The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, April 24th, 2023

Exp/Comp 4/28 - Kinan Martin & Canaan Breiss (MIT)

Date/Time: Friday 4/28 from 2-3:30pm
Location: 32-D831 
Speaker: Kinan Martin & Canaan Breiss (MIT)
Title: Probing self-supervised speech models for phonetic and phonemic information: a case study in aspiration
Abstract: Textless self-supervised speech models have grown in capabilities in recent years, but the nature of the linguistic information they encode has not yet been thoroughly examined. We evaluate the extent to which these models’ learned representations align with basic representational distinctions made by humans, focusing on a set of phonetic (low-level) and phonemic (more abstract) contrasts instantiated in word-initial stops. We find that robust representations of both phonetic and phonemic distinctions emerge in early layers of these models’ architectures, and are preserved in the principal components of deeper layer representations. Our findings show that speech-trained HuBERT derives a low-noise and low-dimensional sub-space corresponding to abstract phonological distinctions.

MorPhun 4/27 - Mitya Privoznov (MIT) and Neil Banerjee

Speaker: Mitya Privoznov (MIT) and Neil Banerjee
Title: On Russian doctors and Estonian numbers, or nominal concord as allomorphy
Time: Thursday, April 27th, 5pm - 6:30pm
Location: 32-D831  (changed)

Abstract: Here’s a puzzling paradigm from Russian based on Zaliznyak (1967, 1980) and Pesetsky (2013):

a. vchera nash-a div-a opjat’ skandali-l-a.
yesterday our-F.SG.NOM diva-SG.NOM again make.fuss.IMP-PST-F
‘Yesterday our diva (woman) was making a fuss again.’
b. vchera nash div-a opjat’ skandali-l.
yesterday our.M.SG.NOM diva-SG.NOM again make.fuss.IMP-PST.M
‘Yesterday our diva (man) was making a fuss again.’
c. vchera nash-a div-a opjat’ skandali-l.
yesterday our-F.SG.NOM diva-SG.NOM again make.fuss.IMP-PST.M
‘Yesterday our diva (man) was making a fuss again.’
d. *vchera nash div-a opjat’ skandali-l-a.
yesterday our.M.SG.NOM diva-SG.NOM again make.fuss.IMP-PST-F

The noun diva ‘diva’ can trigger either feminine (1a) or masculine (1b) agreement on adnominal modifiers and on a finite verb. In addition, there is a possibility of an agreement mismatch: feminine on the adnominal modifiers and masculine on the finite verb (1c). The opposite mismatch is out (1d). This is a mirror image of the vrach ‘doctor’ paradigm from Pesetsky (2013, 39-50). Only in the vrach ‘doctor’ case, the direction of the possible mismatch is the opposite: masculine on the adnominal modifiers and feminine on the finite verb. Interestingly and quite surprisingly, in non-nominative cases the only available agreement for diva ‘diva’ is feminine (while for vrach ‘doctor’ it’s masculine):

a. ja priexa-l k nash-ej div-e.
I arrive.PFV-PST.M to our-F.SG.DAT diva-SG.DAT
‘I came to visit our diva.’
b. ?/*ja priexa-l k nash-emu div-e.
I arrive.PFV-PST.M to our-M.SG.DAT diva-SG.DAT

In this talk, we will propose an account for this phenomenon, based on a modification of the idea from Pesetsky (2013) and a modification of the feature hierarchy from Bayırlı (2017). We will also extend our analysis to mismatches in Estonian number concord (see, e.g., Norris 2014) and develop a theory of concord as allomorphy of adnominal modifiers, assuming a replacive top-down mechanism of Lexical Insertion (see, e.g. Halle and Marantz 1993).

Syntax Square 4/25 - Haoming Li & Zhouyi Sun (MIT)

Speaker: Haoming Li & Zhouyi Sun (MIT)
Title: Mandarin clausal comparatives involve standard embedding
Time: Tuesday, April 25th, 1pm - 2pm
Location: 32-D461

Abstract: Erlewine (2018) argues that the Mandarin bi comparative is a form of clausal comparative. Since clausal comparatives are generally analyzed as involving degree abstraction (Bresnan 1973; Heim 2000; Bhatt and Pancheva 2004, a.o.), yet Mandarin is held by many to lack degree abstraction (Beck et al. 2009; Krasikova 2008; Erlewine 2018), a contradiction seems to arise. Erlewine reconciles the conflicting points by arguing that clausal comparatives are possible as long as we adopt a coordinate relation between the two clauses and employ ‘Degree Last’ gradable predicates, which he claims is precisely the case for Mandarin bi comparatives.

