The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, May 10th, 2021

Syntax Square 5/11 - Norvin Richards (MIT)

Speaker: Norvin Richards (MIT)
Title: Anti-Agreement and Restructuring in Passamaquoddy
Time: Tuesday, May 11th, 1pm - 2pm

Abstract: I’m going to present some preliminary results on the morphological properties of wh-questions in Passamaquoddy. I offered a theory of related facts in Wôpanâak in Richards (2004), and we’ll see that the theory seems to be able to be generalized to cover the Passamaquoddy facts as well. We’ll also see a Passamaquoddy case in which morphology that ordinarily appears on the verb when certain wh-phrases are extracted will show up instead on a verb of a higher clause; I’ll claim that this is a consequence of restructuring.

MorPhun 5/12 - Niels Torben Kuehlert (Harvard)

Speaker: Niels Torben Kuehlert 
Title: The Limits of Root-Controlled Allomorphy: A Reply to Caha et al. 2019
Time: Wednesday, May 12th, 5pm - 6:30pm

Abstract: In Nanosyntax, affixal allomorphy is conditioned by the size of a given root structure, predicting that roots may only directly control allomorphs of adjacent affixes. If an affix intervenes between the root and a more peripheral affix, its structure blocks the root from determining which allomorph may be selected. Caha et al. 2019 provide evidence for this claim based on the Czech comparative where the the different allomorphs -ěj-š, -š, -Ø stand in an apparent containment relation, with *-ěj-Ø being unattested due to the inability of the root to condition the presence of the peripheral zero. This paper argues that this generalization is too restrictive and fails to account for cross-linguistic variation. I provide two types of counterexamples based on plural allomorphs in German, Welsh, and Albanian as well as Latin deponent verbs that show a containment relation like the Czech comparative. The first type of counterexample involves a static affix intervening between the root and a peripheral zero morpheme.

1) German Masculine Plurals

a. Mantel-[+front]-Ø -> Mäntel ‘coats’
b. Fuß-[+front]-e -> Füße `feet‘

In the second type, a static affix intervenes between the root and two alternating overt allomorphs, leading to a situation where the root must choose between the two peripheral affixes.

2) German Masculine Plurals

c. Mann-[+front]-er -> Männer ‘men’
d. Fuß-[+front]-e -> Füße `feet‘

Both cases present a situation in which the root must condition an affix that it is not adjacent to, contra the prediction in Caha et al. 2019. This evidence suggests that it is necessary to posit a less restrictive model like Distributed Morphology, in which these types of alternations can be captured via diacritic features.


The 30th meeting of Formal Approaches to Slavic Linguistics (FASL) is virtually hosted by our department in the upcoming week (May 13-16)! All the information can be found here: https://fasl30.mit.edu


MIT @ CLS 57

The 57th annual meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society was held virtually by the University of Chicago, from May 6, to May 8, 2021. The following members of our community presented:
  • Fulang Chen (4th year): Three anti long-distance dependency effects in Mandarin BEI-construction
  • Peter Grishin (3rd year): Assertions without belief: the semantics of partially deniable evidentials
  • Ruyue Agnes Bi (3rd year): Evaluativity triggered by scalar particles: a pragmatic approach
  • Suzana Fong (PhD 2020): Distinguishing between accounts of the A/A’-distinction: the view from Argentinian Spanish Clitic Doubling
  • Ishani Guha (PhD 2018; now at University of Delhi), Swarnendu Moitra (Jadavpur University) & Paul Marty (PhD 2017; now at University College London): Inverse Scope in scrambling languages: the case of Bangla


The 31th Semantics and Linguistic Theory (SALT31) conference was hosted by Brown University on May 7 – 9, 2021 and held online. Current students and alumni friends at the conference included: