The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, April 23rd, 2018

LingPhil Reading Group 4/23 - on Schlenker (2012)

Title: on Schlenker (2012) 
Date and time: Monday April 23th, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D831

Vincent will be presenting Philippe Schlenker’s paper ‘Maximize Presupposition and Gricean Reasoning’.

As per usual, reading the paper is not mandatory, although feel free to read it if you’re feeling brave.


Phonology Circle 2/4 - Jaehyun Son (Duksung Women’s University)

Speaker: Jaehyun Son (Duksung Women’s University)
Title: Pitch Accent Systems in Korean
Date and time: Monday, 23 April 2018, 5:00-6:30pm
Location: 32-D831

Research on the Korean accent has been carried out within the Korean linguistics community, but in that context, the Korean accent system has traditionally been compared to the tone system of Chinese, in which pitch contours are syllabic. In contrast, Japanese researchers have proposed that the Korean accent system should be analyzed from the point of view of word-level and phrase-level accentual systems seen in Japanese dialects. One possible reason for this difference of opinion is that recently in Japan, despite the growing influence of the accentual systems of Tokyo Japanese and the dialects of other major cities, a great variety of smaller dialects have been observed and documented, and as a result of this work researchers have discovered accent types that have played a crucial role in uncovering the history and evolution of the Japanese accentual system. In Korea, on the other hand, accent has been lost in the regions surrounding and including Seoul (the national capital) but there are still dialects, mainly in the south-eastern regions of the Korean peninsula, that retain an accentual system and can shed light on the history of accent in Korea. For the present study, I took the Japanese-oriented view rather than the traditional Chinese-oriented view and analyzed the accentual systems of Korean dialects using data from a purely synchronic field survey of several locations across the Korean-speaking region. The field survey includes dialects that have already been documented by Korean and Japanese researchers, but by including the whole Korean-speaking region in its scope and using a new theoretical framework, the current study was able to highlight the shortcomings of previous work. The current study presents the Korean accent types and their geographical distribution. Moreover, by comparing the various accent types, it was possible to look back and investigate how the Korean accent system has evolved up to the present day.

CompLang 4/23 - Hendrik Strobelt (IBM)

Speaker: Hendrik Strobelt (IBM)
Title:  Visualization for Sequence Models for Debugging and Fun
Date and time: Monday, April 23, 5-6pm
Location: 46-5165

Visual analysis is a great tool to explore deep learning models when there is no strong mathematical hypothesis yet
available. I will present two visual tools where we used design study methodology to allow exploration of
patterns in hidden state changes in RNNs/LSTMs (LSTMVis) and exploration of Sequence2Sequence models (Seq2Seq-Vis).
Both model types have shown superior performance for NLP like language modeling or language translation.
Examples about both tasks will be shown on a variety of models.

As beautiful distraction, we also utilize data science methods to investigate large data in a more artistic way.
Formafluens is such a data experiment where we analyze a large collections of doodles made by humans in the Google
Quickdraw tool.


Syntax Square 4/24 - Ryosuke Shibagaki (Nanzan University/MIT)

Speaker: Ryosuke Shibagaki (Nanzan University/MIT)
Title: Mandarin Resultatives in Syntax-Semantics Interface
Date and time: Tuesday April 24, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461

In this presentation, I will offer an account of the linking issue of Mandarin Chinese Resultative V1-V2 consturction from the perspective of the syntax-semantics interface. Building up on the previous analyses such as Huang (2006), I will claim that it is indeed the semantics of V2, which determines the structure of the sentence and the linking pattern such as subject-oriented or object-oriented resultatives. I will also show that my account will successfully explain the fascinating inverse-linking type; Mandarin allows some resultatives such as “This kind of drug will eat-die you” where more proto-subject ‘you’ links to OBJ and more proto-object ‘this kind of drug’ links to the subject. In the beginning of my presentation, I will briefly introduced the history of Chinese V-V construction.


