Whamit!

The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Phonology Circle 12/15 - Sam Zukoff  

Speaker: Sam Zukoff
Title: Repetition Avoidance Effects in Indo-European Reduplication
Date: Dec. 15 (M)
Time: 5 - 6:30
Location: 32D-461

Fleischhacker 2005 develops a theory of cluster-reduction under partial reduplication based on principles of perceptual similarity. The Indo-European languages Ancient Greek, Gothic, and Sanskrit, each of which have a default CV- prefixal reduplication pattern, play significant roles in demonstrating the typology predicted by her theory. In each of these languages, there are differences in copying patterns in reduplicative categories dependent on the sonority profile of initial clusters, generally with stop + sonorant clusters patterning with single-consonant-initial roots to the exclusion of obstruent + obstruent roots, which undergo some special treatment.

In this paper, I propose that the primary data from these languages admits also of an account based on repetition avoidance in poorly-cued contexts. The proposal hinges on the idea that local repetition of consonants is perceptually dispreferred (Walter 2007), and this dispreference is exacerbated when the second consonant lacks significant phonetic cues. Stop + sonorant sequences pattern with consonant + vowel sequences because both contexts permit significant phonetic cues to the root-initial consonant to surface, whereas fewer cues are available to the root-initial consonant in other environments.

This account yields equivalently satisfactory explanation of the basic Ancient Greek and Gothic facts, but allows for more complete coverage of the Sanskrit facts. There are two relevant patterns that do not follow directly from a similarity-based approach: (i) root-initial s-stop clusters copy the stop, contrary to normal leftmost copying, and (ii) certain CVC roots in categories where the root vowel is deleted show a vowel change rather than reduplication. The first type can be accommodated with Fleischhacker’s theory, but admittedly does not follow from principles of similarity. The latter type is not discussed by Fleischhacker, and does not obviously follow from her account. Both of these patterns can be analyzed in the repetition avoidance framework as avoidance strategies for what would be poorly-cued environments if reduplicated normally. A pattern almost exactly equivalent to the CVC pattern in Sanskrit can be reconstructed for an earlier stage of Gothic, providing an explanation for the Germanic “Class V” preterite plurals (Sandell & Zukoff 2014).

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December 15th, 2014

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Ling-Lunch 12/15 - Chris O’Brien  

Speaker: Chris O’Brien (MIT)
Title: How to get off an island
Date/Time: Monday December 15, 12:30-1:45
Location: 32-D461

Note the special date.

The grammar, it has been argued, possesses strategies for bypassing syntactic islands. Based on the selective island (SI) phenomenon, Cinque (1990) and Postal (1998) argue for a resumptive pronoun strategy for extraction from islands. Bachrach & Katzir (2009) argue that multiple dominance obviates islandhood, via a delayed Spellout (DS) mechanism. We argue that both SIs and DS islands arise from the same source, and that DS is the sole mechanism for escaping islands in wh-movement. Fox & Pesetsky’s (2009) implementation of DS and Johnson’s (2010) theory of movement conspire to predict the effects of the resumptive pronoun strategy in both sharing, and non-sharing, contexts; as well as why SI effects emerge in leftward, but not rightward, movement (Postal 1998).
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December 15th, 2014

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Ling-Lunch 12/15 - Chris O’Brien  

Speaker: Chris O’Brien (MIT)
Title: How to get off an island
Date/Time: Monday December 15, 12:30-1:45
Location: 32-D461

Note the special date.

The grammar, it has been argued, possesses strategies for bypassing syntactic islands. Based on the selective island (SI) phenomenon, Cinque (1990) and Postal (1998) argue for a resumptive pronoun strategy for extraction from islands. Bachrach & Katzir (2009) argue that multiple dominance obviates islandhood, via a delayed Spellout (DS) mechanism. We argue that both SIs and DS islands arise from the same source, and that DS is the sole mechanism for escaping islands in wh-movement. Fox & Pesetsky’s (2009) implementation of DS and Johnson’s (2010) theory of movement conspire to predict the effects of the resumptive pronoun strategy in both sharing, and non-sharing, contexts; as well as why SI effects emerge in leftward, but not rightward, movement (Postal 1998).
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December 8th, 2014

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Phonology Circle 12/8 - Adam Albright  

Speaker: Adam Albright (MIT)
Title: Faithfulness to non-contrastive phonetic properties in Lakhota
Date: Monday, December 8
Time: 5 - 6:30
Location: 32D-461
Abstract: OCP12-Albright-NonAnonymous

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December 8th, 2014

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ESSL/LacqLab 12/10 - Ito Masuyo  

Speaker: Ito Masuyo (Fukuoka University/MIT)
Title: Japanese-speaking children’s interpretation of sentences containing the focus particle datte ‘even’: QUD or processing limitations
Date: Wednesday, December 10th
Time: 3:00p
Place: 32-D831

In this talk, I will talk about the acquisition of ‘even’ in Japanese. I will focus on the following: 1) the properties of the focus particle datte ‘even’ in Japanese; 2) whether Japanese-speaking children are able to interpret sentences containing ‘even’ as adults do; and if not, QUD or processing considerations can facilitate children’s performance.

The results show that children can calculate information strength associated with datte sentences when the task does not require them to construct and maintain alternative representations. Examining whether or not QUD relevance and processing considerations apply to datte sentence implicatures as they do to SIs allows re-examination of the nature of implicatures datte generates. I aim to contribute to experimental studies on pragmatics, especially those on EVEN, conventional implicature and SI.

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December 8th, 2014

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Colloquium 12/12 - Tim Stowell  

Speaker: Tim Stowell (UCLA)
Title: Adverbial Complexes
Date: Friday, December 12th
Time: 3:30-5:00p
Place: 32-141

I will discuss the syntactic derivation of parenthetical qualified adjunct phrases like the underscored example in (i):

(i) Mitt drank two bottles of gin last night, unfortunately rather quickly.

The adverbial complex consists of two adverbial phrases (AdvPs), one of which evaluates, or qualifies, the other. The adverbial complex forms a distinct intonational phrase, as is typical of parenthetical constituents. Within the complex, nuclear (or focal) stress falls on the head of the qualified AdvP (rather quíckly). The entire complex has the force of an independent secondary assertion, similar to that of the underscored paratactic clauses in (ii):

(ii) Mitt drank two bottles of gin last night;
unfortunately he drank them rather quickly.
unfortunately he did it/this/so rather quickly.

I will defend an ellipsis analysis of the adverbial complexes in (i), modeled on Jason Merchant’s account of sluicing and sentence fragment constructions. This involves a combination of extraction and TP ellipsis. Assuming a source structure resembling one of the paratactic clauses in (ii), the qualified AdvP (rather quickly) is extracted from the TP and moved to a position below the qualifying AdvP (unfortunately). The remnant TP is then elided, with the host clause providing the antecedent TP. Although I refer to this as TP ellipsis, the precise hierarchical level of the elided material is tricky to pin down, mainly because of more complex examples.

In (i) both AdvPs are ‘integrated’ within the complex adjunct, and occur in the same linear and hierarchical order that they would occur in as integrated AdvPs in main clauses. In (iii), the order of the two AdvPs within the complex is inverted:

(iii) The rebels have been defeated—decisively, perhaps.

In (iii), nuclear stress still falls on the qualified AdvP (decisively). I will discuss the derivation of the inverted order, which also occurs in main clauses. The chief candidates are (i) right-adjunction of the qualifying AdvP via initial merge; (ii) movement (of one or the other AdvPs within the adverbial complex) or (iii) an additional instance of TP ellipsis within the elided TP.

Like simple adverbs (both integrated and parenthetical) and Slifting remnants, adverbial complexes (with or without internal inversion) can be ‘niched’ within the host clause.

(iv) Napoleon, probably deliberately, insulted his host.

The analysis of niching is also problematic. While not resolving this decisively, I will point out that niching turns out to depend on the placement of nuclear (or focal) stress on the preceding constituent in the host clause.

Adverbial complexes also provide evidence bearing on the familiar problem of identity in ellipsis structures. In (v) the ‘qualifying’ frequency adverb often gives rise to a quantificational variability effect; I argue that this implicates a definite source for the elided counterpart of the indefinite object DP in the host clause:

(v) Janet has performed over a hundred autopsies, often incompetently.

More complex adverbial complexes are also possible, with both inverted and un-inverted orders:

(vi) Mitt drank the whole bottle, I think probably again unintentionally.
(vii) Mitt drank the whole bottle, unintentionally, again, probably, I think.

The existence of complex adverbial complexes like (vi) provides further evidence supporting the ellipsis approach, but also complicates the problem of determining the identity of the elided constituent. The inverse ordering effect visible in (vi) vs. (vii) takes us back to the question of how the inverted order is derived. To derive the inverse order via leftward movement of the qualified AdvP, one would need a roll-up derivation of the sort advocated by Cinque in his account of integrated adverb order, and by Koopman and Szabolcsi in their account of Hungarian and Germanic verbal complexes. Our parenthetical adverbial complexes, however, seem to allow for far more ordering options than would be expected under such an approach, suggesting that these adverbial complexes may involve multiple applications of ellipsis.

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December 8th, 2014

Posted in Talks

Phonology Circle 12/1 - Gretchen Kern (postponed to next semester)  

Speaker: Gretchen Kern
Title: Syllables or Intervals? Welsh cynghanedd lusg rhymes
Date/Time: 1 Dec. (M), 5:00 - 6:30
Location: 32D-461

This talk will present my data and some preliminary analysis on my ongoing work on cynghanedd lusg, a type of line-internal, word-internal rhyme in Welsh poetry, based on a corpus of the works of Dafydd ap Gwilym. In these rhymes, the stressed penultimate vowel of a polysyllabic line-final word (and some number of following consonants) will correspond to the final vowel and any following consonants of a word earlier in the line.

