The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, April 26th, 2021

Syntax Square 4/27 - Cater Chen (MIT)

Speaker: Cater Chen (MIT)
Title: Three [anti [long-distance dependency] effects in Mandarin BEI-construction
Time: Tuesday, April 27th, 1pm - 2pm

Abstract: The Mandarin BEI-construction, where BEI introduces an eventuality that is predicated of the subject of BEI, shows mixed properties in terms of A- vs. A′- movement, similar to the English tough-construction. Compared to other types of A′- dependencies, the BEI-construction is more constrained: long-distance dependencies between the subject of BEI and an object gap cannot be established when the external argument of the eventuality predicate introduced by BEI is existentially closed, or when the subject of BEI and the object gap are separated by a finite clause boundary (Huang 1999; Ting 1998; a.o.).

I propose that the BEI-construction involves composite A/A′-movement followed by A-movement, similar to Longenbaugh’s (2017) analysis of the tough-construction: the mixed A/A′-properties of the BEI-construction are the expected result of composite A/A′-movement; the (derived) subject of BEI A-moves to Spec, IP without violating the Ban on Improper (A′- after A-) Movement.

I also propose to distinguish between compound and simple BEI-construction: In a compound BEI-construction, BEI heads two projections; the inner BEI serves the function of v, while the outer BEI corresponds to passive Voice. In a simple BEI- construction, BEI heads only one projection, and it corresponds to passive Voice.

I will present three arguments for the current proposal: First, when two DPs A′- move from the complement to BEI, only the DP closer to BEI can be the subject of BEI. Secondly, in a simple BEI-construction, the case-less DP must be the subject of BEI. Lastly, only the subject of a finite clause can hyper-raise to be the subject of BEI.

LF Reading Group 4/28 - Tanya Bondarenko (MIT)

Speaker: Tanya Bondarenko (MIT)
Title: The dual life of embedded CPs: evidence from Russian čto-clauses
Time: Wednesday, April 28th, 1pm - 2pm

Abstract: With data from Russian, I argue that some embedded CPs are predicates whose meaning depends on the argument that they modify: they specify propositional Content if their argument has it (Kratzer 2006, Moulton 2015, a.o.), but if their argument is a situation without Content, they indicate that this situation exemplifies the embedded proposition (Kratzer 2007). The evidence comes from čto-clauses, which can combine with both content nouns (Cont-DPs) like mysl’ ‘thought’, and with situation nouns (Sit-DPs) like slučaj ‘event’:

Lene prišla v golovu mysl’ [čto belki sjeli vse orexi]
to.Lena arrived in head thought COMP squirrels ate all nuts
‘Lena had a thought that squirrels ate all the nuts.’

Na prošloj nedele byl slučaj [čto belki sjeli vse orexi]
on last week was event COMP squirrels ate all nuts
‘Last week there was an event of squirrels eating all the nuts.’

I provide arguments that the CPs are modifiers of the nouns in (1) and (2), but that despite being morphosyntactically identical, they do not receive the same interpretation. One implication of this proposal is that embedded finite CP clauses do not always create intensional contexts.

Newman to Edinburgh (and Branan to Berlin)!

We are thrilled to learn that fifth-year student Elise Newman has accepted a two-year postdoctoral position in Syntax at the University of Edinburgh, starting next Fall. She will be collaborating with Robert Truswell (Edinburgh), as well as with Thomas McFadden (Berlin), Sandhya Sundaresan (Göttingen/Stony Brook) and Hedde Zeijlstra (Göttingen) on a multi-national project entitled “Locality and the Argument-Adjunct Distinction: Structure-building vs. Structure-enrichment” (jointly funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft). The project investigates several new hypotheses concerning the typology of locality restrictions observed in various syntactic dependencies.
We were just as delighted to learn that Elise will also be collaborating on this project with our alum Kenyon Branan (PhD 2018) — who has accepted a parallel postdoc in the project, based at ZAS (Leibniz-Centre General Linguistics) in Berlin.
Congratulations both! We expect great discoveries from this project!!