The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Course Announcements: Fall 2020

Course announcements in this post:

  • 24.899: Topics in Linguistics and Philosophy
  • 24.949: Language Acquisition
  • 24.956: Topics in Syntax


24.899: Topics in Linguistics and Philosophy

  • Topic: Conditionals
  • Instructors: Kai von Fintel, Sabine Iatridou, Justin Khoo
  • Linguistics TA: Enrico Flor
  • Philosopher TA: Kelly Gaus
  • Meetings: Thursdays, 2-5pm via Zoom (https://mit.zoom.us/j/99201184106). You will need a password to use the Zoom link. Registered students will receive the password via email. If you are not registered but would like to attend, please email one of the instructors.
  • Course site: https://canvas.mit.edu/courses/4156

About the Course:

This course aims to bring together our two sections to explore issues surrounding conditionals from the perspective of both philosophy and linguistics. We’ll discuss topics from foundational puzzles in the philosophy of language to cross-linguistic work on the syntax and semantics of conditional constructions. One of our larger goals will be to illustrate some areas for fruitful interaction between philosophy and linguistics.


24.949: Language Acquisition

This course focuses on the process by which native speakers of a language acquire the ability to speak and understand that language. We will cover some of the major results in the study of first-language acquisition, concentrating on morpho-syntax, semantics and pragmatics. The findings primarily come from English, but cross-linguistic differences in the phenomena of interest and corresponding differences in acquisition patterns are considered where appropriate. Of interest throughout is how these developmental data inform linguistic theory and/or learnability theory.

The requirements for participation in this course are that:
– You show up
– You participate in class discussion
– You send me a response (max 1pg) to readings for the coming class by Sunday evening at 6pm

If you are taking the course for credit, you must, in addition:
– develop an acquisition-related research topic of your own interest and give a brief in-class presentation on it. No write-up is required.

Schedule (subject to change):
Class 1, Sept 8:  introduction/foundations
Class 2,  Sept 15: words
Class 3, Sept 22: early syntax
Class 4,  Sept 29: root infinitives
Class 5, Oct 6: root infinitives
No class Oct 13 (Monday schedule)
Class 6, Oct 20: A-movement
Class 7, Oct 27: binding
Class 8, Nov 3: quantification
Class 9, Nov 10: definites, presupposition
Class 10, Nov 17: only/implicatures
Class 11, Dec 1: class presentations
Class 12, Dec 8: class presentations


24.956: Topics in Syntax

About the Course:

In this course, we will look at a series of issues related to how syntax interfaces with pragmatics and phonology. 

In the first half of the semester, we will look at how the syntactic representation of the speaker and the addressee assists in linking syntax to the discourse context. Using proposals by Speas and Tenny (2003), Wiltschko (2017), and especially Krifka (2019), we will look at such phenomena as allocutive agreement, sentential particles, question formation, and topicalization. Readings will be drawn from a variety of sources including Shigeru’s book manuscript, Syntax in the treetops.

In the second half of the semester, we will start talking about Contiguity Theory, an approach to syntax which allows the narrow syntax to make reference to certain kinds of facts about phonology.  The course won’t assume any familiarity with the theory; we’ll start by reviewing the theory in Norvin’s 2016 book, and work by various people on the interactions between syntax and prosody.  We’ll then try to improve and extend the 2016 theory; topics include head-movement and certain kinds of island phenomena.

Registered students will be asked to hand in a paper at the end of the class.​