(1) Ganed o’i fodd er goddef (Credo, line 25)

In many examples, the rhyme domain consists of the entire interval (even in consonant clusters) but some will have unanswered consonants in the line-final word:

2) a. Mi a wn blas o lasgoed (Merch Gyndyn, line 31)
b. I waered yn grwm gwmpas, (Gwahodd Dyddgu, line25)
c. ‘Nychlyd fardd, ni’th gâr harddfun, (Cyngor y Bioden, line65)

This is similar, but not exactly like skaldic rhyme, where the unanswered consonants appear in the word on the left (3c):

(3) a. hann rekkir lið bannat (from Háttatal, by Sturluson)
b. ungr stillir sá, milli (via Ryan 2010:5)
c. Gandvíkr, jǫfurr, landi

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December 1st, 2014

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Ling Lunch 12/04 - Heidi Klockmann  

Speaker: Heidi Klockmann (MIT/Utrecht)
Title:Case, Agreement, and Hierarchies: Fitting in Inherent Case
Date/Time: Thursday, December 4, 12:30-1:45pm
Location: 32-D461

In this talk, I consider the variation found in systems of case and agreement cross-linguistically, focusing specifically on languages which show accusativity or ergativity in their case or agreement. There are in principle four language types, for which it has been claimed that only three exist (cf. Bobaljik 2008): ergative case with ergative agreement (e.g. Hindi, Gojri), ergative case with accusative agreement (e.g. Nepali, Bantawa), accusative case with accusative agreement (e.g. Polish), and accusative case with ergative agreement (the gap). I present data from the case-agreement systems of these languages, as well as a discussion of the nature of structural and inherent case assignment. I propose that inherent case is actually the realization of some form of a P-head and that languages can differ in their inventory of P-headed cases. I treat these PP-cases as being generally opaque to external processes, such as agreement (see Rezac 2008), and show how this assumption can be used to model the case-agreement systems discussed here.
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December 1st, 2014

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Phonology Circle 11/24 - Angela Carpenter  

Speaker: Angela Carpenter, Wellesley College
Title: Learning of a Natural and Unnatural Stress Pattern by Older Children
Date: Nov. 24 (M)
Time: 5-6:30
Location: 32D-461

Recent research into adult learning of natural and unnatural pairs of artificial languages has demonstrated that it is easier to learn a phonological rule that is based on naturalness in language than a similar, but unnatural, version of the same rule. This effect has been seen in a variety of phonological research (e.g. (Moreton 2008; Pater & Tessier 2005; Zhang & Lai 2010). Research in the area of infants’ learning of natural and unnatural phonology (Gerken & Bollt 2008; Seidl & Buckley 2005), has provided mixed results regarding the infants’ ability to learn natural and unnatural patterns of phonology. There has been little work done with older children to investigate whether they exhibit a learning bias that favors natural phonological patterns over unnatural ones.

The present study focuses on English-speaking older children’s learning of a natural and unnatural version of a stress rule based on vowel height. Previous research has shown that both English-speaking and French-speaking adults are able to more accurately learn a natural phonological rule where stress occurs on a low vowel than when stress occurs on a high vowel (Carpenter 2010). A study of how older children learn natural and unnatural stress patterns is important as it bridges the gap between infants and adults, allows comparison with both groups, and perhaps may shed some insight on the interaction between a general cognition, which allows learning of patterns in many areas, and a language-specific one, which perhaps bias learning of a natural pattern over an unnatural one.

References
Carpenter, Angela. 2010. A naturalness bias in learning stress. Phonology 27. 345-92.
Gerken, LouAnn & Alex Bollt. 2008. Three exemplars allow at least some linguistic generalizations: Implication for generalization mechanism and constraints. Language Learning and Development 4. 228-48.
Moreton, Elliott. 2008. Analytic bias and phonological typology. Phonology 25. 83-127.
Pater, Joe & Anne-Michelle Tessier. 2005. Phonotactics and alternations: Testing the connection with artificial language learning. UMOP 31: Papers in Experimental Phonetics and Phonology, ed. by S. Kawahara. Amherst, MA: GLSA.
Seidl, Amanda & Eugene Buckley. 2005. On the learning of arbitrary phonological rules. Language Learning and Development 1. 289-316.
Zhang, Jie & Yuwen Lai. 2010. Testing the role of phonetic knowledge in Mandarin tone sandhi. Phonology 27. 153-201.

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November 24th, 2014

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Syntax Square 11/25 - Ted Levin & Coppe van Urk  

Speakers: Ted Levin and Coppe van Urk
Title: Austronesian voice as extraction marking
Date/Time:Tuesday, Nov. 25, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461

One major question within Austronesian syntax concerns the relationship between Voice marking, case, and extraction, which (commonly) display a one-to-one correspondence. Broadly, two approaches are employed to capture these correlations: (i) Voice morphology marks case and extraction via (wh-)agreement (e.g. Chung 1994; Richards 2000; Pearson 2001), (ii) Voice morphology determines case and extraction via changes in argument structure (e.g. Guilfoyle et al. 1992; Aldridge 2004; Legate 2012). Under a deterministic view of Voice morphology, dissociations of voice and case/extraction are unexpected. In this talk, we present two systems that display such dissociations, supporting the case/extraction-marking analysis of Voice (i). We present a concrete proposal for Voice as extraction marking that explains its effects on case.
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November 24th, 2014

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LingLunch 11/20 - Loes Koring  

Speaker: Loes Koring (MIT/Utrecht)
Title: A visual signature of computation
Date/Time: Thursday, November 20, 12:30-1:45pm
Location: 32-D461

In this talk, I will present a new method to track argument reactivation during processing of intransitive verbs. In particular, I will show how the Visual World Paradigm can be used to obtain a precise record of (re)activation of the verb’s argument throughout the entire sentence. Using this method, we will see that the argument of unaccusative vs. unergative verbs is reactivated at a different point in time depending on their syntactic position. The timing difference is independent of the thematic role of the argument, as we will conclude from the behavior of theme unergative verbs.
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November 17th, 2014

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Colloquium 11/21 - Karlos Arregi  

Speaker: Karlos Arregi
Title: How to sell a melon: Mesoclisis in Spanish plural imperatives
Date/Time:Friday, November 21, 3:30-5pm
Location: 32-141

Harris and Halle (2005) present a framework (hereafter, Generalized Reduplication) that unites the treatment of phonological reduplication and metathesis with similar phenomena in morphology, thereby accounting for the apparently spurious placement of imperative plural inflection -n in non-standard Spanish. For instance, alongside standard “vénda-n-me-lo” (“Sell it to me!”), where -n precedes enclitics, one also finds forms such as “vénda-me-lo-n” and “vénda-n-me-lo-n”, in which the plural suffix follows enclitics, with an optional copy of the suffix before them. More recently, Kayne (2009) has challenged their analysis, arguing that such cases should be uniformly treated in the syntax. In this talk, I reassess some of Kayne’s arguments, agreeing with his conclusion that the most important desiderata of any general analysis of these sorts of phenomena is restrictiveness, but contending that greater restrictiveness can be achieved through metaconstraints on the Generalized Reduplication formalism rather than through byzantine syntactic derivations. I present supporting data from morphological reduplication and metathesis phenomena in the Basque auxiliary system, demonstrating that they are better accounted for postsyntactically, and conclude with general remarks about the division of labor in word-formation.
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November 17th, 2014

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Ling Lunch 11/13 - Isabelle Charnavel  

Speaker: Isabelle Charnavel (Havard)
Title: Perspectives on Binding and Exemption
Date/Time:Thursday, Nov. 13, 12:30-1:45pm
Location: 32-D461

Some anaphors are exempt from Condition A regardless of how it is formulated. Drawing on French and English data, I will propose a way to draw the line between exempt and non-exempt anaphors and I will argue that exempt anaphors are in fact bound by covert logophoric operators. These operators code three kinds of perspective centers: attitude holders, empathy loci and deictic reference points.
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November 12th, 2014

Posted in Talks

Lectures by Emmanuel Chemla  

Emmanuel Chemla (CNRS) will be giving a series of four lectures starting this Friday:

  • Friday 11/14; 3-6PM; 32D-461
  • Tuesday 11/18 5-8PM; room to be announced (check this page)
  • Wednesday 11/19; 3-6PM; 32D-461
  • Tuesday 11/25; 5-8PM; room to be announced (check this page)

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.
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November 12th, 2014

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LFRG 11/6 - Loes Koring  

Speaker: Loes Koring (Utrecht)
Title: The semantics and acquisition of non-embedding reportatives
Time: Thursday, November 6, 5:30-7
Place: 32-D461

Two seemingly similar Dutch evidential raising verbs, schijnen and lijken, have been shown to differ in their distribution (Haegeman 2006). Although they can both be translated to ‘seem’ in English, they do differ in meaning (van Bruggen 1980, Vliegen 2011). Schijnen means that the speaker has indirect reported evidence for the proposition (Vliegen 2011, cf. De Haan 1999); whereas lijken means that the speaker has some type of direct evidence for the proposition, but the evidence is unclear (van Bruggen 1980). Interestingly, whereas lijken can be embedded under modals, negation, and questions for instance, schijnen cannot. One goal of this talk is to identify a semantic property that is responsible for the restrictions in distribution reportative schijnen shows. The claim is that schijnen is restricted in evaluation to the here and now of the speaker (i.e. it is subjective) and as such it cannot occur in nonveridical contexts (cf. Giannakidou 2011). Crucially, the difference in semantics between schijnen and lijken does not only affect their distribution, but also their acquisition and processing. As a secondary goal of this talk, we will look at the effect of the extra semantic computation in acquisition and processing.
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November 3rd, 2014

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Colloquium 11/7 - Klaus Abels  

Speaker: Klaus Abels (UCL)
Title: Guess what else!
Date: Friday, November 7th
Time: 3:30-5:00p
Place: 32-141

Ross’s seminal paper on sluicing, that is, elliptical wh-questions of the type in (1), contains two generalizations that have driven analyses of sluicing in radically different directions.

