The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, October 15th, 2018

LingPhil Reading Group 10/15 – on Kaplan (1986)

Harrison Smith-Jaoudi will be presenting a paper by Kaplan reacting to the paper by Quine studied at LPRG two weeks ago. The meeting will take place on Monday 10/15 at 1pm in the 8th floor seminar room, i.e. the usual time & place.

Title : Opacity

Author(s) : Kaplan



MorPhun 10/15 – Stan presents Collins 2018 and De Clercq & Vanden Wyngaerd 2017

Speaker: Stan Zompi (MIT)
Title: Stan presents Collins 2018 and De Clercq & Vanden Wyngaerd 2017
Date and time: Monday 10/15, 5-6pm
Location: 32-D831

We’re glad to announce that MorPhun will be back this Monday 10/15 at 5pm. Stan will lead our discussion on two recent papers on contextual allomorphy: Collins 2018 (https://ling.auf.net/lingbuzz/004176) and De Clercq & Vanden Wyngaerd (Link: https://www.glossa-journal.org/articles/abstract/10.5334/gjgl.371/). Here’s his abstract: 

“The discussion will revolve around two recent attempts to rethink contextual allomorphy. Collins (2018) outlines an approach to allomorphy that eschews reference to competition or blocking, and attempts to model allomorph distribution simply in terms of classic c-selection. De Clercq & Vanden Wyngaerd (2017), on the other hand, suggest that contextual allomorphy may just not exist: what are normally thought to be alternative allomorphs of one and the same morpheme actually are always portmanteau realizations of slightly different chunks of structure. We will compare both of these novel approaches to the standard treatment of contextual allomorphy in DM.”


Syntax Square 10/16 - Neil Banerjee

Speaker: Neil Banerjee (MIT)
Title: Embedded subject licensing properties of hope
Date and Time: Tuesday, October 16, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461
Iatridou (2017) notes that hope shows mixed properties in term of Pesetsky’s (1992) classification of verbs that take non-finite complements in that it allows both PRO and traces as subjects of the embedded infinitive.

(1) a. I hope to win the race.
    b. Alex is hoped to know the answer to your question.

In this talk, I will show that the behaviour of hope is systematically variable, but not mixed. Present-oriented uses behave like wager verbs in allowing traces but not PRO and future-oriented uses behave like demand verbs in allowing PRO but not traces.

(2) *Alex is hoped to win the race.

I adopt Pesetsky’s proposal that empty categories in this position are (anti-)licensed cross-clausally by the matrix verb and develop an account of the behaviour of hope based on Wurmbrand’s (2014) proposal that future infinitives contain a syntactic realisation of a future operator. I propose that a doxastic (un)certainty presupposition of the verb determines whether or not the future operator is optional, obligatory, or banned in the complement of a given verb, and that this operator is a barrier to licensing of traces. Thus, as noted by Martin (2001), only future infinitives will allow PRO in their subjects. Such an account links the cross-clausal empty category (anti-)licensing abilities of the verb to its semantics, rather than relying on syntactic selection as in Pesetsky (1992). This facilitates a movement away from theories that posit purely syntactic restrictions on the derivation to ones that are more interface-oriented.


LF Reading Group 10/17 - Tatiana Bondarenko (MIT)

Speaker: Tatiana Bondarenko (MIT)
Title: Argument structure of thinking: a view from Buryat
Date and time: Wednesday, October 17, 1-2 pm
Location: 32-D461


In this talk, I would like to discuss a puzzle about Buryat’s verb hanaxa ’think’. When this verb takes a CP as its complement, it behaves like a non-factive verb think, (1); but when it takes a nominalized clause as its complement, (2), it behaves like a factive verb and is usually translated as ‘remember, recall’.

(1)  a.  dugar            mi:sgɘj      zagaha   ɘdj-ɘ:    gɘʒɘ    han-a:
           Dugar.NOM    cat.NOM    fish        eat-PST  COMP  think-PST
           ‘Dugat thought that the cat ate the fish.’
      b.  OK…but the cat didn’t eat the fish.

(2)  a.  dugar            mi:sgɘj-n   zagaha   ɘdj-ɘ:ʃ-i:jɘ-n’         han-a:
           Dugar.NOM    cat-GEN    fish        eat-PART-ACC-3SG  think-PST
           ‘Dugat remembered (“thought of”) the cat’s eating the fish.’
      b.  #…but the cat didn’t eat the fish.
The question that I will try to answer is: what is the difference in the meaning of the verb that we see in (1) and (2), and why does it arise?