In this talk, we present several novel arguments in favor of the proposal that the syntactic structure of bi comparatives involve an embedding relation between the two clauses rather than a coordinate relation. We further illustrate the necessity of degree abstraction for an embedding approach. This lends support to the argument that Mandarin does indeed have degree abstraction (Gong and Coppock 2021), and casts doubt on the proposal of the ‘Degree Abstraction Parameter’ (DAP) (Beck et al. 2004).

LF Reading Group 4/26 - Anastasia Tsilia (MIT)

Speaker: Anastasia Tsilia (MIT)
Title: Hidden causality in Modern Greek
Time: Wednesday, April 26th, 1pm - 2pm
Location: 32-D461

Abstract: We investigate certain Modern Greek attitudinal constructions, where an attitude verb takes an ACC DP as an argument, which is then referred to by a pronoun in the subject or the object position of the embedded clause. Here is an example of this construction:

(1) I Maria theli ton Yani_i [na pro_i aghapai mono aftin].
The.nom Maria.nom want.prs the.acc Yani.acc [subj pro love only her.acc] ‘Maria wants Yanis to only love her’

We argue that the ACC DP does not move from the lower clause (see Hadjivassiliou et al. (2000); Kotzoglou and Papangeli (2007); Kotzoglou (2013, 2017)), but is rather base-generated in a different clause. Given that it also has to co-refer with a pronoun in the subject or object position of embedded clause, we argue that this is an instance of prolepsis. Surprisingly, despite being seemingly outside of the scope of the attitude verb, the ACC DP can be read de dicto:

(2) Context: Little Petros is in kindergarten and he and his friends believe that green dogs exist. One day they are talking about green dogs and Petros bets that exactly three of them will show up at his party.

O Petrakis theli tris prasinus skilus [na erthun sto parti]. The.nom Petros.dim want.prs three green.acc dog.acc [subj come to-the party].  `Little Petros wants three green dogs to come to the party.’

On top of that, there is a semantic requirement that the ACC DP is part of the cause of the complement clause. We discuss this requirement and provide a clausal analysis, inspired by intensional transitive verbs (den Dikken et al.2018), arguing that there is a covert clause boundary between the matrix and the complement clause, featuring a weak causative CAUSE:

(3) …want [proleptic-DP CAUSE [CP…]]

Under such an analysis, the de dicto readings of the proleptic DP follow naturally, since it is in the scope of the attitude verb.

Phonology Circle 4/24 - Maria Giavazzi (DEC, ENS)

Speaker: Maria Giavazzi (DEC, ENS)
Title: Stress-conditioning from diachrony to synchrony: The case study of velar palatalization
Time: Monday, April 24th, 5pm - 6:30pm
Location: 32-D831

Abstract: Prosodically prominent positions within the word are privileged, manifesting the positional maintenance of contrasts otherwise neutralized and the resistance to processes applying elsewhere (a.o. Beckman, 1998; Giavazzi, 2010, González 2013). These positions are also the preferred target for a small class of frequent processes, e.g., consonants are often lengthened in pre-tonic and post-tonic position (Lavoie 2001, Smith 2002). In this talk I will focus on a case study of such a stress-conditioned process, velar palatalization in Italian (Giavazzi, 2010). First, I will present results of a study investigating the distribution of this process in early Italian. The application of palatalization in Early Italian was much more variable than in the contemporary language, though stress-conditioning was already observable (contra Faraoni, 2021). Second I will present articulatory data from an ongoing EMA study, which investigates the effect of lexical stress on the production of adjacent [ki] sequences. I will discuss the implications of these results for the μ–gesture model (Saltzmann, 2008; Katsika & Tsai, 2021) and for the diachronic emergence of stress-conditioning. Finally, I present a study investigating the perceptual consequences of prosodic enhancement on the discrimination of consonantal contrast.

MIT @ Iranian linguistics conference NACIL 3

This weekend, the third North American Conference in Iranian Linguistics (NACIL 3) took place at UCLA, and two of the talks were from our community.  First-year student Taieba Tawakoli gave a talk entitled “Ra in intransitive constructions in Dari”, and Amir Anvari gave an invited talk entitled “On (Persian) ordinals”.