(1) Somebody just left. - Guess who!

On the one hand, Ross observes that, at least in languages where this is directly observable, the wh-phrase in the elliptical question must bear the same case as its perceived correlate in the antecedent sentence, as in the German example in (2).

(2) Er hat jemandem geholfen, aber er verrät nicht {wem | *wen | *wer}.
he has someone.dat helped but he divulges not who.dat | who.acc | who.nom}
‘He helped someone but he won’t divulge who.’

On the other hand, sluicing ameliorates island constraints, as seen in the contrast between the acceptable (3) and the ungrammatical full version (4).

(3) They want to hire someone who speaks a Balkan language, but I don’t know which.
(4) *They want to hire someone who speaks a Balkan language, but I don’t know which Balkan language they want to hire someone who speaks.

The case matching effect in (2) is often taken as a straightforward argument for the presence of syntactic structure at the ellipsis site which is (nearly) identical to the syntactic structure of the antecedent. The island amelioration effect seen in (3) suggests the exact opposite.

In the first part of this talk, I will report on joint work with Gary Thoms. In this work, we use contrast sluices in languages with resumptive pronouns as a diagnostic tool. Contrast sluices are examples like (5), where the correlate in the antecedent clause is definite and the sluice asks about the identity of a different relevant entity.

(5) He gave the car to his son and guess what else!

The cross-linguistic distribution of island repair in contrast sluices strongly suggests that sluicing does not literally repair island effects. It also strongly suggests that ellipsis identity for sluicing in general cannot be understood as strict syntactic identity.

This conclusion calls for a careful evaluation of the case-matching effect, a task that will be taken up in the second part of the talk. Finally, a possible way forward will be suggested based on Fox and Katzir’s structural theory of focus alternatives.

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November 3rd, 2014

Posted in Talks

Syntax Square 11/4 - Rebecca Woods  

Speaker: Rebecca Woods (University of York/UMass Amherst)
Title: Embedded Inverted Interrogatives as Embedded Speech Acts
Date/Time:Tuesday, November 4, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461

Abstract: See attachment SyntaxSquare abstract

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November 3rd, 2014

Posted in Talks

Ling-Lunch 11/6 - Christiana Christodoulou  

Speaker: Christiana Christodoulou (MIT Brain & Cognitive Sciences/University of Cyprus)
Title: Towards a Unified Analysis of the Linguistic Development of Down Syndrome
Date/Time:Thursday, Nov. 6, 12:30-1:45pm
Location: 32-D461

Previous studies on the linguistic development of individuals diagnosed with Down Syndrome (DS) report both phonetic/phonological as well as morphosyntactic impairment. To date, there has not been any research on the effects of phonetic/phonological restrictions on inflectional marking, nor a theoretical analysis of the distinct performance of individuals with DS. Cypriot Greek individuals with DS exhibit distinct articulation and phonological difficulties that affect the production of inflectional marking. Once those are factored out, results reveal high accuracy rates (over 95%) with aspect, tense, person, number and case. In this talk I deal with the small residue of differences, which were morphosyntactically conditioned, and argue that the use of alternative forms exhibit a clear preference for the default value of each inflectional feature. I provide a unified analysis couched within the Distributed Morphology framework, covering both morphosyntactic as well as phonological differences. I suggest that failure to use the targeted form and the consistency in using default values derives from failure of the Subset Principle to fully apply.
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November 3rd, 2014

Posted in Talks

Phonology Circle 11/3 - no meeting this week  

There is no Phonology Circle meeting this week. The next meeting will be on November 24.

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November 3rd, 2014

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NELS at MIT this week  

The 45th annual meeting of the North East Linguistic Society will be held at the MIT on October 31 - November 2nd, 2014. Invited speakers are:

Please visit the conference website for more information.

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October 27th, 2014

Posted in Talks

Phonology Circle 10/27 - no meeting this week  

There will be no Phonology Circle meeting this week.

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October 27th, 2014

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ESSL/Lacqlab 10/29 - TBA  

Speaker and title: to be announced
Time: Wednesday 10/29, 5:00 pm
Room: 32-D831

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October 27th, 2014

Posted in Talks

Ling-Lunch 10/30 - Andreea Nicolae  

Speaker: Andreea Nicolae (ZAS Berlin)
Title: Positive polarity and strength of scalar implicatures
Date/Time:Thursday, October 30, 12:30-1:45pm
Location: 32-D461

The goal of this talk is to offer a new analysis of positive polarity elements in light of the differences between weak and strong disjunction (“or” versus “either or”). I will be addressing the following three properties of disjunctive elements in this talk:
◦ the ease of cancelability (strength) of their scalar inference
◦ the PPI status of a disjunctive element
◦ the ignorance inference that accompanies both weak and strong disjunction

I will argue the following:
◦ the strength of the SI relates to the nature of the alternatives activated by the element at play, namely whether or not the scalar alternatives are obligatory (non-prunable).
◦ the PPI status is the result of an element’s appeal to non-vacuous exhaustification, i.e. proper strengthening.
◦ the epistemic ignorance inference is the result of a last resort way of avoiding a contradiction, namely via the insertion of a covert modal.

If time permits, we will also see how this account can be carried over to account for the PPI status of existential quantifiers.

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October 27th, 2014

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Phonology Circle 10/20 - Laura McPherson  

Speaker: Laura McPherson (Dartmouth University)
Title: Problems in Seeku plural formation
Date: Oct. 20 (M)
Time: 5:00 - 6:30
Place: 32D-461

On the surface, the plural in Seeku (Mande, Burkina Faso) is marked by some combination of tone raising, diphthong formation, vowel fronting, or nasalization. For example, bi21 ‘goat’ has the plural bi3 ‘goats’ with tone raising, ko2koː21 ‘rooster’ has the plural ko3koeː3 ‘roosters’ with diphthong formation and tone raising, dyo1ŋma3 ‘cat’ has the plural dyo1ŋmɛ3 ‘cats’ with vowel fronting, and sa21 ‘rabbit’ has the plural sɛ̃3 with nasalization, vowel fronting, and tone raising. I argue that the segmental changes are best understood as suffixation of a front vowel /-ɛ/, accompanied by vowel harmony ([ATR] and [high]) and vowel elision as a hiatus repair strategy. Thus, a form like ‘goat’ has the following derivation:

UR                   /bi-ɛ/
Harmony       |bi-i|
Elision             |b-i|
SR                     [bi]

While this analysis works in a derivational framework, it runs into trouble in a parallel model of phonology due to counterbleeding opacity between elision and vowel harmony: due to the largely monosyllabic nature of Seeku, most often the only vowel that remains in the plural (under this analysis) is the vowel of the plural suffix, yet it displays harmony with the elided vowel of the stem. In this talk, I show how the rule-based analysis accounts for the data then briefly discuss the varying levels of success of different constraint-based analyses, including standard I-O OT, output-oriented constraints, Harmonic Serialism, and contrast preservation.

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October 20th, 2014

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Syntax Square 10/21- Kenyon Branan  

Speaker: Kenyon Branan (MIT)
Title: A long distance subject/object extraction
Date/Time:Thursday, October 21, 12:30-1:45pm
Location: 32-D461

There are a number of ditransitive verbs that are able to take both a DP and a CP complement. A subset of these verbs exhibit an interesting asymmetry: long distance object extraction of a DP is grammatical, whereas long distance subject extraction of a DP is ungrammatical, even when licensing conditions for long distance subject extraction are fulfilled. Examples of ungrammatical subject extraction are given below.

(1) a.* Who did we convince them [ __ sighted Bigfoot]?
b.* Who did they persuade themselves [ __ should move to Canada]?
c.* What did they assure each other [ __ has sunk]?

Previous accounts of this [Stowell (1981), Bošković and Lasnik (2003)] attribute this ungrammaticality to licensing conditions for elements moved out of subject position. We take a different approach. We show that this ungrammaticality obtains only in cases where the extracted subject is a DP. We give evidence from two tests which suggest that the matrix subject of these verbs originates below [spec,vP]. Putting these two together, we argue that the ungrammaticality of sentences like (1) is the result of an intervention effect. The movement of a DP containing a wh-word to [spec,vP] creates a structure where T is unable to Agree with the low subject, the moved DP acting as an intervener.

We propose that there is a structural difference between long distance subject movement and long distance object movement. Long distance subject movement involves movement of a subject from the CP to matrix [spec,vP]. Long distance object movement involves two steps: movement of the CP to [spec,vP], and subextraction of the object DP from the CP. Crucially, long distance object movement does not create the asymmetric c-command relationship between two syntactic objects of the same type which characterizes intervention effects.

