The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, September 23rd, 2019

Phonology Circle 9/23 - Edward Flemming (MIT)

Speaker: Edward Flemming (MIT)

Title: A Generative Phonetic Analysis of the timing of L- Phrase Accents in English

Time: Monday, September 23rd, 5pm - 6:30pm

Location: 32-D831

Abstract: The narrow goal of this research is to develop an analysis of the timing of the English low phrase accent (L-) in H*L-L% and H*L-H% melodies. This is challenging because L- is generally realized as an ‘elbow’ in the F0 trajectory – i.e. a point of inflection rather than a local maximum or minimum – and it is notoriously difficult to locate F0 elbows precisely. I argue that the proper approach to locating tonal targets involves an ‘analysis-by-synthesis’ approach: Given an explicit model of the mapping from tonal targets to F0 trajectories, we can infer the location of targets by fitting that model to observed F0 contours. So a broader goal is the development of a model of tone production. The proposed model analyzes F0 trajectories as the response of a dynamical system to a control signal that consists of a sequence of step functions connected by linear ramps. Tone realization then involves selecting the control signal that yields the F0 trajectory that best satisfies constraints on the realization of tone targets.

The analysis-by-synthesis method is used to test two extant hypotheses concerning the timing of L- elbows: (a) L- occurs at a fixed interval after H*, (b) L- is aligned to the end of the nuclear-accented word. The results do not support either hypothesis: L- is not aligned to the word boundary, but there is a significant tendency for L- to occur earlier when the interval between H* and the word boundary is shorter. This pattern of realization is analyzed as a compromise between two constraints, one enforcing a target duration for the fall from H* to L-, and a second, weaker constraint requiring the fall to be completed before the end of the word.

LF Reading Group 9/25 - Keny Chatain (MIT)

Speaker: Keny Chatain (MIT)

Title: What cumulative asymmetries tell us about weak readings and vice-versa

Time: Wednesday, September 25th, 1pm - 2pm

Location: 32-D461

Abstract: There is an asymmetry between subject and object every: object every gives rise to cumulative readings ; subject every doesn’t (Kratzer, 2000).

(1) 3 detectives, 27 suspects

  1.  The three detectives interrogated every suspect (ok, 9 suspects each)
  2.  Every detective interrogated the 27 suspects (*9 suspects each)

Another asymmetry comes from weak cumulative readings. There has been hints in the literature (Buccola and Spector, 2016; Haslinger and Schmitt, 2019) that the cumulative truth-conditions of (2), given in (2a), are sometimes as weak as (2b).

(2) The 10 children inflated the 25 balloons

  1. Every balloon was inflated by a child and every child inflated a balloon
  2. Every balloon was inflated by a child period

The weak truth-conditions of (2b) are asymmetric ; they impose exhaustive participation of the theme in the event, but have no such requirement on the agent.

In this talk, I will argue that the two asymmetries have a common origin. I will bring two facts in support of the claim: 1) expanding the dataset to more arguments and positions, I will show that the two asymmetries pattern the same and that (more or less,) the positions that require exhaustive participation are the positions from which a cumulative reading of every is possible, 2) data from NPI licensing will show that the strong reading of (1) must obtain via strengthening of a weak reading like (2b) (following Ivlieva (2013)). I will present an account of these facts making minimal theoretical commitments, with the following properties:

  • cumulativity is uniformly weak (in the sense of 2b) and asymmetric ; the order of integration of thematic roles into the event predicate determines the asymmetry.
  • the meaning of every is standard, does not make reference to events, but nonetheless gives rise to cumulative readings (rejoining Champollion (2010)).
  • ** operators are not needed to derive cumulative readings of non-lexical two-place predicates.

At the end of the talk, we will be short of an explanation of how (2b) strengthens to (2a). Suggestions from the audience will be met with the earnest-est gratitude.

Experimentalist Meeting 9/27 - Keny Chatain (MIT)

Speaker: Keny Chatain
Title: Priming effects for the study of pronouns
Time: Friday, September 27th, 2-3 pm
Location: 32-D461

Abstract:Despite much theoretical work on them, not much is known about the processing of “exotic” anaphoric dependencies: paycheck, donkey, subordinated pronouns and the rest (but see ). Theoretical accounts of these dependencies routinely make use of some form of hidden structure and posit that pronouns are the locus of multiple context-dependencies. It would be neat if such structure and dependency could independently be diagnosed through processing means. This is the overarching goal of the project. I’ll present our more modest steps: we tried to design a low-tech generalizable paradigm to find reactivation of antecedent nouns. I’ll present the results of our pilot and brainstorm next steps with the audience.

NELS 50 @ MIT- Registration

If you are planning to attend NELS 50, please register at the following URL no later than October 1:https://www.eventbrite.com/e/nels50-tickets-69195253867

Onsite registration will be also available, but we cannot guarantee a place at the NELS dinner for those who did not pre-register by the deadline (and we may not be able to accommodate your dietary restrictions).

Background information:

The 50th Annual Meeting of the North East Linguistic Society (NELS 50) will be hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from October 25th - 27th, 2019.

Invited Speakers

To celebrate the golden jubilee of NELS, Paul Kiparsky will give a special plenary address reflecting on the last 50 years in linguistics.

Stay tuned for more information!