The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, April 3rd, 2023

Call for abstracts: Morris Halle Centenary Conference

Dates: September 8-10, 2023
Location: MIT, Cambridge, MA, USA
Meeting Email: m100@mit.edu
Conference website: http://m100.mit.edu/index.html
Linguistic Fields: Phonology and Morphology
Abstract Deadline: May 25, 2023
Meeting Description:
To mark the centenary of Morris Halle’s birth, MIT will host a conference, Morris at 100, on September 8–10, 2023. The conference will consist of contributed posters grouped thematically into sessions on the following topics: evaluation metrics, distinctive features, morphology and the lexicon, rules and rule ordering, stress and meter. Each poster session will begin with an introduction to its theme, in relation to Morris Halle’s work. After each session, there will be a general discussion of the posters in it.
Call for Papers:
  • We invite abstracts for poster presentations on the session topics above: evaluation metrics, distinctive features, morphology and the lexicon, rules and rule ordering, stress and meter. The posters need not be about Halle’s contribution to any of these topics, though such submissions are welcome. Whether connected to Halle’s work or not, we hope the posters will report new results bearing on the conference topics.
  • Abstracts must be anonymous. Length is limited to two single-spaced pages (US Letter), figures and references included. Font size should be at least 11-point, with margins of at least one inch (2.54cm) on all sides. Abstracts must be submitted in .pdf format. Submissions are limited to two per author, with at most one submission being single- or primary-authored. More information here: http://m100.mit.edu/callforposters.html.
  • The deadline for abstract submission is May 25, 2023 at 11:59 p.m(EDT). Abstract submission is open as of March 30, 2023. Submission should be made via EasyChair:
Questions about submissions should be addressed to m100@mit.edu .
Important dates:
Abstract deadline: May 25, 2023
Notification of acceptance: June 15, 2023
Program published: August 1, 2023
Conference: September 8–10, 2023

Syntax Square 4/4 - Zachary Satoshi Feldcamp (MIT)

Speaker: Zachary Satoshi Feldcamp (MIT)
Title: Predicate inversion as A-movement
Time: Tuesday, April 4th, 1pm - 2pm

Abstract: Predicate inversion (PI) constructions (1) involve a marked order of constituents in which the predicate (underlined) appears to occupy the typical derived subject position, and the would-be subject (italicized), which often receives the nuclear pitch accent and focus, occurs to the right of the auxiliary be (Emonds 1970; 1976; Birner & Ward 1998; Samko 2016; Thoms & Walkden 2019).

(1) Performing at the concert next month will be SAM.

The absence of weak cross-over effects and of reconstruction for Condition C suggests that the predicate undergoes A-movement, which is initially puzzling, given what is known about A-movement, locality, and the interpretation of moved predicates, additionally raising questions about the possible role of information-structure in syntactic derivations. Contra Samko (2014; 2016), I argue that PI is not driven by information-structural features, because it is not subject to any firm information-structural conditions.

I propose that PI is the result of T agreeing with the predicate instead of the would-be subject, possible whenever the predicate has (incomplete) φ-features valued via concord with the would-be subject. No locality issues arise, because both subject and predicate may move in a nesting configuration to specifiers of Aux be, which position can be directly observed in passive expletive constructions (Rezac 2006). Given the cross-linguistic generalization that non-nominal lexical categories do not bear person features, the analysis predicts that T, which has agreed with the predicate, lacks person in PI. I show that this prediction is borne out. Despite its unusual appearance, then, PI corroborates the hypothesis that A-movement is the reflex of φ-Agree (van Urk 2015).

