The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, March 14th, 2022

Phonology Circle 3/14 - Boer Fu (MIT)

Speaker: Boer Fu (MIT)
Title: UR Underlearning of Mandarin Tone 3 Sandhi Words
Time: Monday, March 14th, 5pm - 6:30pm

Abstract: The process of tone 3 sandhi in Mandarin Chinese results in a case of neutralization. Words with the tonal UR of /T3 T3/ and those with /T2 T3/ are both pronounced as [T2 T3] in the SR. This leads to a phonological learning question: can speakers of Mandarin learn the correct /T3 T3/ UR from the [T2 T3] SR? In order to find out which UR speakers have learned for disyllabic words with [T2 T3] SR, I have developed a forced AABB reduplication diagnostic, in which /T2 T3/ and /T3 T3/ words have different reduplicated forms. A survey of the judgement of six speakers has shown that certain disyllabic words listed as “T3 T3” in the dictionary are prone to being “underlearned” as /T2 T3/ by speakers. Specifically, compositionally opaque “T3 T3” words with an available T2 alternative are the ones likely to be “underlearned” as /T2 T3/. The Mandarin data suggest that not only do speakers require evidence from morphophonological alternation to learn phonological mapping, but also that the alternation has to be identifiable by the learner.

Syntax Square 3/15 - Peter Grishin (MIT)

Speaker: Peter Grishin (MIT)
Title: How to agree with the lowest DP
Time: Tuesday, March 15th, 1pm - 2pm

Abstract: In Passamaquoddy (Eastern Algonquian), there is an agreement marker (the “peripheral suffix”) that sits in C, c-commanding all the arguments of the verb, and demonstrably indexes the lowest clausemate DP after A-movement—for instance, in direct configurations, it’ll index the object, but in inverse configurations (involving A-movement of the object over the subject; Bruening 2001, 2005, 2009), it’ll index the subject. This poses a striking puzzle for standard probe-goal models of agreement (Chomsky 2000, 2001, a.m.o.) which all share the property of locality: a probe will agree with the closest matching accessible goal. Not here!

I propose a morphological solution to the puzzle: the peripheral suffix has agreed with all the accessible matching goals in its domain, and when it comes time to spell out the probe, we chose the newest feature bundle that the probe has acquired—we can call this “Expone Outermost”. I assume that Expone Outermost is a probe-specific morphological rule that specifies what you are to do when spelling out a terminal that has multiple distinct feature bundles on it, situating it in a broader typology of “repairs” for feature gluttony (Coon and Keine 2021): e.g. spelling out all the features individually, spelling out a portmanteau form, or choosing the most-specified feature bundle to spell out. I implement this analysis for Passamaquoddy in an Interaction-Satisfaction model of Agree (Deal 2015, to appear), analyzing the peripheral agreement as an insatiable probe with the specification [INT:φ, SAT:–] which solves the problem of feature gluttony by Expone Outermost.

Expone Outermost expands the typology of possible agreement systems—is this move justified? I argue that it is: by varying interaction and satisfaction conditions while keeping Expone Outermost constant, we predict various kinds of interesting agreement systems—and these agreement systems are attested. Narrowing the interaction condition to [INT:PART] results in a probe that indexes the lowest first or second person DP—this is attested in Aqusha Dargwa (Nakh-Dagestanian). Narrowing the interaction condition to [SAT:AUTH] results in a probe that always agrees with the lowest DP, unless there’s a first person intervener, in which case it agrees with the first person DP—this is attested in Lak (Nakh-Dagestanian). Finally, we predict that if there are contexts where we Impoverish the outermost features on the probe, the inner features should get a chance to “expose themselves”—we find this pattern in Karitiâna (Tupí-Guaraní) antiagreement, where Ā-extracting the object prevents you from realizing the features of the object, resulting in otherwise unattested subject agreement.

LF Reading Group 3/16 - Aynat Rubinstein (HUJI)

Speaker: Aynat Rubinstein (HUJI)
Title: Mood in relative clauses: on goal-orientation and choice
Time: Wednesday, March 16th, 1pm - 2pm

Abstract: This talk presents recent work by Luis Alonso-Ovalle, Paula Menéndez-Benito, and myself, about the distribution and interpretation of mood in relative clauses in Spanish. Relative clauses present a challenge for theories of mood semantics, which have largely been designed to account for subjunctive/indicative selection in the complements of attitude verbs (Farkas 1985; Giorgi and Pianesi 1997; Giannakidou 1997; Quer 1998, 2021; Villalta 2006; Portner 2018). In relative-clause objects of extensional verbs there is no obvious source for the modality. We propose that a unified analysis is nevertheless possible, putting together two lines of research: the analysis of mood as a modal operator (Kratzer 2016; Mari and Portner to appear; Portner and Rubinstein 2020) and the analysis of modal indefinites as projecting modal domains from volitional events (Alonso-Ovalle and Menéndez-Benito 2017). Our investigation leads us to new observations about the licensing of subjunctive mood in Spanish relative clauses and to a better understanding of what may broadly be called goal-oriented modality.