The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, September 7th, 2020

Syntax Square 9/8 - Suzana Fong (MIT)

Speaker: Suzana Fong (MIT)
Title: Discussion of Poole (2020), Improper Case [download: https://ling.auf.net/lingbuzz/004148 ]
Time: Tuesday, September 8th, 1pm - 2pm

Abstract: “This paper argues that case assignment is impossible in configurations that parallel generalized improper-movement configurations. Thus, like improper movement, there is “improper case”. The empirical motivation comes from (i) the interaction between case and movement and (ii) crossclausal case assignment in Finnish. I propose that improper case is ruled out by the Ban on Improper Case: a DP in [Spec, XP] cannot establish a dependent-case relationship with a lower DP across YP if Y is higher than X in the functional sequence. I show that this constraint falls under a strong version of the Williams Cycle (Williams 1974, 2003, 2013; van Riemsdijk and Williams 1981) and is derived under Williams’s (2003, 2013) analysis of embedding.”

Colloquium 9/11 - Maria Gouskova (NYU)

Speaker: Maria Gouskova (NYU)
Title: A Computational Learner for Complex Segment Representations
Time: Friday, September 11th, 3:30pm - 5pm

Zoom Link: (Please email ling-coll-org@mit.edu for more information)

Abstract: Phonological analysis often entails decisions about sequences such as [ts]: is it two consonants or a complex segment? Arguments for complex segments range from phonotactics to inventory structure, typology, and etymology. But while typology and etymology are accessible to linguists, they are not accessible to language learners. Phonotactics and inventories also do not always offer clear guidance. How, then, do learners discover complex segments? I describe a learning model based on lexical statistics. The model starts with a lexicon and simplex segment representations only. For any CC sequence, the model calculates inseparability: the likelihood of occurring together vs. separately. High inseparability is a property of complex segments in a range of languages. After showing a few cases, I consider alternatives: learning from natural classes, phonotactics, and phonetics. I also discuss evidence from several languages that the right distributions are in morphemes, not in phonological words or in connected speech, which has implications for the acquisition timeline.

MIT @ Sinn und Bedeutung 2020

The 25th annual meeting of Sinn und Bedeutung was co-hosted virtually by University College London (UCL) and Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), from September 1st to 9th. Several MIT students and alumni presented their work.

Main session

  • Dmitry Privoznov (6th year), “Structural conditions on discourse anaphora”, abstract, project page

  • Frank Staniszewski (5th year), “A variable force analysis of positive polarity neg-raising modals”, abstract, project page
  • Omri Doron (2nd year), Ido Benbaji (2nd year) & Ruoan Wang (2nd year), “Reduplication in Hebrew as a Diagnostic for Antonym Decomposition”, abstract, project page

  • Daniel Goodhue (University of Maryland), Jad Wehbe (1st year), Valentine Hacquard (PhD 2006) & Jeffrey Lidz (University of Maryland), “The effect of intonation on the illocutionary force of declaratives in child comprehension”, abstract, project page

  • Michael Yoshitaka Erlewine (PhD 2014), “Universal free choice from concessive conditionals”, abstract, project page

  • Luka Crnič (PhD 2011), “Free choice, plurality, and variation”, abstract, project page

  • Patrick G. Grosz (PhD 2011), Elsi Kaiser (USC) & Francesco Pierini (ENS), “Discourse anaphoricity and first-person indexicality in emoji resolution”, abstract, project page

  • Natasha Korotkova (Konstanz) & Pranav Anand (PhD 2006), “Find, must, and conflicting evidence”, abstract, project page

  • Fabienne Martin (HU Berlin), Hongyuan Sun (U. Picardie Jules Verne), Hamida Demirdache (PhD 1991) & Jinhong Liu (Guangzhou College of South China University of Technology), “Why can one kill Rasputin twice in Mandarin?”, abstract, project page

Special session 1: Gestures and Natural Language Semantics: Investigations at the Interface

  • Naomi Francis (PhD 2019), “Objecting to discourse moves with gestures”, abstract, project page

Special session 2: The Semantics of Understudied Languages and Semantic Fieldwork

  • Ishani Guha (PhD 2018), “Dependent numerals in Bengali: a case for covert adverbial D-operators”, abstract, project page
  • Lisa Bylinina (Leiden University), Natalia Ivlieva (PhD 2013) & Alexander Podobryaev (PhD 2014), “Balkar particle ‘da’ and domain maximality”, abstract, project page

More course announcements

24.954: Pragmatics in Linguistic Theory

About the course:

In this course, we’ll be exploring phenomena at the borderline between semantics and pragmatics. At a broad level of abstraction, we can take semantics vs. pragmatics to be a distinction between linguistic and extra-linguistic factors governing interpretation and language use. A recurring question will be: what is within the purview of semantics proper, and what can (or should) be explained with reference to extra-grammatical factors.

Empirical phenomena which we hope to discuss include presupposition, anaphora, implicature, and questions. We’ll discuss some central theoretical developments in the field, such as Stalnaker’s notion of common ground, the dynamic turn in semantic theory, and various proposals pertaining to scalar strengthening.

Listeners are welcome. Requirements for credit will be detailed in the first session.