Phonology Circle 4/3 - Mirella L. Blum (University of Edinburgh)

Speaker: Mirella L. Blum (University of Edinburgh)
Title: Correspondence and variation in Dinka tone
Time: Monday, April 3rd, 5pm - 6:30pm

Abstract: This talk examines tonal phonology across dialects of the Dinka language (West Nilotic, South Sudan). Dinka has a highly complex sound system, with a three-level vowel length contrast, a voice quality contrast, and tone; all elements are both lexical and grammatical, and most of the language’s morphology is expressed through its suprasegmentals. Along with the high functional load of tone and extensive tone sandhi, the varying number of tones— dialects of Dinka have either three or four tones—has led to the impression that the tone systems of different varieties of Dinka cannot be compared, and that systematic correspondences do not exist. In contrast, I show how tones correspond across dialects of Dinka, depending in part on the vowel grade system—alternations of vowel quality and length pervasive throughout numerous areas of Dinka morphology. I show that dialects likely shift from four to three tones, not the other way around, and I discuss the range of tonal processes across dialects of Dinka, how the processes relate to one another, and how they hint at the evolution of the tone systems of individual dialects.

LingLunch 4/6 - Mitya Privoznov (MIT)

Speaker: Mitya Privoznov (MIT)
Title: The syntax of presupposition projection
Time: Thursday, April 6th, 12:30pm - 2pm

Abstract: Consider the following pair of sentences:

(1) Context: I don’t know whether Rosa ever smoked or not.
a. #But I don’t think that [she stopped smoking altogether] and [she used to smoke Belomor].
b. But I don’t think that [she used to smoke Belomor] and [stopped smoking altogether].

The sentence in (1a) sounds infelicitous in the given context, while the sentence in (1b) does not, see Mandelkern et al. (2020), Kalomoiros (2021) and Kalomoiros and Schwarz (2021) for experimental evidence supporting this claim. The sentence in (1a) contains a presupposition trigger stopped, which introduces a presupposition p = ‘she used to smoke’ at the level of the clause she stopped smoking altogether. Being a presupposition, p projects to the level of the whole sentence in (1a) from under and, think and negation in the main clause. It comes into a contradiction with the given context (I don’t know whether Rosa ever smoked or not) and the sentence is predictably judged as infelicitous. The sentence in (1b) is truth-conditionally equivalent to (1a). Moreover, it contains the same presupposition trigger stopped, which introduces the same presupposition, which should project to the level of the whole sentence in (1b) and come into a contradiction with the given context, so (1b) should also be judged infelicitous, but it is not.

Contrasts like the one in (1) have led many researchers to the conclusion that a presupposition does not impose a requirement on the global context of the whole sentence that contains the trigger, but rather on the local context of the trigger. The local context is calculated based on the global context and the syntactic context of the trigger (other material in the sentence). In this talk, I will consider various ways of calculating the syntactic context of the trigger and show that the algorithms that have been proposed in the literature (a lexical one, a linear one and a quantifier-type one) all have unsatisfactory consequences. As a response to these problems, I will propose a syntactic algorithm, which avoids those consequences and leads to an unexpected relation between presupposition projection and the nature of syntactic derivation and the nature of Spell Out / Transfer.

Colloquium 4/7 - Ofelia Zepeda (The University of Arizona)

Speaker: Ofelia Zepeda (The University of Arizona)
Title: The Varied Roles of Native American/Indigenous Linguists
Time: Friday, April 7th, 3:30pm - 5pm

Abstract: In the late 20th Century, a small handful of Native Americans who were speakers of their language were taken under the wing by a few established non-Native linguists with the intent to introduce them to linguistics and train them in the field so that they might become linguists working on their own language or related fields. This presentation will provide a review of the modern and short history of these Native American/Indigenous linguists. The presentation will then elaborate on the newest and upcoming group of Native American/Indigenous linguists and how some of them were called, designate, propelled or chose to go into linguistics primarily due to the dramatic and devastating impact of language endangerment and language loss in their communities. Having worked with some of these students I find that they know that they can find themselves in seemingly insurmountable situations in this field and within their communities. These students persevere understanding that skills in linguistics is one of the important tools in their efforts in language reclamation.