The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, April 16th, 2018

Morris Halle memories page / updated memorial information

In the weeks since our colleague Morris Halle passed away, many memories, stories, and other appreciations have been posted to linguistics-related sites such as Language Log, Phonolist, Facebook (and  others as well) — plus the stories and memories that many of us have shared more personally with each other and with ourselves in thought. We decided it would be good for these memories and thoughts to be collected in one place, with greater permanence. To this end, we have created a memories page on our departmental site, which will form part of a permanent collection of memorial pages for Morris (in progress):


If your life crossed paths with Morris’s, please share your memories, stories, and thoughts on this page.  If you have already posted elsewhere, please feel free to just copy that text, if you wish, to our page. That is no problem at all.)


As previously noted here, a memorial for Morris will take place at MIT.  Here is an update concerning the location and time, plus important registration information.

Location: Wong auditorium, E51-115 (ground floor of the Tang Center)
Date and time: Saturday, May 5 at 2:00pm

A reception will follow (by invitation only, for registered attendees) on the 6th floor of the Samberg Conference center (former Faculty Club, in the Sloan School building).

So we can estimate the number of attendees, please register at the following site if you are planning to come:

We hope to livestream the event, and make the video available online, but these details will  be confirmed in a later announcement.


LF Reading Group 4/17 - Hanzhi Zhu (MIT)

Speaker: Hanzhi Zhu (MIT)
Title: Conditionals in although constructions
Date and time: Wednesday, April 18, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461

In this talk, I’ll be looking at biclausal constructions with although/even though which convey the truth of two propositions as well as the oddness of their juxtaposition:

1. John went out for a walk, even though it’s raining.
2. Although Bailey is rich, she doesn’t give to charity.

The link between although constructions and conditionals has been explored in previous accounts, in which “although p, q” is analyzed as presupposing “normally, if p then ¬q”. However, these accounts ignore the compositional contribution of even, which appears in these constructions in English as well as cross-linguistically. Lund (2017), borrowing from Guerzoni and Lim’s (2007) account of even if, proposes an account in which “although p, q” asserts a conjunction and has a scalar likelihood presupposition: ¬p and q is less likely/expected than p and q. I’ll present a counterexample to this account which favors having a presupposition even closer to Guerzoni and Lim’s proposal for even if: “although p, q” presupposes that if ¬p, q is less likely/expected than if p, q. I’ll also discuss further consequences of this proposal regarding the role of the additive presupposition of even.


LingLunch 4/19 -  Erin Olson (MIT)

Speaker: Erin Olson (MIT)
Title: Stress, pitch, and schwa in Passamaquoddy-Maliseet
Date and time: Thursday, April 19, 12:30-1:50pm
Location: 32-D461

Passamaquoddy-Maliseet (Eastern Algonquian; spoken in Maine and New Brunswick) is well-known for having reduced vowels that are in many cases invisible to the stress/pitch accent system (LeSourd 1988, 1993; Hagstrom, 1995). While previous analyses have assumed that this invisibility is due to some sort of structural deficiency, such as lack of a mora or lack of a syllable node, I propose that it can be adequately explained by only making reference to two phonetic properties of the language. The first phonetic property that indicates stress placement is the presence of high pitch, in contrast to low-pitched unstressed syllables (LeSourd, 1988, 1993). I will present a phonetic study of pitch based on data from the Passamaquoddy-Maliseet Dictionary Project (Language Keepers & Passamaquoddy-Maliseet Dictionary Project, 2016) showing that this claim is largely correct — stress is crucially accompanied by a rise in pitch, although there is rarely evidence for an obligatory initial stress, as claimed by LeSourd (1988, 1993). Based on this evidence, I propose an updated analysis of the basic stress pattern, framed within OT (Prince & Smolensky, 1993). The second phonetic property that influences stress placement is the substantially reduced duration of schwa, as compared to other vowels. A second phonetic study of pitch and vowel duration will be presented, showing that schwa is not only too short to host the full pitch rise associated with stress, but also too short to host the full fall in pitch between stresses. As a result, stress and pitch accent must shift one syllable to the left of its expected place in order to be adequately realized, leading to the apparent invisibility of schwa with respect to the stress system. As before, an analysis within OT will be provided. 


GLOW 41 took place last week at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. MIT department members gave presented both talks and posters.


  • Stanislao Zompì (1st-year): Ergative is not inherent: Evidence from *ABA in suppletion and syncretism 
  • Kenyon Branan (5th-year) and Abdul-Razak Sulemana (4th-year): Covert movement licenses parasitic gaps 


  • Tingchun Chen (6th-year): Multiple case assignment and case-stacking in Amis
  • Naomi Francis (4th-year): On even in presupposition denials
  • Emily Clem (visitor): Disharmony and the Final-Over-Final Condition in Amahuaca

MIT at WSCLA 2018

WSCLA 2018 (The Workshop on Structure and Constituency in Languages of the Americas) was held at the University of Ottawa on April 13-15, 2018.

A contingent of MIT students and alumni studying the languages of the Americas participated in the conference:

The conference was organized by Andres Salanova (PhD ‘2007). Among other participants there were Nico Baier (former visiting student), Maziar Toosarvandani (former postdoc), Karin Vivanco (former visiting student), and Guillaume Thomas (PhD ‘2012).