The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, May 4th, 2020

Phonology Circle 5/4 - Donca Steriade (MIT)

Speaker: Donca Steriade (MIT)
Title: Uniformity in intersecting paradigms: evidence from A. Greek accent
Time: Monday, May 4th, 5pm - 6:30pm

Abstract: I analyze paradigm uniformity effects that affect accent placement in Ancient Greek nominals. Some of the generalizations have been known since Herodian, in the 2nd cent. AD. What may be new is that a general correspondence system, governing all nouns, adjectives and participles, underlies the known uniformity cases, and others.

The Greek system is interesting because it combines aspects of cyclic inheritance (Base Priority effects, in the sense of Benua 1997) with properties sometimes considered incompatible with cyclicity: the Greek Bases are not contained in their Derivatives; each Derivative has multiple competing Bases, as well as a non-Base input; and uniformity competes with paradigmatic distinctness constraints (Kenstowicz 2005, Löfstedt 2010).

There are three important mechanisms in the analysis. A paradigm is a set of lexically related forms sharing one or more syntactic features. Paradigm uniformity stems from the requirement that such a set of forms must have correspondent stems, in a phonological sense. Such correspondence requirements may compete, because paradigms overlap, and their conflict is resolved by ranking. Base Priority arises when faithfulness to the unmarked realization of one form in the set (a notion to be defined) outranks faithfulness to the unmarked realization of other forms in the set.

How the Base of a paradigm is selected remains a mystery, but see Albright (2002, 2011).

Syntax Square 5/5 - Philip Shushurin (NYU/MIT)

Speaker: Philip Shushurin (NYU/MIT)
Title: Syntax of NP-internal possessors in Russian
Time: Tuesday, May 5th, 1pm - 2pm

Abstract: Genitive phrases with possessor semantics are found at the right periphery of Russian NPs.

(1)zarjadka dlja ajfona Dimy charger for iPhone Dima.gen `Dima’s iPhone charger’

(2)*zarjadka Dimy dlja ajfona charger Dima.gen for iPhone int. `Dima’s iPhone charger’

(3) *Dimy zarjadka dlja ajfona Dima.gen charger for iPhone
int. `Dima’s iPhone charger’

I suggest that genitive possessor arguments are right-adjoined to nominal structures. I discuss properties of non-concording external arguments in Russian Noun Phrases, such as Instrumental Agents and Dative Goals and propose that such arguments are best analyzed as adjuncts which can either left- or right-adjoin as long as they linearly follow the head noun. I suggest an account of this generalization, suggesting that the LCA holds for concording phrases, while all remaining unordered pairs of nodes are linearized postsyntactically, in a uniform fashion. I argue against Pereltsvaig (2015) who analyzes Instrumental Agents as verbal specifiers, showing that her analysis fails to derive the correct distribution of attested word order permutations in ditransitive eventive nominalizations. I show how the proposed account can be further extended to derive certain well-known crosslinguistic tendencies in word order in N-initial languages, such as Adjacency Effects (Adger 2012) and PP-Peripherality (Belk and Neeleman 2017).

LF Reading Group 5/6 - Mitya Privoznov (MIT)

Speaker: Mitya Privoznov (MIT)
Title: Structural islands and discourse anaphora
Time: Wednesday, May 6th, 1pm - 2pm

Abstract: Let us define discourse anaphora as a referential dependency between an indefinite noun phrase and a pronoun like in (1) which could be established across a sentence boundary. Descriptively speaking, the indefinite introduces a discourse referent that the pronoun picks up.

(1) a. A person who came in with a woman1 offered her1 drinks.

b. *A person who came in with her1 offered a woman1 drinks.

Looking at the contrast in (1) one might think that for this relation to hold the indefinite must linearly precede the pronoun. However, it is an established fact in the quite extensive literature on anaphora that discourse cataphora is also in principle possible, like in (2a), but not in all syntactic configurations, as (2a) stands in a contrast to (2b).

(2) a. The teacher said that she called his1 parents, after she caught a student1 smoking.

b. *His1 parents said that they went to the teacher, after they caught a student1 smoking.

The question of interest to me in this talk is when discourse anaphora is in principle possible and when it is not? That is, what explains the contrasts like (1-2)? There are theories of binding (especially within the dynamic framework) which can explain examples like (1-2). However, to my knowledge they provide different explanations for each contrast. This view seems to me to be missing or rather not taking into account one potentially important syntactic generalization. Namely, that discourse anaphora always obeys one structural condition. For a pronoun to be discourse anaphoric to an indefinite the constituent that contains the indefinite and c-commands a pronoun must be a maximal projection (aka structural island under a strict view of Condition on Extraction Domains: specifier, adjunct or conjunct). In my talk I will try to formulate, defend and explain this condition.

It is possible, of course, that this generalization is accidental and that the core explanation is semantic and different for each case. But I will try to see the data like (1-2) from a syntactic perspective, which seems to me to be an experiment worth undertaking. The data will come from Russian and English (elicited with small samples of speakers).

LingLunch 5/7 - Philip Shushurin (NYU/MIT)

Speaker: Philip Shushurin (NYU/MIT)
Title: On the lack of Direct Marking of NP-internal arguments.
Time: Thursday, May 7th, 12:30pm - 2pm

Abstract: I suggest a novel account of the well described lack of Accusative and Dependent Dative marking in the nominal domain. Based on Richards’ (2010) observations of Distinctness Violations, I suggest that no two nodes can merge directly if they both bear visible phi-features. This constraint can account for, on one hand, severe limitations on Structural Case in the nominal domain (Baker 2015, a.o.) and, on the other hand, near absence of predicative Agreement with NP-internal arguments. I show that the proposed approach can be further be extended to account for the lack (or the near absence) of Structural Dative in nominal structures, suggesting that Structural Dative can only be licensed in transitive structures. Adopting several insights in Deal (2010), Nie (2017) a.o., I show that transitivity alternations can arise at two places of the verbal structure (Voice/T) and (v/CAUS). I suggest that opaqueness for agreement of certain nominals is due to a formal feature rather than any lexical/syntactic category.