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October 20th, 2014

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Ling-Lunch 10/23 - Aron Hirsch  

Speaker: Aron Hirsch (MIT)
Title: Deconstructing exceptives
Date/Time:Thursday, October 23, 12:30-1:45pm
Location: 32-D461

This talk looks at the semantics of exceptive expressions like but and other than. Building on insights in Gajewski (2008, 2013), I pursue an analysis of exceptives as sharing a common semantic core: a form of subtraction. But in (1) takes John as its argument and returns the set of all entities (atomic or plural) which do not include John. The resultant meaning composes with students by Predicate Modification, yielding the set of students not including John. This set is the restrictor of every.

(1) Every student but John came.

I will argue for an analysis of but as obligatorily strengthened by the Exh operator of Fox (2007). Exh is responsible for deriving the entailment in (1) that John did not come. The literature (in particular, Gajewski 2013) has pursued this approach, but with additional complications, which I will argue are avoidable.

I will show how the analysis extends to account for further empirical puzzles, in particular the incompatibility of exceptives with both, all when there is a numeral present (Moltmann 1993), and singular definites. Each expression in (2) introduces a presupposition about the size of its restrictor: the presupposes uniqueness, both presupposes duality, and all six presupposes a cardinality of six. I will argue that presuppositions project universally out of alternatives over which Exh quantifies, and that the result is presupposition conflict in each of (2a-c).

(2) a. *Both students but John came.
b. *All six students but John came.
c. *The student but John came.

Finally, I will show that the analysis sheds light on the typology of exceptives. But and other than are both a spell-out of the subtraction operator. The dimension on which they differ is that the but allomorph can only occur with Exh, while other than can occur with or without Exh. The availability of a parse without Exh will account for the freer distribution of other than than but and its fewer entailments:

(3) Some student other than/*but John came.
(John could have come also, or not.)
Three students other than/*but John came.
(John could have come also, or not.)

I will motivate the claim that other than is nonetheless optionally strengthened by testing for a parse with Exh using Hurford’s disjunctions.

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October 20th, 2014

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LFRG 10/23 - Yimei Xiang  

Speaker: Yimei Xiang (Harvard)
Title: Mention-Some Readings of Indirect Questions: from Experiments to Formalizations
Time: Thursday, October 23, 5:30-7pm
Location: 32-D461

In this talk, I look for experimental clues and propose a schematized analysis for the following three problems about mention-some (MS) readings of indirect questions. First, which type(s) of indirect questions admit MS readings? Second, is there any MS reading sensitive to false answers (FAs)? Third, are FAs equally bad? Based on the results of five TVJTs on ATurk and the reanalysis of Klinedinst & Rothschild’s (2011) raw data, I find that (i) MS readings are also supported by indirect MA-questions under predicates like tell; (ii) there is an MS reading sensitive to FAs, in parallel to the intermediately exhaustive reading; and (iii) FAs are not equally bad, in particular, over affirmation is relatively more acceptable than over deny in MA-questions, while over deny is relatively more acceptable than over affirmation in MS-questions.
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October 20th, 2014

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Syntax Square 10/14 - Heidi Klockmann  

Speaker: Heidi Klockmann (Utrecht University)
Title: Case alternations and case hierarchies: A view from numerals and negation
Date/Time:Thursday, October 14, 12:30-1:45pm
Location: 32-D461

A number of Slavic and Uralic languages share the property of blocking structural case assignment in the presence of an oblique case assigner. This alternation has attracted the most attention in the context of numerals, whereby the case triggered by the numeral, genitive in Polish (1) and partitive in Finnish (2), fails to appear in oblique contexts.

(1) a. Iwan kupił pięć samochodów
Ivan   bought  five   cars.GEN
Ivan bought five cars
b. z pięcioma samochodami
with five.INST    cars.INST
…with five cars

(2) a. Ivan osti viisi auto-a
Ivan bought five-0 car-PART.SG
Ivan bought five cars (Brattico 2011: 1045)
b. Minä asuin kolmessa talossa
I lived three.INE.SG house.INE.SG
I lived in three houses (Brattico 2011: 1051)

Previous accounts have described the data in terms of case hierarchies, whereby inherent case outranks structural case, leading to the patterns above (cf. Babby 1987). However, such accounts suffer in the face of Finnish, which does not appear to respect the structural-inherent case distinction for case alternations (Brattico 2010, 2011).

In this talk, I discuss various case alternations, focusing specifically on numerals and negation in Polish and to a lesser degree, Finnish. I show that we can model these facts using a case stacking mechanism, which necessitates the use of a case hierarchy in terms of specific cases (nominative, accusative, genitive, etc), rather than case types (inherent, structural). I further show that certain cases appear to have a lexical requirement, leading to case percolation in the context of semi-lexical elements. Finally, I consider the possible underpinnings of the case hierarchy, and suggest that it actually reflects a structural difference between certain cases.

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October 14th, 2014

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ESSL/LacqLab 10/15 - Amanda Swenson  

Speaker: Amanda Swenson (MIT)
Time: Wednesday, October 15, 3:00-4:30pm (note exceptional time!)
Location: 32-D831
Title: The Morphosemantics of the Perfect in Malayalam

In this talk, I will examine the the semantics of the two constructions identified by Asher & Kumari (1997) as expressing the perfect in Malayalam. I consider whether or not the Right Boundary of the Perfect Time Span is set by tense, as it is in perfect constructions in Greek, English and Bulgarian (Iatridou et al. 2001). This question is particularly interesting in light of work by Amritavalli & Jayaseelan (2005) and Amritavalli (2014) which has argued that Malayalam does not have a TP and that temporal interpretation is read off of aspect. I will show, based on evidence from the construction that expresses the Existential perfect, that their system makes incorrect predictions for the perfect. I will provide a compositional analysis for the Malayalam Existential perfect. I also consider the other construction used for the Resultative and Universal perfects and show the ways in which it does and does not match the semantics of the parallel constructions in other languages.
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October 14th, 2014

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Ling-Lunch 10/16 - Ayaka Sugawara  

Speaker: Ayaka Sugawara (MIT) (joint work with Martin Hackl and Ken Wexler)
Title: On acquisition of “only”: Question-Answer congruence and scalar presuppositions
Date/Time:Thursday, October 16, 12:30-1:45pm
Location: 32-D461

There is a long-standing puzzle in acquisition of only since Crain et al. (1994): children up to age 6 display difficulties understanding sentences with pre-subject only (“subject-only”, e.g. Only the cat is holding a flag.) while having no difficulty understanding sentences with pre-VP only (“VP-only”, e.g. The cat is only holding a flag.). We note that neither “subject-only” nor “VP-only” are congruent with a broad question (e.g. What happened?), which is typically used to prompt puppet’s answers in experiments in the literature. Instead, they are congruent with different sub-questions, which we hypothesize that listeners must accommodate during comprehension. Our experiments compare children’s adult-like responses when we use broad questions and their responses when we use sub-questions. The results show that children are sensitive to Question-Answer Congruence (QAC) and support the idea that accommodation of sub-questions of What happened? plays a role in Crain’s puzzle.
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October 14th, 2014

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LFRG 10/17 - David Nicolas  

Speaker: David Nicolas (ENS)
Day/time: Friday, 17 October, 3:30pm
Location: 32-D461
Title: Two and a half apples

With some count nouns, we understand expressions of the form “a half N” and “half of an N” and sentences like this one:

(1) Two and a half apples are on the table.

This is true, for instance, if on the table there are two apples and one half apple (half of an apple).

If instead of “two and a half” we use a simple cardinal like “two”, the truth conditions of a similar sentence can be stated like this:

(2) Two apples are on the table
is true iff exists x (apple(x) & card(x) = 2 & on_the_table(x)) {“at least” semantics}

This “at least” semantics of cardinals just asserts the existence of two things. An “exact semantics” would assert the existence of exactly two things and no more.

Whether one adopts an “at least” semantics or an “exact” semantics, these kind of truth conditions are inadequate for (1) for two reasons (Salmon 1997, Liebesman 2014):

  • Half an apple is not in the denotation of “apples”, so it cannot be in the denotation of two and a half apples if one just “intersects” the meaning of “apples” with that of “two and a half”.
  • The function card() returns the cardinality of a plurality or set, which can never be a fractional number.

So what are the truth conditions of the sentence and how do we get them?

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October 14th, 2014

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LFRG 10/8 - Brian Buccola  

Speaker: Brian Buccola (McGill University)
Time: Wednesday, October 8, 3:30-5pm (note exceptional time!)
Location: 32-D461
Title: Global semantic constraints: the case of van Benthem’s problem

Any adjectival theory of numeral modifiers faces a challenge known as van Benthem’s problem (van Benthem, 1986), whereby non-upward-monotone quantifiers like “fewer than three” give rise to inadequate truth conditions. I propose a novel solution based on general economy principles for LF availability: certain LFs are generated by the grammar but unavailable (blocked) by virtue of (i) their semantic equivalence to LFs of syntactically simpler sentences, and (ii) the simultaneous availability of other, non-trivial LFs. The equivalence check is shown to rely crucially on the distributivity-collectivity properties of the predicates, in particular on whether the predicates distribute to at least some (not necessarily every) subpart (not necessarily atomic). The proposal therefore makes strong predictions regarding the interpretations of sentences with negative (and other) quantifiers and various predicates along the distributive-collective spectrum, which I show are borne out.
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October 6th, 2014

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ESSL/LacqLab - No meeting this week  

We will have no lab meeting this week. Our next lab meeting will be Wednesday, 10/15.

