The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, October 12th, 2020

LF Reading Group 10/14 - Dóra Kata Takács (MIT)

In this talk I’ll take a closer look at the particle combination akár… is in Hungarian. I argue that it has two possible interpretations, one similar to English even, and another one similar to at least. I provide a semantics for the two readings and address the connection between them. I claim that the difference between these two readings is due to the presence of a covert csak (only/just), which together with akár … is gives rise to a minimal sufficiency reading. This is the flip side of Panizza & Sudo’s (2020) proposal which argues for the presence of a covert even for minimal sufficiency readings with exclusives like just. This raises some open questions concerning the role scalarity and exclusivity play in establishing minimal sufficiency readings in general, which will hopefully provide a good base for a fruitful discussion at the end of the talk.


Colloquium 10/16 - Roumyana Pancheva (USC)

Speaker: Roumyana Pancheva (USC)
Title: Numerals and Number Features
Time: Friday, October 16th, 3:30pm - 5pm

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

Abstract: Nouns combining with numerals show variation in number marking, cross-linguistically and within one and the same language. Existing analyses differ in their answers to the related questions of (i) whether numerals need to combine with predicates of singularities or pluralities, (ii) whether number features on nouns are semantically interpretable or the result of (uninterpretable) agreement; and (iii) whether the number features realized on nouns originate higher or lower than the numeral. In this talk I present evidence from Bulgarian that (i) numerals can combine with semantically singular nouns, (ii) the singular or plural number features on nouns are interpretable, and (iii) the number features on nouns originate lower than the numeral, but are accompanied by a second number feature higher than the numeral. The arguments involve a reanalysis of one type of number inflection for masculine nouns (the ‘count’ form), which has traditionally been considered a form of plural agreement. The analysis of the Bulgarian facts (which are not well known), extends to Russian nouns combining with paucal numerals (a phenomenon that has been studied extensively), refuting the need for positing a paucal number in that language. I end with a suggestion that what underlies variation in number marking across and within languages is that there are two routes to obtaining cardinality measures.

Roumyana Pancheva’s mini-course @ MIT

Speaker: Roumyana Pancheva (USC)

Dates: Wednesday, Oct 14, 2-3:30pm EST and Thursday, Oct 15, 12:30-2pm EST

Title: Temporal reference without tense (joint work with Maria Luisa Zubizarreta)

Abstract: Some languages do not have to mark tense overtly: they either do not have tense morphemes or the tense morphemes are optional. The question arises: is tense universal? The answer, within formal semantics, has so far been “yes”. The formally explicit semantic analyses that have been proposed for languages without obligatory overt tense all posit tense in one form or another. The analyses differ along two dimensions: how they accomplish reference to time intervals (e.g., via a syntactically represented covert pronoun or a purely semantic rule), and how they restrict the location of those time intervals (e.g., via covert lexical features or pragmatic constraints). We aim to develop a different type of account altogether that does not rely on tense to derive temporal reference. We propose that evaluation time shift, a mechanism independently attested in the narrative present in languages with tense, can be more widely used for encoding temporal meaning in the absence of tense. We illustrate this account for Paraguayan Guarani, and identify several empirical advantages over accounts that employ tense. The broader consequence of our proposal is an enriched typology of temporal systems: some languages have tense, whether overt or covert, and others do not. And particularly notably, tense is revealed to not be a linguistic universal.


Recommended reading: https://pancheva.github.io/papers/P&Z(2020)NELS.pdf