I will propose that the
 semantic rule used for combining hanaxa  with its complement is different in (1) and (2): in (1) CP combines as a modifier of the thinking-event (by an operation like Restrict (Chung & Ladusaw 2004)), while in (2) the nominalization combines as an internal argument via Function Application. I will argue that different rules of composition, together with a presupposition of hanaxa that requires its internal argument (= what is being thought about) to exist prior to the thinking-event, can derive the difference in meaning observed in (1)-(2). If correct, this proposal supports the decompositional analysis of attitude predicates (Kratzer 2006, 2016, Moulton 2009, 2015, Elizabeth Bogal-Allbritten 2016, 2017), and also suggests that we might expect hyperraising to object to occur in languages in which CPs combine semantically as modifiers of the events described by the matrix verb.

Phonology Circle 10/17 - Lena Borise (Harvard University)

Speaker: Lena Borise (Harvard University)
Title: Word stress and phrasal intonation in Georgian
Date/Time: Wednesday, October 17, 5:00-6:30pm
Location: 32-D831

Based on novel acoustic data, I show that Georgian (Kartvelian) has (i) word stress, which is fixed on the initial syllable and primarily cued by duration, and (ii) phrasal intonational pitch targets that are located in the right periphery of the prosodic word (penult and ultima).

While it has long been acknowledged that these loci (initial syllable and the right periphery of a prosodic word) carry most prosodic prominence in Georgian, its nature has been disputed. According to the existing literature, the initial syllable carries stress in di- and trisyllabic words, while in longer words there is another stress-like target on the (ante)penultimate syllable (Akhvlediani 1949; Robins & Waterson 1952; Tschenkeli 1958; Gudava 1969; Tevdoradze 1978). In such longer words either the initial syllable or the (ante)penult have been variably analyzed as carrying (primary) stress, with the other locus possibly carrying secondary stress. The uncertainty surrounding Georgian word stress led some authors to suggest that instead of word stress Georgian relies solely on phrasal intonational pitch targets (Zhghenti 1953; 1959; 1963; Alkhazishvili 1959), like French (Vaissière 1983; Féry 2001) or Korean (Jun 1993). This paper advocates for a mixed approach, whereby both word stress and phrasal intonational pitch targets are present in the language, though their interaction with each other is minimal.

Specifically, the instrumental results suggest the following:

1. Georgian has fixed initial stress that is primarily cued by duration, based on the consistently greater duration of the initial syllable as compared to the following ones in words of any syllable count.
2. The ultima carries a high boundary tone, as expected in broad-focus declarative contexts, according to the earlier literature.
3. The penult in words of any syllable count carries another pitch target, which is similar in nature to the phrase accent L that has been described as appearing on the penult of predicates in questions and focal contexts. Its theoretical status remains to be established.


CompLang 10/18 - Reuben Harry Cohn-Gordon (Stanford University)

Speaker: Reuben Harry Cohn-Gordon (Stanford University)
Title: Bayesian Pragmatic Models for Natural Language
Date and time: Thursday, 10/18, 5-6pm
Location: 46-5165
Abstract: The Rational Speech Acts model (RSA) formalizes Gricean reasoning through nested models of speakers and listeners. While this paradigm offers an elegant way to simulate pragmatic behavior in NLP tasks such as image captioning and translation, scaling from simple models to natural language presents several challenges. In particular, I discuss the problem of choosing alternative utterances among an unbounded set of sentences, including work on image captioning and on-going work on translation.


Workshop in honor of Shigeru Miyagawa (Thursday, 10/18)

MIT Linguistics is proud to host a special workshop in honor of Shigeru Miyagawa on Thursday, October 18. 
Invited speakers are Danny Fox, Heidi Harley, Sabine Iatridou, Masa Koizumi, Jaklin Kornfilt
and Norvin Richards. Program details and room locations can be found at https://wafl14.mit.edu/program-miyagawa-workshop.

WAFL 2018 @ MIT this weekend

MIT Linguistics is delighted to host the 14th Workshop on Altaic Formal Linguistics (WAFL) this coming weekend, October 19-21.
WAFL is a semi-annual workshop that brings together research concentrating on Altaic languages, which include Turkic, Mongolic, and Tungusic languages, as well as Korean, Japanese, Ryukyuan, and Ainu.
The invited speakers are Junko Ito, İsa Kerem Bayırlı, Deniz Özyıldız (invited student speaker), Miok Pak, Paul Portner, Raffaella Zanuttini, and Junko Shimoyama.
Program details and room locations can be found at https://wafl14.mit.edu/program.