The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, December 14th, 2015

Syntax Square 12/15 - Jeremy Hartman

Speaker: Jeremy Hartman (UMass)
Title: What is this construction, that we should be puzzled by it?
Date: Tuesday, December 15th
Time: 10:00am-11:00am
Place: 32-D461

I will discuss the construction exemplified below, where a wh-question is followed by a gapless subordinate clause:

a. What were you doing, that you couldn’t come help me?
b. Where is he from, that he talks like that?
c. Who are you, to make that demand?
d. What did she do, that everyone is so mad at her?

A puzzling fact about such sentences is that their declarative counterparts appear to be ungrammatical (*He is from Texas, that he talks like that, *I was on the phone, that I couldn’t come help you). Sentences like these have not, to my knowledge, received a detailed analysis in the syntactic literature. I will offer some preliminary observations about their syntactic properties, their meaning, and their relationship to other syntactic phenomena, including degree constructions.

Uegaki to Leiden

We are delighted to announce that Wataru Uegaki (PhD 2015) has accepted a position as Assistant Professor (Universitair Docent) at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. He will be affiliated with both the Leiden Institute of Area Studies (LIAS) and the Leiden University Centre for Linguistics (LUCL), and will teach Japanese linguistics and semantics. Wataru is currently a Postdoctoral fellow of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science at Keio University (Tokyo) & the Institut Jean-Nicod (CNRS/ENS) (Paris). Wataru’s new position in Leiden is a fantastic opportunity, and we know that the University of Leiden will be as proud of him as we are! Congratulations!!

ESSL/LacqLab 12/16 - Jeremy Hartman

Speaker: Jeremy Hartman (Umass)
Title: Building a corpus for root infinitives
Date and time: Wednesday, December 16, at 5:00 pm
Place: 32-D461

I will present work in progress, on the development of a large database of children’s optional infinitive utterances taken from the English CHILDES corpora, and coded for a variety of factors of interest. I’ll discuss how the database can be used to assess the effects of several syntactic and phonological factors that have been claimed to influence children’s use of the root infinitive, as well as the interactions between these factors.