The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, October 30th, 2023

LF Reading Group 11/1 - Omri Doron (MIT)

Speaker: Omri Doron (MIT)
Title: Reduplication and number in Colloquial Jakartan Indonesian
Time: Wednesday, November 1st, 1pm - 2pm
Location: 32-D461

Abstract: NPs in Colloquial Jakartan Indonesian (CJI) do not generally bear any overt number morphology, and are traditionally assumed to be number-neutral semantically. For example, (1) is judged to be true both when there is a single difficult question in the homework, and when there are multiple ones.

(1) PR-nya ada soal yang susah
homework exists question that difficult
“The homework contains (a) difficult question(s)”

One strategy that CJI uses to convey multiplicity is reduplication of the noun. (2) is judged to be true if there are multiple difficult questions in the homework, but false if there is only one. This multiplicity inference does not arise in DE environments - (3) is only judged as true if there are no difficult questions. This raises the question of what is the semantics of reduplication.

(2) PR-nya ada soal-soal yang susah
homework exists question-question that difficult
“The homework contains difficult questions”

(3) PR-nya nggak ada soal-soal yang susah
homework NEG exists question-question that difficult
“The homework does not contain difficult questions”

Dalrymple and Mofu (2012) analyze CJI reduplicated nouns as denoting a “relatively large” plural individuals, putting the weight of the analysis on the threshold for being relatively large in different linguistic contexts. As opposed to them, I argue that the semantics of reduplication is essentially identical to that of plural-marked nouns in languages like English. In my analysis, the difference between CJI and English lies in the alternative relation between different forms. This may allow us some insight into the morphology of number marking and reduplication across languages.

LingLunch 11/2 - Anastasia Tsilia (MIT) & Zhuoye Zhao (NYU)

Speaker: Anastasia Tsilia (MIT) & Zhuoye Zhao (NYU)
Title: What the incompatibility of ‘then’ with the present teaches us about perspectives in tense
Time: Thursday, November 2nd, 12:30pm - 2pm
Location: 32-D461

Abstract: This talk focuses on the then-present puzzle, namely the observation that the present tense is incompatible with the temporal adverbial ‘then’ (Ogihara & Sharvit 2012; Vostrikova 2018; Tsilia 2021). This is attested not only in root clauses (e.g. *John is then not feeling well), but also in embedded clauses (e.g. *John thought that Mary is pregnant then) across languages such as Russian, Modern Hebrew, Modern Greek and Japanese where the embedded present can ‘shift’ to overlap not with the time of utterance, but with the time of the embedding attitude/speech. We propose to account for this generalisation by assuming i) that the present tense and ‘then’ are both sensitive to a temporal perspective shared by all expressions within a minimal clausal domain, and ii) the present and ‘then’ carry contradicting perspectival presuppositions. The perspective is modelled closely after the context as an interpretation parameter; we will briefly discuss their connections and differences.

On this basis, we further investigate the cross-linguistic behaviour of (embedded) clauses where ‘then’ co-occurs with past tenses. A particularly interesting case concerns the so-called deleted past tense, observed in languages such as English and Modern Greek, whose past tense feature is apparently uninterpreted when embedded under a higher past tense. The deleted past tense has long been thought to be semantically indistinguishable from the shifted present tense, but only the deleted past is compatible with ‘then’. The difference can be easily accommodated within the current analysis by assuming that unlike non-deleted tenses (including the shifted present), deleted tenses are not perspective-sensitive.

Colloquium 11/03 - Yoonjung Kang (UToronto)

Speaker: Yoonjung Kang (UToronto)
Title: Speech Rate Accommodation under Sound Change in progress: Case Studies from Daejeon Korean
Time: Friday, November 3rd, 3:30pm – 5pm
Location: 32-141

Abstract: Variation in speech rate is a common characteristic of speech and serves as a significant source of synchronic variation and potential sound change. During fast speech, segments tend to shorten compared to normal or slow speech, potentially blurring the distinctions between long and short segments. In this presentation, I will discuss the results of two recent perception studies conducted on Daejeon Korean. One study focuses on non-low back vowels, while the other explores stop laryngeal contrasts. These studies aim to shed light on how listeners adapt to changes in speech rate when ongoing sound changes potentially neutralize the duration-based cues related to the target contrasts.

Rawski at University of Buffalo colloquium (10/18)

Jon Rawski (Visiting Professor, MIT; Assistant Professor, SJSU Linguistics) gave a colloquium talk at University of Buffalo Center for Cognitive Science on Oct. 18!
Title: Rethinking Poverty of the Stimulus
Abstract: This talk reimagines the “poverty of the stimulus” in language acquisition and linguistic theory. I will explain deficiencies and confusions in PovStim and in “grammar induction” more generally. I will argue for a move from acquisition as induction to abduction, focused around a core inference problem of “richness of the hypothesis space”. I will give a mathematical characterization of hypothesis generation, shifting the focus from grammars to classes of grammars, organized around particular intrinsic properties. The search for grammars becomes a constraint-satisfaction problem (not in the OT sense) guided by tractability, learnability, and other covering criteria, in line with current results and perspectives in psychology, linguistics, and computer science. I will discuss these and some recent work inferring grammars from data.

Apple picking (10/28)

This last Saturday (10/28) was the warmest weekend before spring, and a group set out to Boston Hill Farm for apple and pumpkin picking! See pictures below.