The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, November 2nd, 2020

LF Reading Group 11/4 - Agnes Bi (MIT)

Speaker: Agnes Bi (MIT)
Title: Scalar particles in comparatives (an informal discussion)
Time: Wednesday, November 4th, 1pm - 2pm

Abstract: Scalar particles in comparatives give rise to unexpected evaluative inferences, which vary depending on focus-placement:

  1. Alex is even taller than [Blake]F.    (⇝ Both Alex and Blake are tall)
  2. [Alex]F is even taller than Blake.    (⇝ Both Alex and Blake are short)
  3. Alex is even [taller]F than Blake.    (⇝ Alex exceeds Blake on some other scale as well)

I will argue in favor of hardwiring a positive condition in the semantics of even along the lines of Daniels & Greenberg 2020 and, generally, of Greenberg 2015, 2018. Moreover, I would like to explore similar patterns in Mandarin with the scalar particle hai, which seems to be largely underspecified and to be at play in the full set of readings.

LingLunch 11/5 - Danny Fox (MIT)

Speaker: Danny Fox (MIT)
Title: Trivalent Strong Exhaustivity –towards a uniform semantics for question embedding
Time: Thursday, November 5th, 12:30pm - 1:50pm

Abstract: In this talk I will go over well-known arguments that there are three different interpretive schemas associated with question embedding (weak-exhaustivity, strong-exhaustivity and intermediate-exhaustivity), where each embedding predicate selects for the appropriate schema. Despite these arguments I will propose a uniform semantics based on the assumption that the answer to a question is a trivalent proposition (the denotation of a cleft). The answer will be “strongly exhaustive” but presuppositional, hence Trivalent Strong Exhaustivity. Different results will follow for the different embedding contexts based on independent differences in presupposition projection.

Based on a recent paper that you can read at

Michel DeGraff Speaks at J-WEL Connections

How can universities create student experiences that embrace students’ distinct linguistic and cultural inheritances beyond the “You are welcome here” sign? In this important panel session on October 15, 2020, from this month’s J-WEL Connections, MIT faculty, including Michel DeGraff at MIT Linguistics, together with team members of the MIT-Haiti Initiative, discuss how and why universities can strengthen and broaden the impact of their research and enhance teaching and learning by including the rich diversity of faculty and students.

The video of the session is available here: