The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, November 14th, 2022

Colloquium (11/18) - Wataru Uegaki (University of Edinburgh)

Speaker: Wataru Uegaki (University of Edinburgh)
Time: Friday November 18, 3:30pm, 32-141
Title: Factivity alternation and the ‘missing’ veridical reading of interrogative complements
Abstract: In a number of languages, some clause-embedding predicates exhibit ‘factivity alternation’, i.e., they allow both factive and non-factive interpretations with respect to declarative complements, depending on the choice of the complementation strategy (Lee & Hong 2016, Jeong 2020 on Korean; Özyıldız 2017 on Turkish; Hanink & Bochnak 2017 on Washo; Bondarenko 2020 on Barguzin Buryat). It is furthermore observed in Turkish and Buryat that the same predicates that license factivity alternation nevertheless only allow veridical interpretations of interrogative complements (Bondarenko 2019; Özyıldız 2019). In this talk, I will provide a concrete analysis of a sub-case of the same observation in Japanese. I will argue that non-nominalised declarative complements in Japanese allow a parse as an adjunct while interrogative complements are true arguments of embedding predicates. Together with the assumption that predicates place a presupposition only to its arguments (cf. Bondarenko 2020), we can derive the obligatory veridical interpretation with respect to interrogative complements. I will furthermore discuss implications of the proposal for the cross-linguistic analysis of different types of embedding strategies, as well as for the analysis of the recurring observations in the literature that question-embedding correlates with veridicality (i.e., that question-embedding predicates are typically veridical; Egre 2008; the observation that, although communication predicates readily allow non-veridical interpretation with respect to declarative complements, their interpretation with respect to interrogative complements are—-at least typically—-veridical (Karttunen 1977; Groenendijk & Stokhof 2015; Spector & Egre 2015, a.o.)).

LF Reading Group (11/16) - Jad Wehbe (MIT)

We’re excited to welcome Jad this week! The meeting will be in person, back to our original venue, and we’ll set up OWL for people in the department who want to attend virtually.

Zoom link: https://mit.zoom.us/j/94298987190
Speaker: Jad Wehbe (MIT)
Date and time: Wednesday 11/16, 1-2pm
In-person location: 32-D461

Title: Revisiting presuppositional accounts of homogeneity

Abstract: Early accounts of homogeneity effects with definite plurals treated homogeneity as a presupposition (Schwarzschild, 1996; Löbner, 2000; Gajewski, 2005), but this characterization has recently been challenged on the basis that homogeneity does not seem to exhibit the standard projection patterns commonly attributed to presuppositions (Spector, 2013; Križ, 2015). The goal of this talk is to argue that homogeneity is in fact a presupposition, despite the apparent differences. In the first part of the talk, I will show that homogeneity is sensitive to a constraint on presupposition accommodation proposed by Heim (2015). Taking this constraint as a diagnostic of presuppositionality, this provides empirical evidence that homogeneity is a presupposition. In the second part of the talk, I will argue that the only difference between homogeneity and standard presuppositions are the conditions under which they can be locally accommodated. I discuss a related view proposed by Fox (2017) and argue that the differences in projection follow from the fact that homogeneity gives rise to non-connected propositions (in the sense of Engeuhard and Chemla (2021), while standard presuppositions are generally connected. ​

Industry workshop (11/16) - Dr Kim Witten

who: Dr Kim Witten
when: 11/16, 2pm
where: virtual talk (contact Hadas for zoom link)
what: Kim has spent over four decades overthinking absolutely everything and has turned this ability into a superpower for analyzing behavior and communication. With over 20 years of design experience, a PhD in Sociolinguistics, and an accredited diploma in Transformational Coaching, she’s devoted her life to studying what makes people tick.

She’s successfully changed careers several times, gaining experience in corporate, agency, and academic environments in both the US and the UK. Her evolving skillset delves deep into coaching, sociolinguistics, research, design, and development. The core motivation for this work is her desire to gather valuable insights about how people connect with each other and experience the world around them. Exploring language has been her primary focus throughout this work, whether that’s through the lens of visual design, observing behaviour in research, or eliciting stories of lived experience.

Kim began her journey into the underpinnings of language and communication at UC Berkeley, earning an undergraduate degree in linguistics in 2006. She achieved her Masters in linguistics at SFSU in 2010, before making the big leap overseas to complete a PhD in sociolinguistics at University of York in 2015. Her thesis focused on enregisterment and identity in an online community of practice.

Kim’s academic background in sociolinguistics has provided both a strong theoretical and practical basis to fulfil her mission — creating a world full of strategic expert thinkers who are making a huge impact in all that they do. Today, Kim supports people from all over the globe to master their mindset, build their resilience and feel more confident, so that they can create the life they really want and reach their high-impact potential.

Find out more about Kim Witten, PhD

Colloquia by Will Oxford (MIT) last week!

Will Oxford gave two colloquia last week! They were at Boston University (11/7) on The accidental inverse, and at Harvard (11/11) on How to be(come) a direct/inverse language (abstract below). 
Abstract for How to be(come) a direct/inverse language:
In a “direct/inverse” alignment system, the agreement morphology that indexes a particular nominal is determined by the nominal’s rank on the person hierarchy rather than by its grammatical function, and a special marker indicates whether the highest-ranking nominal is the agent (direct) or patient (inverse). Algonquian languages are often seen as the prototypical example of such a system, but from a diachronic perspective, the Algonquian direct/inverse pattern is not particularly old: internal and external evidence both point to a reconstructed ancestor in which the agreement morphology shows prototypical nominative/accusative alignment. So where did the direct/inverse pattern come from, and how does the underlying syntax of a direct/inverse language differ from that of a nominative/accusative language? In this talk I propose answers to both questions. Diachronically, I propose that the Algonquian direct/inverse system arose when a gap in an innovative paradigm of verb inflection was filled by the analogical extension of an agreement pattern that was previously dedicated to passive forms. Synchronically, I propose that the direct/inverse pattern reflects the interaction of an object-agreement probe on the Voice head and an “omnivorous” probe on the Infl head. This analysis, formalized using Deal’s (2015) interaction-and-satisfaction model of the Agree operation, provides an elegant account of twelve different distributions of inverse marking across the Algonquian family. These proposals allow the Algonquian system to be integrated more closely into standard typological categories and formal analyses rather than standing as a type of its own. Given the prototypical status accorded to Algonquian in typological and theoretical discussions of direct/inverse marking, the fact that the Algonquian system dissolves into simpler and less unusual parts suggests that a degree of skepticism may be in order for putative direct/inverse systems in other language families as well.) 

Norvin Richards and Roger Paul featured on CBC!

Norvin Richards and Roger Paul are featured on CBC on their efforts to revitalize the Wolastoqey (what used to be called Maliseet) language!