The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, February 10th, 2020

MorPhun 2/12 - Stanislao Zompi’ (MIT)

Speaker: Stanislao Zompi’ (MIT)
Title: Arregi & Pietraszko (2020), “The ups and downs of head displacement”
Time: Wednesday, February 12th, 5pm - 6:30pm
Location: 32-D831

Abstract: Arregi & Pietraszko (2020) propose a theory of head displacement that replaces traditional Head Movement and Lowering with a single syntactic operation of Generalized Head Movement. They argue that upward and downward head displacement have the same syntactic properties: cyclicity, Mirror-Principle effects and blocking in the same syntactic configurations. They also study the interaction of head displacement and other syntactic operations arguing that claimed differences between upward and downward displacement are either spurious or follow directly from out account. Finally, they argue that their theory correctly predicts the attested crosslinguistic variation in verb and inflection doubling in predicate clefts.

Syntax Square 2/11 - Shigeru Miyagawa (MIT)

Speaker: Shigeru Miyagawa (MIT)
Title: How the politeness marking –des-/-mas- functions as phi-feature agreement in the syntax of Japanese
Time: Tuesday, February 11th, 1pm - 2pm
Location: 32-D461

Abstract: Based on Chomsky’s Uniformity Principle (Chomsky 2001), Miyagawa (2010, 2017) proposed that all languages share the same set of grammatical features, and that these features are overtly manifested in every language. I called it Strong Uniformity. Japanese poses a clear challenge to Strong Uniformity since it is traditionally considered as a language without any phi-feature agreement. In Miyagawa (2012a, 2017) it is argued that the politeness marking –des-/-mas- is a form of phi-feature agreement that is the same as the so-called allocutive agreement found in a variety of languages including Basque, Tamil, and Thai. In this paper, I will look in detail at how the allocutive agreement functions as phi-feature agreement in the syntax of Japanese by drawing on the study of Uchibori (2007, 2008) and Yamada (2019).

LingLunch 2/13 - Elise Newman (MIT)

Speaker: Elise Newman (MIT)
Title: The future since Stump
Time: Thursday, February 13th, 12:30pm - 2pm
Location: 32-D461

Abstract: English temporal adjunct clauses typically show past-under-past (1) and present-under-future (2), irrespective of the temporal connective used. The examples in (2) have come to be known as Stump’s pattern, based on Stump’s(1985) observation that the present tense in the adjunct clause has a future-shifted interpretation.

(1) Past under past a. I waved when I saw/see him. b. I saw him before he saw/sees me. c. I saw him after he saw/*sees me.

(2) Present under future a. I will wave when I see/saw him. b. I will see him before he sees/saw me. c. I will see him after he sees/*saw me.

Sharvit (2013) and von Stechow and Grønn (2013) propose that future-shifted present is a deleted tense, licensed by a present tense operator on woll in the matrix clause. Adjunct tenses are otherwise proposed to be evaluated with respect to utterance time. I discuss a counterexample to Stump’s pattern that poses a problem for this theory: since-adjuncts in future perfect clauses show past, not present, and still allow future-shifting. This future shifted past appears not to be a deleted tense, but is rather interpreted with respect to a future time instead of utterance time. Similar facts can be demonstrated for other temporal connectives as well.

(3) By this time next year, mom will have visited twice since I bought/*buy my new bike. (bike-buying time can be in the future)

To account for these facts, I propose that the evaluation time of an adjunct is compositionally determined by its adjunction site. The presence of the perfect in the matrix clause offers an additional adjunction site below tense, allowing the adjunct to scope under the matrix tense operator. In a future perfect, this means that the adjunct clause can take a future time as its evaluation time, thus licensing a past operator that introduces a future event (like we find in embedded clauses).

The reason a low adjunction position is only available in future perfect clauses, but not simple future clauses, is because of the meaning of the temporal connectives. Interpretation of before/since with respect to the same evaluation time as their complement clauses results in contradiction. Therefore, I argue that complement clauses of before/since must QR to receive an evaluation index from a higher head. This always results in a tense-deletion configuration for matrix simple future clauses, but a shifted interpretation in future perfect.

LangAcq/ESSL Lab Meeting 2/14: Athulya Aravind and Cindy Torma (MIT)

Speaker:​ Athulya Aravind and Cindy Torma
Title: Decomposing ​both
Time: Friday, February 14th, 2pm - 3pm
Location: 32-D831 (8th Floor Conference Room)

The acquisition trajectories of semantically complex quantifiers can be a fruitful window into understanding the primitives and construction principles involved in natural language quantification. As a case study, we investigate the acquisition of the English quantifier both, which involves (i) universal quantification and (ii) a duality presupposition. We examine 2-and-3-year-olds’ understanding of both given an understanding of universal quantification and number knowledge, probed using the corresponding expressions all and two. I’d like to discuss some preliminary results, where it looks like children hypothesize candidate meanings for both that comprise only a subset of its component meanings or where the pieces are assembled in non-adult ways.​

Colloquium 2/14 - Benjamin Bruening (University of Delaware)

Speaker: Benjamin Bruening (University of Delaware)
Title: The Algonquian Prefix is an Affix, Not a Clitic: Implications for Morphosyntax
Time: Friday, February 14th, 3:30pm - 5pm
Location: 32-155

Abstract: The “consensus” in the literature is that the prefix that appears on independent order verbs in Algonquian languages is a pronominal clitic. I show that this prefix is an agreement affix, not a clitic, according to every diagnostic for clitics versus affixes that has ever been proposed. This then has significant implications for syntactic theories of morphology. The prefix always appears on the highest verbal element in the clause, while all other inflection instead goes on the lowest verbal element. In order to account for the placement of the prefix, higher verbal elements have to block affixation to lower ones; but then it is impossible to get the suffixes on the lowest verbal element. No existing accounts of verbal morphology based on head movement, lowering, Mirror Theory, or phrasal movement can account for the verbal morphology. I propose an alternative where a complex head can be built by external merge according to the clausal hierarchy, inserted low, and then copied head-by-head as the clausal spine is built, without movement.

Michel DeGraff @ the Annual Northwestern University Conference on Human Rights

Michel DeGraff was a speaker at the annual Northwestern University Conference on Human Rights on January 16–18, 2020 #NUCHR2020. This year, the conference’s theme was “Language and Human Rights: The Right to Speak”.  Michel spoke at a panel on ”Language, education and information”. The title of his presentation was “Language and social justice: Haiti as a ‘canary’ for human rights globally.”   

More information on the conference’s speakers and agenda can be found there, with useful links to organizations such as WikiTongues and Universal Human Rights Initiative that also do work at this important intersection of linguistics and human rights:



David Pesetsky @ University of Vienna

More news from the January break. David Pesetsky taught a January 10-17 course (“Proseminar in Grammatik-theorie”) at the University of Vienna on the topic of  ”Theories of clause size and their implications”.