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October 6th, 2014

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Ling-Lunch 10/9 - Ethan Poole  

Speaker: Ethan Poole (UMass Amherst)
Title: Deconstructing quirky subjects
Date/Time:Thursday, October 09, 12:30-1:45pm
Location: 32-D461

Quirky (nonnominative) subjects differ across languages in whether they display the full range of properties exhibited by canonical nominative subjects. Based on data from Icelandic, German, Hindi-Urdu, Basque, and Laz, I show that the subjecthood properties exhibited by quirky subjects crosslinguistically obey an implicational hierarchy. I argue that this hierarchy is the result of DPs exhibiting a set of subjecthood properties as a function of how high they raise in the functional sequence.
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October 6th, 2014

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Syntax Square 9/30 - Ted Levin  

Speaker: Ted Levin
Title: Toward a unified analysis of antipassive and pseudo noun incorporation constructions
Date/Time: Tuesday, Sept 30, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461
Abstract: See attachment LSA 2015 abstract

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September 29th, 2014

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Colloquium 10/3 - Paul Egré  

Speaker: Paul Egré (Institut Jean-Nicod)
Title: Intensional readings of “many” and moral expectations
Time: Friday, 10/3/14, 3:30-5:00 PM
Venue: 32-141

The determiner “many” is unlike “some” or “all” in that i) it is vague and context-sensitive: how many counts as many depends both on the context and on the speaker (see Partee 1989), and ii) it has intensional readings, in the sense that “many As are Bs” and “many Cs are Ds” can differ in truth value even as the predicates A and C are coextensional, and the predicates C and D are (Keenan and Stavi 1986, Fernando and Kamp 1996, Lappin 2000). Intensional readings of sentences of the form “many As are Cs” can often be given a comparative paraphrase in terms of expectations: “many students left” meaning “(significantly) more students left than expected”. In this paper, I propose to clarify the notion of expectation in question. Two kinds of expectations ought to be distinguished. One concerns statistical expectations in a broad sense, which involve a representation of how likely or typical an event is (see Moxey and Sanford 1993, and Fernando and Kamp 1996 on “many”). Another kind concerns moral expectations in a broad sense, involving a representation of how good or desirable an event is. The latter has received less attention in the literature. I will present the results of a set of experimental studies, run jointly with Florian Cova (University of Geneva), in which we investigated the sensitivity of judgments involving “many” to those two kinds of expectations. The results indicate that judgments involving “many” are sensitive to both kinds of expectations, but they show a considerable influence of moral expectations proper. Our main finding is that the threshold relevant to ascribe “many” is systematically lowered for predicates that have a negative value or that are matched with a more undesirable outcome. This pattern of results bears a substantive connection with the asymmetry originally pointed out by Kahneman and Tversky (1979) concerning the perception of losses vs. gains. I will discuss different ways in which the sensitivity of “many” to moral expectations might be regimented. I will also look at the results from the perspective of extensional accounts of the semantics of “many” (Solt 2012, Greer 2014), in which intensional readings are accounted for in terms of a shift of comparison class.
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September 29th, 2014

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ESSL/LacqLab 10/1 - Despina Oikonomou  

Our next ESSL/LacqLab meeting will take place on Wednesday, October 1, at 5:00 PM in room 32-D831. NOTE THE TIME CHANGE FROM THE USUAL! Despina Oikonomou will be presenting.

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September 29th, 2014

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Ling-Lunch 10/2 - Ivy Sichel  

Speaker: Ivy Sichel (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Title: Anatomy of a counterexample: Extraction from relative clauses
Date/Time:Thursday, October 02, 12:30-1:45pm
Location: 32-D461

Relative clauses (henceforth RCs) are considered islands for extraction, yet acceptable cases of overt extraction have been attested over the years in a variety of languages: Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Hebrew, English, Italian, Spanish, French, Japanese (Erteschik-Shir 1973, 1982, Kuno 1976, Engdahl 1980, McCawley 1981, Chomsky 1982, Taraldsen 1982, Doron 1982, Chung and McCloskey 1983, Abe et. al. 2010, Cinque 2010), and also in Lebanese Arabic and Mandarin Chinese, where covert extraction from an RC is observed (Aoun & Li 2003, Hulsey & Sauerland 2006). The possibility for extraction has often been presented as evidence against a syntactic theory of locality, and in favor of constraints defined in terms of information structure (Erteschik-Shir 1973, 1982, 1997, Engdahl 1982, 1997, Ambridge & Goldberg 2008), or processing limitations and constraints on working memory (Hofmeister & Sag 2010). Another possibility, still hardly explored (but see Kush et. al. 2013), is that locality is determined syntactically (Chomsky 1973 and subsequent work), combined with a more fine-grained structure for RCs and a theory of how extraction from this structure interacts with the theory of locality. I argue in favor of the latter approach. I assume the structural ambiguity of RCs (Sauerland 1998, Grosu & Landman 1998, Bhatt 2002, among others) and argue that while externally headed RCs do block extraction, extraction is possible, under certain conditions, from a Raising RC, and is formally similar to acceptable extraction from a Wh-island.
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September 29th, 2014

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Phonology Circle 09/22 - Benjamin Storme  

Speaker: Benjamin Storme (MIT)
Title: Closed syllable vowel laxing and the perceptibility of coda consonant place contrasts
Date/Time: Monday, September 22, 5-6:30 pm
Location: 32-D461

Closed syllable vowel laxing describes a common pattern of allophonic distribution where tense vowels are laxed in closed syllables (e.g., French vous votez /vote/ “you vote” vs il vote /vɔt/ “he votes”). I propose that laxing vowels (e.g., o->ɔ) in closed syllables is a strategy selected by speakers to enhance the perceptibility of coda consonant place contrasts. I present results of a perception experiment that provide preliminary support for this hypothesis.
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September 22nd, 2014

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Ling-Lunch 9/25 - Edwin Howard  

Speaker: Edwin Howard (MIT)
Title: Superlative Degree Clauses: evidence from NPI licensing
Date/Time:Thursday, September 25, 12:30-1:45pm
Location: 32-D461

This talk concerns the superlative morpheme -est and its ability to license Negative Polarity Items (NPIs) such as any and ever, and addresses the puzzle posed by utterances such as (1):

(1) a. John read the most books that anyone ever read.
b. Mary sang the loudest that anyone ever sang.

While the embedded clause in (1a) appears at first sight to be a relative clause modifier of the NP poems, an analogous role for its counterpart in (1b) would be surprising as RCs do not typically modify adverbs (*Mary sang loudly that I like). Furthermore I demonstrate that the embedded clauses in (1) are not predicted to be able to host NPIs under a RC modifier analysis, given otherwise well-supported proposals that appeal to the entailments that semantic operators such as -est give rise to (Ladusaw 1980; von Fintel 1999, Gajewski 2010).

I present my proposal to analyse these embedded clauses as arguments of -est, akin to than- or as-clauses familiar from other degree constructions. The Superlative Degree Clause analysis makes welcome predictions for the interpretation of such structures, and provides an elegant account of the otherwise puzzling contrasts between (1) and the odd degraded or infelicitous examples in (2):

(2) a. *John read the most books that anyone ever wrote.
b. #Mary sang the loudest that any baritone ever sang

If time permits I will sketch out an implementation of the SDC analysis and consider its consequences for our understanding of the syntax/semantics interface.

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September 22nd, 2014

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Phonology 2014 at MIT this week  

Phonology 2014 will be held at MIT from September 19-21, 2014. Methods tutorials will be held on Friday Sept 19, and research presentations (talks and posters) will take place on Sat and Sun Sept 20-21. Invited speakers are:

Visit the conference website for more information.

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September 15th, 2014

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Phonology Circle 09/15 - Suyeon Yun  

Speaker: Suyeon Yun (MIT)
Title: English -uh-insertion and consonant cluster splittability
Date/Time: Monday, September 15, 5-6:30 pm
Location: 32-D461

This paper investigates the grammar of consonant cluster splittability based on a case study from English -uh-insertion, which, to my knowledge, has not been described or studied thus far. Experimental evidence will show that the acceptability of -uh-insertion is determined by interactions of several factors, so that the resulting -uh-form can be perceptually similar to the original word.
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September 15th, 2014

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Syntax Square 9/16 - Coppe van Urk  

Speaker: Coppe van Urk (MIT)
Title: Why Dutch is like Salish: On the nature of the EPP
Date/Time: Tuesday, Sept 16, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461

This talk discusses some syntactic environments in Dutch in which Locative Inversion appears to be obligatory (Hoekstra and Mulder 1990; Zwart 1991). I show that this pattern generalizes and that locative expressions, particularly locative proforms, may be used to satisfy the EPP property of Spec-IP. I relate this to the claim, developed by Ritter and Wiltschko (2009) on the basis of Salishan languages, that Infl may have locative content, and I offer a modification of the Ritter and Wiltschko proposal that accommodates the Dutch facts. If on the right track, this proposal suggests that the EPP is a property of a head (Landau 2006; Richards 2014), rather than a property of a single feature (Chomsky 1995; Pesetsky and Torrego 2001).
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September 15th, 2014

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ESSL/LacqLab 09/17 - Iain Giblin  

Our next ESSL/LacqLab meeting will take place on Wednesday, September 17, at 3:00 PM in room 32-D831 (note room change from last week!). Iain Giblin will be presenting on nominal recursion in child language.

