This issue coincides with the end of the Spring semester at MIT. Until the beginning of the Fall semester next September, we will publish only occasionally, to announce talks and other events that may be scheduled over the the summer, and any other important news.
Thank you for being our readers during the 2016-2016 Academic Year!
Whamit’s 2015-16 Editors:
Kai von Fintel
Amy Rose Deal (UC Berkeley) is visiting the department this week. In addition to her Colloquium talk on Friday, she will give two talks:
Title: Cyclicity and connectivity in Nez Perce relative clauses Time: Wednesday, 04/13/2016, 1:00-2:30pm (note special time)*** Venue: 34-304 Abstract: This talk centers on two aspects of movement in relative clauses, focusing on evidence from Nez Perce.
First, I argue that relativization always involves cyclic A’ movement, even in monoclausal relatives. Rather than moving directly to Spec,CP, the relative element moves there via an intermediate position in an A’ outer specifier of the TP immediately subjacent to relative C. Cyclicity of this type suggests that the TP sister of relative C constitutes a phase — a result whose implications extend to “highest subject restriction” effects in resumptive relatives as well as an ill-understood corner of the English that-trace effect.
Second, I argue that Nez Perce relativization provides new evidence for an ambiguity thesis for relative clauses, according to which some but not all relatives are derived by a head-raising. The argument comes from connectivity and anticonnectivity in morphological case. These new data complement the range of standard arguments for head-raising, which draw primarily on connectivity effects at the syntax-semantics interface.
***Unfortunately, this time conflicts with Giorgio Magri’s lecture. Also, this is the usual LFRG time, which will instead take place on Friday.
Title: Interaction and satisfaction: toward a theory of agreement Time: Thursday, 04/14/2016, 5:00-6:30pm (note special time) Venue: 36-155 (note special location)
The operation Agree has typically been modelled as a device for repairing specific lexical deficiencies by feature transfer: [uF] on a head causes the head to probe, and transfer of [F] from a goal causes probing to stop. In this talk, I start with a different conception of Agree, one based not on lexical deficiencies (i.e. u-features) but on the ability to create redundancy. Probes, I propose, interact with (copy) all phi features they encounter until such point as they meet a satisfaction (halt) condition. A probe satisfied by a rather specific feature, such as [addressee], will nevertheless interact with the full phi-set, resulting in a “more than you bargained for” system of agreement. My primary empirical case for such a system comes from complementizer agreement in Nez Perce. I show how the theory is able to model not only the conditions on agreement with the complementizer, but also the workings of agreement in relative clauses and the non-interaction of agreement with A-scrambling.
In the next two weeks, Giorgio Magri will give a series of four informal presentations about learnability in OT. The times and locations are listed below, and a description of the topics follows. (Meetings 1 and 3 will be special meetings of 24.981 and 24.964, respectively)
Topic 1: Idempotency, chain shifts, and learnability Time: Monday 4/11 11am-1pm Place: 32-D461 Reading: https://sites.google.com/site/magrigrg/home/idempotency
A grammar is idempotent if it yields no chain shifts. I will give a ”reasoned” overview of the OT literature on chain shifts. The idea is that idempotency holds if all the faithfulness constraints satisfy a certain idempotency faithfulness condition(IFC). You can study formally which faithfulness constraints satisfy the IFC and which do not. Once you have your list of faithfulness constraints that do not satisfy the IFC, you can synopsize the various accounts for chain shifts in OT based on which faithfulness constraint they pick from that list. This little bit of theory of idempotency/chain shifts might have some implications for learnability. From a learnability perspective, a chain shift (a->e->i) is not necessarily problematic, as long as it is ”benign”, in the sense that the typology explored by the learner contains another grammar which is idempotent (no chain shifts) and makes the same phonotactic distinctions ([a] illicit; [e, i] licit). The obvious reason is that a phonotactic learner can simply assume he is learning the latter grammar instead of the former. These considerations lead to the following question: is it true that all chain shifts are benign? I don’t know. Yet, I have some ideas on how to use the results of the theory of idempotency to try to establish that. Existing inventories of chain shifts (like the one compiled by Moreton) might provide the empirical basis to address the question. Dinnsen also has a long list of child case studies with chain shifts that might be interesting to look at.
Topic 2: Idempotency, the triangular inequality, and McCarthy’s (2003) categoricity conjecture Time: Tuesday 4/12 3-5pm Place: 24-115 (**** Note special place) Reading: https://sites.google.com/site/magrigrg/home/idempotenceoutputdrivenness
The IFC mentioned above is a fairly abstract and weird-looking condition on the faithfulness constraints. I will suggest that it admits nonetheless a very intuitive interpretation. Here is the idea. Faithfulness constraints intuitively measure the ”phonological distance” between URs and SRs. Thus, it makes sense to ask whether they satisfy axiomatic properties of the notion of distance. One such property is the ”triangular inequality”, which says that the distance between A and C is smaller than the distance between A and B plus the distance between B and C. I will argue that the IFC turns out to be equivalent to the requirement that faithfulness constraints satisfy the triangular inequality (properly readapted). In other words, OT idempotency holds when the faithfulness constraints have good ”metric properties”. Crucially, I can establish this equivalence for faithfulness constraints which satisfy a slightly stronger version of McCarthy’s (2003) categoricity generalization. Is it true that the faithfulness constraints which are relevant for natural language phonology satisfy this stronger categoricity generalization? I don’t know. But the ones I have started to look at seem as they do. The connection between the IFC and the triangular inequality is strengthen in the case of HG, because in that case it holds for any faithfulness constraint, not only for the categorical ones.
Topic 3: Tesar’s characterization of opacity based on output-drivenness Time: Wednesday 4/13 1-3pm Place: 32-D461
Tesar (2013) develops an extremely difficult theory of his notion of output-drivenness. Intuitively, this notion is meant to capture opaque interactions (or at least a subset thereof) without resorting to rules, namely in a way which is consistent with constraint-based frameworks. I will present a reconstruction of (a slight generalization of) Tesar’s theory of output-drivenness which (I personally submit) is quite simpler than his original formulation. This reconstruction builds on the results on the faithfulness triangular inequality anticipated above. What is the actual relationship between Tesar’s notion of output-drivenness and opacity? I don’t know—and Tesar does not seem to really care about that after all (that is indeed not what his book is really about). I would be very interested in going through a list of opaque cases (like the list in Baković’s paper) and see how they fare from the classifying perspective of output-drivenness. The task is not trivial, because (as we will see), the definition of output-drivenness has a free parameter which needs to be ”set by the user”. Furthermore, I think that this little project might potentially turn out to be quite interesting for the following reason. We know that opacity is hard to get in OT and it has indeed motivated all kind of advanced technology. Tesar has a fresh approach to it. He cares about learnability, not opacity. He starts from the assumption that opacity is bad for learnability and thus he wants to put opacity aside. This means that he needs to develop constraint conditions which ensure that the grammars in the corresponding typology are output-driven and thus display no opacity. Since opacity is hard to get, you might expect that Tesar has an easy job in characterizing constraint sets which forbid opacity. That turns out not to be the case: Tesar’s task turns out to be very difficult—-even though he makes a number of additional simplifying assumptions (one-to-one correspondence relations, only three faithfulness constraints, etcetera). Thus, it looks like opacity in OT is at the same time hard to get and hard to avoid!! I wonder whether understanding this surprising tension might lead to any new insights on opacity in OT.
Topic 4: The Merchant/Tesar theory of inconsistency detection for learning underlying forms Time: Thurs 4/21 3-5pm Place: 32-D461
On Saturday, April 16 MIT will host this year’s ECO5 student syntactic workshop. It is a yearly small conference where graduate students from five East Coast departments (Harvard, UConn, UMass, UMaryland and MIT) can present their ongoing or completed work on syntactic issues to a friendly crowd of faculty and students, which rotates between the five co-organizing departments.
This year it is MIT’s turn to run things, and you can find a program here.
The workshop starts at 9:15am on Saturday, and will continue until around 6pm.
See you there!
Below is a statement from the MIT Linguistics Faculty on open access and the new journal Glossa. We’re following our colleagues at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Similar statements are being considered on other campuses. For background, you can consult this post at Language Log and a statement from Glossa’s editor-in-chief Johan Rooryck. [Update: See now also a similar statement from linguists across the University of California system.]
MIT Linguistics Faculty Statement of Support for Glossa
We, the undersigned linguistics faculty of MIT, state our strong support for the principle of open access to scholarly communication, as affirmed in the Open Access Policy of the MIT Faculty. In the context of this commitment, we also state our strong support for the editorial team that recently left the journal Lingua and started the fair open access journal Glossa. We firmly expect that Glossa will inherit and exceed the quality and reputation of the earlier journal. We applaud MIT’s support for the Open Library of Humanities, the organization that, together with the LingOA initiative, is underwriting Glossa. We pledge to further the aims of open access in our actions as editors, reviewers, and authors.
Kai von Fintel
Samuel Jay Keyser
The colloquium series talks are held on Fridays at 3:30pm. Please check the Colloquium webpage for any updates.
24.956 Topics in Syntax: Finiteness and clause size
Instructor: David Pesetsky Tuesdays 2-5 Room: 32-D461 website: http://stellar.mit.edu/S/course/24/sp16/24.956 (nothing there yet, sorry!)
We too easily become used to facts about language that should strike us as strange. One of these is the menagerie of clause types and clause sizes in the world’s languages that are categorized with ill-understood labels such as infinitive, non-finite, gerund, nominalized, large, small, restructuring, defective, and more.
I come to this class with a germ of an idea with two parts, the first of which is familiar, the second of which is probably novel:
Many (ambitious version: all) of these distinctions should be reduced to distinctions in clause size — specifically, given a universal hierarchy of clausal projections, which one is the highest in a given clause? This is familiar to us from analyses in which raising infinitives differ from English for-infinitives merely in the addition of a complementizer layer, and restructuring infinitives differ from their non-restructuring counterparts in the absence of (all or most) layers above the verbal domain. One can imagine extending the spirit of such proposals to other clause-type distinctions as well.
Non-full-size clauses are often (ambitious version: always) created derivationally, as an obligatory concomitant of movement from that clause. In a nutshell: if an extended version of Erlewine’s (2015) version of an Anti-locality condition is correct, an element α that has merged in the higher clausal domain cannot exit the clause by first moving to its edge (because such movement is too short). Either some process must render the phase transparent (Branan 2015; Rackowski & Richards 2005), which I will try not to assume — or else α itself must already occupy the phase edge. My proposal: if Anti-locality prevents you from moving to the phase edge, make the phase edge come to you! — by deleting the structure that separates you from it. In the most ambitious version of the proposal, this is the source of all infinitives and other reduced clauses. In a deep sense, this proposal is a return to standard theories of clausal complementation before Bresnan’s dissertation, in which distinctions between finite and non- finite clauses were the result of syntactic transformations, and absent in the base. This similarity will be discussed.
