8
Time: 5 - 6:30
Location: 32D-461
Abstract: OCP12-Albright-NonAnonymous


ESSL/LacqLab 12/10 - Ito Masuyo  

Speaker: Ito Masuyo (Fukuoka University/MIT)
Title: Japanese-speaking children’s interpretation of sentences containing the focus particle datte ‘even’: QUD or processing limitations
Date: Wednesday, December 10th
Time: 3:00p
Place: 32-D831

In this talk, I will talk about the acquisition of ‘even’ in Japanese. I will focus on the following: 1) the properties of the focus particle datte ‘even’ in Japanese; 2) whether Japanese-speaking children are able to interpret sentences containing ‘even’ as adults do; and if not, QUD or processing considerations can facilitate children’s performance.

The results show that children can calculate information strength associated with datte sentences when the task does not require them to construct and maintain alternative representations. Examining whether or not QUD relevance and processing considerations apply to datte sentence implicatures as they do to SIs allows re-examination of the nature of implicatures datte generates. I aim to contribute to experimental studies on pragmatics, especially those on EVEN, conventional implicature and SI.


Colloquium 12/12 - Tim Stowell  

Speaker: Tim Stowell (UCLA)
Title: Adverbial Complexes
Date: Friday, December 12th
Time: 3:30-5:00p
Place: 32-141

I will discuss the syntactic derivation of parenthetical qualified adjunct phrases like the underscored example in (i):

(i) Mitt drank two bottles of gin last night, unfortunately rather quickly.

The adverbial complex consists of two adverbial phrases (AdvPs), one of which evaluates, or qualifies, the other. The adverbial complex forms a distinct intonational phrase, as is typical of parenthetical constituents. Within the complex, nuclear (or focal) stress falls on the head of the qualified AdvP (rather quíckly). The entire complex has the force of an independent secondary assertion, similar to that of the underscored paratactic clauses in (ii):

(ii) Mitt drank two bottles of gin last night;
unfortunately he drank them rather quickly.
unfortunately he did it/this/so rather quickly.

I will defend an ellipsis analysis of the adverbial complexes in (i), modeled on Jason Merchant’s account of sluicing and sentence fragment constructions. This involves a combination of extraction and TP ellipsis. Assuming a source structure resembling one of the paratactic clauses in (ii), the qualified AdvP (rather quickly) is extracted from the TP and moved to a position below the qualifying AdvP (unfortunately). The remnant TP is then elided, with the host clause providing the antecedent TP. Although I refer to this as TP ellipsis, the precise hierarchical level of the elided material is tricky to pin down, mainly because of more complex examples.

In (i) both AdvPs are ‘integrated’ within the complex adjunct, and occur in the same linear and hierarchical order that they would occur in as integrated AdvPs in main clauses. In (iii), the order of the two AdvPs within the complex is inverted:

(iii) The rebels have been defeated—decisively, perhaps.

In (iii), nuclear stress still falls on the qualified AdvP (decisively). I will discuss the derivation of the inverted order, which also occurs in main clauses. The chief candidates are (i) right-adjunction of the qualifying AdvP via initial merge; (ii) movement (of one or the other AdvPs within the adverbial complex) or (iii) an additional instance of TP ellipsis within the elided TP.

Like simple adverbs (both integrated and parenthetical) and Slifting remnants, adverbial complexes (with or without internal inversion) can be ‘niched’ within the host clause.

(iv) Napoleon, probably deliberately, insulted his host.

The analysis of niching is also problematic. While not resolving this decisively, I will point out that niching turns out to depend on the placement of nuclear (or focal) stress on the preceding constituent in the host clause.

Adverbial complexes also provide evidence bearing on the familiar problem of identity in ellipsis structures. In (v) the ‘qualifying’ frequency adverb often gives rise to a quantificational variability effect; I argue that this implicates a definite source for the elided counterpart of the indefinite object DP in the host clause:

(v) Janet has performed over a hundred autopsies, often incompetently.

More complex adverbial complexes are also possible, with both inverted and un-inverted orders:

(vi) Mitt drank the whole bottle, I think probably again unintentionally.
(vii) Mitt drank the whole bottle, unintentionally, again, probably, I think.

The existence of complex adverbial complexes like (vi) provides further evidence supporting the ellipsis approach, but also complicates the problem of determining the identity of the elided constituent. The inverse ordering effect visible in (vi) vs. (vii) takes us back to the question of how the inverted order is derived. To derive the inverse order via leftward movement of the qualified AdvP, one would need a roll-up derivation of the sort advocated by Cinque in his account of integrated adverb order, and by Koopman and Szabolcsi in their account of Hungarian and Germanic verbal complexes. Our parenthetical adverbial complexes, however, seem to allow for far more ordering options than would be expected under such an approach, suggesting that these adverbial complexes may involve multiple applications of ellipsis.