The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, September 10th, 2018

Summer defenses

Our happiest congratulations to this summer’s impressive group of doctoral dissertators! The department celebrated the excellent defenses with champagne and some doctoral level baking, including cat-themed cake decorations and vegan Oreo-cheesecake.

  • Athulya Aravind - Presuppositions in Context
  • Kenyon Branan - Relationship Preservation
  • Tingchun (TC) Chen - Multiple Case Assignment: An Amis Case Study
  • Michelle Fullwood - Biases in Segmenting Non-concatenative Morphology
  • Ishani Guha - Distributivity across domains: A study of the distributive numerals in Bangla
  • Sophie Moracchini - Morphosemantics of degree constructions and the grammar of evaluativity
  • Takashi Morita - Unsupervised Learning of Lexical Subclasses from Phonotactics
  • Ezer Rasin - Modular interactions in phonology
  • Milena Sisovics - Embedded Jussives as Instances of Control: The Case of Mongolian and Korean
  • Michelle Yuan - Dimensions of Ergativity in Inuit: Theory and Microvariation

MIT at Sinn und Bedeutung 2018

Sinn und Bedeutung 23 took place last weekend in Barcelona. 4th year student Maša Močnik gave a talk entitled Where Force Matters: Embedding Epistemic Modals (and Attitudes), and 5th year student Hanzhi Zhu gave a talk on ‘Even though’ as ‘even if’. The program was full of MIT alums, former visitors, and friends.

MorPhun 9/10: Filipe presents Stump 1993

Speaker: Filipe Kobayashi (MIT)
Title: Stump 1993 “On rules of referral”
Date and time: Monday 9/10, 5-6pm
Location: 32-D831

In this presentation, I will lead the discussion on Stump’s 1993 classic paper “On Rules of Referral.” As the title indicates, the paper is concerned with rules of referral, a type of rule proposed by Zwicky (1985) to account for certain types of syncretism within the general framework of Word and Paradigm morphology. Stump investigates the properties of such rules and proposes a formal theory of them within the context of his Paradigm Function Morphology. In the discussion, I will mainly focus on the former part of the paper.

LF Reading Group 9/10 - Vincent Rouillard (MIT)

Speaker: Vincent Rouillard (MIT)
Title: Hurford’s constraints and inquisitive semantics 
Date and time: Wednesday, September 12, 1-2 pm
Location: 32-D461
In this presentation, I will be discussing Ciardelli and Roelofsen’s 2017 paper ”Hurford’s constraint, the semantics of disjunction, and the nature of alternatives”. This paper compares the treatment of Hurford disjunctions in interrogatives  within the frameworks of alternative semantics and inquisitive semantics. The authors argue that the framework of inquisitive semantics, whose basic assumptions will be covered in the presentation, facilitates a unified treatment of Hurford phenomena in both declaratives and interrogatives. 

Ling Lunch 9/13 - Julian Lysvik (University of Oslo, MIT)

Speaker: Julian Lysvik  (University of Oslo, MIT)
Title: Channel bias in artificial language learning of word-final obstruent voicing
Date and time: Thursday, 9/13, 12:30-1:50pm
Location: 32-D461
This talk outlines an ALL experiment designed to test for learning and production biases in word-final voicing. Previous studies (see summary in Moreton & Pater, 2011) have not shown learning effects of such biases in forced-choice tasks. In my experiment, no bias against word-final voiced obstruents was found. However, a channel bias against intervocalic voiceless obstruents was found in the production task for plurals, which is able to account for the markedness of a synchronic process of final voicing. 
Two groups of Norwegian native participants (n = 36) were exposed to one of two artificial languages. Either: final obstruent devoicing (FOD) or final obstruent voicing (FOV). Norwegian has both voiceless and voiced final obstruents, but no FOV or FOD rules. There is no structural difference between these two rules, so there should be no complexity effects. FOV, however, is both typologically nonexistent (Kiparsky, 2006) and harder to produce (Yu, 2013). Participants were exposed to auditory/visual stimuli of singular and plural forms. Plural forms were constructed on the form /C1VC1VC2-u/ and singulars: /C1VC1VC3/. Cwas always voiced in FOV language, and voiceless in FOD. C2 could be either voiced or voiceless in both languages.
The results show no significant difference between accuracy for singulars in the two languages, consistent with a lack of substantive effects as in previous studies. However, the figures show that in production of plurals, participants in the FOV language produced voiced obstruents when the target was voiceless to a larger degree than FOD participants produced voiceless segments when the target was voiced. The consequence of this is that participants in FOD produce the alternating form rusubu ↔ rusup, a typical devoicing process, as expected. However FOV participants produce rusubu ↔ rusub, rather than the alternating rusupu ↔ rusubImportantly, in the forced-choice task the same participants chose alternating and non-alternating forms equally frequently. I argue that a production channel bias against intervocalic voiceless obstruents can account for this.