In Raising constructions, for example, on this view, it is not a property of certain small infinitives that they trigger Raising, but rather a property of Raising that it triggers the creation of an infinitive. An array of mysterious absences that correlate with movement may have a similar source: doubly-Filled COMP effects, that-trace phenomena, and anti-agreement, to begin with. The proposal also interacts with Halpert’s (2015) work on the interaction of raising with the distribution of clausal φ-features. And yes, if all infinitives are created by movement of their subject (or similar high element), we are committed to the notorious Movement Theory of Control — so we have to join the effort to understand how the many objections to that proposal might be surmounted.
I will begin the class with a very rough look at the proposal and some of its motivations — but the class as a whole will not be devoted to developing the proposal per se, but rather to learning about the phenomena that it (or any other proposal on this topic) should cover, and the most promising approaches that have been developed.
Schedule for the first two weeks of the semester:
- Week 1: my germ of an idea
- Week 2: Raising and ECM — a closer look
Topics to be covered in the other weeks include:
- Anti-agreement (credit: Nico Baier for suggesting readings)
- Complementizer-trace effects
- Clausal cartography (Rizzi 1999 and work in that tradition)
- Restructuring (including both Wurmbrand’s older book and most recent work)
- Bantu hyper-raising and clausal φ-features (including Halpert’s most recent work)
- Raising in languages without non-finite clauses (guest speaker: Sabine)
- English for-infinitives and their distribution
- Gerunds and “nominalized” clauses cross-linguistically
- Movement Theory of Control (including lots of Landau)(No ordering of topics implied yet. Schedule to be determined after the first class.)
As an experiment, this class will have something of the spirit of Syntactic Models, in that I am not requiring a final paper or squibs.
Instead, I will ask for:
- weekly submission of a comment or question+discussion based on that week’s reading
- co-presentation of one or two of the papers assigned during the term (how many depends on registration numbers)
- investigation and short presentation or co-presentation of an issue connected to the class topics in a language or language family of your choice — your presentation + detailed handout will be sufficient to fulfill this requirement.
If you find the class topic interesting and plan to attend, please consider registering! My hope is that people who attend will be active participants, and without the burden of a final research paper will find it more attractive to register — so they truly involve themselves in these fascinating topics.
24.979 Topics in Semantics
Instructors: Kai von Fintel, Sabine Iatridou, Roger Schwarzschild Time and room: F10-1 (32-D461) Readings: https://stellar.mit.edu/S/course/24/sp16/24.979/materials.html
1. Nominal semantics (first 4 or 5 sessions)
In the first third of the seminar, Roger will explore some issues in nominal semantics. In the stative clause “Jack is a lawyer”, the noun ‘lawyer’ describes a state that Jack is in. That’s a reason to posit a state-argument for the noun. On a neo-Davidsonian analysis, that would be the only argument the noun has. We’ll explore the motivation and consequences for adopting the idea that (simple) nouns are 1-place predicates of states (= the N-state hypothesis).
- I. We’ll review discussion of neo-Davidsonianism – the hypothesis that syntactic arguments are not semantic arguments but rather combine via thematic roles.
- II. Simple nouns divide into count nouns and mass nouns. We’ll eventually want see what the N-state hypothesis allows us to say about this distinction. In part II, we’ll take a look at analyses of mass nouns, particularly those that try to treat mass nouns as plurals.
- III. The N-state hypothesis and: how to combine a predicate with a noun phrase argument, the semantics of number marking, mass-count, counting, thematic-roles.
Reading for the first classes: Parsons 1995 and then Chierchia 1998.
2. Counterfactual marking (remainder of the semester)
In the final two thirds of the seminar, Sabine and Kai will look at counterfactual marking, both its morphosyntax and its contribution to meaning. Counterfactual marking occurs, of course, in “counterfactual” conditionals, but also in wishes, in some expressions of weak necessity, and elsewhere. There are already some readings on the Stellar site.
Class requirements include two squibs on the two topic areas and will be discussed further in the first meeting.
Auditors are welcome to pick and choose their attendance.
The Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT is organizing a conference on the occasion of Ken Wexler’s retirement, to honor and celebrate his foundational, lasting contributions to the field. We will host a two day conference at MIT, with colleagues and friends in linguistics and cognitive science presenting work connected to or inspired by Ken’s research. The conference will take place April 30-May 1, 2016, and will be preceded by a reception on the evening of April 29. The conference, as well as the reception, are open to the public and all are welcome!
This semester, Syntax Square will be meeting on Tuesdays. There is no Syntax Square meeting this week, please contact the organizers Carrie Spadine (email@example.com) and/or Colin Davis (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you would like to reserve a slot. Presentations about work in progress, papers from the literature, and old squibs are every bit as welcome as practice talks. The following dates are still open:
February: 9 March: 8, 28 April: 5, 19, 26 May: 3, 10, 17
A three-part interview with Michel DeGraff was published in Woy Magazine.
As you know, Harvard is hosting this year’s meeting of SNEWS - a semantics workshop that brings together graduate students in Linguistics from 6 schools.
Date: Saturday, November 21, 2015 Talks in: Harvard Yard, Boylston Hall 105
The workshop program is now available on the website. All graduate students, visitors and faculty members are welcome to attend!
Erin Olson will be leading a discussion of the following paper: Tessier, Anne-Michelle & Karen Jesney (2014). Learning in Harmonic Serialism and the necessity of a richer base. Phonology 31.1, 155-178.
There will be no Phonology Circle meeting this week.
A reading group on Eric Bakovic’s 2013 book, Blocking and Complementarity in Phonological Theory, will have its first meeting Monday 5pm in 32-D831. The reading for this session is chapters 1-3 of the book.
Today, Tuesday September 8, is Registration Day. Whamit!, the MIT Linguistics Department Newsletter, appears every Monday during the semester (Tuesdays if Monday is a public holiday). The editorial staff consists of Adam Albright, Kai von Fintel, David Pesetsky, Sophie Moracchini, Lilla Magyar, and Benjamin Storme.
To submit items for inclusion in Whamit! please send an email to email@example.com by Sunday 6 pm. At the beginning of the semester, we’re particularly interested in news about what members of the department did during the summer break.
Hope to see you all at the departmental lunch, 12pm at the 8th floor lounge!
24.956: Topics in Syntax: Agreement and Movement
Instructors: Shigeru Miyagawa (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Norvin Richards (email@example.com) Time: Mondays 10-1 Room: 32-D461
In this seminar we will tackle some of the big syntactic questions: what Agree relations should we posit, and what effects do they have on structure and interpretation?
The seminar will begin with discussion of various ways in which C, and particularly root C, has a special status as a starting point for the features that participate in Agree relations in the rest of the clause; topics here will include allocutive agreement, pro-drop, the syntax of ‘why’, and ga-no conversion. The discussion will take as a starting point Shigeru’s Strong Uniformity thesis.
In the second half of the seminar we will turn to Norvin’s Contiguity Theory, which amounts to a family of proposals about how Agree and selection relations are mapped onto prosodic structure, and indirectly onto syntactic structure, driving movement operations and (we will see) determining the size of structures that can or must be moved. Topics for this half of the semester include pied-piping, the derivational history of A-bar operators, the effects of A-bar movement on nuclear stress, and the structure of DPs.
24.915/24.963 Linguistic Phonetics
Instructor: Edward Flemming Lecture: TR11-12.30 Room: 56-169 Stellar site: https://stellar.mit.edu/S/course/24/fa15/24.915/
We will be considering three fundamental questions:
- How do we produce speech?
- How do we perceive speech?
- How does the nature of these processes influence the sound patterns of languages?
We will also be learning experimental methods and analytical techniques that enable us to address these (and other) questions.
24.964 Topics in phonology: Harmonic Serialism
Instructor: Edward Flemming (firstname.lastname@example.org) Time and place: Currently schedule for W 10-1 in 32D-461 but may be rescheduled
A generative grammar is a mapping between two levels of representation. Is this mapping direct or indirect? A common answer in both phonology and syntax is that the mapping is indirect: there are intermediate steps in a derivation. In Optimality Theory (OT), however, the standard answer to date has been that the mapping is direct…The central insight of OT — candidate comparison by a hierarchy of ranked, violable constraints — is not necessarily tied to the direct-mapping architecture, however. A version of OT with indirect mapping is known as Harmonic Serialism (HS). It is in most respects similar to parallel OT, except that it posits serial derivations with intermediate steps. This single change has important empirical consequences…’ (McCarthy 2010).
We will investigate the properties of Harmonic Serialist phonological grammars, and examine the evidence for serial vs. parallel evaluation in OT. Case studies will include opaque interactions between processes (e.g. stress assignment and syncope/epenthesis), ‘myopia’ in harmony, and positional and P-map faithfulness constraints. These are all interesting problem areas in phonological theory, and we will compare analyses of them based on serial and parallel versions of OT.
24.979 Topics in Semantics
Instructors: Danny Fox, Martin Hackl Time: Thursdays, 2-5 Room: 24-461 Stellar site: https://stellar.mit.edu/S/course/24/fa15/24.979/index.html
This class will be centered on topics in the syntax and semantics of DPs. Traditional approaches to this area of research begin with the postulation of lexical items. determiners, with simple morpho-phonological properties – they are spelled out as the, some, every, etc — and familiar meanings [[the]], [[some]], [[every]]). We will discuss various phenomena that are puzzling from this perspective and might suggest a more indirect relationship between sound and meaning.
Our first topic will be Hydras (e.g . every man and every woman who were introduced to each other…) where we will consider the possibility that words such as every do not directly carry the content of quantification but are rather indicative of its presence elsewhere in the structure (perhaps similar to inflection on verbs being indicative of the presence of distinct temporal operators). Another topic will concern various puzzles in the semantics of the which, likewise, might suggest a more indirect relationship between overt form and content. Among the puzzles we will look at is the semantics of superlatives, where DPs with the have been argued to be underlyingly indefinite: the semantics of the same, the only, and a well-known problem about the semantics of stacked definite descriptions (Haddock’s puzzle).
Reading for first class are on Stellar (Champollion 2015, Fox and Johnson 2015)
24.S95. Computation and Linguistic Theory
Instructor: Professor Robert C. Berwick Time: Monday and Wednesday 1-2:30pm Room: 2-105
Linguistics is sometimes construed as an important part of the “computational theory of mind.” But what about its computational aspect? How can we bring linguistics and computation together? Modern students of linguists often confront a dizzying array of questions that intersect with computational analysis. Does sideways Merge or multidominance structure impact computational complexity? Should syntactic features be encoded via arbitrary hierarchal structure, using ‘unification’ like “Simpler Syntax”? Is Simpler Syntax then really “simpler”? Are there any real computational differences between different theories like HPSG, TAGs, CCGs, and Minimalism or are they all just “notational variants”? Is there some way to formally characterize what makes a natural language natural? Is phonology really “different” from syntax? What about OT accounts and constraint-based systems vs. ordered/unordered rules? Do we need to pay attention to the classic learnability results from Gold? Does Bayesian analysis solve the poverty of the stimulus? This course will teach you the computational tools needed to answer these and many other questions from a computational point of view. It will guide you through both the classical and the more modern methods that examine linguistic theories from a computational perspective. No prior knowledge of computational theory will be assumed, but some familiarity with formalisms for syntax, phonology, or semantics, including some exposure to logic, would be very useful. If you don’t have this background, permission of the instructor is OK - please just ask!
