The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, March 4th, 2019

MorPhun 3/4 - Paula Fenger (Harvard/UConn)

Speakers: Paula Fenger (University of Connecticut/Harvard University)
Title: Words within words: The internal syntax of verbs
Time: Monday, March 4th, 5-6:30 pm
Location: 32-D831

Abstract: Superficially, languages differ in how grammatical categories like tense and aspect are expressed on the verb; e.g. in English, both [progressive] and [past] cannot be suffixes on the verb (*stay-ing-ed) and require a periphrastic realization (was stay-ing), whereas in Turkish both [progressive] and [past] appear as agglutinating suffixes on the verb (kal-ıy’or-dı, stay-prog-past). Moreover, a language like Turkish is not uniformly agglutinating and can have periphrastic constructions in other environments, which makes it seem like the existence of periphrasis is contextually defined within a language. In this talk I explore the idea that Turkish-type languages and English-type languages are underlyingly the same. By looking at stress assignment patterns and behavior under coordination, it is revealed that the agglutinative pattern is only superficial. That is, syntax-phonology mismatches in Turkish in fact reveal a domain inside the verb and this domain is similar to the domain found for the periphrastic construction in English. Specifically, the syntactic operation that creates words (main verbs and auxiliaries) is uniform in both types of languages, the differences between them arise only at PF. This approach does not treat notions like “agglutinating” and “periphrastic” as deep properties of grammar, but as superficial differences.


Syntax Square 3/5 - Yadav Gowda (MIT)

Speaker: Yadav Gowda (MIT)
Title: Moving Clauses
Time: Tuesday, March 5, 1pm-2pm
Location: 32-D461

The first part of this talk will focus on the derivation and interpretation of so-called ‘Comp-internal clauses’ in Bengali (Bhattacharya 2001). Clauses headed by the head-initial complementizer je normally appear obligatorily extraposed to the right of the (normally head-final) verb:
(1) ami bollam [je Aparṇa deri korlo]      I       said      C Aparna late did     I said that Aparna was late.
However, when an element appears in first position within the clause (henceforth the PJE, or pre-je-element), these clauses obligatorily appear to the left of the verb, in the normal object position:
(2) ami [Aparna je deri korlo] bollam.      I       aparna  C  late did      saidI said that Aparna was late.
I will present previously unnoticed facts about the binding and scope behavior of Comp-internal clauses which suggest that the PJE occupies its own matrix specifier, despite the fact that it appears to move along with the rest of the clause. I will argue that this mismatch suggests that Comp-internal clauses involve clausal pied-piping driven by long scrambling of the PJE.
In the second part of this talk, I will consider facts which suggest that clausal scrambling in other languages (Basque, Bavarian German, Kannada) may also be amenable to an analysis in which this movement is driven by a clause-internal element, and discuss how this supports previous arguments on the immobility of CPs (Koster 1978, Stowell 1981, and many others).


MIT Colloquium 3/8: Laura Kalin (Princeton)

Speaker: Laura Kalin (Princeton University)
Title: Morphological opacity in Turoyo (Neo-Aramaic): Support for cyclicity and separation
Time: Friday, March 8th, 3:30-5 pm
Location: 32-141 (please note, this is a different lecture hall than the room the colloquia are usually in)

Abstract: In this talk, I use complex verbs in the Neo-Aramaic language Turoyo (Jastrow 1993) as a window into theoretical issues at the syntax/morphology and morphology/phonology interfaces, including cyclicity, derivational timing, and constraints on allomorphy.

I will first show, using converging cross-modular data from allomorphy on the one hand and agreement restrictions on the other, that the suffixes to the verb base in Turoyo appear in the opposite linear order from what is expected given their underlying syntactic hierarchy: the innermost suffix is the syntactically highest, and the outermost is the lowest. (This is reminiscent of the findings of Speas 1991 and Rice 2000 for Athapaskan languages.)

Once I have motivated a basic structure for the verb word in Turoyo, I turn to a case of counterbleeding in the verbal complex. The past tense morpheme, *-wa*, has a variable linear position in the verbal complex, and interacts very differently with phonological processes as compared to morphological processes; more specifically, *-wa* is visible in its surface position to phonology, but is invisible in this position to allomorphy. I propose that *-wa* is an infix, and show how this analysis—coupled with a cyclic derivation that separates morphology from phonology—straightforwardly accounts for *-wa*’s puzzling behavior, along with the other morphological quirks of Turoyo verbs.

The analysis I put forward has several consequences for the architecture of the grammar, in particular, in arguing against incorporating allomorph choice and infixation into the phonology (contra, e.g., McCarthy & Prince 1993, Kager 1996, Wolf 2008), and in supporting cyclic, serial, realizational models that both separate syntax from exponent choice, and separate exponent choice from phonology (along the lines of Paster 2006, Embick 2010, and Bye & Svenonius 2012).


Extended Visit and Minicourse: Laura Kalin (Princeton)

We are happy to announce that Laura Kalin will be visiting the department this week and will teach two mini courses (details below). Laura has asked that attendees read section 4 of McCarthy & Prince 1993 Generalized alignment (with the rest being optional) and chapter 3 up until the end of section 3.2 of Yu 2007 A Natural History of Infixation (the rest being optional) in preparation for the course.

Speaker: Laura Kalin (Princeton University)
Title: Theoretical approaches to infixation
Time: Wednesday, 1:00-2:30 and Thursday, 12:30-2:00
Location: 32-D461

Abstract: This mini-course will discuss a number of different theoretical approaches to infixation, and bring data from a variety of languages to bear on these approaches. More specifically, we will differentiate approaches to infixation along the following two dimensions: 
(i) Is morphology (in particular, exponent choice/suppletive allomorphy) evaluated alongside phonology, or does morphology precede phonology?
(ii) Does an infix linearly concatenate with the stem it combines with (i.e., as following or preceding the stem) before taking its surface (infixed) position inside the stem, or does an infix slot directly into its infixed position without a preliminary step of linear concatenation? 
Crossing these two dimensions gives us four logically-possible types of approaches to infixation, three of which are well-attested in the literature. On the one hand are accounts that take morphology to be simultaneous with phonology, all of which also lack a step of linear concatenation prior to infixation (e.g., McCarthy & Prince 1993, Hyman & Inkelas 1997, Wolf 2008, Samuels 2009), though these accounts do differ with respect to whether/how infixes are specified as (wanting to be) prefixes/suffixes. On the other hand are accounts that separate morphology from phonology; some such accounts take infixes to slot directly into their surface position (e.g., Yu 2007), while others include a step of linear concatenation prior to infixation (e.g., Bye & Svenonius 2012, Embick 2010). 
Using novel typological data that catalogues interactions between allomorphy and infixation, I will argue that only this last approach to infixation makes the right empirical predictions, and further, that this data supports a cyclic, serial, realizational morphological grammar.


3rd Crete Summer School of Linguistics

The 3rd Crete Summer School of Linguistics will be taking place from July 13 to July 26, 2019, at the University of Crete in beautiful Rethymnon.

Current MIT faculty Adam Albright, Kai von Fintel, and Sabine Iatridou will be teaching classes at CreteLing, along with alumni Heidi Harley, Paul Kiparsky, Pritty Patel-Grosz, Douglas Pulleyblank, Philippe Schlenker, William Snyder, and Zoltán Szabó , as well as colleagues from around the world.

Full information (including details on the student application due April 6th), can be found on the school website (https://www.phl.uoc.gr/cssl19/).