The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, November 6th, 2017

LingPhil Reading Group 11/6 - on Cariani 2013

Title: Discussion of Cariani 2013: `Ought’ and Resolution Semantics
Date and time: Monday November 6, 1-2pm
Location: 7th Floor Seminar room

I motivate and characterize an intensional semantics for ‘ought’ on which it does not behave as a universal quantifier over possibilities. My motivational argument centers on taking at face value some standard challenges to the quantificational semantics, especially to the idea that ‘ought’-sentences satisfy the principle of Inheritance. I argue that standard pragmatic approaches to these puzzles are either not sufficiently detailed or unconvincing.

The discussion will be led by David.

Syntax Square 11/7 - Andrew Peters (University of Toronto)

Speaker: Andrew Peters (University of Toronto)
Title: Keeping Finiteness Syntactic: Propositions, bare events and the lack of a finite distinction in Mandarin Chinese
Date and time: Tuesday November 7, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461

Lacking morphological diagnostics, arguments for or against the presence of a finiteness contrast in Mandarin Chinese (MC) have focused primarily around the distribution of modal verbs and aspectual markers, and the analysis of control and raising. Lin (2011, 2015), for example, posits (1) that MC raising verbs take finite TP complements, control taking non-finite TP complements, (2) that epistemic modals are raising verbs and root modals are control verbs, and (3) that root and epistemic modals’ differing distribution with respect to aspect requires a finiteness distinction. This talk departs from Lin’s argument by positing that the fundamental clause-type distinction in Mandarin is between propositions and bare events. This distinction relies on a PROP(osition) feature (Cowper, 2005; 2016) which I argue is hosted on AspP in Mandarin, and is responsible for taking bare events and returning propositions. Epistemic modals require propositions in their prejacent (Kratzer, 1991; Butler 2003 inter alia), while root modals may take bare events in Mandarin (Grano, 2015). Thus, finiteness may remain a purely syntactic distinction involving the licensing of structural case (Cowper, 2016), and need not be defined semantically. Lacking further evidence for its existence, I posit that there is no finiteness distinction in Mandarin. 

LF Reading Group 11/08 - Verena Hehl (MIT)

Speaker: Verena Hehl (MIT)
Title: From times to worlds
Date and time: Wednesday November 8, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461

In this work in progress I will examine the meaning of sentences with German eher ’sooner’/’rather’ which exhibits temporal and modal meanings, in light of Gergel’s 2010, a.o. analysis of English rather, taking into account the historical development of both particles. I will develop an analysis for German eher that has at its core the notion of a scale, basically an ordered set of degrees. The degree approach simplifies the formal account of how this particle came to be used in temporal as well as modal domains. Temporal and modal readings of eher have in common that they consist of a gradable property which combines with a comparative morpheme. They are, however, distinguished in terms of the scale they operate on, leading to different LF attachment sites for the temporal vs. the modal reading.

MIT-Haiti Initiative and Google team up

The MIT-Haiti Initiative, dedicated to making STEM education accessible to Haitians in Kreyòl, their native language, has gained a new ally: Google. As part of an expansion to Google Translate, Google and the MIT-Haiti Initiative have teamed up to add scientific and technical terminology, including recent coinages, to the translation software’s database. Now anyone can access translations of technical terms in Kreyòl, greatly expanding the reach of the technical terminology the Initiative works on creating and disseminating. More details can be found at MIT News.