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September 15th, 2014

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Ling-Lunch 9/18- Tsuyoshi Sugawara  

Speaker: Tsuyoshi Sugawara (Ube National College of Technology / MIT)
Title: Between Red Sox and Generative Grammar: The Lexical Semantics and Morphosyntax of the SASPAN Construction
Date/Time:Thursday, September 18, 12:30-1:45pm
Location: 32-D461

The purpose of this talk is to discuss the lexical-semantic and morpho-syntactic properties of Syntactically Attributive but Semantically Predicative Adjective-plus-Noun (SASPAN) construction,exemplified by “an adjectival analysis of cardinal numerals.” I will describe the peculiarity of the SASPAN constructions, in comparison with some other adjective-noun combinations in which the prenominal adjective combines with the head noun in a non-intersective way, and show examples of such a construction in English, Japanese and other languages. Then, by employing the framework of the Generative Lexicon Theory ( e.g., Pustejovsky 1995, Jackendoff 1997, 2002, Pustejovsky et. al. 2013) and building on the earlier findings in Sugawara (2010, 2011, 2013a,b), I will propose (i) a semantic structure for the head noun occurring in the construction, (ii) two semantic constraints on the construction, one applying to the prenominal adjective and the other to the head noun, and (iii) the mechanism by which such a construction is derived.
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September 15th, 2014

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Colloquium 09/18 - Jim McCloskey  

Speaker: Jim McCloskey (UCSC)
Title: Phasehood, the Maximal Verbal Projection and Preverbs in Irish
Date/Time: Thursday, September 18th, 5:15-6:45 pm
Location: 34-101

Please note the special time, date and place for this talk.

The direct object relation is a relation of central importance in syntactic theory and so it was an important moment when the nature of that relation was fundamentally re-thought in work of the 1990’s. This paper examines some of the issues raised in that re-thinking, by looking closely at the expression of the direct object relation in Irish (infinitival) clauses. It focuses in particular on what is to be learned from an intricate pattern of dialectal, idiolectal, and generational variation which, it is claimed, sheds light on how we should understand `Burzio’s Generalization’, which is itself a central aspect of theories of objecthood which derive from Government Binding Theory.
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September 15th, 2014

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Phonology Circle 9/8 - Organizational meeting  

The Phonology Circle will return to its traditional meeting time of Monday 5-6:30 but will be held in 32D-461.

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September 8th, 2014

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ESSL/LacqLab 9/10 - Hackl, Olson, and Sugawara  

Speaker: Martin Hackl, Erin Olson, and Ayaka Sugawara (MIT)
Title: Processing Only: Scalar Presupposition and the Structure of Alternatives
Date/Time: Wednesday, September 10, 3:00-4:30 PM
Location: 32-D461

Martin, Erin, and Ayaka will be practicing for their Sinn Und Bedeutung talk. See abstract attached.

SuB Practice Abstract - WHAMIT

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September 8th, 2014

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Ling Lunch 9/11- Juliet Stanton  

Speaker: Juliet Stanton (MIT)
Title: Learnability shapes typology: the case of the midpoint pathology
Date/Time:Thursday, September 11, 12:30-1:45pm
Location: 32-D461

The aim of this paper is to explore the idea that learnability shapes typology: that the range of linguistic variation we observe is delimited by constraints on the types of grammars that can be acquired accurately and reliably (cf. Boersma 2003, Alderete 2008, Staubs 2014). I focus specifically on the midpoint pathology (Eisner 1997, Hyde 2008, Kager 2012), a term used to characterize a type of unattested stress system in which stress is drawn to the middle of mid-length words, but not others. Kager (2012) argues that eliminating the pathology requires us to eliminate contextual lapse constraints (e.g. *ExtLapseR) from Con and adopt weakly layered feet; I argue instead that systems exhibiting the pathology are unattested because the necessary ranking is difficult to learn. I present modeling results that support the current proposal, and show that the absence of the midpoint pathology can in part be attributed to extra-phonological limitations on the learner’s input. I discuss some immediate challenges for the proposal, and show that its global predictions are borne out. I argue that, if we can explain the absence of all midpoint systems as the result of constraints on learnability, then there is no need to exclude them from the learner’s hypothesis space. In other words: to explain the absence of the midpoint pathology, we do not need to eliminate contextual lapse constraints, nor do we need to adopt weakly layered feet.
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September 8th, 2014

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LFRG 9/12 - Mia Nussbaum  

Speaker: Mia Nussbaum (MIT)
Title: Subset Comparatives as Comparative Quantifiers
Date/Time: Friday, 12 September, 3:30-5pm
Location: 32-D461

Mia will be practicing for her Sinn Und Bedeutung talk. See abstract attached.

nussbaum_sub19_abstract

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September 8th, 2014

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Syntax Square 9/9 - Nicholas Longenbaugh  

Speaker: Nicholas Longenbaugh
Title: On the approximate parity of Niuean arguments: a case study in copy-raising
Date/Time: Tuesday, Sept 9, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461

Abstract: here

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September 8th, 2014

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Events at MIT, Fall 2014  

At least two conferences will be held at MIT during the fall semester:

Phonology 2014 will be held at MIT from September 19-21, 2014. Invited speakers are:

  • Gillian Gallagher (NYU)
  • René Kager (Utrecht University)
  • Naomi Feldman (UMD)

The 45th annual meeting of the North East Linguistic Society will be held at MIT on October 31 - November 2nd, 2014. Invited speakers are:

  • Heidi Harley (University of Arizona)
  • Roger Schwarzschild (MIT)
  • Kie Zuraw (UCLA)
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September 2nd, 2014

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Linguistics colloquia for the academic year  

The MIT Linguistics Colloquium schedule for this academic year is below. All talks are on Fridays. For further information, please contact the organizers for this year, Ruth Brillman and Mia Nussbaum.

Fall 2014:

Spring 2015:

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September 2nd, 2014

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LFRG 9/4 - Dorothy Ahn  

Speaker: Dorothy Ahn (Harvard)
Title: Semantics of focus particles too and either
Date/Time: Thursday, September 4, 5:30-7p
Location: 34-D461

Additive either is an NPI that appears clause-finally in sentences like (1).

(1) John didn’t leave. Bill didn’t leave either.
(2) *Bill left either.

An adequate account must explain at least two main properties of additive either: a) its restricted distribution and b) the relation between the host – the clause containing either – and the antecedent – the clause preceding the host. Building on Rullmann’s (2003) intuition that additive either is a negative counterpart of focus particle too, I first propose an analysis for too: it introduces an anaphoric variable q that requires an antecedent, and when applied to a proposition p, it asserts a conjunction of q and p. After discussing how this anaphoricity accounts for the relation between the host and the antecedent, I propose that additive either is a completely parallel disjunctive counterpart of too, with its meaning identical to too except that it asserts a disjunction between q and p. The restricted distribution of additive either is predicted to follow simply from the lexical entry of either once we adopt the exhaustification-based theory of NPIs (Chierchia, 2013) and assume thateither has the same domain and scalar alternatives of a regular disjunction.

Chierchia, G. (2013). Logic in Grammar: Polarity, free choice, and intervention.
Rullmann, H. (2003). Additive particles and polarity. Journal of semantics, 20(4)

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September 2nd, 2014

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LingLunch 9/4 - Roman Feiman  

Speaker: Roman Feiman (Snedeker & Carey Labs at Harvard Psychology)
Title: The acquisition of verbal negation: a case study in the development of logical operators in thought and language
Date/Time: Thursday, September 4, 12:30-1:45
Location: 34-D461

Logical connectives in natural language, such as “and,” “or,” and “not,” have highly abstract meanings that are typically modeled as higher-order functions of the meanings of the phrases with which they combine. Despite this complexity, children begin to use such words very early. How do they learn the meanings of words with such abstract, non-referential content? Does learning the corresponding words somehow help learn the concept? Or must one know the concept already, so that learning the word is a matter of labeling an existing mental symbol?

I will describe a series of experiments examining children’s comprehension of the words “no” and “not.” Our main finding is that children do not begin to understand the abstract meaning of these words until the age of two. This is surprisingly late, given that “no”, in particular, is frequently produced by younger children. I will discuss some possible interpretations for this disconnect between children’s production of the word and understanding of its logical force, as well as the significance of these findings for the relationship between the development of logic and language.

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September 2nd, 2014

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Semantics Talks 6/3 - Patrick Elliott and Yasutada Sudo  

Date/Time: Tuesday, Jun 3, 1:30pm
Location: 32-D461

Speaker: Patrick Elliott (University College London)
Title: Illusory Repair and the PF-Theory of Islands

In this talk (based on joint work with Matt Barros & Gary Thoms) we argue against the proposal that island violations are repaired by ellipsis. Building on Merchant (2001), we develop an approach to repair-effects based on a number of distinct evasion strategies, which involve a degree of non-isomorphism between the ellipsis site and its antecedent. Island-violations are side-stepped, just so long as a non-island-violating evasion source is available. When non-isomorphism is controlled for, island effects re-emerge. We show this for both sluicing (widely assumed to be island-insensitive) and fragment answers (widely assumed to be island-sensitive). Only the evasion approach can account for the whole set of facts. We conclude: (i) the conjecture that island conditions are fundamentally phonological in nature is incorrect (ii) islands provide a strong argument for silent syntactic structure.

Speaker: Yasutada Sudo (University College London)
Title: How Scalar Implicatures and Presupposition Interact

(Joint work with Benjamin Spector.)

