The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, December 7th, 2015

Syntax Square 12/8 - Despoina Oikonomou

Speaker: Despoina Oikonomou (MIT)
Title: Analytic vs. Synthetic morphology in the domain of Passive: deriving the differences
Date: Tuesday, December 8th
Time: 10:00am-11:00am
Place: 32-D461

Cross-linguistically we observe two types of Passives; Analytic (e.g. English) and Synthetic (e.g. Greek). Evidence from different languages (Albanian, Armenian, Amharic, Greek, PA Arabic, Quechua, Shakkinoono/ Kafinoonoo, Swedish, Turkish) suggests the morphology used in synthetic - and crucially not in analytic passives - can also appear in at least one of the following environments; a) verbal reflexives and reciprocals, b) anticausatives, c) deponent verbs (as well as other constructions which vary cross-linguistically) which altogether constitute the so-called Middle Voice (see Kemmer 1993, Alexiadou & Doron 2012).

This talk aims to explain this contrast between Synthetic and Analytic Passives. I argue that under an analysis of Passive as existential binding of the external argument (Legate 2010, Bruening 2013) the crucial difference in synthetic vs. analytic Passives relies on the morphosyntactic merger (bundling) of the Passive Voice and the little-v head in Synthetic but not in Analytic Passives. In the spirit of dynamic approaches to phasehood (den Dikken 2006, Bobalijk & Wurmbrand 2013, Wurmbrand 2015) I take this merger operation (Pylkkänen 2008, Bobaljik 2012) to be responsible for the formation of a single interpretation domain in synthetic passives thus allowing a range of interpretations which depend on the properties of the vP predicate (cf. Maranz 2007, 2013, Alexiadou & Anagnostopoulou 2004, Alexiadou & Doron 2012, Anagnostopoulou & Samioti 2013).


ESSL/LacqLab 12/9 - Florian Schwarz

Speaker: Florian Schwarz (UPenn)
Title: Presupposition Projection from Disjunction - Unconditionally Symmetric?
Date and time: Wednesday, December 09, 3:00 PM
Room: 32-D461

The nature of presupposition projection from disjunction continues to be controversial in the literature, both empirically and theoretically: Does it yield a conditional or non-conditional presupposition? Is it symmetric for both disjuncts? Is local accommodation within a disjunct possible (and if so, for which triggers)? And are there effects based on linear order in processing, or are they due to the projection mechanism? I present recent results from a picture matching task in the covered box paradigm on ‘again’ that suggest that a) projection is non-conditional from both disjuncts, b) that local accommodation is in principle possible even with a ‘hard’ trigger such as ‘again’, and c) that access to local accommodation can be primed by preceding experimental blocks that force this interpretation. Two visual world eye tracking studies, on ‘stop’ in the first disjunct and ‘continue’ in the second disjunct, furthermore provide evidence that non-conditional global interpretations are at play in online processing. The study on the second disjunct also provides evidence that responses that are inconsistent with a non-conditional global interpretations are slower than ones that are, in line with previous findings in the literature that local-accommodation based responses come with a slow down in reaction times.

Ling Lunch 12/10 - Florian Schwarz

Speaker: Florian Schwarz(UPenn)
Title: Towards a Typology of Presupposition Triggers - Experimental Explorations
Time: Thursday, December 10th, 12:30-1:45pm
Place: 32-D461

Much recent work on presuppositions has argued for the need to distinguish different classes of presupposition triggers, perhaps most prominently in terms of the Hard vs. Soft distinction (Abusch 2002, 2010). Abusch, and more recently Romoli (2012, 2014), analyze the latter as a type of implicature. I present a summary of experimental investigations suggesting that soft triggers behave differently from implicatures, which poses a serious challenge for this line of analysis. At the same time, another set of experimental results suggests that differences between presupposition triggers are real, which raises the question of how to best capture these contrasts in a different way. I explore the possibility of explaining the relevant effects by distinguishing triggers in terms of whether or not they contribute their presupposition to the entailed content as well (Sudo 2012; cf. also Tonhauser et al. 2013’s notion of ‘obligatory local effects’), and present some initial experimental explorations that lend support to this approach.

Claire Halpert’s mini-course

Title: Let’s argue about clausal arguments!
Date: Dec 9th (Wednesday) and Dec 10th (Thursday)
Time: 5:00-7:00 PM
Place: 32-D461 (Wednesday) and 32-155 (Thursday)

The plan for this discussion is to investigate the ways in which clauses combine with predicates as internal and external arguments. We’ll look at the behavior of finite clauses with respect to case (e.g. Stowell 1981, Kempchinsky 1992, a.o.), theories of clausal embedding as relativization (e.g. Aboh 2005, 2010, Arseneijevic, 2009, Haegeman and Ürögdi 2010, Kayne 2009), differences between internal and external argument clauses, and the behavior of head-initial CPs in head final languages. I’ll be particularly concerned with the behavior of finite declarative clauses in languages that have them. (These questions relate to, and form some of the broader landscape for, the talk that I’ll give on Friday — but the talk is meant to stand alone.)


Colloquium 12/11 - Claire Halpert

Speaker: Claire Halpert (University of Minnesota)
Title: Escape Clause
Date: Friday, Dec 11th
Time: 3:30-5:00 PM
Place: 32-141

In this talk, I investigate the syntactic properties of clausal arguments, looking in particular at whether A-movement is permitted out of finite clauses and at whether these clauses themselves may undergo movement or establish agreement relationships. In English, argument clauses show some puzzling distributional properties compared to their nominal counterparts. In particular, they appear to satisfy selectional requirements of verbs, but can also combine directly with non-nominal-taking nouns and adjectives. Stowell (1981) and many others have treated these differences as arising from how syntactic case interacts with nominals and clauses. In a recent approach, Moulton (2015) argues that the distributional properties of propositional argument clauses are due to their semantic type: these clauses are type e,st and so must combine via predicate modification, unlike nominals. In contrast to English, I show that in the Bantu language Zulu, certain non-nominalized finite CPs exhibit identical selectional properties to nominals, therefore requiring a different treatment from those proposed in the previous literature. These clauses, also like nominals, appear to control phi-agreement and trigger intervention effects in predictable ways. At the same time, these clauses differ from nominals (and nominalized clauses) in the language in certain respects of their distribution. I will argue that these properties shed light on the role that phi-agreement plays in the transparency/opacity of finite clauses for A-movement and on the nature of barrier effects in the syntax more generally.