The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, February 13th, 2023

WAFL 17 in Mongolia!

The Workshop on Altaic Formal Linguistics (WAFL) 17 will be hosted by the National University of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar, September 27, 28, 29, 2023. This year, our colleague Norvin Richards is among the invited speakers!

Abstracts are invited for 20-minute talks (plus 10-minute discussions) and for posters on topics dealing with formal aspects of any area of theoretical Altaic linguistics, including phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, or pragmatics. The term ‘Altaic’ is understood to include Turkic, Mongolic, and Tungusic languages, as well as Korean, Japanese, Ryukyuan, and Ainu.

The deadline for abstracts is April 14, 2023.

LF Reading Group 2/15 - Amir Anvari (MIT)

Speaker: Amir Anvari (MIT)
Title: Origins of Conservativity
Time: Wednesday, February 15th, 1pm - 2pm

Abstract: While that natural language determiners denote conservative functions (Keenan & Stavi 1986) is perhaps the most commented on semantic universal, it nevertheless remains unexplained. I will revisit the most promising approach to this puzzle based on the idea that copy theory of movement (Chomsky 1995) makes non-conservative determiners semantically vacuous (Chierchia 1995, Fox 2002,2003, Sportiche 2005). The only serious study of this idea was done by Romoli (2015) with the surprising conclusion that non-conservative determiners may very exist but we cannot be sure as, within copy theory of movement, such determiners are bound to yield the same truth-conditions as conservative ones. First, I will address Romoli’s skepticism by leveraging presupposition projection to argue that all determiners are in fact lexically conservative. Second, I will argue that, with appropriate auxiliary assumptions about the denotation of determiners, Schlenker’s (2009) theory of presupposition projection coupled with Fox’s (2002,2003) rule of trace conversion correctly predicts all determiners to be conservative within the copy-theoretic framework. Third, I will explore a double strengthening of this result by suggesting that (a) conservativity is explained by presupposition projection even without copy theory of movement and (b) the fact that natural language determiners denote generalized (i.e. restricted) quantifiers to begin with is also due to presupposition projection. Finally, I will argue that this work raises the bar on what counts as an acceptable, explanatory theory of presupposition projection by comparing the main result based on Schlenker’s theory of presupposition projection with the predictions made by the Strong Kleene system (Fox 2012).