The MIT Linguistics Colloquium schedule for the Fall and early Spring. All talks are on Fridays, 3:30-5:00 p.m. For further information, please contact the organizers for this year, Athulya Aravind and Michelle Yuan.
- Sep.18 — Eric Bakovic
- Oct.23 — Philippe Schlenker
- Nov. 4-6 — Paul Portner
- Nov. 20 — Susi Wurmbrand
- Dec. 9-11 — Claire Halpert
Spring 2016 (partial):
We have a few items of summer news from faculty and students:
- Faculty Kai von Fintel and Sabine Iatridou and alumni Karlos Arregi (PhD 2002) and Jonathan Bobaljik (PhD 1995) were elected 2016 Fellows of the Linguistic Society of America. This is our field’s highest honor, awarded each year to a small number of linguists for “distinguished contributions to the discipline”. This is truly fantastic news. Kai and Sabine join their faculty colleagues Noam Chomsky, Morris Halle, Irene Heim, David Pesetsky, and Donca Steriade, who have been honored as Fellows in previous years, as well as more than twenty alumni of the department. About a third of all LSA Fellows are MIT alumni or faculty. A full list of Fellows from MIT can be found here, and the full list of LSA Fellows can be found here.
- Shigeru Miyagawa, Chris O’Brien, David Pesetsky, Juliet Stanton, and Donca Steriade taught three-day courses at the University of Brasilia in August that were attended by students and faculty from Brazil and Argentina. Donca, David, and Shigeru also gave presentations at the Congresso Internacional de Estudos Linguísticos III held at the U of Brasilia. One of the main organizers of the Brasilia events, Professor Eloisa Pilati, will be a visitor at MIT during this fall semester. Shortly after leaving Brasília, Shigeru gave a course at the University of São Paulo, and Juliet and Chris gave presentations at the University of Buenos Aires.
- David Pesetsky and Michel DeGraff taught at the 2016 Summer Institute of the Linguistic Society of America, hosted by the University of Chicago. David taught two classes: a two-week seminar on Slavic Syntax and Semantics, co-taught with Sergei Tatevosov (a visiting faculty member in 2011-2012), and the introductory syntax class. Michel taught “Topics in Creole Studies: from Historical Linguistics to Computational Phylogenetics”. One of the two organizers of the LSA Institute this year was our own alum Karlos Arregi.
- Juliet Stanton taught a short class on phonetics and phonology for high school students though HSSP, a program that allows students in grades 7-12 from all over New England to take classes at MIT. 24 students were registered for the class, including several who had taken the Introduction to Linguistics course taught in previous HSSP sessions.
- Samuel Jay Keyser reports something that did not happen this summer, but is related to the question “What did you do this summer?”:
Alistair Campbell was the author of Old English Grammar, one of the best philological (phonological) grammars of old English ever written. He was one of my tutors at Oxford when I was there in 1956-58. When he was a student, he was asked precisely the same question that you ask in your email, only the interrogator was the warden of his college. (I think it was Pembroke but I’m not sure.) It was an annual ritual called “the shaking of hands.”
The conversation as reported on the Oxfordian grapevine, my vintage, went like this:
Warden: Now tell me, Mr. Campbell. How did you spend your summer?
Campbell: Sir, I spent the summer on the beach at Brighton pondering the Anglo-Saxon corpus.
Congratulations to this summer’s doctoral dissertators!
- Isaac Gould: Syntactic Learning from Ambiguous Evidence: Errors and End-States
- Gretchen Kern: Rhyming Grammars and Celtic Phonology
- Ted Levin: Licensing without Case
- Wataru Uegaki: Interpreting questions under attitudes
- Coppe van Urk: A uniform syntax for phrasal movement: a Dinka Bor case study
In the coming year, Isaac will be a visiting assistant professor at Kansas University, Gretchen will work as a linguist for a tech company in NYC, Ted will be a post-doc at Maryland, Wataru is a post-doc at the ENS in Paris, and Coppe will be a Lecturer (= an Assistant Professor) at Queen Mary University of London.
The members of ling-15, the incoming graduate class, have provided brief biographical notes for us. Welcome to them!
Rafael Abramovitz: “I’m from Minneapolis, MN, and in June I finished my B.A. in Linguistics at the University of Chicago. Broadly speaking, I’m interested in phonology, syntax, and Chukotko-Kamchatkan languages. More specifically, I’m interested in dominant-recessive harmony systems, accidental (or “accidental”) homophony, case and agreement phenomena (particularly in ergative languages), and syntactic ergativity. In addition, I’m excited to learn more about computational phonology and formal semantics, two areas of linguistics which I have not yet had much exposure to.”
Itai Bassi writes: “I was born and raised in a small Kibbutz in Israel. I got my B.A. in linguistics and philosophy from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where I also worked on my M.A. in linguistics. My main areas of interest are semantics, pragmatics and the syntax-semantics interface. I especially find NPIs, negative concord, modality and conditionals very intriguing. I feel honored to have the opportunity to develop my thinking on these issues at MIT. In my free time I enjoy watching sports and playing chess.”
Colin Davis writes: “I was born in Colorado, but ended up getting a linguistics BA at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, where I did a year of fieldwork research on the Turkic language North Azeri. From this I wrote a thesis attempting to account for several morphosyntactic puzzles in this language, which for brevity’s sake I won’t describe. I have a background in Japanese and am fond of the Altaic typology generally, but I’m interested in any language with fun morphosyntax. I occasionally like a little morphophonology as well, in moderation. At MIT I hope to do more fieldwork, get a grasp of semantics, and generally just make the most of everything. I’m hoping the Massachusetts winter is at least a bit more bearable than winter where I came from.”
Suzana Fong: “I’m from Brazil. I did my undergrad studies at the University of São Paulo, where I received a B.A. in linguistics. I also received an M.A. there. I worked on gerund clauses in Brazilian Portuguese both as an undergrad and as an M.A. student. Right now, my major research interest is syntax, but, at MIT, I’m mostly looking forward to broadening my horizons and to working on areas I have had little or no contact with.”
Verena Hehl: “As a Ravensburger (Ra-vens-bur-ger /ʁaːvənsbʊʁgɐ/ n 1 a native of the medieval town Ravensburg, Germany; 2 a German company that produces board games) I enjoy challenging puzzles of all sorts. Before discovering semantics I was mainly puzzling over structural approaches to theory formation in history, English literature and mathematics. Besides a teaching degree in these subjects, I hold an M.A. in English linguistics from the University of Tübingen. In Tübingen I was working as a lecturer and as a research assistant in a crosslinguistic research group that is studying the semantics of comparison constructions, focus and questions. While at MIT I hope to be puzzled by and puzzle out some of the many issues in formal semantics and at the syntax-semantics interface. When I am not doing semantics, I enjoy playing the viola, I love reading and I am interested in traveling, attending theater productions, and visiting history museums.”
Maša Močnik: “I come from a small village in Slovenia. I did my undergrad in Ljubljana, studying English and French, and spent a year in Paris (Erasmus exchange). The last three years I was in Amsterdam — I did a master’s in logic and then taught a bit at the university. My primary interest is formal semantics, especially questions related to tense, aspect, and modality. When I have time, I like to read a good novel or poem, watch an older film (Wittertainment fan!), have a healthy meal, and run/cycle in nature.”
Mitya Privoznov writes: “I’m from Russia. I was born and grew up in Moscow. I received my specialist degree in linguistics (it was a Russian equivalent to BA and sometimes to MA) at Moscow State University. I’ve done some field work on Turkish (Tatar, Balkar), Mongolic (Buryat) and Uralic (Khanty and Moksha) languages, though my specialist thesis was about Russian and German passive. Mostly I’m interested in argument structure, syntax-morphology interface and semantics, especially intensional semantics. In my free time I read, play the piano, cook and watch films and a bunch of series.”
- Keny Chatain (École Normale Supérieure (ENS)) works in Syntax and Semantics. He says: “I’m interested in formal descriptions of tense, mood and aspect of verbal systems across languages.”
- Chingting Chuang (National Tsing Hua University)’s research interests include Phonetically-based phonology, language variation, language change, prosody. She says: “My research has primarily focused on prosodic manifestations of phonetic variation and language change. I have chosen Penang Hokkien, an understudied dialect of Southern Min Chinese spoken in Northwestern Peninsular Malaysia, as the language under investigation.”
- Maria-Margarita Makri (University of York) says: “My research mainly focuses on the syntax and semantics of comparative constructions.” Interests and Research Description: Semantics, Syntax, Language Acquisition.
- Tiaoyuan Mao (Beijing Foreign Studies University) says: “The object of my research is to propose a unified explanation for Chinese English learners’ morpho-syntactic development of C on the basis of the feature assembly theory (Chomsky 2001, 2008) and Feature Reassembly Hypothesis (Lardiere 2008, 2009). If possible, a minor revision of the feature assembly theory would be carried out in terms of improvement of the acquisition theory for the second language acquisition.”
- James Gair(Cornell University)
- Mingqiong (Joan) Luo (Shanghai International Studies University)
- Barbara Lust (Cornell University)
- Pritty Patel-Grosz (Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen)
- Bruna Pereira (Universidade Federal dos Vales do Jequitinhonha e Mucuri)
- Eloisa Pilati (University of Brasilia)
- Katsuo Tamaoka (Nagoya University)
- Nicholas Baier (UC Berkeley)
This semester, Phonology Circle will be meeting on Mondays, from 5-6:30pm in 32-D831 (the 8th floor conference room). Presentations about work in progress, papers from the literature, and old squibs are every bit as welcome as practice talks. Please contact Juliet Stanton (email@example.com) and/or Sam Zukoff (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you would like to reserve a slot.
Michel, as readers of Whamit know well, is a founder and leader of the MIT Haiti Initiative, which has been working to actively promote the use of Kreyòl in STEM education in Haiti. Alyssa is a double major in Linguistics and Chemistry, a 2014 Burchard Scholar, and co-chair of the Black Women’s Alliance. Last November, Alyssa wrote an eloquent article in the Tech about Ferguson, the Newbury Street march, “Black Lives Matter”, MIT and much more. We encourage you to read it!
Congratulations to both!
In a recent article published by MIT News, Kai von Fintel shares his thoughts about semantics, open access in linguistics, and the role of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS) at MIT. Here it is!
24.954: Pragmatics in Linguistic Theory
Instructors: Danny Fox, Irene Heim Time: MW 10-11:30 Room: 56-162
24.956: Topics in Syntax
Syntactic structure: outstanding puzzles of cyclicity, overtness, and linearization Instructors: Danny Fox and David Pesetsky Tuesdays 10-1, 32D-461
According to a familiar and relatively minimal view of syntax, all structures are constructed from primitive elements by recursive external or internal Merge of two preexisting units. This view derives a very strong version of the strict cycle, the Extension Condition — with well-known salutory consequences both empirical and conceptual. On the face of it, however, this simple view is incompatible with analyses of a wide range of phenomena that posit, or might have to posit countercyclic Merge involving positions other than the root. For example:
- Late Merge: Following Lebeaux (1988), Chomsky (1995), it has been argued that Merge can add elements to a phrase that has been moved, so that the added elements are present in the higher, but not the lower position. This operation appears to be countercyclic by its very nature, but is supported not only by the binding interactions discovered by Lebeaux, but also by Fox & Nissenbaum’s (2003) analysis of modifier extraposition; Takahashi & Hulsey’s (2009) explanation for anti-reconstruction effects for A-movement; Stanton’s (2014) explanation for asymmetries in English P-stranding; Stepanov’s (2001, 2007) explanation for CED effects; and Johnson’s (2010) tangled-tree alternative to Fox’s trace conversation — among other proposals.
