The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, March 30th, 2020

LF Reading Group 4/1 - Peter Grishin (MIT)

Speaker: Peter Grishin (MIT)
Title: Scrapping clauses with clausal anaphors
Time: Wednesday, April 1st, 1pm - 2pm
Location: Zoom

Abstract: I argue that an understudied variety of clausal ellipsis in English, in which the clausal complement of a clause-embedding verb goes missing,demonstrates the existence of a null ModP anaphor (in the binding-theoretic sense), which I’ll call PROModP. I call this kind of ellipsis “scrapping” (Sentential Complement Reduction in ACD Positions). I present a close study of the properties of scrapping, demonstrating that it isn’t Null Complement Anaphora, that it’s subject to a requirement that it appear in ACD environments, that the gap contains a structurally reduced clause that maximally contains a low modality phrase, and that scraps are subject to a requirement that their antecedent c-command them at LF. I argue that analyzing the gap as containing the following structure — [Op PROModP], an operator adjoined to PROModP — is able to predict this constellation of facts. The anaphoric properties of PROModP require that it receive its denotation from a c-commanding antecedent, and the requirement that PROModP be bound by a c-commanding ModP requires that it QR from within that ModP to adjoin to it, in order to be bound, thus deriving (a weak form of) the ACD generalization.

Experimentalist Meeting 4/3 - Athulya Aravind (MIT) and Patrick Elliott (MIT)

Speaker: Athulya Aravind (MIT) and Patrick Elliott (MIT)
Title: Probing Projection
Time: Friday, April 3rd, 2pm - 3pm
Location: Zoom

Abstract: Theories of presupposition projection make differential predictions about quantificational sentences with a presupposition trigger in the nuclear scope, e.g. “Every boy rides his bike to school”. Some theories suggest that such sentences require the presupposition in the nuclear scope be true of every member of the domain (“universal projection”; Heim 1983, Schlenker 2008, Charlow 2009 a.o.). Others have argued instead for a weaker requirement that the presupposition be true for some member of the domain (“existential projection”; Beaver 2001 a.o.). Yet others take a more nuanced view, where the nature of the presupposition varies with the choice of quantifier (Chierchia 1995, George 2008a, 2008b, Fox 2012, a.o.).

A major challenge for evaluating these theories is that there is little-to-no consensus on what the empirical facts are. As demonstrated by Chemla (2009), judgments vary across speakers, and this variance may reflect appeals to additional pragmatic processes. Even when theories coincide with respect to the predicted projection pattern in a given environment, they often diverge regarding which reading is treated as “basic”, and which is to be derived via some additional process, such as accommodation. Putting theories to the test requires a methodology for probing the presence of costly “extra-grammatical” processes implicit in deriving a given reading. In this talk, we will discuss a first attempt at doing so.