The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, November 27th, 2023

Colloquium 12/01 - Sigrid Beck (University of Tübingen)

Speaker: Sigrid Beck (University of Tübingen)
Title: The emergence of a Generalized Quantifier: English ‘every’
Time: Friday, Dec 1, 3:30pm – 5pm
Location: 32-141

Abstract: The talk investigates the diachronic development of universal quantifiers in English. The etymological source of Present Day English ‘every’, Old English ‘aelc’ is analysed as an indeterminate pronoun. It participates in an alternative semantic system of quantification. I show how during Middle English, this system was reduced and finally lost. A reanalysis as a Generalized Quantifier becomes possible towards the end of the Middle English period. The compositional semantic change is analysed. I argue that interpretive stability at a propositional level is a crucial condition on such semantic change.

Syntax Square 11/28 - Noa Bassel (UMass Amherst)

Speaker: Noa Bassel (UMass Amherst)
Title: No choice: Anaphoric dependencies in the prepositional domain
Time: Tuesday, November 28th, 1pm - 2pm
Location: 32-D461

Abstract: Pronominal elements have long been understood as cues for the length of linguistic dependencies. This is based on a regular morphology that targets pronouns in local dependencies and leaves long-distance pronouns unmarked, leading to the well-known complementarity between complex anaphors and simple pronouns.

The category of prepositions creates a gap in this respect, as it introduces positions in which the division of labor between anaphors and pronouns is inconsistent. In these environments, pronouns and anaphors may have the same reference (e.g., Max rolled the carpet over him/himself).

This has motivated claims that that PPs enable free choice between the anaphor and the pronoun, which speakers employ to convey nuanced semantic details and attitudes. Accordingly, P anaphors have so far seemed as an unreliable syntactic diagnostics and were largely ignored by theories of P syntax.

I will argue that P anaphors are restricted to local dependencies as in any other environment, and that the apparent freedom in pronoun choice follows from a robust structural ambiguity in the domain of prepositions.

LingLunch 11/30 - Magdalena Lohninger (MIT)

Speaker: Magdalena Lohninger (MIT)
Title: Cross-clausal A-dependencies: A composite probe approach
Time: Thursday, November 30th, 12:30pm - 2pm
Location: 32-D461

Abstract: Hyperraising, i.e. A-movement out of a CP complement clause, posits a puzzle for generally assumed constraints like the Ban on Improper Movement or the Phase Impenetrability Condition and has been discussed widely in the recent years. In this talk I present a typological examination of Hyperraising as well as Hyper-ECM across unrelated languages, covering them under the umbrella term cross-clausal A-dependencies (CCA). I start by investigating empirical properties of CCA such as that i) the A-dependency stems from the matrix predicate, ii) the DP undergoing CCA is base-generated in the embedded clause and moves through the embedded left edge (SpecCP) and iii) the embedded CP often resembles a regular phase. In the course of this typological investigation of CCA, I conclude that the ability to hyperraise is not a parametric option but rather, that CCA falls into five structurally different configurations across languages (including Prolepsis). These five resemble each other on the surface but underlyingly differ in four relevant properties: i) selectional properties of the matrix predicate, ii) movement or high base-generation of the DP undergoing CCA, iii) A-Minimality differences and iv) interpretational restrictions (s.a. topic requirements). Based on these four parameters, I present a methodological tool to disentangle CCA constructions across different languages as well as within single ones. Further, I suggest a composite A’/A probe analysis for a subclass of CCA constructions, namely such involving movement out of the embeddded clause. The analysis is couched in ongoing research on the probing mechanism of A’/A probes and I discuss different implementational options such as Feature Gluttony (Coon & Keine 2021, Coon, Baier & Levin 2021), Interaction and Satisfaction (Deal 2015, 2022) and Contingent Probes (Branan & Erlewine 2020, Branan 2021). Last, I delve into (last resort) independent probing options for composite A’/A probes and what they might tell us about CCA co-occuring with regular long-distance A’-movement.