The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, September 11th, 2023

Summer defenses!

A big congratulations to all those who defended over the summer! 

    • Christopher Yang: How Joint Inference of the Lexicon and Phonology Affects the Learnability of Process Interactions

    • Stanislao Zompi’: *ABA in multidimensional paradigms: A MAX/DEP-based account
    • Boer Fu: Uncovering Mandarin Speaker Knowledge with Language Game Experiments
    • Cora Lesure: Selecting for and selecting despite: A Javanese case study
    • Vincent Rouillard: A Semantic Account of Distributional Constraints on Temporal in-Adverbials
    • Peter Grishin: Lessons from CP in Passamaquoddy and beyond
    • Daniel Asherov: Constraining grids

    • Filipe Kobayashi: Quantifying over individual concepts

And here are some photos of ling-17 together: 

Kanoe and David in Glossa!

A joint paper by David Pesetsky and Kanoe Evile, wh-which Relatives and the Existence of Pied-Piping has just appeared in Glossa. It originated as an Intro to Syntax squib by Kanoe, a Linguistics minor who graduated last spring, who is starting medical school. Congratulations Kanoe and David! 



Kai and Sabine in L&P!

Congratulations to Kai von Fintel and Sabine Iatridou! Their article, Publication of Prolegomena to a theory of X-marking, was published in Linguistics and Philosophy. It also received coverage on MIT News! 

M100 @ MIT

The M100 conference, honoring Morris Halle’s centenary, took place in Stata Sep 8-10! It featured sessions on various topics of his work: Morphology, Stress & Meter, Features & Evaluation Metrics, Rule ordering & the cycle. Dinner featured an open mic with participants sharing their memories and stories of Morris. 

A huge thank you to the organizers who made this possible: Anton Kukhto, Donca Steriade, Michael Kenstowicz, Zhouyi Sun, Johanna Alscott, and Runqi Tan.

Many of the presentations featured members of the MIT community. 

Current students: 

  • Yeong-Joon Kim, Auditory features and phonological opacity
  • Runqi Tan, Comparing features and dimensions in tone evaluation


  • Juliet Stanton: Distantial faithfulness in Yindjibarndi cluster reduction
  • Daniel Harbour: Is Georgian agreement competition just a matter of allomorphy and adjacency? & The Subset Principle and dual-inverse syncretism in Kiowa-Tanoan (joint with Jane Middleton) 
  • Ezer Rasin: Stress Precedence: A new universal constraint on rule ordering (joint with Vera Rusyanov) & Phonological derivations are not harmonically improving: Evidence from Nazarene Arabic (joint with Eyal Marco, Radan Nasrallah) 
  • William Idsardi: Same/different and the evaluation metric (joint with Eric Raimy)
  • San Duanmu: Zero Derivation between N and V in English and Chinese
  • Ora Matushansky: Suffixal complexes and semantic deletion
  • Sam Zukoff: Mirror Principle Effects in Templatic Morphology: Asymmetries in Bantu Suffix Doubling and Morphophonology
  • Charles Yang: The structural basis of lexical diffusion: The case of diatonic stress shift
  • Michael Wagner: Encoding and retrieving grouping and prominence in the speech stream
  • Jonah Katz: Meter and constituency in old-school hip-hop
  • Andrew Nevins: Stress and Segmental Rules in the Brazilian Ludling TTK (jiont with Felipe Vital) 
  • Bruce Hayes: A MaxEnt analysis of the meter of Beowulf (joint with Donka Minkova)

Pictures below! 

