The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, September 19th, 2016

Syntax Square 9/19 - Norvin Richards

Speaker: Norvin Richards (MIT)

Title: Contiguity Theory and Pied-Piping

Date: Monday, Sept. 19th

Time: 1:00pm-2:00pm

Place: 32-D461


In this talk I will demonstrate how Contiguity Theory can be used to derive Seth Cable’s generalizations about the conditions on pied-piping. We will see that the pied-piping facts for a given language track the availability of wh-in-situ, in an interesting and theoretically useful way.

Phonology Circle 9/19 - Erin Olson

Speaker: Erin Olson (MIT)
Title: Intermediate Markedness and its consequences for the GLA
Date/Time: Monday, September 19, 5:00-6:
Location: 32-D831

In the phonological acquisition literature, it has been observed that children sometimes acquire marked structures of the target language in a two-step fashion: they go through a stage in which they produce the marked structure only in some privileged position(s) within the word, before producing that structure in the full range of positions found in the target language. These stages have primarily been analyzed as being due to the ranking schema in (1) (Tessier 2009).

(1) Positional Faithfulness >> Markedness >> General Faithfulness

These stages have been shown to be problematic for gradual OT learning algorithms such as the GLA (Boersma 1997; Magri 2012), as these algorithms do not predict that children should ever go through such a stage (Jesney and Tessier 2007, 2008; Tessier 2009). As such, Jesney and Tessier (2007, 2008) advocate for using an HG-based learner, which is capable of predicting these stages.

In this talk, I will review Jesney and Tessier’s (2007, 2008) claim that the GLA is incapable of predicting intermediate stages, and I will show that this claim is premature. The GLA is capable of predicting such stages under the following conditions: a) the intermediate stage can be characterized by the ranking in (2):

(2) Positional Markedness >> Faithfulness >> General Markedness

and b) if it cannot be characterized in this way, then the Positional Faithfulness constraint that decides the error is ranked low in the grammar. I will also discuss how multiple, successive intermediate stages can be predicted, and set out a typology of possible intermediate stage orders.


LFRG 9/21 - Daniel Margulis

LFRG will happen Wednesday 9/21 at 1-2pm in 32-D831.
Daniel Margulis will discuss Michael Wagner’s 2006 paper: “Association by movement: evidence from NPI-licensing


New paper by Miyagawa

Congratulations to faculty Shigeru Miyagawa, whose paper (co-authored with Nobuaki Nishioka and Hedde Zeijlstra) Negative sensitive items and the discourse-configurational nature of Japanese has been published in Glossa! Here’s the abstract:

We take up three Negative Sensitive Items (NSIs) in Japanese, Wh-MO plain negative indefinites, exceptive XP-sika, and certain minimizing indefinites, such as rokuna N (‘any decent N’). Although these three NSIs behave differently, we demonstrate that the two traditional NSI categories of Negative Concord Items (NCIs) and Negative Polarity Items (NPIs) are sufficient for characterizing these items.  We argue that Wh-MO and XP-sika are NCIs, thus they contain a neg feature ([uneg]) which enters into (upward) agreement with its corresponding an uninterpretable feature ([ineg]). The third NSI, rokuna N, is an NPI. Two issues arise with XP-sika. First, it has an inherent focus feature, which distinguishes it from the other two. Second, this focus feature is syntactically active – meaning that movement is forced – only for the argument XP-sika. We argue that these properties of XP-sika associated with focus are independent of NP-sika as an NSI, and should be dealt with as an overall property of Japanese being a discourse configurational language. We introduce a case-theoretic solution to how focus becomes syntactically active solely with argument XP-sika.

New MIT linguistics website

Please enjoy our great new website. Some of the personal pages are still works in progress (having been migrated from the old site), so we ask your patience about that — but we hope you are as happy with it as we are!




Ling-Lunch: call for open slots

As of now, the Ling-Lunch slot on September 22nd is still open. Other available dates are as follows:

  • October 6 for NELS practice talk
  • November 3
  • December 1

If you are interested in one of these dates, let Abdul-Razak Sulemana (abdulraz@mit.edu) Mitya Privoznov (dprivoznov@gmail.com),  and/or Suzana Fong (sznfong@mit.edu) know.

Ling-Lunch meetings are held on Thursdays from 12:30 to 1:50pm in room 32-D461. The schedule can be found in the department’s calendar.


Conference announcement: SNEWS 2016

The Southern New England Workshop in Semantics (SNEWS) is an annual workshop for graduate students in Linguistics to present their research and receive feedback in an informal setting. Topics of presentation generally fall into any of the following categories (broadly defined): semantics, pragmatics, semantics/pragmatics interface, experimental and psycholinguistic investigations into semantic/pragmatic phenomena, etc. The workshop is meant to encourage the development and exchange of ideas through friendly interaction between students and faculty from different universities in the area. This year’s edition will be hosted by Brown University.

Those interested in presenting are asked to contact a designated person at their school by September 30th and send the title of their presentation by October 31st. MIT students are to contact  Naomi Francis ‎(nfrancis@mit.edu).


Call for Presenters: ESSL/LacqLab Meetings

The Experimental Syntax and Semantics and Language Acquisition Labs are looking for presenters for their lab meetings. Ideas and prospective experiments, ongoing work, or practice talks are all welcome, on any syntactic, semantic or acquisition-y sort of subject. The plan is to have a half hour presentation and half hour discussion on Tuesdays at 1pm.

Almost all presentation slots are currently open, so let Leo Rosenstein (leaena@mit.edu) know if you want one and when. People from outside MIT are welcome to present, but MIT students and visitors get first pick.