The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Daniel Büring: Mini-course on Unalternative Semantics

Class 1 (Wednesday)
Title: Unalternative Semantics, basics
Time: 5:00-6:30pm
Venue: 32-461

UNALTERNATIVE SEMANTICS (UAS) provides a new method to calculate focus alternatives. It directly and compositionally calculates focus alternatives from relative stress patterns, without the mediation of [F]-markers or similar devices. Crucially, the structural cue for deriving focus alternatives (in English and similar languages) is the distinction between default and non-default metrical patterns among sister nodes, rather than properties of constituents in isolation (such as presence of an accent, or a particular amount of stress). The result is a simpler, yet arguably more adequate model of the connection between prosody and focus semantics.

The first class introduces the basic workings of UAS. I then discuss how UAS avoids classical problems such as over-focussing, under-accenting, and how it accounts for second occurrence focus.

Class 2 (Thursday)
Title: Unalternative Semantics, further applications
Time: 5:00-6:30pm
Venue: 32-461

The basic framework from class 1 is applied to new phenomena: focus positions, “unfocus” positions (in Hausa), and sentences with two intermediate phrases and two nuclear pitch accents (in English again). If we’re lucky, we can discuss impromptu ideas by students that work on related phenomena, speculate how they could be approached in UAS etc.