The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, November 19th, 2018

LingPhil Reading Group 11/19 – on Torre (2018)

Abigail Thwaites will be presenting a paper by Torres on De Se content. The meeting will take place on Monday 19th in the 8th floor seminar room.

Title : In Defense of De Se Content

Author(s) : Stephan Torre

Abstract :

There is currently disagreement about whether the phenomenon of first-person, or de se, thought motivates a move towards special kinds of contents. Some take the conclusion that traditional propositions are unable to serve as the content of de se belief to be old news, successfully argued for in a number of influential works several decades ago. Recently, some philosophers have challenged the view that there exist uniquely de se contents, claiming that most of the philosophical community has been under the grip of an attractive but unmotivated myth. At the very least, this latter group has brought into question the arguments in favor of positing special kinds of content for de se belief; I think they have successfully shown that these arguments are not as conclusive, or fully articulated, as many have taken them to be. In this paper I will address these challenges directly and I will present and defend an argument for the conclusion that the phenomenon
of de se thought does indeed motivate the move to a special kind of content, content that is uniquely de se.


MorPhun 11/19 – Rafael Abramovitz (MIT)

Speaker: Rafael Abramovitz
Title: Outward-Looking Phonologically Conditioned Allomorphy in the Koryak Verb: A Conspiracy in Exponence.
Date and time: Monday 11/19, 5-6pm
Location: 32-D831

“Bobaljik (2000) proposes that phonologically-conditioned allomorphy (PCA) can only be inward-sensitive. The reasoning goes like this: Assume vocabulary insertion is cyclic. Given this, when a given node is undergoing vocabulary insertion, phonological information will not be present for any nodes above it. This precludes the choice of the vocabulary item from being influenced by the shape of any higher morphemes. In this talk, I will discuss a counterexample to this proposal from a conspiracy in exponence found in the verb-word of Koryak (Chukotko-Kamchatkan; Russian Far East), in which an aspectual (?) suffix and an agreement suffix cannot coexist if the agreement suffix begins in a non-coronal consonant. In intransitive verbs, this causes the (outer) agreement suffix to delete, making this an instance of inward-looking PCA. In transitive verbs, however, the (inner) aspectual suffix deletes, making this an instance of outward-looking PCA. I analyze this by appealing to obliteration, an operation that deletes entire terminals, but, following Vergara & Luis (2017), argue that this obliteration takes place after vocabulary insertion. To account for the conspiracy involved in the realization of these morphemes, I propose that this case of obliteration is governed by a grammar of ranked, violable constraints (Prince & Smolensky 2008). This analysis is consistent with the predictions about the directionality of allomorphy based on cyclic spellout because it shifts the responsibility for this alternation to a post-spellout operation. Time permitting, I’ll talk about the difficulty of assigning specific semantic contributions to elements we might want to call tense and aspect morphemes in the Koryak verb to show why I put a question mark in the phrase ‘aspectual (?) suffix’ above.”


 Syntax Square 11/20 - Colin Davis (MIT)

Speaker: Colin Davis (MIT)
Title: Unlocking, intervention, and conditions on extraction
Date and Time: Tuesday, November 20, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461
In this speculative presentation, I’ll examine some constraints on movement, from the perspective of the nominal domain. I’ll argue that certain asymmetries in extraction from a given DP, versus a second DP embedded within the first, are indicative of a theory in which certain extractions from a phase require that phase to be “Unlocked” by Agree (Rackowski & Richards 2005, Halpert 2015, 2018, Branan 2018). 
Taking DPs to be phases, a phi-probe on v can target and Unlock a given DP, but subsequent DPs embedded within the first will be too distant for v to target. Thus an A-bar probe on v can subsequently probe into and extract from the highest DP, but lower DPs within remain “Locked” for A-bar extraction. I’ll suggest that this sort of approach makes some correct predictions for Chichewa, English, and Russian, though in the latter two, the phi-agreement involved in Unlocking is not overtly expressed.

LF Reading Group 11/21 - Keny Chatain (MIT)

Speaker: Keny Chatain (MIT)
Title: “The same” = the + same ?
Date and time: Wednesday, November 21, 1-2 pm
Location: 32-D461


This is work in progress on the semantics of same; I will need your indulgent feedback! Some authors (Barker 2007, a.o.) have puzzled at the obligatory presence of the in (1-3), whose effect on the semantics is not readily detectable, and is unnecessary given certain assumptions about the meaning of same. If this is so, then same enters a small family of operators (along with superlatives, and only), which mysteriously seem to weaken the standard Fregean presupposition of the definite.

(1) Alison praised the same poet as Carlos.
(2) Alison and Carlos praised the same poet.
(3) Every librarian praised the same poet.

In light of this problem, Charnavel (2011) notices a peculiarity of French: in a limited set of environments, French allows a same “un même”. One crucial difference that Charnavel reports between French a same and the same is a (barely recognizable) Fregean presupposition. Building off of this observation, I will: a) identify the detectable contribution the makes to (1-3) in English, using NPI data, b) show that in a scoping account of same à la Barker, this contribution is readily derived from nothing but the standard semantics of the. Finally, I will present some ideas for unifying the use of same in (1) and in (2-3).


11/22 - Happy Thanksgiving!