- Covert movement: The standard view of covert movement (Chomsky 1975; May 1977) explains its covertness as a consequence of a second syntactic cycle after Spell-out — a claim supported by Huang’s claim (1982) that covert movement creates configurations that can block later covert, but not overt, movement.
- Tucking in: Following Richards (1997; 2001), it has been argued that the formation of multiple specifier constructions is crucially countercyclic, with the outermost specifier merged first. This claim permits a simple locality explanation of the relative ordering of internally merged specifiers in many languages — but at the cost of a crucially countercyclic derivation.
- Multidominant sharing: Since McCawley (1982), a number of researchers have developed detailed proposals for the analysis of constructions in which elements appear to occupy multiple positions that are not in a c-command relation — and therefore cannot be easily explained as standard instances of movement. These include the wh-coordination, bulk and non-bulk sharing structures studied by Gračanin-Yuksek and Citko (independently and in co-authored work) and by De Vries in many papers. They also include proposals concerning Right Node Raising by Wilder, Sabbagh, and many of the authors just cited — plus interactions with island phenomena explored by Bachrach & Katzir, O’Brien, and others.
In this class, we will spend time exploring each of these domains for which the simple “first-year syntax” view of Merge looks inadequate (at first glance, and maybe second glance too). So at the very least, we promise that you will leave with you head full of exciting problems in empirical domains that may be new to you — and ideas about possible directions to pursue solutions. At the same time, we will be pursuing a hunch of our own, that the solution to some aspects of these problems is closely connected to certain puzzles of word order: in particular, what determines the relative order of complements and specifiers, and what determines whether movement is to the left or right. For this reason, we will probably spend at least a class near the end of the semester discussing the Final-over-Final-Constraint, and various proposals for deriving it.
But it should come as no surprise that our main focus throughout the semester will syntactic structure itself, and the question of what operation produces it.
- weekly readings
- active class participation including some in-class problem solving
- two squibs: the first reviewing some paper on a topic related to the class, the second exploring (but not necessarily solving!) a puzzle of your own related to the class
Danny will talk about arguments for Late Merge, his own recent work on how deep it can apply (contradicting some recent claims by Sauerland and Stanton). No reading.
Instructors: Adam Albright, David Pesetsky, and Martin Walkow Time: Mondays, 2–5 (note: first class is 2/9) Location: 66-156 (note: not the room you expect!)
Topics in the structure of words and their components. The leading question underlying the course will be: is there a distinct morphological grammar, or can morphological phenomena all be understood as arising from the interaction of syntax and phonology?
Particular questions to be discussed in light of this leading question include:
What is the evidence for structure below the level of the word? What (if anything) distinguishes word structure from sentence structure? What principles account for the order of morphemes? How does morphological structure influence the phonological shape of complex words? Why does morphology sometimes fail to express syntactic/semantic differences (one affix, two functions), and how do multiple morphemes compete to express the same meaning?
Course website: http://stellar.mit.edu/S/course/24/sp15/24.965 (currently empty; to be stocked with readings soon)
- weekly readings
- active class participation including some in-class problem solving
- discovery of a data-rich problem to explore for term paper and class presentations of your work on that problem
- written term paper
Syllabus: Will be available sometime in the next 4-5 days, but for a glimpse at an ancestor of this class, look at the Stellar pages from 2012, including that year’s syllabus. Some of this year’s topics will differ, but the overall gist will be similar.
24.967: Topics in Experimental Phonology
Instructors: Adam Albright (email@example.com), Edward Flemming (firstname.lastname@example.org) Time: Tuesdays 2-5 Room: 32-D461
In the past decade, the field of phonology has increasingly looked to experimental results to confirm and extend its understanding of phonological patterns. In this course, we will examine some of the issues involved in deriving experimentally testable predictions from a theory, designing and running an experiment, and interpreting the results.
The class has several goals:
- Consider the relation between phonological theory, empirical predictions, and experimental results
- Gain practical knowledge in designing and carrying out experiments in the lab and on-line, and performing data analysis using R
- Gain familiarity with some commonly used experimental paradigms, comparing what they can tell us about the linguistic system
The class will be organized around a set of phonological topics that have benefited from experimental investigation. These topics will serve to illustrate a variety of experimental and statistical techniques:
- Sonority sequencing preferences
- Generalization from the lexicon
- Perceptual similarity
- Phonetic underspecification
- Readings and class participation
- Regular assignments (modest and practical in nature)
- Final project: designing (and perhaps piloting) an experiment
24.979: Topics in Semantics
Instructors: Kai von Fintel, Irene Heim, Sabine Iatridou Fridays 12–3, Room 32-D461
This semester’s semantics seminar will consist of three “mini-seminars”: Conditionals without “if” (2/6, 2/13, 2/20, 2/27) The semantics of tense (3/6, 3/13, 3/20, 4/3, 4/10) The semantics of surprise (4/17, 4/24, 5/1, 5/8)
Course website: http://stellar.mit.edu/S/course/24/sp15/24.979/
Students who are taking the seminar for credit are expected to attend all sessions and to submit a term paper on a topic related to one of the topics of the seminar. Auditors are welcome to attend any of the three parts of the seminar.
24.S96: Computational Phylogenetics
Instructors: Bob Berwick & Michel DeGraff Time: Thursdays, 2–5 Location: Room 32D–461
In this course, we’ll endeavor to make the inscrutable scrutable. Computational phylogenetic methods have been gaining wide currency among, and seem convincing to, linguists of various theoretical stripes. Yet, these methods and their results are often not fully understood. In this seminar we will explore the scope and limitations of computational phylogenetics methods in historical linguistics, especially in studies on Creole formation, with an eye toward the improvement of such methods. Creole languages have traditionally been excluded from the scope of the Comparative Method, generally because it has been thought that methods that reconstruct phylogenetic trees of related languages are not applicable in the case of Creoles (Taylor 1956, Thomason & Kaufman 1998, Ringe et al 2002, Nakhleh et al 2005b, Labov 2007, etc.). Recent studies continue to claim that Creoles lie outside well-established language families, constituting an exceptional typology as the least complex human languages (Parkvall 2008, McWhorter 2011). In a related vein, Bakker et al 2011 and Daval-Markussen & Baker 2012 enlist phylogenetic tools (i.e., Splits Tree from Huson & Bryant 2006; cf. Dunn et al 2008) to argue that “Creoles are typologically distinct from non-Creoles.” In this seminar we will start with some general background on Creole studies and computational phylogenetics, and then we’ll evaluate the applications of computational phylogenetics to Creole studies. Much of the seminar will involve hands-on active-learning activities as we delve first-hand into the nuts and bolts of computational phylogenetics and applications thereof to Creole data. One overall objective is to better understand the scope and limitations of the computational phylogenetics methods and how to improve on their applications in historical linguistics, especially in Creole studies. Given historical linguists’ increasing use of both computational phylogenetics and language-acquisition findings, it is important that such methods be reviewed with great care, as we’ll do in the seminar, before they can be constructively and reliably applied in the analysis of language-creation and language change phenomena.
For more information, in particular concerning the course requirements and schedule, please visit the course website: http://stellar.mit.edu/S/course/24/sp15/24.S96/
On December 7th, Noam Chomsky turned 86. Happy birthday, Noam!
MITWPL is pleased to announce the publication of the Proceedings of FAJL 7: Formal Approaches to Japanese Linguistics (MWPL#73). (Editors: Shigeto Kawahara and Mika Igarashi, 2014).
+++ get it together with FAJL3 or FAJL6 and save over 30% +++
Emmanuel Chemla (CNRS) will be giving two lectures this week:
- Tuesday 11/18 5:15-8PM; 32D-831
- Wednesday 11/19; 3-6PM; 32D-461
Below is the abstract and information for the lectures:
We will ask how simple psycholinguistic methods can be relevant for the study of various questions in linguistic theory. We will start by discussing the case of scalar implicatures, where many illustrations can be found, both in terms of questions and methods, without a perfect alignement between the two, however. We will quickly move to other topics including questions, scopal relations, cumulative/distributive readings of plurals. The methods we will discuss include truth value and acceptability judgments, basic “priming” studies and response time studies. The hope is to demonstrate that these methods are useful and simple to deploy.
Three 2014 PhD theses are now available on the MITWPL webstore!
- Michael Yoshitaka Erlewine, 2014: Movement Out of Focus
- Yusuke Imanishi, 2014: Default Ergative
- Hadas Kotek, 2014: Composing Questions
Also, both volumes of Irene Heim’s Festshrift are now out of print and available from the MITWPL webstore:
A public service announcement from Kai von Fintel - not just relevant for semanticists!
On October 30, Irene Heim’s colleagues and students past and present gathered to celebrate her 60th birthday with the presentation of a Festschrift (that we already linked to in an earlier post) and a great party with food, drink, speeches and reminiscences. Master of ceremonies was Uli Sauerland. Irene also was presented with framed versions of the artwork for the Festschrift by Sarah Hulsey (PhD 2008).
(photo credit: mitcho Erlewine — thank you!)
From left to right: Sarah Hulsey, Irene Heim & Uli Sauerland; Irene Heim; Angelika Kratzer; Danny Fox; Kai von Fintel; Gennaro Chierchia; Barbara H. Partee; Mats Rooth & Uli Sauerland
Congratulations to five of our 21st-century alumni on the recent publication of their books!!
- Heejeong Ko’s (PhD 2005) Edges in Syntax was published by Oxford University Press. Heejeong is an Associate Professor of Linguistics at Seoul National University.
- Márta Abrusán’s (PhD 2007) book Weak Island Semantics has been published by Oxford University Press. Márta is a CNRS Research Scientist at the Université Paul Sabatier, Toulouse.
- Omer Preminger’s (PhD 2011) Agreement and its Failures was published by MIT Press. Omer was an Assistant Professor at Syracuse University during the writing of this book, and is now Assistant Professor of Linguistics at the University of Maryland.
- On the Grammar of Optative constructions by Patrick Grosz (PhD 2011) has been published by Benjamins in their series Linguistik Aktuell/Linguistics Today. Patrick is an Assistant Professor at the University of Tübingen.
- Young Ah Do’s (PhD 2013) dissertation on Biased learning of phonological alternations was published by MIT Working Papers in Linguistics (MITWPL). Youngah is Visiting Assistant Professor at Georgetown University.
Our next ESSL/LacqLab meeting will take place on Wednesday, September 24, at 3:00 PM in room 32-D831. It will be partly a brainstorming session on possible activities involving “Linguistics for Kids.”