We investigate the interactions between scalar implicatures and presuppositions in sentences involving both a presupposition trigger and a scalar item, e.g. “John is (un)aware that some of the students smoke”. We first discuss Gajewski & Sharvit’s (2012) account and point out empirical problems for it. Then we present an alternative analysis which is a very natural extension of ‘standard’ treatments of scalar implicatures. We show that it nicely explains the data that is problematic for Gajewski & Sharvit, but claim that it fails to account of the full range of data. This discussion leads us to pursue a view where two distinct strengthening mechanisms are at play. Our key data involves what we call “presupposed ignorance”.

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June 3rd, 2014

Posted in Talks

Semantics Talks 6/5 - Matthijs Westera and Ayaka Sugawara  

Date/Time: Wednesday, Jun 5, 3pm
Location: 32-D461

Speaker: Matthijs Westera (University of Amsterdam)
Title: A pragmatics-driven theory of intonational meaning

I present a compositional semantics for Dutch(/English/German) intonation that crucially treats high phrase accents/boundary tones as signalling conversational maxim violations. Together with Attentive Pragmatics - a set of maxims I proposed earlier for an account of exhaustivity implicatures - this simple assumption is shown to yield very fine-grained and, it seems, accurate semantic/pragmatic predictions for various contours, e.g., that contrastive topic must scope over focus, that fall-rise indicates uncertain relevance or incredulity, and how this all interacts with context. I argue that the assumed intonational meanings are non-arbitrary, suggesting a universal tendency, at least in non-tonal languages, towards an intonational semantics along these lines. Finally, the apparent semanticization of the maxims invites reflection on their status in linguistic theory.

Speaker: Ayaka Sugawara
Title: Covered Box Task to investigate acquisition of scopally ambiguous sentences: evidence from scrambled sentence in Japanese

(Practice talk for FAJL; joint work with Ken Wexler.)

A major open question in the theory of language acquisition is why children speaking English seem to have difficulty interpreting inverse scope of negation and a universal subject quantifier. Our results contribute both to the solution to this puzzle and provide evidence for particular approaches to the A-movement of Japanese and the theory of contrastive topic. We will argue that children have difficulty with at least some forms of reconstruction and alternative comparison which takes place at LF, but do not have a problem with interpreting a particular logical form generated by syntax.

We conducted two experiments in Japanese with Japanese-speaking children. Our first experiment shows that children accept the not>all reading of scrambled sentences, where the not>all reading is supported by the syntax

Our second experiment shows that children completely fail to get the unambiguous not>all reading of Contrastive Topic sentences, where not>all reading is derived at LF. The difficulty seems to be related to the same type of “alternatives comparison” difficulty that is the major explanation of children’s difficulties with scalar implicatures.

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June 3rd, 2014

Posted in Talks

Summer Conference Round-Up, Part 2  

The 22nd Manchester Phonology Meeting (mfm22) was held May 29-31. Among the presentations were:

  • Juliet Stanton and Donca Steriade: Stress windows and Base Faithfulness in English suffixal derivatives
  • Yoonjung Kang (PhD 2000), Tae-Jin Yoon and Sungwoo Han: Lexical diffusion of vowel length merger in Seoul Korean: a corpus-based study
  • Adam Albright: Epenthesis in rising sonority clusters in Lakhota
  • Suyeon Yun: The role of acoustic disjuncture in loan epenthesis: experimental evidence
  • Andrew Nevins (PhD 2005) and Nina Topintzi: Moraic onsets and cross-anchoring in Arrernte
  • Giorgio Magri (PhD 2009): On the Prince-Tesar-Hayes’ approach to OT restrictiveness
  • Anthony Brohan: Licensing Catalan laryngeal neutralization by cue (Poster)
  • Sam Zukoff: A correlation between stress and reduplication: Diyari and beyond (Poster)
  • Lilla Magyar: Gemination in Hungarian loanword adaptation (Poster)
  • Benjamin Storme: The Loi de Position and the acoustics of French mid vowels (Poster)
  • Katrin Skoruppa, Andrew Nevins and Stuart Rosen: English listeners’ use of vowel phonotactics for speech segmentation (Poster)

The 24th meeting of Semantics and Linguistic Theory (SALT 24) was held at NYU on 5/30-6/1.

  • Among the invited talks were Valentine Hacquard (PhD 2006), Bootstrapping into attitudes, and Sarah Moss (PhD MIT Philosophy 2009), On the semantics of epistemic vocabulary.
  • Wataru Uegaki gave a talk entitled Japanese-type alternative questions in a cross-linguistic perspective.
  • Tue Trinh (PhD 2011) presented a poster with Andreas Haida entitled Building alternatives as did Luka Crnič (PhD 2011), on Scope fixing, scope economy, and focus movement.
  • Marie-Christine Meyer (PhD 2013), gave a talk entitled Grammatical uncertainty implicatures and Hurford’s constraint

CNRS-IKER in the Basque Country will host the Workshop on Quantifier Scope: Syntactic, Semantic, and Experimental Approaches on June 12-13. Benjamin Bruening (PhD 2001) will present an invited talk entitled Giving and having: quantifier scope and secondary predicates. Susi Wurmbrand (PhD 1998) is also giving an invited talk titled Thoughts on the syntactic domain of QR. Ayaka Sugawara and Ken Wexler will present a talk entitled Covered Box Task to investigate acquisition of scopally ambiguous sentences: evidence from scrambled sentences in Japanese.

NINJAL and ICU are co-hosting the 7th Formal Approaches to Japanese Linguistics (FAJL7) in Tokyo on June 27-29. The following are among the MIT-affiliated presentations:

  • Miwako Hisagi, Valerie Shafer, Shigeru Miyagawa, Hadas Kotek, Ayaka Sugawara and Dimitrios Pantazis: Perception of Japanese vowel duration contrasts by L1 and L2 learners of Japanese: An EEG study
  • Uli Sauerland (PhD 1998) and Kazuko Yatsuhiro: Japanese Reported Speech within the Emerging Typology of Speech Reports
  • Shinichiro Ishihara (PhD 2003): On Match Constraints (Invited Talk)
  • Ayaka Sugawara and Ken Wexler: Children do not accept unambiguous inverse-scope readings: experimental evidence from prosody and scrambling in Japanese
  • Ryo Masuda: Phonological and lexical contexts and the phonetic realization of [voice] in Japanese (Poster)
  • Takashi Morita: Scalar implicature and restrictive focus particles (Poster)

Finally, NINJAL will also host the 14th Conference on Laboratory Phonology (LabPhon 14), July 25-27. Presenting there are:

  • Yoonjung Kang (PhD 2000), Tae-Jin Yoon and Sungwoo Han: Lexical diffusion of vowel length merger in Seoul Korean: a corpus-based study
  • Gillian Gallagher (PhD 2010): Determining the representation of phonotactic restrictions with nonce words (Poster)
  • Suyeon Yun: Acoustic disjuncture in consonant clusters and vowel epenthesis (Poster)
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June 3rd, 2014

Posted in Talks

Phonology Circle 5/21 - Manchester Practice Talks  

The next session of the Phonology Circle will feature practice talks for the Manchester Phonology Meeting.

Date/Time: Wednesday, May 21, 1-3p (Note special date/time)
Location: 32-D831

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May 19th, 2014

Posted in Talks

LFRG 5/29 - Jacopo Romoli  

LFRG will have several special meetings over the summer, including Yasutada Sudo and Patrick Elliott (6/3) and Matthijs Westera (6/6). The first of these is detailed here.

Speaker: Jacopo Romoli (Ulster)
Title: Redundancy and the notion of local context
Date/Time: Thursday, May 29, 2pm
Location: 32-D831

(Joint work with Clemens Mayr.)

In this talk, I discuss novel data which are problematic for Stalnaker’s (1979) non-redundancy condition, requiring not to assert something that is already presupposed. This condition has been extended to the local level, so that a sentence is deemed not assertible if it contains any part that is redundant in its local context (Fox 2008, Schlenker 2009, Singh 2007 among many others). The problem for this approach comes from disjunctions like Either Mary isn’t pregnant or (she is) and it doesn’t show. The optional presence of she is (pregnant) – a locally redundant part – is not readily predicted by the non-redundancy condition. These data are even more puzzling if compared to corresponding conditionals like If Mary is pregnant, (#she is and) it doesn’t show where the she is (pregnant) part is unacceptable as predicted by the non-redundancy condition. In response to this puzzle, we propose a solution based on Schlenker’s (2009) parsing-based theory of local contexts. In this system, exhaustifying a sentence can modify the local contexts of its parts. As a consequence of this, she is (pregnant) is actually not redundant in the disjunctive sentence above, provided the latter is exhaustified. As we discuss, this solution is not available in an approach like dynamic semantics where local contexts are computed compositionally from the syntactic structure of the sentence in question (Heim 1983, Beaver 2001; see also Chierchia 2009). Therefore, our solution to the disjunctive puzzle above, if correct, is an argument for the parsing-based approach to local contexts. More in general, redundancy provides a testing ground for these two approaches to local contexts, which are provably equivalent in the domain of presupposition projection (Schlenker 2007, 2009). We discuss also other issues that the disjunctive case above raises in connection to exhaustification, presupposition projection, and the calculation of alternatives.

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May 19th, 2014

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No LFRG this week  

There will be no LFRG meeting this week.

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May 12th, 2014

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Phonology Circle 5/12 - Suyeon Yun  

Speaker: Suyeon Yun
Title: Consonant Cluster Splittability in English
Date/Time: Monday, May 12, 5pm
Location: 32-D831

When English speakers express incredulousness, annoyance, etc., they may insert a schwa in the middle of initial consonant cluster, e.g., ‘please’ —> `p-uh-lease’. In this talk I report results of a rating study that investigates acceptability of the schwa insertion in all types of initial clusters existing in English, and discuss what the significant predictors for the epenthesis are.

