The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, December 9th, 2019

Phonology Circle 12/9 - Danfeng Wu (MIT) & Yadav Gowda (MIT)

Speaker: Danfeng Wu (MIT) & Yadav Gowda (MIT)
Title: Focus and penultimate vowel lengthening in Zulu
Time: Monday, December 9th, 5pm - 6:30pm
Location: 32-D831

Abstract: Many Bantu languages exhibit fixed placement of focus at the Immediately-After-the-Verb (IAV) position, which has been argued to be related to this position’s prosodic prominence. Elements in this position appear at the edge of a prosodic phrase, and are subject to penultimate vowel lengthening, which we take to be a form of phrasal stress which occurs at the right edge of every prosodic phrase. We present evidence from a production study in Zulu showing that the degree of penultimate vowel lengthening at the IAV is greater than at any other prosodic phrase edge, lending phonetic support to the claim that the IAV is prosodically prominent.

Syntax Square 12/10 - Yadav Gowda (MIT) and Danfeng Wu (MIT), Run Chen (MIT)

Speakers: Yadav Gowda (MIT) and Danfeng Wu (MIT), Run Chen (MIT)
Title: LSA Practice talks: Intervention in Wolof Clitic Climbing and Superiority Effect in Albanian Multiple Wh-movement
Time: Tuesday, December 10th, 1pm - 2pm
Location: 32-D461

Title: Intervention in Wolof Clitic Climbing
Authors: Yadav Gowda & Danfeng Wu
Abstract: Clitic movement from an embedded infinitive (‘clitic climbing’) is a hallmark property of restructuring (Rizzi 1978 i.a.). We show data from Wolof which shows clitic climbing requires linear adjacency of verbal heads — that is, nothing can intervene linearly between the embedded verb and the matrix verb. The relationship of such ‘verb clustering’ phenomena to restructuring, and how verb clusters arise, is still the subject of debate (Wurmbrand 2017). Our data contributes to this debate, showing a) in a language which doesn’t exhibit other ‘verb clustering’ phenomena (e.g. reordering verbal heads, morphology sharing), linear adjacency is required for restructuring; b) contrary to expectations, linear adjacency in Wolof restructuring constructions doesn’t arise through complex head-formation (pace Haider 2003, supporting Wurmbrand 2007). Furthermore, we argue that both this simple linear adjacency requirement and `verb clustering’ phenomena are driven by Selectional Contiguity (Richards 2016).

Title: Superiority Effect in Albanian Multiple Wh-movement
Author: Run Chen
Abstract: This study examines the order of wh-phrases in Albanian multiple wh-questions. Despite SVO and OVS orders, I argue that Albanian wh-movement follows the Superiority Effect, through a mechanism generating a rightmost highest specifier. OVS order constructions are subject to Haplology Effect and Word Order Freezing, showing the presence of a multiple wh-fronting step in the derivation. The study highlights a general observation of opacity and cross-linguistic wh-question environment. Linear order does not reveal hierarchical structure, as a typically leftmost wh-phrase is pronounced rightmost. This rightward wh-movement analysis may explain future findings of languages claimed to not follow the Superiority Effect.

LFRG 12/11 - Frank Staniszewski

Speaker: Frank Staniszewski
Title: A variable force analysis of positive polarity neg-raising modals

Time: Wednesday, December 11th, 1pm - 2pm
Location: 32-D461

Abstract: I argue that data like (1) show that the modals should and supposed to can give rise to weak existential-like readings, which are not predicted under current approaches.

      (1)       Context: Walking through tunnels to a talk on campus, we find ourselves in a basement area among                                     potentially dangerous supplies (obviously not the best place to be).

                  a.  Should we be down here? / Are we supposed to be down here?
                  b. I ’m not sure that we should/are supposed to be down here.
                  c. I don’t know if we should/are supposed to be down here.

Intuitively, the speaker is not asking if this is the optimal place to be. Instead the modal statement can be paraphrased with ‘is it okay to be down here?’. In work in progress, I sketch an analysis that builds on earlier proposals in which modals interact with the polarity system (Iatridou & Zeijlstra 2013, Homer 2015). Motivated by the new data, I suggest a revised approach, adopting insights from work on variable force modals (Deal 2011), as well as free-choice (Fox 2007, Bassi & Bar-Lev 2016, a.o.) that assumes an underlying weak meaning that undergoes strengthening in upward-entailing environments, but stays weak in downward-entailing environments. I also show how this revised approach can explain interactions of these modals with negation that motivated the previous polarity-sensitive analyses.

MorPhun 12/11 - Filipe Hisao Kobayashi (MIT)

Speaker: Filipe Hisao Kobayashi (MIT)
Title: Sudo (2014): “Dependent plural pronouns with Skolemized choice functions”
Time: Wednesday, December 11th, 5pm - 6:30pm
Location: 32-D831

Abstract: I will discuss Yasutada Sudo’s (2014) paper entitled “Dependent plural pronouns with Skolemized choice functions”. The paper’s abstract follows below:

“The present paper discusses two interesting phenomena concerning phi-features on plural pronouns: (i) plural pronouns that denote atomic individuals (‘dependent plural pronouns’), and (ii) plural pronouns with more than one binder (‘partial binding’). A novel account of these two phenomena is proposed, according to which all occurrences of phi-features are both semantically and morphologically relevant. For such a ‘uniformly semantic account’ of phi-features, dependent plural pronouns constitute a theoretical challenge, while partial binding is more or less straightforwardly accounted for. In order to make sense of the semantic effects of the phi-features on dependent plural pronouns, the following idea is pursued: the phi-features on a dependent plural pronoun reflect the range of values that the pronoun takes, rather than the particular value it denotes at a time. This idea is implemented in a compositional semantics by making use of (Skolemized) choice functions. An appealing feature of the present account is that, unlike its predecessors, it accounts for dependent plural pronouns without c-commanding antecedents in essentially the same way as for those with c-commanding antecedents. It is also shown how this account of dependent plural pronouns can straightforwardly be augmented with set indices to account for partial binding.”

LingLunch 12/12 - Maša Močnik and Rafael Abramovitz (MIT); Filipe Hisao Kobayashi and Enrico Flor (MIT)

Speaker: Maša Močnik and Rafael Abramovitz (MIT); Filipe Hisao Kobayashi and Enrico Flor (MIT)
Title: A Variable-Force Variable-Flavor Attitude Verb in Koryak; Coordinating Complete Answers: The case of Tanto-Quanto Conjunction
Time: Thursday, December 12th, 12:30pm - 2pm
Location: 32-D461

Abstract: We enrich the typology of modal expressions with the attitude verb ivək from Koryak (Chukotko-Kamchatkan), which shows a wide range of flavors (doxastic, bouletic, assertive, directive) and is the first documented variable-force attitude verb. Variation in both domains goes against the universal that modal items can’t vary in both force and flavor (Nauze 2008). We use the existential-universal doxastic-assertive variation to argue against this generalization. For the bouletic flavor, we show that it is triggered by the material in the embedded clause; we propose a new technical way of composing the bouletic flavor at LF.


We discuss a coordination strategy found in Portuguese and Italian which we call Tanto-Quanto Conjunction (TQC). The semantic properties that distinguish this construction from run-of-the-mill and-conjunction are the focus of this paper. TQC imposes a discourse related requirement on its conjuncts, namely that they each be a complete answer to a question raised in the discourse. We propose an analysis of TQC where each of its conjuncts falls under the scope of a focus sensitive operator which, by means of an answerhood operator, checks that its prejacent satisfies this requirement. Full paper at: https://ling.auf.net/lingbuzz/004906.