Date/Time: Friday, September 26, 5 pm
Location: 8th floor lounge
LingBeer will be starting up again this Friday at 5pm. LingBeer is a reading group, but +beer. This week, we will be reading Michael Barrie and Eric Mathieu’s “Noun Incorporation and Phrasal Movement”.
Today, Tuesday September 2, is Registration Day. Whamit!, the MIT Linguistics Department Newsletter, appears every Monday during the semester (Tuesdays if Monday is a public holiday). The editorial staff consists of Adam Albright, Kai von Fintel, David Pesetsky, Sophie Moracchini, and Benjamin Storme.
To submit items for inclusion in Whamit! please send an email to email@example.com by Sunday 6 pm. At the beginning of the semester, we’re particularly interested in news about what members of the department did during the summer break.
24.960 Syntactic Models
Instructor: David Pesetsky Lecture: T2pm-5pm (32-D461)
The course has twin goals:
First, it gives a quick introduction to at least two “frameworks” for syntactic research that compete with the Government-Binding/Principles & Parameters/Minimalist tradition in the current syntax world: HPSG and Lexical-Functional Grammar (LFG). We work speedily through much of the HPSG textbook by Sag, Wasow and Bender, and also look at the LFG textbook by Bresnan.
Next, the class turns historical, tracing the development of generative syntax from Syntactic Structures (1957) up to the early 1980s, when HPSG and LFG first separated themselves off from the research program that became GB/P&P/Minimalism. An overarching theme of the course is the issue of derivational vs. representational views of syntax — a theme that offers some surprising observations about who said what at various points in the history of the field, but also gives the course a focus relevant to the most current work.
For a demonstration that the issue is live (including the hotly debated question of whether there even is a question), you need look no further than a recent discussion on Norbert Hornstein’s blog, featuring Omer Preminger (who taught this very class in 2011). See http://facultyoflanguage.blogspot.com/2014/08/cakes-damn-cakes-and-other-baked-goods.html, which begins with links to earlier discussion on the blog that prompted that posting, and continues with millions of comments. In fact, at the right moment (about half-way through the semester), we will use this blog debate as a springboard for our own discussion.
You can get a good sense of what the class will be like from its old Stellar pages — for example http://stellar.mit.edu/S/course/24/sp09/24.960 (and http://stellar.mit.edu/S/course/24/sp11/24.960 for Omer’s version). I plan to follow essentially the same structure (with improvements in the LFG section due to Omer) — but I will work extra hard to reserve time for a topic of your choosing at the very end.
24.964 Topics in Phonology
Instructor: Edward Flemming Lecture: R9.30-12.30 (32-D461)
This course will organized around three main topics:
Phonetic grammars It has long been known that the grammars of languages must regulate relatively fine details of phonetic realization, but relatively little is known about the form of the relevant component of grammar. We will study a model based on weighted constraints (Flemming 2001), based on case studies including coarticulation (local and long distance) and the timing and realization of tones. We will also consider the relationship between phonetic and phonological grammars in light of this model.
Morphology-phonology interactions: what are the relative roles of morphology and phonology in accounting for allomorphic variation in paradigms? Morphological paradigms sometimes show complex patterns of distribution of stem realizations, in which a given phonological form of a stem appears in a morphosyntactically arbitrary set of contexts (e.g. 1pl and 2pl pres subj, 1pl pres indic, 1pl pres imp). Such cases have been taken as evidence that morphological grammars can specify complex and arbitrary mappings from morphosyntactic specification to phonological form, as proposed by Aronoff (1994). On the other hand, if these morphosyntactically arbitrary distributions of allomorphs are the result of phonological conditioning, then these powerful morphological devices are not required (cf. Steriade in press). Proponents of purely morphological analyses have often dismissed phonological alternatives based on an impoverished conception of the possibilities for phonological conditioning of stem form. We will review cases from Latin and Romance languages in light of mechanisms such as Output-Output Correspondence constraints, phonological conditioning of allomorph selection, similarity-conditioned merger etc.
Do speakers’ grammars contain phonetically-based constraints? Phonological typology has been shown to reflect a variety of phonetically-based constraints, but it remains controversial whether these constraints play a role in individual grammars, or whether they are external to grammar, applying only through processes of sound change (e.g. Blevins 2004). We will try to clarify the empirical claims that are at issue here and examine experimental evidence that bears on those claims. (This topic was also covered last year, but we will be looking at new/different sources of evidence this year).
24.979 Topics in Semantics
Instructor: Danny Fox and Roger Schwarzschild Lecture: Mondays 2-5; 32D-461
This seminar will deal with various issues in the semantics of degree expressions (scalar adjectives, comparatives, equatives, degree questions, etc.). We will begin with a well-known puzzle pertaining to the scopal interactions in which such expressions partake. We haven’t yet decided were we will go from there, but the aim is to get to Roger’s recent work reconceptualizing degrees as segments (parts of which were presented here at MIT during IAP and parts of which were presented at SALT) and some work in progress on equatives that Danny’s been doing with Luka Crnic.
21F.514/24.946 Ling Theory & Japanese Lang
Instructor: Shigeru Miyagawa Lecture: M10-1 (32-D461)
We will look at a variety of related topics centering on Japanese but also across a number of other languages. The topics mostly relate to issues of agreement, very broadly conceived:
- agreement systems, including those that don’t appear to have agreement (Japanese, Chinese, Malayalam, Mongolian, with reference to Romance)
- topic systems and root phenomena (Japanese, English, Spanish, etc.)
- binding and agreement (Japanese, Chinese, Malayalam, with reference to Basque, etc.)
- the structure of ‘why’ (Japanese, Chinese, English)
- answer fragments and sluicing (Japanese, English, German)
- position of the subject (standard Japanese, Kumamoto dialect of Japanese)
- marking of the subject as genitive (Japanese, Mongolian, Turkish, etc.)
- passive (Japanese)
24.S95: Seminar on Computation, Biology, and Language
Instructors: Robert C. Berwick & Noam Chomsky Lecture: Fridays, 11-2, 32D-461
This seminar will cover four inter-related topics: (1) recent work in linguistic theory extending ‘Problems of Projection’; (2) evolutionary biology as it relates to the origin of language, including the background results from evolutionary population biology required to understand evolutionary modeling, as well as comparative biology, genomics, and the role of natural selection; (3) computation and generative grammar, including results on the role of strong generative capacity, the computational complexity of natural language, and implemented parsers for modern minimalist generative grammars, including principles and parameters theory, derivation by phrase, and problems of projection; and (4) learnability and the poverty of the stimulus, including the classical Gold results, the role of locality constraints in learnability, and the implications of statistical approaches such as Bayesian modeling and minimum description length. No prior knowledge of computation or evolutionary biology is assumed. Syllabus and readings for the first meeting (9/5) and subsequent meetings are posted on the stellar site.
The first ESSL/LAQLab (Language Acquisition Lab) of the semester will take place Wednesday 3:00 to 4:30 in the 4th floor seminar room (32-D461). We will review summer activities and try to come up with a schedule for the semester. All are welcome!
Over the summer, our new linguistics lab manager, Leo Rosenstein, started work. She will be helping with experimental research throughout the linguistics side of the department, including the Phonetics lab, the Experimental Syntax and Semantics lab, and the Language Acquisition Lab.
Leo is originally from Troy, Michigan. She got her BA in Linguistics from Boston University in January 2013, and is finishing her MA in Linguistics there in September. She is primarily interested in semantics, and is writing her master’s project on adjective denotation and classification, but she likes syntax and has enjoyed doing work on intonation as well. When not thinking about linguistics, she divides her time between writing, reading, ballroom and swing dancing, fire-spinning, stargazing, singing in a symphonic chorus, and playing Dota 2.
- Maria del Mar Bassa Vanrell (University of Texas at Austin) says: “My name is Maria del Mar but everyone just calls me Mar (‘sea’). I’m from an island, Mallorca (Spain), where I lived until I was 20. As an undergraduate I studied English literature and linguistics at the University of the Balearic Islands, The University of Texas at Austin, and Queen Mary University of London. After a year of teaching at The College of the Holy Cross, MA, I decided to move back to UT Austin to pursue graduate studies in linguistics. I’m currently working on the typology of motion constructions. My main interests are semantics, lexical-semantics, pragmatics, and syntax. I look forward to going deeper into any of these fields while at MIT. During my free time, I love traveling, photography, dancing, painting, watching movies, cooking (& eating), and just spending time outdoors while enjoying nature.”
- Brian Buccola (McGill University) says: “My research interests primarily include formal semantics, pragmatics, phonology, and computational linguistics. On the semantics/pragmatics side, I have worked on ignorance inferences associated with superlative numeral/scalar modifiers like “at least” and “at most”. On the phonology side, I have worked on the difference in generative capacity between Optimality Theory and ordered rewrite rules.”
- Heidi Klockmann (PhD student at Utrecht University) works on syntax, especially on case, agreement and numerals.
- Tony Borowsky (University of Sydney)’s research interests are all kinds of Theoretical Phonology including issues of lexical phonology in Optimality Theory, the formalization of phonological variation in OT and language acquisition.
- Hemanga Dutta (The English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU))’s research explores different phonological theories. He also works on the sociolinguistics and linguistic aspects of Indian languages including language change, language contact, language, power and gender dynamics, language and youth culture, multilingualism, language and education. In addition, he is also interested in applied linguistics, language pedagogy and language disorders.
- Miwako Hisagi (MIT)’s research interests are Speech and Language Processing, Speech Processing, Acoustic Phonetics, Language Acquisition, and Phonetics.
- Masuyo Ito (Fukuoka University) works on first language acquisition, syntax, psycholinguistics and pragmatics.
- Jinglian Li (Beijing Institute of Technology)’s fields are Generative Grammar and Contrastive Linguistics.
- Aijuan Liu (Beijing University of Chinese Medicine) says: “[My] research interests include age effects and maturational constraints in second language acquisition, L2 acquisition of formal aspects of language knowledge (especially morphology and syntax).”
- Chie Nakamura (University of Tokyo)
- Tamina Stephenson (University of Massachusetts Amherst)’s research interests are pragmatics, semantics and philosophy of language.
- Tsuyoshi Sugawara (Ube National College of Technology) writes: “I am a spontaneous and an extrovert person. I love Boston because of its diversity. I am crazy about Boston Red Sox and Boston Celtics. I hold two degrees: Master of Education in Teaching English as a Second Language and Ph.D in Information Science (on Linguistics). As a linguist and a TEFL instructor, I am extremely curious about every language. I have been studying 12 languages (Arabic, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, German, French, Italian, Russian, Turkish, Hindi, Malay, Chinese, and Korean), communicating every day with my friends from about 50 countries around the world. My research areas are Lexical Semantics (especially on Generative Lexicon Theory), Morphology, Syntax, and Language Acquisition ( Bilingualism, Trilingualism, and Multilingualism).”