LF Reading Group 4/25 - Maša Močnik (MIT)

Speaker: Maša Močnik (MIT)
Title: Where Force Matters: Life under Doxastic Attitudes
Date and time: Wednesday, April 25, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461

There has been much recent interest in the analysis and distribution of embedded epistemic modals (Yalcin 2007, Anand and Hacquard 2013, a.o.). We present novel data using the embedding verb dopuščati (‘to allow for the possibility that’) from Slovenian, analysed as an existential doxastic attitude. Building on Anand and Hacquard (2013), we focus on the distribution of existential and universal epistemic modals under doxastics. When anchored to the attitude holder, modals like must show a contrast: they are acceptable under positive universal doxastics (Suppose you wake up late one morning and, before opening your eyes, you remark: I think it must be sunny outside!), but are not as acceptable under: dopuščati, negated universal doxastics (regardless of neg-raising), and negated dopuščati. Building on Yalcin (2007) and Mandelkern (2017, ch. 1), we propose a new constraint on epistemic modals (while maintaining duality) and use blind scalar implicatures (Magri 2009, 2011) to capture their restricted distribution under doxastic attitudes. A sentence like #Dopuščam, da mora deževati (‘I allow for the possibility that it must be raining’) becomes contextually equivalent to I think it must be raining and therefore falls out as odd in the same way as Magri’s #Some Italians come from a warm country does.

This will be a practice talk for FASL. Here is the most recent version of the abstract.


LING LUNCH 4/26: Moshe Bar-Lev (MIT, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

Speaker: Moshe Bar-Lev (MIT, Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Title: Simplification by Inclusion (joint work with Danny Fox)
Date and time: Thursday, April 26, 12:30-1:50pm
Location: 32-D461

Simplification of disjunctive antecedents is a long standing puzzle for variably-strict analyses of conditionals (Lewis, Stalnaker). The main goal of this talk is to provide an account based on a theory of exhausitification involving the notion of Innocent Inclusion (Exh-II, for which we’ve argued on independent grounds in Bar-Lev & Fox 2017).  Our second goal is to discuss various consequences:
    • First, the apparent obligatoriness of simplification can be seen to follow from a more general constraint on the pruning of alternatives. 
    • Second, counterexamples to simplification (where the consequent entails one of the disjuncts in the antecedent, McKay and van Inwagen 1977) are predicted by Exh-II despite the obligatoriness attested elsewhere.
    • Third, we can make sense of the observations made in  Ciardelli et al. (2018), presented in Champollion’s recent MIT colloquium (the different behavior of conditionals with disjunctive antecedents and conditionals that differ minimally in that disjunction is replaced by a semantically equivalent expression involving negation and conjunction). Specifically, the proposal made by Schulz (2018) can be adopted (and in fact somewhat simplified). 
    • Fourth, Exh-II predicts that simplification is not a specific problem for conditionals. We argue that essentially the same problem arises when `most’ has a disjunctive restrictor, and that Exh-II provides an identical account for both cases. This, if correct, is particularly important in that it rules out accounts that make construction-specific assumptions about conditionals.

Welcome to next year’s first year class!

We are overjoyed to welcome nine new first-year students who will be starting next Fall — including two who will be studying in our MIT Indigenous Languages Initiative (MITILI) Masters program.

  • Ruyue (Agnes) Bi (UC Berkeley)
  • Enrico Flor (University of Vienna)
  • Peter Grishin (University of Cambridge)
  • Tracy Kelley (UMass Amherst; Wampanaog, MITILI program)
  • Anton Kukhto (Moscow State University)
  • Patrick Niedzielski (Cornell)
  • Katie Van Luven (Carleton University)
  • Roger Paul (University of Maine at Presque Isle; Passamaquoddy/Maliseet, MITILI program)
  • Hyun Ji Yoo (UCLA)




The West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics (WCCFL) took place at UCLA over the weekend. MIT department members were presented both talks and posters



Richards at the University of the Basque Country

Norvin Richards (faculty) spent the week of April 14-21 at the University of the Basque Country in Vitoria-Gasteiz, learning about Basque and Spanish and teaching a week-long course on Contiguity Theory.


Bilingual education in Boston

Michel DeGraff shares some good news about the Dual Language (English/Haitian Creole) Two-Way Immersion program at the Mattapan Early Elementary School which he has been helping with. The school was recently recognized with the Phil H. Gordon Legacy Award from EdVestors, a nonprofit focused on improving urban education. The award recognizes schools that are leveling the playing field for all students to learn. The Mattapan Early Elementary School was awarded $30,000 to help it grow.

The full story is available at the Boston Herald. A video presentation about the program at Mattapan Early Elementary is also available here.