The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

MIT Colloquium 12/13: Gary Thoms (NYU)

Speaker: Gary Thoms (NYU)
Title: Variation and the amn’t gap (joint work with David Adger, Caroline Heycock and Jennifer Smith)
Time: Thursday, December 13th, 3:30pm-5pm
Place: 32-155
This talk is concerned with “the amn’t gap,” which refers to the absence of a negated form for the finite auxiliary am in most varieties of English. Bresnan (2001) notes that while the gap is persistent in the varieties of North America and England, things are interestingly different in Irish English and Scots: in Irish English, amn’t may be used in all syntactic contexts, and in Scots it may be used in inversion contexts (”amn’t I coming with you”) but not in declaratives (”I amn’t coming with you”). Using new data from the Scots Syntax Atlas, I show that the empirical picture in Scotland is more complex than what Bresnan described, and I develop an account of dialectal variation with amn’t in terms of Yang’s (2016, 2017) Tolerance Principle, where it is the productivity of the negative affixation rule which is crucial.