- Aline Villavicencio (Institute of Informatics, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul) reports: “The main goal of this visit is to collaborate with Prof. Berwick on the project Cognitive Computational Models of Natural Languages for Assessing Language Competency (CNPq-MIT) to investigate particular linguistic factors connected to language use in clinical and non-clinical conditions, such as aphasia and Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). ”
This Spring, Noam Chomsky gave four classes about syntax (and about the language faculty, and the state of the field, and …). Video of these lectures are now available. (Note: during one of them, he lost his microphone for a while — apologies in advance for the loss of sound.)
This is the last issue of Whamit! for the spring term. Besides a special issue or two over the summer break, we will resume regular publication in September. Have a nice break!
The Workshop on Formal Altaic Linguistics, which started here at MIT, returns for its tenth meeting this weekend, May 2-4. The term ‘Altaic’ is understood to include Turkic, Mongolic, and Tungusic languages, as well as Korean and Japanese.
The organizers ask that those who are planning to attend pre-register at the website.
The 45th annual meeting of the North East Linguistic Society will be held at MIT next semester, Oct 31-Nov 2. The invited speakers are Heidi Harley, Roger Schwarzchild, and Kie Zuraw. In addition to the main program, a special session titled
The conference website and the abstract submission page are now up — abstract submission deadline is July 1.
Please join us in extending our warmest welcomes (and welcome backs) to the visiting members of the department for this term.
- Larissa Aronin (Oranim Academic College of Education, Israel) is working on “developing the novel direction of ‘Multilingualism and Philosophy’” and “will continue philosophical discussion, interpretation and conceptualization of multilingualism in an age of globalization.”
- Toni Borowsky (University of Sydney) works on phonetics and phonology, in particular using evidence from language games.
- Tianshan Dai’s (Shenzhen Polytechnic University) research interests include biolinguistics, philosophy of language, and language acquisition.
- Caroline Heycock (Edinburgh) works on syntax and the syntax-semantics interface, with particular reference to English and the other Germanic languages, and to Japanese. During her stay, Caroline is looking to work on three projects: “reconstruction effects, particularly in relatives; “embedded root phenomena”; and (incipiently) a project on possible connections between syntactic priming and attrition.”
- Fuyin (Thomas) Li (Beihang University), who will arrive in June, has a project entitled “Bridging Cognitive Linguistics and Generative Grammar: Their Philosophical Basis.”
- Tsuyoshi Sugawara (Ube National College of Technology, Japan) will arrive in April. His research interests include lexical semantics, semantics, and morphology.
- Alexandra Vydrina (National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilizations, Paris & LLACAN) is a PhD student whose interests include syntax, semantics, fieldwork, endangered languages, and Mande languages. She writes: “The topic of my PhD research is the typologically and theoretically oriented description of the Kakabe language (Mande), a minor language spoken in Guinea which has not been described before.”
Welcome to the spring semester for new and returning members of the department. Whamit!, the departmental newsletter, resumes regular Monday publication this week. The editorial staff consists of Adam Albright, Ryo Masuda, David Pesetsky, Kai von Fintel and new student editor Benjamin Storme, who replaces Michelle Fullwood following her three-year tenure.
To submit items for inclusion in Whamit! please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org by Sunday 6 pm. At the beginning of the semester, we’re particularly interested in news about what members of the department did during the winter break.
With Fall semester classes ending this week, we will go on our regular Winter semi-hiatus until classes resume at the beginning of February. As always, we will report exciting breaking news as it happens (that’s why it’s just a semi-hiatus), but otherwise — see you in 2014!
We have a shortened Whamit! due in part to Thursday and Friday being holidays. Have a nice Thanksgiving!
We discovered that emails sent to Whamit from non-MIT email accounts, including Gmail, were not getting through to us. This may have particularly affected alumni, visitors and Harvard members who have tried to contribute to Whamit in the past.
We’re sorry if you were left thinking that your submission wasn’t important enough — it was our mistake.
The issue has since been fixed, so please do submit news for publication, whether they be academic in nature (conference visits, accepted/published papers, fieldwork trips, invited talks) or otherwise (childbirth, climbing a mountain), to us at email@example.com.
The 23rd Japanese/Korean Linguistics Conference was held this past weekend at MIT. With 23 talks and 14 posters presented over three days, there was much lively discussion among the over 90 participants. The organizers wish to thank the presenters and attendees for making the conference such a resounding success.
Among the participants was the conference’s official mascot (and MVP), Sally, who welcomed the attendees on the first day and stayed through the last day. You’ll find her and others in the photos below, provided by Mitcho Erlewine.
Today, Tuesday September 3, is Registration Day. Whamit!, the MIT Linguistics Department Newsletter, appears every Monday during the semester (Tuesdays if Monday is a public holiday). The editorial staff consists of Adam Albright, Kai von Fintel, Michelle Fullwood, Ryo Masuda, and David Pesetsky.
To submit items for inclusion in Whamit! please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org by Sunday 6 pm. At the beginning of the semester, we’re particularly interested in news about what members of the department did during the summer break.
Hope to see you all at the departmental barbecue, 12 noon at the Stata amphitheater (rain location: 8th floor departmental lounge)!
Over the summer, our new linguistics lab manager, Erin Olson, started work. She will be helping with experimental research throughout the linguistics side of the department, including the Phonetics lab and the Experimental Syntax and Semantics lab.
Erin is originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota. She got her BA in Linguistics from McGill University in Montréal, Québec in 2012, and worked at McGill as a research assistant in the Prosody Lab and Fieldwork Lab there until June 2013. She tells us that he’s primarily interested in phonology (especially stress systems), but is also interested in other kinds of experimental research, including sentence processing and first language acquisition. When not concentrating on linguistics, she enjoys “fencing, swimming, drawing, watching hockey, exploring the city, and finding new and interesting places to get a good meal or drink”. Welcome, Erin!
It has now been officially confirmed that Whamit!, the independent voice of MIT Linguistics for more than five years, has been acquired by Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp for almost $3.4 million dollars. Though described by some as a “brazen attempt to silence a brave beacon of hope in a gray sea of otherwise identical boring linguistics department blogs all starting with the letter wh”, others have denied the presupposition, claiming that it is merely an implicature. In a carefully worded statement released earlier today, Murdoch promised no “change in editorial” policy under his leadership. ”Whamit will continue to bring you those fabulous pumpkin-carving pictures you love each Halloween, and there is no current plan to curtail Whamit’s award-winning, hard-hitting crime coverage. Only now we will do it with verve.” Verve could not be reached for comment. Meanwhile a viral video insisted “there will be some changes made”, others beans, and still others expressed relief that Whamit had at least not been acquired by Fox News. Participating in the negotiations over the sale were over nineteen current MIT faculty, graduate students, recent alums, current visitors, former visitors and former alums. Speaking off the record, noted semanticist Irene Heim commented that “it will take us the rest of our lifetime to drink the champagne that they spilled that evening”, but declined to elaborate.
Following up on their introductions at the Departmental Lunch last week, Whamit! extends our warmest welcome to the new visiting members of the department for this semester.
- Heriberto Avelino (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology) His research investigates the phonotactics of complex nasals and nasal neutralization avoidance by examining a number of diverse languages which include in its repertoire pre-occluded nasals (DN) as in /tàlúgn/ ‘rooster’ (Nothern Pame, Otomanguean) and post-occluded nasals (ND) as in /ambo/ ‘to climb’ (Karitiana, Tupi).
- Gary Thoms (University of Edinburgh) His research interests are in literary linguistics and syntax.
- Martin Rohrmeier is an Intelligence Initiative post-doctoral fellow whose research concerns music cognition and learning and the relation of musical structure to linguistic structure. Martin studied philosophy, mathematics and musicology in Bonn, Germany, and completed his PhD in musicology in 2010, under the supervision of Dr. Ian Cross. He has held a research internship with Microsoft Research in Cambridge, UK, and most recently has been a postdoctoral researcher working with Stefan Kölsch at the Free University of Berlin. While in Berlin, Martin regularly improvised music for showings of silent films (and he has many other musical talents as well).
- Maria (Malu) Luisa de Andrade Freitas (University of Campinas) Her research studies person hierarchy phenomena in two native South American languages: Guaraní (Tupí-Guaraní) and Ikpeng (Carib family).
- Moreno Mitrović (University of Cambridge, Jesus College) His research is on the syntax and semantics of coordinate construction in Indo-European.
- Tomislav Socanac (University of Geneva) He is part of a research project that aims to account for the cross-linguistic properties of the subjunctive mood category.
Whamit! welcomes all the members of the MIT Linguistics community to the spring semester. The editorial staff is comprised of Adam Albright, Kai von Fintel, Michelle Fullwood, Ryo Masuda, and David Pesetsky.
We look forward to receiving items for inclusion in Whamit! throughout the semester, including reports of acceptance to conferences and journals. To submit items for inclusion please send an email to email@example.com by Sunday 6pm.
Hope to see you all at the Registration Day Lunch today at noon at the 8th floor lounge!
The updated schedule for this term’s MIT Linguistics Colloquium is posted below. All talks are on Fridays, 3:30-5:00 p.m. in room 32-141 unless otherwise noted. For further information, please contact the organizers for this semester, Yusuke Imanishi and Wataru Uegaki.
March 8: Lisa Matthewson (UBC)
April 5: Sharon Inkelas (UC Berkeley)
April 19: Arsalan Kahnemuyipour (University of Toronto Mississauga)
April 26: Mark Baker (Rutgers)
May 10: Andrew Nevins (UCL)
May 17: Emmanuel Chemla (LSCP-CNRS (Paris))
We’re excited to announce that two conferences will be hosted by our department next fall.
The 23rd Japanese/Korean Linguistics Conference (JK23) is the longest running conference on Japanese and Korean linguistics, offering a forum for the presentation of research that contributes to our understanding of the structure and history of the two languages. Next year’s meeting is scheduled for October 11-13, 2013. The website for JK23 is at http://jk.mit.edu/.
The Northeast Computational Phonology Workshop (NECPhon) is an informal gathering of scholars working on or interested in aspects of computational phonology. The meeting date is to be determined.
Stay tuned for further information.
24.S94: More on Questions
class website: https://stellar.mit.edu/S/course/24/fa12/24.S94/index.html
Times and locations:
Week 1, class 1 & 2: Wednesday 9/26 2:30-5:30pm; Friday 9/28 2:00pm-5:00pm (32-D461)
Week 2, class 3 & 4: Wednesday 10/3 2:30-4:30pm; Friday 10/5 2:00pm-5:00pm (32-D461)
Week 3, class 5 : Wednesday 10/10 2:30-5:30pm (32-D461)
Week 3, class 6 : probably Thursday 10/11 2:00-5:00 (or as arranged with class) (location TBA)
In this class I will try to develop an argument for a particular treatment of pair-list readings in multiple wh-questions that I made in a 2010 seminar (taught with Irene and Kai).
The starting point is Dayal’s proposal that questions are associated with a maximality presupposition – the requirement that one true member of the Hamblin-denotation entail all true members. As Dayal shows, maximality accounts for uniqueness in simple singular wh questions (Which boy came? is associated with the inference that exactly one boy came). Dayal’s proposal, which provides the basis for a family accounts of negative islands and related phenomena, fails to derive the pair list readings of multiple wh-questions, such as Which boy read which book?.
