The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, November 7th, 2016

Syntax Square 11/7 - Christopher Hammerly  

Speaker: Christopher Hammerly (UMass Amherst)
Title: Unifying agreement across clause types in Ojibwe
Date/time: Monday, Nov. 7, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461


Phonology Circle 11/07 — Gašper Beguš  

Speaker: Gašper Beguš
Title: Unnatural Trends in the Lexicon: Diachrony and Synchrony
Date/Time: November 7, 5pm—6:30 pm
Location: 32-D831
Abstract: pdf


LFRG 11/9 — Chris Baron  

Speaker: Chris Baron
Title: A Prospective Puzzle and a Possible Solution
Date and time: November 9 (Wednesday), 1-2pm
Location: 32-D831

It is generally assumed that Mayan languages are tenseless, and only grammaticalize aspect (Henderson 2015). This assumption holds for Kaqchikel, a K’ichean-branch Mayan language of Guatemala (García Matzar & Rodriguez Guaján 1997). However, there is a puzzling fact about the ‘prospective aspect’ morpheme xk-, which at first blush would seem to locate the run time of the event after the reference time: it cannot be embedded under the temporal adverbial ‘yesterday.’

(1) Chwa’q xk-i-muxan.
tomorrow PROSP-B1S-swim
‘Tomorrow, I will swim.’

(2) *Iwïr xk-i-muxan.
yesterday PROSP-B1S-swim
Intended: ‘Yesterday, I was going to swim.’

The ungrammaticality of (2) is unexpected if the prospective only locates the event time after the reference time established by iwïr ‘yesterday.’ In this talk on work in progress, I present data that suggest that this aspect not only contributes aspectual semantics, but also modal semantics, and that this is the reason for the puzzling fact.


Ling-Lunch 11/10 — David Erschler  

Speaker: David Erschler (University of Massachusetts Amherst)
Tittle: Predicting embedded gapping
Date/Time: Thursday, November 10/12:30pm-1:50pm
Location: 32-D461

I show that in a number of languages gapping can occur in embedded clauses. I argue that this provides support for a movement plus deletion analysis of gapping. The ability of gapping to be embedded in a given language depends on the height of the ellipsis-licensing feature and the availability of a landing site for moved constituents sufficiently high in the embedded clause.

Gapping is a construction, discovered and named by Ross (1970), where the finite verb is missing from the clause, (1). It is fairly common cross-linguistically.

(1) Some will eat beans and others will eat rice. Johnson (2009)

Famously, English and a number of other languages disallow gapping to occur in embedded clauses, Hankamer (1979) and the subsequent literature:

(2) *Some ate mussels, and she claims that others ate shrimp. Johnson (2009)

However, the ban on embedding is not universal: adding to the recent work on Persian by Farudi (2013), I show that embedded gapping occurs in several languages including Russian, Georgian, and Ossetic.

A number of accounts, starting from Jayaseelan (1990), assume that the material that survives gapping moves out of the constituent to be deleted. Some of these analyses, e.g. Aelbrecht (2007), Gengel (2013), and Farudi (2013), use the feature-based approach to ellipsis licensing.

I use the basic insight of earlier “move and delete” proposals and argue that, in languages that allow embedded gapping, it results from movement of surviving constituents and deletion of the XP that they moved from. A necessary condition for this to occur in embedded clauses is that landing sites are available for such movement. The size of the deleted constituent may vary cross-linguistically. The feature E that triggers deletion is hosted either by some head H, which is a priori either &, i.e. the head of the conjunction phrase, or a head within the clause where the gapping occurs. To trigger deletion, the feature must agree with the head whose complement is to be deleted.

If the licensing feature is located on &, it fails to agree with material in the embedded clause, for locality reasons. On the other hand, if the feature is located within the clause where ellipsis is to occur, gapping is predicted to be possible. I show that this analysis makes a number of correct predictions about languages with embedded gapping.

A wider implication of the findings is that an approach that operates in terms of licensing features, their location, and the size of constituents to be deleted is superior to taxonomic approaches to ellipsis.


Fieldwork Group Meeting — Jenneke van der Wal  

Speaker: Jenneke van der Wal (University of Cambridge; currently at Harvard)
Date/Time: Thursday, Nov. 10, 5-6pm in Boylston 303 (Harvard—note the location!)

At the first Harvard-MIT Fieldwork Group (FiG) meeting of the semester, Jenneke van der Wal will be talking about eliciting focus and information-structural phenomena, based on her work on Bantu languages.

Please contact either TC (tcchen@mit.edu) or Michelle (yuanm@mit.edu) if you’d like to be added to the FiG listserv.


MIT linguists @ BUCLD  

The 41th BU Conference on Language Development took place this past weekend at Boston University. The following MIT students and faculty gave talks or presented posters:

  • Veronica Boyce (undergrad), Athulya Aravind (4th year grad student), and Martin Hackl (faculty): Lexical and syntactic effects on auxiliary selection: Evidence from Child French
  • Athulya Aravind and Martin Hackl: Factivity and At-Issueness in the Acquisition of Forget and Remember
  • Jill de Villiers, Amy Pace, Madeline Klein, Athulya Aravind, Roberta Golinkoff, Kathy Hirsch-Pasek and Mary Wilson: Fast mapping word meanings across trials: young children forget all but their first guess
  • Valentine Hacquard (PhD ‘06), Rachel Dudley, Christopher Baron (1st year grad student), and Jeffrey Lidz: Factivity is acquired gradually over the preschool years

Several alumni and current visitors also presented their work:

  • Kazuko Yatsushiro, Uli Sauerland (PhD ‘98), Artemis Alexiadou: The Unmarkedness of Plural: Crosslinguistic Data
  • Uli Sauerland, Kazuko Yatsushiro: Conjunctive Disjunctions in Child Language: A New Account [poster]
  • Jeffrey Lidz, Rachel Dudley, and Valentine Hacquard (PhD ‘06) : Children use syntax of complements to determine meanings of novel attitude verbs
  • Jeffrey Klassen, Annie Tremblay, Michael Wagner (PhD ‘05), and Heather Goad: Prominence Shifts in Second Language English and Spanish: Learning versus Unlearning
  • Kathryn Schuyler, Charles Yang (PhD ‘00 CS), and Elissa Newport: Children form productive rules when it is more computationally efficient to do so
  • Ayaka Sugawara (PhD ‘16): Japanese L2 learners of English are sensitive to QUD and prosodic inference
  • Emma Nguyen, William Snyder (PhD ‘95): The (Non)-Effects of Pragmatics on Children’s Passives [poster]
  • van Hout, Angeliek, María Arche, Hamida Demirdache (PhD ‘91), Isabel García del Real, Ainara García Sanz, Anna Gavarró, Lucía Gomez Marzo, Saar Hommes, Nina Kazanina, Jinhong Liu, Oana Lungu, Fabienne Martin, Iris M. Strangmann: Agent Control and the Acquisition of Event Culmination in Basque, Dutch, English, Spanish and Mandarin [poster]
  • Jiyoung Choi, Hamida Demirdache: Intervention Effects in Korean: Experimental L1 Evidence [poster]