The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, May 22nd, 2017

Harley and Miyagawa on the Syntax of Ditransitives

Heidi Harley (PhD ‘95) and Shigeru Miyagawa (faculty) have just had an article on the Syntax of Ditransitives published by the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Linguistics. The article is available online at the link. Congratulations Heidi and Shigeru!

Whamit! summer hiatus

Whamit! will be on hiatus during the summer. The editors would like to thank all of you for reading, and all our contributors for sharing their news with us!

Weekly posts will resume September 5th, 2017, but we will certainly update you on an as-it-happens basis with any interesting news that comes our way before then. We hope everyone has an enjoyable summer. See you again in the fall!

Ling-Lunch 5/22 - Jay Keyser

The day has come and Prof. Jay Keyser will give a special Ling-Lunch talk today!

Speaker: Jay Keyser
Title: Music, Poetry, Painting and Easter Eggs
Date/Time: Monday, May 22/12:30-1:50pm [notice the exceptional time!]
Location: 32-D461

This talk takes the view that modernism in the so-called sister arts of music, poetry and painting resulted from the abandonment of sets of rules that characterized each genre and that were shared by the artist and his/her audience. Rules governing meter and tonal music are reasonably well understood. I propose a way to think about “rules” for the third genre, painting. These rules define a natural aesthetic, ’natural’ in that the rules are shared by the artist and his or her audience in the way that the rules of one’s natural language are shared by speaker and listener.

I suggest that the esoteric direction that the sister arts took in the period cultural historians call “Modernism” is a direct result of abandoning the natural, i.e. shared aesthetic for private formats whose origins can be found in the 14th century.

Finally, I will speculate on the similarity between what happened to the arts at the turn of the 20th century and what happened in science after the publication of Principia Mathematica two centuries earlier.

LFRG 5/17 - Naomi Francis

Speaker: Naomi Francis (MIT)
Title: Turkish ki: A presupposition-challenging particle
Date and time: Wednesday May 24, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461

This talk explores the behaviour of the Turkish discourse particle ki. I argue that it serves to challenge presuppositions, just as Iatridou & Tatevosov (2016) propose for a use of even in questions. Pursuing a unified analysis of even and ki motivates modifications of Iatridou & Tatevosov’s (2016) original account, and raises a new puzzle about possible links between even, polarity sensitivity, and presupposition-challenging discourse moves.


The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign organized the 26th annual meeting of FASL (Formal Approaches to Slavic Linguistics), which took place this past weekend. MIT was represented by the following talks and posters:

Mitya Privoznov (2nd year grad student): Russian stress in inflectional paradigms[poster]

Masha Esipova (current visitor/NYU): Two types of verb fronting in Russian [poster]

Natalia Ivlieva (PhD ‘13) and Alexander Podobryaev (PhD ‘14): How to negate a disjunction in Russian

Ora Matushansky (PhD ‘02) (UiL OTS/Utrecht University/CNRS/Université Paris-8), Nora Boneh (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Lea Nash (University Paris 8) & Natalia Slioussar (School of Linguistics, Higher School of Economics, Moscow): To PPs in their proper place.

A glimpse of Masha’s poster and of Mitya. Thanks Masha for the picture!

MIT @ 25mfm

2nd-year grad student Rafael Abramovitz is headed to Manchester for the 25th Manchester Phonology Meeting (25mfm). He will give the talk An Argument against the Richness of the Base from Koryak Labials. Alum Giorgio Magri (PhD ‘09) will present the poster MaxEnt does not help with phonotactic restrictiveness. Adam Albright (faculty) will be one of the discussants


Kenyon Branan (4th-year grad student) is off to the International Christian University in Tokyo (Japan) to present The i-boundedness of A-scrambling at WAFL 13. The 13th Workshop on Altaic Formal Linguistics will take place later this week, on May 25—28. Shigeru Miyagawa (faculty) is among the organizers.

DeGraff in Hong Kong

Michel DeGraff (faculty) will be giving two talks at the University of Hong Kong this week.

  • Linguistics and Social Justice: De-Colonizing Creole Studies
  • The sustainable (re)vitalization of local languages is indispensable for education, development and social justice: The MIT-Haiti Initiative as case study

The first is a special seminar, and the second is part of the Second International Conference on Documentary Linguistics - Asian Perspectives (DLAP-2). Abstracts and the program can be found by following the links.

Rasin colloquium talk in Leipzig

Ezer Rasin (4th year student) will be giving an invited colloquium talk at the University of Leipzig this Wednesday, entitled “An argument for severing stress from phonology”. For the details, click here.