I will try to argue that this problem can be resolved if multiple questions denote families of questions, derived from logical forms that obey Richard’s tucking-in generalization. The rest of the class will investigate various issues that have a potential bearing on the proposal: issues pertaining to quantificational variability in questions, to pair-list readings that arise from normal quantification (e.g. Which book did every boy read?), and to the nature of superiority.
Today, Tuesday Sept. 4, is Registration Day. Whamit!, the MIT Linguistics Department Newsletter appears every Monday during the semester. The editorial staff consists of Adam Albright, Kai von Fintel, Michelle Fullwood, Ryo Masuda, and David Pesetsky.
To submit items for inclusion in Whamit! please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org by Sunday 6pm. At the beginning of the semester, we’re particularly interested in news about what members of the department did during the summer break.
Hope to see you all at the departmental lunch, 12pm at the 8th floor lounge!
This is the last regular issue of Whamit! for the 2011-2012 academic year. We will resume publication on Fall Registration Day, Tuesday, Sept 4.
Have a nice summer!
Just a reminder that Monday and Tuesday of this week are holidays at MIT, and no classes will be held (unless otherwise specified). Monday is Patriots’ Day, which commemorates the battles of Lexington and Concord. Tuesday, of course, commemorates the day after the battles of Lexington and Concord. In theory, Wednesday should celebrate the day after Tuesday, but holidays lack the property of recursion.
Next Saturday and Sunday (March 17 & 18), MIT will be hosting the second workshop on Formal Approaches to South Asian Languages (FASAL 2), with papers in formal syntax, semantics and morphology. The invited speakers are: Rajesh Bhatt (University of Massachusetts, Amherst), Veneeta Dayal (Rutgers), Brendan Gillon (McGill) and Maria Polinsky (Harvard). The conference will be great — see you there!
There will be no Experimental Syntax and Semantics lab meeting this week, due to Presidents’ Day.
Join us next Monday (2/27) at 5:30 for the first meeting of a short two-session reading group in which we will discuss theoretical and experimental (ERP-related) papers on Blocking effects. Contact Hadas if you would like to participate and get the reading list in advance.
…there will be no Syntax Square this week. But next week, Syntax Square returns, with a presentation by DaeYoung Sohn. Watch for the announcement in the next Whamit!
The Experimental Syntax and Semantics lab is having its first lab meeting of the semester Monday at 5:30 pm, in the fourth floor seminar room, 32-D461. It will be primarily an organizational meeting and there will be pizza. All are welcome!
There will be a short organizational meeting for the LF Reading Group on 16 February (Thursday) at 10 am in 32-D831.
This is the last regular Whamit! issue for this semester and for 2011. We may publish a special edition or two to let you know about events in the department during January. We will return to our weekly schedule on Registration Day, February 6, 2012. Have a wonderful winter break!
As you know, last weekend our department hosted a remarkable event: 50 years of Linguistics at MIT: a scientific reunion, which Paul Kiparsky characterized in his talk as “an emotionally and intellectually charged couple of days.”
It sure was. Well more than 200 people were in attendance. Rather than talk at length about three days of wonderful talks by our alumni, current and former faculty, an excellent poster session or the hallway reunions of old friends (who in some cases had not met for years) — not to mention all the new acquaintainces made at Ling 50 — we just want to let you know that (as we’ve come to expect in the 21st century) the event was well-documented:
Photos: There are several great photo collections already available on the Facebook pages of various eminent linguists. (Some have been shared on our own Facebook page.) Very soon we will post to the Ling 50 website a large collection of our own photos (many of them by official Ling 50 paparazzi Mitcho Erlewine and Hrayr Khanjian). [Update: They are available at https://www.facebook.com/MITLinguistics?sk=photos.]
Handouts and posters:We will also be uploading handouts and posters to the Ling 50 website very soon. [Update (January 18): They have all been posted!]
Videos: The talks and lengthy discussion sections from Ling50@MIT are being posted on Youtube. At the moment, all but the welcoming remarks and first two sessions are available. We hope to have a complete collection in the next few days. [Update: All the sessions plus the welcoming remarks are now available.]
You may have heard about our little shindig over the weekend. A full report is forthcoming once the editors of Whamit! recover from three days of inspirational talks and emotional reunions.
Date/Time: Friday, December 9 to Sunday, December 11, 2011
Location: Friday 10:00-1:05, Koch 76-156 A&B; thereafter in Stata 32-123
50 years ago, in the fall of 1960, Jerome Wiesner, director of the Research Laboratory of Electronics, and William N. Locke, head of the Department of Modern Languages, proposed to MIT the formation of a graduate program in linguistics whose faculty was to include Noam Chomsky and Morris Halle. The rest, as they say is history.
This week, more than two hundred alumni, former visitors and faculty, along with current students, faculty, visitors and other MIT linguists will meet for three days of talks, discussion, posters, photographs, meals and reminiscences — as we celebrate a half-century of linguistics in our department with “50 years of Linguistics at MIT: a scientific reunion”.
The schedule of talks can be found here and a schedule of posters by alumni, present and former visitors and current students can be found here. The program has been designed to allow lengthy (and no doubt heated) discussion, of the sort for which our group is famous, and topics have been chosen that reflect the wide range of linguistic issues that have been explored at MIT over the past fifty years. Saturday features a talk by Noam Chomsky, and the reunion ends on Sunday with a talk by Morris Halle.
Celebrated every Thanksgiving as the Indians who saved the Pilgrims from starvation, and then largely forgotten, the Wampanoag Tribes of Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard are now saying loud and clear, and in their Native tongue, “Âs Nutayuneân,”—We Still Live Here. The Wampanoag’s ancestors ensured the survival of the first English settlers in America, and lived to regret it. Now a cultural revival is taking place. Spurred on by their celebrated linguist, Jessie Little Doe Baird, recent winner of a MacArthur ‘genius’ award, the Wampanoag are bringing their language home. Like many Native American stories, this one begins with a vision. Years ago, Jessie began having recurring dreams: familiar-looking people from another time speaking in an incomprehensible language. These visions sent her on an odyssey that would uncover hundreds of documents written in Wampanoag, lead her to a Masters in Linguistics at MIT, and result in an unprecedented feat of language reclamation by her people. Jessie’s daughter Mae is the first Native speaker of Wampanoag in a century.
Jessie Little Doe Baird received her S.M. degree from this department in 2000, where her advisor was the legendary late Ken Hale. We wrote about Jessie on the occasion of her MacArthur award in 2010, where we also noted our colleague Norvin Richards’ role in continuing Ken’s contributions to the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project.
After the screening, Jessie and Norvin will be joined in a discussion and question & answer session by film maker Anne Makepeace, and by Nitana Hicks (S.M. Linguistics, 2006), another member of the Mashpee Wampanoag involved in the reclamation effort.
Cosponsored by MIT Program in Women’s and Gender Studies, Women in Film and Video/New England, The Technology and Culture Forum, The Office of Minority Education, The Office of Student Activities and MIT Linguistics.
Simon Fisher, the director of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, will give a short presentation for linguists on the genetics of language:
Date: Sept 21 (Wednesday)
Dr. Simon’s presentation will include an informal introduction to genetics and how language and genetics can be studied together and will leave time for questions and discussion. His presentation to our group will be followed at 4:00 by a more formal talk in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.
The first meeting of the Phonology Circle for the fall semester will be Monday, 9/12, at 5pm in 32-D831. We will have an organizational meeting to discuss the schedule for the rest of the semester. If you cannot come to the meeting but would like to reserve a date, please contact Michael Kenstowicz
Today, Tuesday 9/6, is Registration Day. Whamit!, the MIT Linguistics Department Newsletter appears every Monday during the semester. The editorial staff consists of Adam Albright, Kai von Fintel, Michelle Fullwood, Ryo Masuda, and David Pesetsky.
To submit items for inclusion in Whamit! please send an email to email@example.com by Sunday 4pm before the next Whamit! appears. At the beginning of the semester, we’re particularly interested in news about what members of the department did during the summer break.
This is the last issue of this academic year. Whamit! will resume publication on Tuesday, Sept 6.
Have a nice summer!
Pritty Patel-Grosz reports:
A few months ago we were saddened to hear that Jean-Roger Vergnaud (MIT class of 1974) passed away. Last week (May 5th-7th), there was a workshop at USC honouring his work, called “Parallel Domains: Locality in syntax/phonology and the representation of constituency.” The program can be found here.
Past/present members of the MIT linguistics community who participated include:
- Noam Chomsky (Emeritus MIT professor) keynote speaker
- Bill Idsardi (MIT class of 1992) main session talk
- Julie Legate (MIT class of 2002) main session talk, member of the panel discussion
- Rita Manzini (MIT class of 1984) main session talk
- Pritty Patel-Grosz (current MIT student) main session talk
- Carson Schuetze (MIT class of 1997) main session talk
- Dominique Sportiche (MIT class of 1984) invited talk
The department opened its doors to visitors last Saturday as part of the MIT-wide open house Under the Dome, and received a steady stream of visitors curious about our contribution, a series of activities under the theme “Language and the Human Mind”.
Visitors learned about a number of interesting languages, among them the Mayan languages of Central America, Uyghur and the Wampanoag language of the native inhabitants of Massachusetts. They viewed posters explaining recent research projects our graduate students and UROPs have undertaken, stepped into the Experimental Syntax & Semantics Lab to participate in psycholinguistic experiments designed to reveal how language interfaces with the conceptual-intentional systems of the mind, then hunkered down to solve linguistics puzzles about Mayan, with chocolate their reward for correct answers.
A selection of photos from the event (more here):
Thank you to all who participated in the open house and made it a success! Thanks also to Adam Albright, Micha Breakstone, Mitcho Erlewine, Jeremy Hartman and Kirill Shklovsky for reports and photographs.
On Tuesday, April 19, 4:30-6:30pm, Joan Maling (NSF) will be at Harvard speaking about sponsored research, grant proposals, and general issues of funding. She will give a presentation and will then take questions from the audience. Everyone is welcome. The meeting will be in Boylston Hall 303.
Please join us for a special session of Syntax Square at 3pm this Tuesday with practice talks and practice posters for WCCFL. The preliminary schedule is as follows:
3.00pm-3.40pm (talk): Claire Halpert. Case, agreement, EPP and information structure: A quadruple-dissociation in Zulu.
3.40pm-4.00pm (poster): Alya Asarina. Constraints on Quantifier Lowering.
4.00pm-4.40pm (talk): Claire Halpert and Hadil Karawani. Aspect in counterfactuals from A(rabic) to Z(ulu).
4.40pm-5.00pm (poster): Bronwyn M. Bjorkman. The Crosslinguistic Defaultness of BE.
5.00pm-5.40pm (talk): Michael Yoshitaka Erlewine. Share to Compare: the Mandarin b? Comparative.
5.40pm-6.00pm (poster): Coppe van Urk. Visser’s Generalization: A Window into the Syntax of Control.
Date: Tuesday, April 19
Whamit! welcomes all the members of the MIT Linguistics community to the spring semester. The editorial staff consists of Adam Albright, Kai von Fintel, David Pesetsky, and newcomers Michelle Fullwood and Ryo Masuda (who take over for Claire Halpert as student editors). Thank you Claire for all your hard work on Whamit! over the past year and more!!!
