The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, March 16th, 2020

A note to our readers, to our colleagues, and to all friends of MIT Linguistics

Like many universities around the globe, MIT closed its classrooms last week in response to the growing coronavirus pandemic.  Our last in-person departmental event for the foreseeable future was a LingLunch presentation on Thursday by visiting student Kinjal Hiren Joshi.  He argued that an agreement alternation in Surati Gujarati was a result of two hidden factors:  a distinction between accusative and dative case masked by the fact that both involve the same affix; and an alternation in the position of direct objects detectable by effects on information structure.  It was a great talk, but some possibilities were left open, so  participants, both students and faculty, asked many questions and discussed alternatives.  

A great talk, yes, but also just another example of what we do every day:  puzzle over intriguing phenomena in the languages of the world, in an attempt to learn how language works in general, formulating and testing hypotheses as we go. 

Thanks to the pandemic, we won’t be able to keep meeting in person for a while.  But this will not stop us from doing what we do!  Like colleagues everywhere, we are busy moving our courses online, and we will be resuming our talks and reading groups in online form as well.  It takes more than a virus to stop a linguist.

So while there will be a pause in the usual series of event announcements here (MIT has announced a two-week break), they will be resuming soon.  Meanwhile, we wish all our friends and colleagues everywhere the best of health, safety, and happiness as we all work to keep our intellectual and personal communities vibrant in the coming weeks and months, difficult though they may be.

One more note:  as we move talks and other events online, you may wonder if some of them might be opened to a wider audience.  That is an idea we will certainly be thinking about!  Some events are most useful to our students with an audience that is limited to the local community, so forgive us if they stay that way.  But other events can benefit from a wider audience — not to mention the benefits for everyone of democratizing our work.  So stay tuned as we experiment.

See you on the internet!