Summer round-up

A big welcome back to the department, everyone! Here are news of what some of us got up to during the summer:

  • June 24: Shrayana Haldar presented an invited talk at one of LSA’s workshops, How Many Mothers: Multidominance in Syntax. It was titled Linearizing Disintegrated Traces.
  • July 19: Jad Wedbe presented a talk at the homogeneity workshop HNM2, titled Homogeneity as presuppositional exhaustification. 
  • Aug 11: Yurika Aonuki presented a talk at UBC, titled Degree semantics in Gitksan and Japanese.
  • Aug 14-15: Adèle Hénot-Mortier and Eunsun Jou presented posters at SICOGG 25! Adele presented Bridging the gap between French tough-constructions and pseudorelatives, while Eunsun presented Case Marking of Korean Nominal Adverbials Correlates with Subject Position.
  • The 2023 LSA Linguistic Institute was hosted at UMass Amherst. Student participants from MIT included Taieba Tawakoli, Zhouyi Sun, and Shrayana Halder (see above). Several classes were taught by faculty and alums: 
    * Athulya Aravind ‘18 (Acquiring Word Meaning [cotaught])
    * Mark Baker ‘85 (Complementizers Relating to Noun Phrases: Rare Constructions within a Theory of Universal Grammar)
    * Seth Cable ‘07 (Introduction to Semantics)
    * Jessica Coon ‘10 (Structure of Mayan)
    * Ray Jackendoff ‘69 (The Parallel Architecture and its Components)
    * Hadas Kotek ‘14 (Careers in Language Technology)
    * Giorgio Magri ‘09 (What Exactly is Phonological Opacity? [co-taught] & Advanced Phonology)
    * Elise Newman ‘21 (Feeding and Bleeding in Syntax)
    * David Pesetsky ‘82 (Introduction to Syntax)
    * Juliet Stanton ‘17 (Introduction to Phonology)
    * Michelle Yuan ‘18 (The morpho-syntax of case and licensing) 
  • Creteling 2023 was a smashing success! Pictured here is (most of) the CreteLing 2023 Faculty, Staff, and TAs along the beautiful coast: 

Syntax Square 9/12 - Giovanni Roversi (MIT)

Speaker: Giovanni Roversi (MIT)
Title: Binding and anti-cataphora in Äiwoo: domain-based restrictions on interpretation?
Time: Tuesday, September 12th, 1pm - 2pm
Location: 32-D461

Abstract: I report some work in progress, based on ongoing fieldwork, on how Condition C works in Äiwoo, an Oceanic (< Austronesian) language from the Solomon Islands. The central puzzle is that Condition C (or more generally, the mechanism that determines whether two nominals can or cannot be coreferent) shows a non-uniform profile in this language. In certain types of clauses one seems to get perfectly traditional Condition C effects, where the important factor is c-command between two nominals and not linear precedence (e.g. “His_i mother loves John_i”, where “his” precedes “John” but doesn’t c-command it, and coreference is possible). In other types of clauses, however, we see a completely different profile, where the (im)possibility of coreference seems to fully disregard structural factors (c-command) and only care about linear precedence. I will suggest a hypothesis whereby there’s a particular high domain in the Äiwoo clause which blocks cataphora, but not otherwise. This is very much work in progress, so I welcome any brainstorming and feedback!

LingLunch 9/14 - Johanna Alstott (MIT)

Speaker: Johanna Alstott (MIT)
Title: Before and after decomposing first and last
Time: Thursday, September 14th, 12:30pm - 2pm
Location: 32-D461

Abstract: First and last have been variously described as ordinals (Bhatt 2006; Bylinina et al. 2014), superlatives (Sharvit 2010), or “both ordinals and superlatives” (Charnavel 2022). These descriptions are generally loose and undefended, and those who label first and last as superlatives do not present and argue for a particular decomposition. Thus, first and last’s status as ordinals vs. superlatives and their internal composition remain open issues. In this work, I argue that first and last are superlatives, in particular the superlative forms of before and after. As evidence that first and last are superlatives, I show that they pattern like superlatives and unlike ordinals (second, third, etc.) with respect to plurality, modifier choice, modal superlatives with possible, and the ordinal superlative construction. I next argue that the relations between before and first and between after and last show themselves overtly in paraphrases and the etymology of first; furthermore, first and last semantically differ in ways that before and after have also been noted to differ. Formalizing the proposed decomposition of first and last necessitates either a (non-standard) treatment of before and after as comparatives or a treatment of superlatives that is non-standard in semantics but standard in morphosyntax (Bobaljik 2012). I survey evidence that could adjudicate between the two strategies for decomposing first and last, arguing that the latter is more plausible.