The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, April 6th, 2015

LFRG 4/6 - Mia Nussbaum

Speaker: Mia Nussbaum (MIT)
Title: On the difference between only and just
Time: Monday, April 6, 2015
Place: 32-D808

In some cases, the exclusive particles only and just appear to be interchangeable:

(1) Mary (only/just) read War and Peace.
(2) (Only/just) three professors came to the party.

In this talk, I’ll be taking a look at some contexts where they diverge, foremost among them the phenomenon of “minimal sufficiency readings” in conditionals.

(3) If just three people get on the boat, it will sink.
(4) #If only three people get on the boat, it will sink.

In addition to the somewhat implausible reading where three people will sink the boat but four people might not, the sentence with just in (3) has an interpretation that’s unavailable with only. This is the minimal sufficiency reading, which can be paraphrased as “If at least three people (which is not a lot) get on the boat, it will sink.”

I will look at some arguments for and against two competing analyses of minimal sufficiency readings: Grosz (2011)’s lexical-ambiguity hypothesis, and Coppock and Beaver (2014)’s scope hypothesis.


Phonology Circle 4/6 - Chingting Chuang

Speaker: Chingting Chuang (National Tsinghua University)
Title: How does circular chain shift tone sandhi evolve?
Date: Monday, April 6th
Time: 5-6:30
Place: 32D-831

Penang Hokkien (PH) is a representative variety of Southern Min Chinese spoken by the descendants of emigrants from the Chinese province of Fuijian in Northern Malaysia. In previous studies (Chang & Chuang, 2012) and (Chuang, Chang, & Hsieh, 2013), it has been observed that the original tonal system remains intact among older speakers, especially the famous chainshift tone sandhi rules (see Chen 2000), while language change occurs among younger speakers. The goals of this talk are twofold: first, we examined an interesting phenomenon of synchronic reorganization of tonal inventories by obtaining data from more speakers and more age groups. Our results conform to previous results that tonal reorganization can be shown in three stages and the pace of sound change differs by syntactic position. Second, we are going to show that tonal variation in stage 2 (intermediate stage) is context-sensitive. Speakers are sensitive to the neighboring tones when they choose a variant such that the pattern of consecutive F tones is dispreferred by stage 2 learners.


Syntax Square 4/7 - Kenyon Branan

Speaker: Kenyon Branan (MIT)
Title:Attraction at a distance: A’-movement and Case
Time: Tuesday 4/7, 1-2pm
Place: 32-D461

This talk is about how A’-movement of a subject is licensed (or not) by the structural position of the CP from which subject extraction takes place. I adopt a dependent approach to Case and Agreement, following Marantz (1991); Preminger (2011;2014). In this approach to modeling Case, Case is a reflection of structural relations between objects which participate in the Case system; in contrast to an Agree-based approach to Case modeling, in which Case reflects Agreement relations between objects which participate in the Case system. I assume that CPs participate in the Case system. I argue that a CP in a dependent Case configuration licenses subject extraction, but a CP in a non-depedent Case configuration does not. This provides a unified account for several otherwise mysterious—and understudied—subject/object extraction asymmetries in English.

Ling Lunch 4/9 - Juliet Stanton and Sam Zukoff

Speaker: Juliet Stanton and Sam Zukoff (MIT)
Title: Prosodic effects of segmental correspondence
Time: Thurs 4/9, 12:30-1:45
Place: 32-D461

In this talk, we examine how extensions of Correspondence Theory (McCarthy & Prince 1995) can be used to explain a class of misapplication effects arising in reduplication and copy epenthesis. In these domains, we frequently see exceptional patterning in the assignment of phonological properties relating to prominence (i.e. stress, pitch, length). We will argue that, in order to explain these effects, the phonological grammar must have the following two properties:

(i) The existence of a Correspondence relation among surface segments, arising under particular structural configurations, and

(ii) Output-Output faithfulness constraints that require identity among surface correspondents for prosodic properties.

We show that a grammar with these properties is sufficient and necessary to generate a range of effects, many of which have heretofore failed to receive satisfactory explanations in the literature:

(i) Stress-matching in Ngan’gityemerri reduplication (Reid 2011)

(ii) Sub-categorical durational matching between copy vowels and their hosts in Scots Gaelic (Bosch & de Jong 1997) and Hocank (e.g. Miner 1989)

(iii) Opaque interactions between copy epenthesis and stress placement in Selayarese (e.g. Broselow 2001), Tahitian (Bickmore 1995), and Hocank (e.g. Miner 1989)


Shigeru Miyagawa in MIT News

Shigeru Miyagawa discusses his recent work on the rise of human language, which we mentioned in last week’s Whamit! issue, in MIT News.