The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, November 25th, 2019

LF Reading Group 11/27 - Christopher Baron (MIT)

Speaker: Christopher Baron (MIT)
Title: States in the semantics of degree achievements
Time: Wednesday, November 27th, 1pm - 2pm
Location: 32-D461

Abstract: Adjectives are typically analyzed as measure functions ( functions) or degree-individual relations ( functions); alternative analyses posit they are (neo)davidsonian state predicates ( functions). I argue that the interaction between degree achievement verbs and source/goal PPs, as in (1), supports the state predicate view.

(1) The gap widened from 3 inches to 9 inches.

Phonology Circle 11/25 - Laura McPherson (Dartmouth)

Speaker: Laura McPherson (Dartmouth)
Title: Anti-alignment, melodies, and the OCP in Poko tone
Time: Monday, November 25th, 5pm - 6:30pm
Location: 32-D831

Abstract: Poko (Skou, PNG) lexical tone melodies are built off of three contrastive tone levels (L, M, H) in addition to ∅. Melodies consist of 0-2 tones, which may be either associated or floating. A puzzling aspect of Poko tone is the lack of level L or H melodies, despite the presence of M, LM, MH, and LH. In the first half of this talk, I show that the distribution of tones in lexical melodies is accounted for with anti-alignment constraints, banning initial H and final L, with exceptional faithfulness to the underlying association of H tones (i.e. tones cannot associate automatically). Accounting for both associated and floating tones necessitates two domains of anti-alignment: the stem and the tone melody. The second half of the talk addresses challenges in postlexical tone, including the association (or non-association) of floating tones, the realization of toneless stems, and the simplification of rising tones. Both the inventory of lexical melodies and the behavior of postlexical tone point to active OCP constraints for L and H tones in Poko.

Patrick Elliott in Nantes

Patrick Elliott gave an invited talk, “Nesting habits of flightless wh-expressions”, on Monday Nov 25 at a workshop in Nantes entitled “complex multiple wh-constructions”.



In this talk, we focus on a construction involving what Heim (1994) dubs “nested which phrases”, as illustrated by the example in (1). In (1) the in-situ which-phrase “which Russian novel” appears to be itself contained within the complex which-phrase headed by “novel”, which overly moves to its scope position.

1. Which Russian novels by which exiled authors did you read?

Questions with nested which-phrases are puzzling in a number of respects. Sudo (2017) observes that nested which-phrases lack what he calls a “complete de re reading”. This is easiest to see when (1) is placed in an embedded context, as in (2). Suppose I reserve a part of my bookshelf for Russian novels, and Andy doesn’t know what kind of books they are or who wrote them, but knows which ones I haven’t opened (e.g., because they are clean). Sudo observes that (2) isfalse in such a context; when we replaced the nested which-phrase with an indefinite however, the sentence is true. I refer to this as Sudo’s puzzle.

2. Andy knows which Russian novels by which exiled authors I’ve read.

3. Andy knows which Russian novels by exiled authors I’ve read.

Along similar lines, Elliott (2015) observes that nested which-phrases lack a pair-list interpretation. This is easiest to see by embedding a question with nested which-phrases under a predicate which biases a pair-list interpretation of a multiple question, such as “to reel off”. I refer to this as Elliott’s puzzle.

4. Andy reeled off which Russian novel I read on which day of the week.

5. # Andy reeled off which Russian novel by which exiled author I read.

Both Sudo’s puzzle and Elliott’s puzzle, I argue, suggest that the in-situ wh-phrase can’t scope independently of the container. Otherwise, we’d expect nested which-phrases to pattern with other in-situ wh-phrases and give rise to (a) de re readings, and (b) pair list interpretations. In this talk, we argue that the scope of the nested which-phrase is trapped within the containing DP. This straightforwardly rules out a pair-list interpretation. In order to rule out the complete de re interpretation, we develop a generalised version of the scope theory of intensionality, where only expressions at the edge of a pied-piped constituent may be interpreted de re.

Workshop website: https://anamariafalaus.org/workshop/