The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, December 2nd, 2019

Syntax Square 12/3 - Suzana Fong (MIT)

Speaker: Suzana Fong (MIT)
Title: The syntactic distribution of bare nominals in Wolof
Time: Tuesday, December 3rd, 1pm - 2pm
Location: 32-D461

Abstract: In this research in progress, I try to analyze the positions where a bare nominal (BN) in Wolof (Niger-Congo) can or cannot occur. An example of BN in the object position of a transitive verb can be found in (1).

(1) Roxaya jang-na xibaar. Roxaya read-NA.3SG newspaper ‘Roxaya read a newspaper.’

So far, the following generalizations have emerged:

(2) i. A BN can be the object of a transitive verb, but it has to be adjacent to that verb. ii. There are clauses where another lower argument can be introduced, namely, a causee, an applied argument, or a dative argument. In that case, a BN can be the theme argument, but it no longer obeys the aforementioned adjacency condition. iii. BNs cannot be the other lower argument (i.e. causee, anapplied argument, or a dative argument), irrespective of adjacency with the verb. iv. BNs cannot be the subject of a finite clause. v. BNs can be the subject of a nonfinite clause (more precisely, a bare perceptual complement). vi. BNs can be focused/clefted. vi. A BN direct object that is modified by a relative clause can bleed the adjacency requirement. However it still cannot be the subject of a finite clause.

(2-ii) and (2-vi) are strikingly similar to a pattern that Branan (to appear) analyzes in Kikuyu. This presentation will be an exercise in applying Branan’s (to appear) proposal to Wolof BNs. I will introduced auxiliary ingredients as needed.

Mini Course: Yasutada Sudo (UCL)

We are happy to announce that Yasutada Sudo will be visiting the department this week and will teach two mini-courses (details below).
Speaker: Yasutada Sudo (UCL)
Title: (Non-eliminative) Dynamic Semantics
Time: Wednesday 1:00-2:30, Thursday 12:30-2
Location: 32-D461
Abstract: My mini-course will be about (Non-eliminative) Dynamic Semantics. No prior familiarity with dynamic semantics is required (for those who are enrolled in Patrick & Roger’s Pragmatics, there will be some redundant content). I will focus on two topics:

- Lecture 1: Redundancy in Pragmatics.
A basic dynamic semantic system will be introduced as a formulation of Stalnakerian Pragmatics. We will discuss Mayr & Romoli’s (2016) Disjunction Problem, and a solution to it that makes use of non-eliminativity.
- Lecture 2: Discourse Referents.
We will enrich the dynamic semantics with ‘discourse referents’ so as to account for anaphora. We will discuss issues about plurality, especially so-called ‘quantificational subordination’.

Experimentalist Meeting 12/6 - Elise Newman (MIT) and Yadav Gowda (MIT)

Speaker: Elise Newman (MIT) and Yadav Gowda (MIT)
Title: Children can ‘even’: the learning trajectory of an English scalar particle
Time: Friday, December 6th, 2pm - 3pm
Location: 36-156 (NOTE: This is a a different location than normal!)

Abstract: Kim 2011 argues that children learn ‘even’ later than ‘only’, showing no evidence of learning ‘even’ in the 4-5 year old range. We argue that Kim’s results are unreliable due to flaws in her experimental design. We show that controlling for those factors reveals evidence of learning in children ages 4-5: children ages 4-5 show considerably more adult-like comprehension of ‘even’ than 3 year olds, with justifications that suggest they recognize the need for scalar reasoning in interpreting ‘even’. In addition to this finding, we report two additional results. First, children show two types of non-adult like behavior, one of which looks like guessing (and is unstable, disappearing by age 6), and the other of which co-occurs with justifications that indicate scalar reasoning (and is stable through age 6). This suggests that there is a learning space children consider when hypothesizing meanings for ‘even’. Second, there appears to be somewhat of a polarity effect: children show higher rates of adult-like behavior in negative environments than positive environments. Evidence from child production of ‘even’ as well as child-directed use of ‘even’ suggests that the latter finding may be a frequency effect in the input; adults produce higher rates of negative ‘even’ than positive ‘even’.

Colloquium 12/6 - Yasutada Sudo (UCL)

Speaker: Yasutada Sudo (UCL)
Title: Implicatures with Discourse Referents
Time: Friday, December 6th, 3:30pm - 5pm
Location: 32-155

Abstract: Theories of discourse anaphora represent discourse referents separately from propositional content (Karttunen 1976, Heim 1982, Kamp 1983, among others). It is then natural to expect discourse referents to play a role in generating pragmatic inferences, but most current pragmatic theories seem to ignore them. In this talk I will discuss how discourse referents (should) behave in the computation of implicatures, by looking at plurality inferences of plural indefinites, and scalar and ignorance implicatures triggered in the scope of indefinites.