The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, April 18th, 2016

LFRG 4/20 - Keny Chatain

Speaker: Keny Chatain (MIT/ENS)
Time: Wednesday, April 20th, 1-2pm
Place: 32-D831
Title: Some puzzles with demonstratives

In this talk, I will present of some of my work in progress on demonstrative descriptions. Demonstrative descriptions exhibit a wide range of uses: they can co-occur with gestures such as pointing (deictic use), they can refer to an entity previously mentioned in the discourse (anaphoric use), or can occur on their own, without the need for external material to determine their referent. In this talk, I will focus on some cases of anaphoric uses which prove challenging under Elbourne (2001)’s influential account of demonstrative descriptions. Those cases involve sloppy interpretation of an anaphoric demonstrative when its antecedent is under the scope of a quantifier. These examples can be thought of as the counterpart of « paycheck pronouns » with demonstratives. This will allow me to highlight some parallel properties between simple pronouns and demonstratives (bridging inferences, anaphoric use, bound variables, etc). As a conclusion, I will provide an initial sketch of an analysis for these cases.

Ling Lunch 4/21 - Daniel Margulis

Speaker: Daniel Margulis (MIT)
Title: Expletive negation is an exponent of only
Time: Thursday, April 21th, 12:30-1:50 pm
Place: 32-D461

Contrary to the natural assumption that negative morphemes bring about truth-condition reversal, Hebrew sentential negation does not always make the expected contribution to meaning, just like other instances of expletive negation crosslinguistically.
Hebrew expletive negation is found in until-clauses (1) and free (headless) relative clauses (2).

(1)   yoni   yaSan ad     Se    ha-Sxenim       lo     hidliku muzika
+++ yoni slept   until that the-neighbors neg   lit       music
++ “Yoni was asleep until the neighbors turned on some music.”

(2)   mi    Se    lo      yaSav b-a-xacer    kibel ugiya
+++ who that neg sat      in-the-yard received cookie
++ “Whoever was sitting in the yard got a cookie.”

In this talk I discuss expletive negation’s contribution to interpretation and argue that the until data should be understood as an obligatory scalar implicature, arising due to an association between expletive negation and a covert `only’.

Why should the negative morpheme participating in expletive negation carry the meaning of `only’? I follow von Fintel & Iatridou’s (2007) decompositional analysis of `only’, according to which only has two components: negation and an exceptive, as attested overtly in some languages, e.g., French `ne…que’ and Greek `dhen…para’. Under such a view, the status of expletive negation would simply be that of any ordinary negation, and the only special property of expletive negation constructions would be that they contain a covert exceptive head.

I provide further support for the current proposal from the observations that expletive negation cannot license negative concord and that an overt `only’ cannot accompany expletive negation. Finally, I will mention a direction in which the proposal could be extended to the free relatives data.

4/21 - last talk by Giorgio Magri

Speaker: Giorgio Magri (CNRS)
Title: The Merchant/Tesar theory of inconsistency detection for learning underlying forms
Time: Thurs 4/21 3-5pm
Place: 32-D461

Fieldwork Tool Tutorials: ELAN and FLEx

Date: Friday, April 22nd
Time: 2-3:30pm
Place: 32D, 7th floor seminar room

Lena Borise (Harvard) (with Mitya Privoznov (MIT)) and Tingchun Chen (MIT) will be giving two separate tutorials (45 minutes each) on the basics of ELAN and FLEx. ELAN is a tool for annotating video and audio recordings. FLEx is a fieldwork archiving program developed by the SIL that has many functions, including compiling a lexicon, storing and interlinearizing sentences and texts, etc.