The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, October 3rd, 2022

Welcome to visiting faculty and postdocs!

Welcome to visiting faculty and postdocs!
Will Oxford (co-teaching 24.955 More Advanced Syntax with Sabine Iatridou): I’m visiting from the University of Manitoba, where I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Linguistics. I do theoretical and descriptive research on syntax and morphology, usually involving the Algonquian languages and often from a comparative perspective, with an emphasis on agreement and morphosyntactic alignment. My recent work has focused on the Algonquian direct-inverse system and its theoretical implications.
Forrest Davis (teaching 24.S96 Special Seminar: Methods in Computational Linguistics): Forrest Davis is a computational linguist and a new Postdoctoral Associate in the department. He received his PhD from Cornell’s Department of Linguistics this past summer. His work uses mismatches between neural network models and humans as a methodology for identifying systematic differences between linguistic experience and human linguistic knowledge. This fall, he is teaching a graduate seminar on building and interpreting neural models of language.
Giorgio Magri (teaching 24.964 Topics in Phonology): I graduated from the department in 2009. I have been living in Paris since then, where I work for the CNRS. During graduate school and shortly after, I have worked on semantics and pragmatics (scalar implicatures, genericity). Then, my research interests have switched to phonology. In the last few years, I have worked on probabilistic phonology. The goal is to understand how to do good phonology when the grammars are complex probability distributions. What is a probabilistic phonological analysis? What are the universals of a probabilistic typology? How can we distill the phonological predictions of a probabilistic framework? 
Ksenia Ershova (co-teaching 24.951 Introduction to Syntax  with David Pesetsky) I am a syntactician and fieldworker and a new Postdoctoral Associate in the department. I got my PhD from the University of Chicago in 2019 and was a postdoc at Stanford University before coming here. My work focuses on argument alignment, rules of word formation in polysynthesis, and wh-movement. Most of my research is based on fieldwork data from West Circassian and Samoan.
Megan Gotowski: Hi! My name is Meg Gotowski and I am a new postdoc working with Athulya Aravind in the Language Acquisition Lab. I recently graduated from Rutgers University, and moved here from Philadelphia. My research interests are in first language acquisition, syntax, semantics, and learnability theory. My dissertation focused specifically on word learning, and the role of syntactic bootstrapping in learning adjectives. When I am not doing research, I am usually running. I am a competitive long distance runner, as well as an avid rock climber and yogi.

Welcome to visiting students!

Welcome to visiting students Janek Guerrini, Elham Mehr, and Nur Lan!

Janek GuerriniI am a PhD student in linguistics and philosophy at Institut Jean Nicod, at Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, working under the supervision of Benjamin Spector. I specialize in semantics and philosophy of language, and my main research interests are non-intersective modification and genericity. Here’s why I think they’re interesting: both of these phenomena have posed a long-standing challenge to semantic theory, and both seem to be particularly sensitive to the structure of our conceptual, non-linguistic representations. This makes for a domain where the study of language can both illuminate and be illuminated by broader questions in cognitive science. Most recently, I have been looking at some generic readings of indefinites in constructions we use to talk about similarity, as in “look like a lawyer”, which are puzzling because they do not seem to be reducible to an adverbial notion of genericity. 

Elham Mehr

Nur Lan: I’m a visiting PhD student from ENS Paris, co-advised by Emmanuel Chemla (ENS) and Roni Katzir (Tel Aviv University). I originally studied computer science and I like to build models of language learning.

Syntax Square 10/4 - Giovanni Roversi (MIT)

Speaker: Giovanni Roversi (MIT)
Title: Where can probes be? Evidence from asymmetric adjectival concord
Time: Tuesday, October 4th, 1pm - 2pm

Abstract: We currently don’t have a theory telling us what kind of probes should or shouldn’t be where; I’m not going to propose one either. In this talk I will make an indirect argument for not wanting too restrictive a theory: the empirical landscape, when looked at carefully, is too varied for us to be able to afford a restrictive theory of probe distribution. The domain I will concentrate on is asymmetric adjectival concord, that is, languages where the morphological patterns on attributive adjectives and predicative ones (“the red car” vs “the car is red”) are different. I will try to convince you that the typology of attested patterns does in fact cover all logically possible asymmetries, so that our theory should be able to derive all of them.