We look forward to receiving items for inclusion in Whamit! throughout the semester. To submit items for inclusion please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org by Sunday 4pm before the next Whamit! appears.
In case you missed it, the Tech recently featured an article highlighting the linguistics major, including interviews with David Pesetsky and several current majors.
Don’t forget the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy Registration Day Lunch:
Tuesday, September 7th, 12noon-2pm
8th floor lounge
Syntax Square will be meeting regularly this semester on Tuesdays, 1-2PM (location TBA). If you are interested in leading a discussion, please email Claire Halpert (email@example.com). Our first meeting will be Tuesday 9/14.
LFRG will have it’s first fall meeting on Wednesday at 1:30PM. It will meet regularly this semester on Wednesdays at 2pm.
WHAT: the first LFRG of the semester
WHEN: September 8, Wednesday, 1:30PM-2:30PM (note an earlier end time than usual)
Agenda for the meeting:
- organizational issues (who wants to present, what the LFRG people want to do besides traditional presentations of work in progress made
within the department, etc.)
- “how I spent my summer” stories
- ice cream!
The first meeting of the Phonology Circle for the fall semester will be next Monday, 9/13, at 5pm in 32-D831. We will have an organizational meeting schedule the rest of the semester, and discuss lab issues, etc.
If you would like to present this coming Monday, please let Adam know as soon as possible!
Jessica Coon and Pedro Mateo Pedro are organizing a fall reading group on Agent Extraction phenomena. Meetings will take place Tuesdays at 4:00 at Harvard (exact location TBD), beginning 9/14. If you are interested in attending, please email Jessica Coon (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.
Agent-Extraction/Anti-Agreement Reading Group Description:
This reading group investigates restrictions on the extraction of transitive subjects, with special focus on Mayan languages. We begin with an in depth look at so-called “Agent Focus” (AF) constructions in the Mayan language family. AF constructions occur when transitive subjects are questioned, relativized, or fronted for topic/focus (A-Bar extracted) and have been described as semantically and syntactically transitive (i.e. two full DP arguments), but morphologically intransitive (only one argument may agree) (Aissen 1999). After reading about AF and its range of variation in Mayan, we turn to similar “Anti-Agreement” effects more broadly as they have been described in certain Austronesian languages (e.g. Chung 1998) and in some languages of Africa (e.g. Ouhalla 1993).
Please join us for the first-ever meeting of syntax square, our new syntax discussion group. The group will provide an informal venue for department members to discuss their work in progress, present interesting research they’ve encountered, or practice for conference talks.
We’ll be meeting regularly throughout the semester on Tuesdays, 1-2pm in 32-D461. For our first meeting, however, we’ll meet at 5pm, Wednesday, February 17, in the 8th floor lounge.
We’ll cover organizational issues and discuss syntax (speaker TBA) at our first meeting. Cookies will be served. If you have questions or are interested in leading a discussion, please email Claire Halpert (email@example.com).
There are still several slots available for ling-lunch this semester, including this coming Thursday (Feb 11). The full list of dates still available is: Feb 11, 18, and 25, and Mar 11.
If you are interested in giving a ling-lunch talk, please contact Alya and Bronwyn, stating which date(s) you would prefer. As always, ling-lunch will meet every Thursday from 12:30 to 1:45 in D461 in the Stata Center (Building 32).
The schedule of speakers will soon be posted to the department website; each week the title and abstract for the upcoming ling-lunch will also appear in WHAMIT.
Whamit! welcomes all the members of the MIT Linguistics community to the spring semester. We look forward to receiving items for inclusion in Whamit! throughout the semester. Items received by Saturday will be published in the following Monday’s edition. Please email all submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are still two remaining openings for Ling-lunch this semester: 11/19 & 12/10. If you are interested in presenting your work on either of these dates, please contact Bronwyn Bjorkman (email@example.com) or Guillaume Thomas (firstname.lastname@example.org).
There are two more incoming first-year students who have sent us brief introductions this week.
Jorie Koster-Moeller is from Corrales, New Mexico. She got her BA from Pomona College, and is currently doing a joint program through the linguistics department and the brain and cognitive science department. She’s particularly interested in semantics, both formal and experimental, and psycholinguistics. She also enjoys most anything mountain-related, such as backpacking and rockclimbing.
Edwin Martin Howard apologises that you’ve had to wait a whole week to hear about him, but he was out of email contact last weekend whilst enjoying a break in the wilds of rural Quebec - the Canadian province that he now also, in addition to his native Scotland, calls home. During his time in Montreal, he has become a proficient French speaker, and he completed a BA in Linguistics at McGill, writing an honours thesis on the semantics of superlatives and NPI licensing. The best thing that’s ever happened to him was the birth of his son, just over a year ago.
This is a periodic reminder that if you ever use the phonetics lab space or equipment, you should subscribe to the phonlab e-mail list: (it’s extremely low volume)
In addition, if you are not sure about the correct way to do something in the lab, please just ask someone who knows. (This includes signing up for times to reserve the booth, recording to a file, adjusting the levels or switch mics, adjusting the fitting of the head-mounted microphone, and so on). Finally, if you know of others who use the lab but who might not be on one of the ling lists, such as RA’s/UROPs, class participants, and so on, please forward this to them, and be sure they know where to look for instructions/training, and who to go to for help.
Visiting Students (5)
Aysa Arylova: PhD student at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands. Aysa is investigating the morphosyntactic realization of syntactic dependency as a function of the structure building operation Merge. Her work will include an extensive typological survey and the development of a formal analysis.
Micha Breakstone: PhD student at Hebrew University, Israel. Micha is fascinated by “Universal Degrees.” Different assumptions regarding the nature of degree processing (e.g., universal density) have led him to exciting speculations about how the linguistic module in the mind/brain may interact with other cognitive modules, as well as with pragmatic knowledge about the world.
Marcus Lunguinho: PhD Student at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Marcus’s research focuses on “Auxiliary Verbs and the Theory of Grammar,” and the following two areas in particular: 1) the defective morphological paradigms of certain auxiliaries; 2) the syntax of the non-finite domains selected by auxiliary verbs.
Dimitris Michelioudakis: PhD student at the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom. Dimitris’s current research is on the syntactic status of Inherent (“Dative”) Case in different diachronic and diatopic varieties of Greek.
Coppe van Urk: MA student at Utrecht University, The Netherlands. Coppe’s research mainly concerns issues in modern generative syntax, specifically in the area of Control.
Visiting Scholars (3)
Manchun Dai: Professor at the National Research Center for Foreign Language Education at Beijing Foreign Studies University, China. Professor Dai’s interests revolve around Second Language Acquisition and Syntax.
Jeongah Kim, Researcher at the Institute of Language and Information Studies at Yonsei University, Korea. Professor Kim’s research interests are in phonetics, phonology, morphology and the phonology-phonetics interface. She is interested in recent developments in phonology, including Optimality Theory, Correspondence Theory and Sympathy Theory.
Anna Roussou: Associate Professor at the University of Patras, Greece. Professor Roussou’s main research interests are in syntax (Greek, comparative, diachronic) and its interfaces with morphology/lexicon and semantics.
Several of the incoming first year students have sent us brief introductions.
mitcho (Michael Yoshitaka Erlewine) grew up in Minnesota and is thus actively looking forward to the Boston winter. While at the University of Chicago he worked on the syntax/semantics of Mandarin comparatives. Since then, he’s lived in Taiwan and Japan, most recently working for Mozilla.
Hadas Kotek grew up in a small town in northern Israel. Hadas reports: “My name literally means myrtle and is a shortened version of Hadassah, the Hebrew name of the biblical queen Esther. I did a BA in linguistics at Tel-Aviv university, then studied the first year of my MA at the Humboldt university in Berlin and the second year back at Tel-Aviv university. My previous work focused mainly on formal semantics and its interface with syntax. At present I am planning to continue working in these same areas.”
Junya Nomura reports: “I’m from Japan. My main interst is in syntax. I’ve studied especially Japanese syntax, but I’m planing to study other East Asian languages such as Korean, Vietnamese, Thai and Khmer, too. Apart from linguistics, I like sports, especially basketball and baseball, and shogi (Japanese chess).”
Daeyoung Sohn reports: “I am from South Korea. I have an MA in linguistics, and BAs in international relations study and English. I am interested mainly in Syntax and also have interest in Semantics. ”
Yusuke Imanishi reports: “I was born and grew up in Nara, Japan. The city is not as famous and large as cities like Tokyo and Osaka. Nevertheless, it is filled with nature preserves, forests and temples/shrines!! We also have a big Buddha, which reaches the height of approx. 50m. I completed my MA in Linguistics at Osaka University in Spring 2009. My thesis proposes that dative subjects in the Standard Japanese and some Japanese dialects are structurally Case-assigned, opposed to traditional analyses. I also extended empirical coverage to other languages and attempted to devise a unified account of dative subject constructions. My research interests include syntactic theory and comparative syntax based on a macro/micro-parametric approach. I’m also interested in the interfaces of phonology and semantics with syntax.
Iain Giblin is from Australia. He reports: “My academic background is in music, but I’ve had a long interest in linguistics and in my postgraduate music studies I sought to apply generative models of language to music. I’m also interested in the philosophical questions that arise from the generative approach. I’m looking forward to the program here at MIT and learning all the techniques of modern linguistic theory so I won’t commit myself to one domain just yet. I still like to noodle around on the guitar and Boston is a great guitar town.”
Stay tuned for intros to the rest of the incoming class.
MITWPL has just published its 60th volume. The title of the volume is “Presuppositions and Implicatures. Proceedings of the MIT-Paris Workshop’”, edited by Paul Égré and Giorgio Magri. The volume collects 13 papers by scholars from MIT, Harvard and the École Normale Supérieure that came out of a collaboration between MIT and Paris sponsored by the MIT France Program and the MIT France Seed Fund for Collaborative Research. The abstracts of the papers are already available on the MITWPL website.
Peter Graff and T. Florian Jaeger will be presenting their talk, The OCP is a pressure to keep words distinct: Evidence from Aymara, Dutch and Javanese at the 45th Annual Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society.
Raj Singh (MIT linguistics PhD 2008, currently postdoc in Brain & Cognitive Science at MIT) has accepted an assistant professorship at the Institute of Cognitive Science at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. Congratulations, Raj!
This week’s Ling Lunch features a talk by Pritty Patel, Patrick Grosz, Evelina Fedorenko and Ted Gibson (MIT)
Title: “Restrictions on E-type pronouns: Making the case for Uniqueness”
Time: Thurs 12:30-1:45
Phonology circle resumes this week. Please note that we are returning to our usual Monday afternoon time slot!
Speaker: Hrayr Khanjian
Title: Stress-dependent vowel reduction
Time: Monday 2/9, 5pm
The Department of Linguistics & Philosophy will hold its annual ice cream social.
When: Registration Day, February 2, 2009
Where: 32-D850 (Lounge)
Sabine Iatridou and Agustin Rayo will be hosting games starting at 3:00 PM.