The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, May 2nd, 2022

5/2 - Lecture by Jean Casimir (Université d’État d’Haïti)

Prof. Jean Casimir, one of Haiti’s most eminent sociologists and historians, will speak at MIT this Monday, May 2nd, 5pm, about his “Decolonial reading of the history of Haitians”.  More details at:

Prof. Casimir is one of the very rare Haitian intellectuals who have published their work in Kreyòl which he considers as an essential tool to understand and teach Haitian history.  Here’s a sample on Platfòm MIT-Ayiti:
The event is happening in person at MIT in Room E51-095 and it will also be live-streamed on the MIT-Haiti Facebook page at

Miyagawa’s monograph “Syntax at the Treetops” published!

Congratulations to our colleague Shigeru Miyagawa on the publication of his new monograph “Syntax in the Treetops”! See this great article from MIT News:



Shigeru Miyagawa's new book

LingLunch 5/5 - Boer Fu (MIT)

Speaker: Boer Fu (MIT)
Title: The size of morphemes in Mandarin Chinese: perspectives from phonological learning
Time: Thursday, May 5th, 12:30pm - 1:50pm

Abstract: It is a long-held belief that every Mandarin Chinese syllable, transcribed by a character, is a meaning-bearing unit. It follows that any disyllabic word is combined of two meaning-bearing units, or two morphemes. I challenge this view by examining the process of phonological learning of tone 3 sandhi, in which a disyllabic word with the underlying /T3 T3/ surfaces as [T2 T3]. Using a novel AABB reduplication diagnostic, I show that many disyllabic words that are purported to have undergone tone 3 sandhi actually are learned as non-sandhi words by native speakers. I argue that compositionally opaque words are prone to being learned as identical to the surface form, because learners cannot establish meaningful morphological alternation for the first syllable. The results indicate that many individual syllables in disyllabic words are not meaning-bearing units at all, but are instead just parts of a disyllabic morpheme. It also points to the possibility that Chinese characters are not used to transcribe meaning, but merely tools to transcribe sounds.

Annual joint Linguistics-Philosophy Colloquium 5/6 - Ofra Magidor (Oxford)

Speaker: Ofra Magidor (Oxford)
Title: Accounting for Copredication: Dual Nature vs. Property Versatility
Time: Friday, May 6, 3:30pm
Location: 32-155


Abstract: Copredication occurs when a sentence receives a true reading despite the fact that, prima facie, it ascribes categorically incompatible properties to a single entity. For example, ‘Lunch was delicious but took hours’ can have a true reading even though it seems that being delicious is only a property of food, while taking hours is only a property of events. Similarly, ‘The red book was written by Tolstoy’ can have a true reading, even though it seems that being red is only a property of physical copies, while being written by Tolstoy is only a property of informational texts. In this talk, I compare two of the central contemporary approaches to the problem: Dual Nature approaches (defended among others by Asher, Chatzikyriakidis & Luo, and Gotham), according to which books, for example, are hybrid objects incorporating both physical and informational components; and the Property Versatility approach (defended by Liebesman and Magidor) according to which nouns such as ‘book’ or ‘lunch’ may receive multiple readings, but the properties expressed in copredicational sentences apply to a wider range of objects than is often assumed.