The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Ling-Lunch 10/14 — Mitya Privoznov (MIT)

Title: Spelling Spell Out out. Discourse anaphora and syntactic structure
Time: Thursday, 10/14, 12:30pm
Location: 32-D461 (with MIT COVID Pass or Tim Ticket, plus contact tracing information)

Abstract: In this talk I will discuss the question of whether pragmatic phenomena are sensitive to syntactic structure or surface linear order. I will try to argue that at least discourse anaphora is sensitive to syntactic structure. In particular, the “direction” of discourse anaphora is determined by the derivational history of a sentence. I will adopt the so-called Spell Out theory, according to which, all specifiers and all adjuncts are spelled out (assigned a fixed meaning and phonological representation) before the main clause is constructed. The main empirical claim of the talk is that because all specifiers and all adjuncts are spelled out before they are merged with the rest of the sentence, any specifier and any adjunct creates a local context for its sister. As the result, an indefinite inside a specifier or an adjunct creates an accessible antecedent for any pronoun that this specifier/adjunct c-commands. This is called the Island Condition. In addition, I will discuss some other consequences of the proposed view for other semantic and pragmatic phenomena, including a surprising fact that only adjuncts and specifiers seem to serve as restrictors to adnominal and adverbial quantifiers, presupposition projection and temporal iconicity.