The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, February 5th, 2024

Winter round-up: LSA, NELS, and more!

Welcome back everybody from winter break, whether it was restful or productive! Here is a round-up of what people have been up to: 

  • The 100th LSA meeting was held in NYC January 4-7! 
    • Anton Kukhto, along with Alexander Piperski (Stockholm University, Sweden), gave a talk Stress clash avoidance in Russian comparatives: A corpus study. 
    • Megan Gotowski and Forrest Davis gave a talk titled What Language Models Can Tell Us About Learning Adjectives.
    • Keely New gave a talk titled Voice and the variable position of auxiliaries in colloquial Jakartan Indonesian.
    • Agnes Bi gave a talk titled Tonal identification in whispered speech. 
    • Omri Doron and Jad Wedbe gave a poster titled Scalar implicatures are sensitive to constraints on presupposition accommodation. 
    • Dora Takacs was a panelist at the panel Securing an internship, contract work and part-time jobs during your degree program: A practical guide for linguistics students & faculty advisors. The panel was organized by the LSA Linguistics Beyond Academia Special Interest Group.
    • Maya Honda was a speaker at the Session Collaborative Efforts in Linguistics: Partnerships Between and Among Secondary and Higher Education Institutions.
    • Johanna Alstott gave a talk titled A first semantics for at first and at last. 
    • Chelsea Tang, along with Sansan C Hien (University of California, Berkeley), gave a poster titled STAMP morphs in Lobi: Morphological and Typological Implications. 
    • Katie Martin gave a poster titled A stereotype-based semantics for slurs.
    • Suzanne Flynn, along with Chie Nakamura (Waseda University) and Katsuo Tamaoka (Nagoya University), gave a poster titled L1 vs. L2: Persistence of processing cost due to differences in relative clause configuration.
    • Christopher Legerme gave a poster titled Why Haitian Creole ye-tracing is non-verbal predicate resumption
    • Lorenzo Pinton and Janek Guerrini gave a poster titled Numerous-like predicates in bare plural generics. 
    • Jon Rawski organized a Special Session with Scott Nelson and Jeff Heinz (Stony Brook), titled Formal Language Theory in Morphology and Phonology.

  • Jon Rawski gave two invited colloquium talks in Paris! They were: Learning (Sub)Regular Transformations at the Automata Seminar, Institut de Recherche en Informatique Fondamentale (IRIF), and Abductive Inference of Phonotactic Constraints at the Ateliers de Phonologie, CNRS.

  • Jon Rawski and co-authors had their article The Problem-Ladenness of Theory accepted in the journal Computational Brain and Behavior! Congratulations. 

  • Eunsun Jou had her article Honorification as Agree in Korean and beyond published in Glossa! Congratulations! 

  • Hadas Kotek begins a 3-year term as LSA Executive Committee member-at-large.

  • NELS54 was a great success, held January 26-27 at Stata. Many thanks to the organizers (Keely, Agnes, Giovanni, Zhouyi, Stan, Athulya, David), student helpers, and especially the staff, who made all of it possible! Pictures below. Discerning readers will also see that we had David Pesetsky’s birthday. Presentations were given by: 

    • Jad Wedbe, Covert reciprocals (talk)
    • Johanna Alstott, Before and after decomposing first and last (talk)
    • Yeong-Joon Kim, Phonetic faithfulness in counterfeeding opacity (talk)
    • Peter Grishin & Anton Kukhto, Infixing Outward (poster)
    • Adèle Hénot-Mortier , The French demonstrative paradigm: structurally transparent but semantically intricate (poster)
    • Haoming Li, Dou and plural universal quantification in Mandarin Chinese (poster)

  • Norvin Richards, Peter Grishin, Elise Newman, Cora Leasure, and Cooper Roberts embarked on a Passamaquoddy trip to Maine! Pictures below. 


Colloquium 02/9 - Nicholas Rolle (ZAS)

Speaker: Nicholas Rolle
Title: “Phonological locality and constraints on exponent shape”
Time: Friday, Feb 9th, 3:30pm - 5:00pm
Location: 32-141

The focus of this talk is exponence – the mapping of syntactic representation (e.g. features, nodes, small trees) to phonological representation (e.g. segments, tones, etc.) via stored X↔Y pairings. What are the restrictions on the contents of Y (the exponent) in such pairings? While Optimality Theory established principles curtailing restrictions on underlying forms (e.g. “Richness of the Base”), approaching this issue from the syntax-phonology mapping reveals one robust constraint: all components of an exponent must be local, either in a contiguous string on a single phonological tier, or connected via an association line across tiers. To support this thesis, we examine two types of ‘bipartite morphemes’: circumfixes of the German ge-…-t type, and grammatical tone involving distinct segmental and tonal components. While bipartite morphemes superficially contradict our constraint, based on their morphological patterning we show that the multiple components always constitute separate exponents.

Minicourse 02/7, 02/8 — Nicholas Rolle (ZAS)

Speaker: Nicholas Rolle
Title:“Grammatical tone and current linguistic theory”
Time: Wednesday, Feb 7th, 12:30pm - 2:00pm and Thursday, Feb 8th, 12:30pm - 2:00pm
Location: 32-D461
This mini-course examines “grammatical tone” (GT), defined as a tone alternation occurring in a restricted grammatical context, which targets a non-restricted class of morphemes or constructions, and as such functions to express linguistic meaning. While GT is rare in Asia, it is omnipresent in other tonal zones such as Africa and Central America. We shall take the wealth of GT patterns and situate them within current theory, centered around several themes. These include (1) abstractness – the role of representational abstractness in debating item-based vs. process-based approaches to GT, (2) constituency – the domains within which GT patterns operate and their relation to general prosodic constituency formation, and (3) modularity – the impact of syntax in constraining GT typology and implications for the modular separation of syntax and phonology.