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May 12th, 2014

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Ling-Lunch 5/15 - Wataru Uegaki  

Speaker: Wataru Uegaki
Title: Cross-linguistic variation in the strategies of forming alternative questions: Japanese and beyond
Date/Time: Thursday, May 15, 12:30-1:45p
Location: 32-D461

(This is a practice talk for SALT.)

As Gracanin-Yuksek puts it in her recent WAFL talk, current issues in the syntax and semantics of alternative questions (AltQs) involve two main questions: whether AltQs involve deletion and whether they involve a covert scoping operation. Along these two dimensions, there are (at least) three analytic possibilities existing in the literature for the compositional semantic derivation of an English AltQ. One possibility is to analyze the disjunction as undergoing some form of covert scoping operation (Quantifying-in in Karttunen 1977, Larson 1985; focus semantics in Beck & Kim 2006), making it to take scope over the question-forming operator. The other two possibilities involve deletion in the second disjunct whose underlying structure is larger than its surface appearance. In one analysis, the underlying structure of the AltQ is a coordination of two questions, and no covert scoping operation is needed to derive the AltQ meaning (Pruitt & Roelofsen 2011). The other way is to assume both deletion and a covert scoping operation (Han & Romero 2004).

This paper contributes to this debate by focusing on AltQs in Japanese, arguing that they are underlyingly disjunctions of polar questions, along the lines of Pruitt and Roelofsen (2011). After presenting a Hamblin-semantic implementation of such an analysis, I will situate the Japanese-type AltQs in the new cross-linguistic typology of AltQs, which takes into account languages that disambiguate AltQs and Yes/No questions using distinct disjunction markers (such as Finnish and Basque). The resulting picture is that languages vary in the strategies they use in forming alternative questions: one with scoping and one with coordination of full CP-questions.

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May 12th, 2014

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ESSL 5/15 - Benjamin Storme  

Speaker: Benjamin Storme
Title: Present perfective and explicit performatives
Date/Time: Thursday, May 15, 5:30-7p
Location: 32-D831

In this talk, I will propose to extend Lauer (2013)’s analysis of explicit performatives with temporal and aspectual operators from Kratzer (1998) in order to account for the contrast in (1). The performative effect will only arise in LFs with present tense and perfective aspect.

(1) a. I promise that p. (good as a promise)
b. #I am promising that p. (bad as a promise)

I will also propose a revision of the classic analysis of the contrast in (2): the badness of (2a) will no longer be derived by postulating a semantic incompatibility between perfective aspect and present tense (present perfective LFs are needed to derive the contrast in (1)), but by a pragmatic constraint making present perfective LFs unlikely.

(2) a. #John does his homework. (bad to refer to an event happening at the moment of utterance)
b. John is doing his homework. (good to refer to an event happening at the moment of utterance)

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May 12th, 2014

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LFRG 5/5 - Chris O’Brien  

Speaker: Chris O’Brien
Time: Monday, May 5, 12-1:30p
Location: 66-148
Title: The online processing of implicatures

I’ll be discussing two recent papers on the online processing of scalar implicatures (SIs). The first (Huang & Snedeker 2009) uses data from a series of experiments that employ the visual world eye-tracking paradigm to argue that computing an SI exacts a processing cost relative to accessing the basic meaning of a scalar item. However, Degen (2013) argues that this effect only shows up when number terms are made contextually salient. We’ll discuss these studies and what implications they have for our understanding of SIs.

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May 5th, 2014

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Phonology Circle 5/5 - Richard Futrell and Tim O’Donnell  

Speakers: Richard Futrell and Tim O’Donnell
Title: A Tier-Based Probabilistic Phonotactics Model
Date/Time: Monday, May 5, 5:30pm
Location: 32-D831

We present work in progress on a probabilistic generative model of English phonotactics. Augmenting an underlying feature-based N-gram model, we implement a tier-based representation of the kind studied in autosegmental phonology (e.g. Goldsmith, 1976) that allows nonlocal interactions of certain features as in vowel harmony. Local and nonlocal interactions are controlled via a feature geometry embedded in the model. To evaluate our model, we used Mechanical Turk to gather a large dataset of wellformedness ratings for 1000 monosyllabic nonce words. Our generative tier-based model achieves a higher correlation with these human ratings than BLICK. We also test our model on data from Daland et al. (2011), which tests the ability to explain sonority effects, and get performance comparable to the state of the art.

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May 5th, 2014

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Ling-Lunch 5/8 - Sasha Podobryaev  

Speaker: Sasha Podobryaev (Institut Jean Nicod)
Title: More on person features of bound pronouns
Date/Time: Thursday, May 8, 12:30-1:45p
Location: 32-D461

The focus of this talk is on the representation and interpretation of person features of bound pronouns. There has been some controversy in the literature about the licensing of such features in sentences like “Only I did my homework”. While some argue that there is a requirement of formal identity between the features of the nominal binder and the bound pronoun (cf. Heim 2008, Kratzer 2009), it has also been suggested by some others (cf. Jacobson 2013 for a recent example) that the features of bound pronouns do not depend on the features of their binders in any direct way.

Relying primarily on the evidence from Collins and Postal 2012, I show that both approaches are valid to a certain extent. I argue that there are at least two kinds of person features that can show up on bound pronouns: features of referential indices (cf. Minor 2011, Sudo 2012) licensed under identity with the features of the binder, and presuppositional head features (cf. Sauerland 2008, a.o.) that are licensed independently.

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May 5th, 2014

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ESSL 5/8 - Teresa Guasti  

Speaker: Teresa Guasti
Time: Thursday, May 8, 5-6:30p (Note special time)
Place: 32-D831
Title: Sensitivity to syntactic structure and contrastive stress in children’s sentence continuation

The full abstract is available (pdf).

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May 5th, 2014

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Linguistics Colloquium 5/9 - Julie Legate  

Speaker: Julie Legate (UPenn)
Title: Noncanonical Passives
Date/Time: Friday, May 9, 3:30-5p
Location: 32-141

In this talk, I investigate the syntactic structure of voice, focusing on noncanonical passives; I build on previous work by myself and others showing that voice is encoded in a functional projection, VoiceP, which is distinct from, and higher than, vP. I demonstrate that microvariation in the properties of VoiceP explains a wide range of noncanonical passives, including agent-agreeing passives, restricted agent passives, accusative object passives, impersonals, and object voice. The analysis draws on data from a typologically diverse set of languages.

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May 5th, 2014

Posted in Talks

LFRG 4/28 - Roman Feiman  

Speaker: Roman Feiman (Harvard)
Time: Monday, April 28, 12-1:30
Place: 66-148
Title: How abstract is LF? Differences between quantifiers, similarities between operations

Recent work in psycholinguistics (Raffray and Pickering, 2010) has shown that Logical Form representations can be primed — that how people resolve one scope ambiguity will affect their resolution of another ambiguity with different noun content. This suggests that once constructed, mental representations of the relationships between quantifiers are abstracted from the specific sentence and can be reused. We extend Raffray and Pickering’s paradigm to investigate priming across ambiguous sentences with varying subject quantifiers, using “Every”, “Each”, “All of the” and bare numerals. Priming aside, we find very large differences in the overall biases of these quantifiers to take wide or narrow scope relative to an indefinite object quantifier — large enough to swamp many others factors that have been argued to drive scope ambiguity resolution (e.g. linear order, c-command, thematic hierarchy). We also find that LF representations can be primed for all quantifiers, and that the priming is of the same magnitude for all of them, but only as long as the quantifier words in prime and target trials are the same. This finding suggests that the priming paradigm targets a common operation (like QR), which can act on all quantifiers equally. At the same time, we find no priming across sentences with different quantifiers (except from one bare numeral to another), suggesting that all of the quantifier words we tested have separate representations at LF, and that the common operation responsible for within-quantifier priming is unparsimoniously stored, redundant within the lexical entry of each quantifier. Taken together, these findings call for a different kind of theory of LF — one where there are generalized quantifiers and common operations applying to them (with these operations stored lexically), but also one where differences between individual quantifiers have a strong effect on their scoping behavior.

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April 28th, 2014

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Syntax Square 4/29 - Mia Nussbaum  

Speaker: Mia Nussbaum
Title: A “that-trace effect” in Welsh
Date/Time: Tuesday, Apr 29, 1-2p
Location: 32-D461

A-bar extraction in Welsh, both short- and long-distance, shows a certain subject/non-subject asymmetry: subject extraction requires a special non-agreeing verb form. I develop a Pesetsky and Torrego (2001)-style analysis, whereby movement of a nominative wh-phrase preempts T-to-C movement and results in the observed lack of agreement. I then look at the subjects of focused and copular sentences, and the interaction between long-distance wh-extraction and the so-called “focus complementizer”.

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April 28th, 2014

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Ling-Lunch 5/1 - Norvin Richards  

Speaker: Norvin Richards
Title: Prosody and scrambling in Tagalog
Date/Time: Thursday, May 1, 12:30-1:45p
Location: 32-D461

I’ll present an overview of the basics of Tagalog prosody, comparing Tagalog with Irish as described by Elfner (2012). We’ll also see how prosody is affected by Tagalog scrambling, and I’ll offer a hypothesis about why some languages have this type of scrambling and others don’t; the idea will be that we can predict, once we know everything about the prosody of a language, whether it will have scrambling.

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April 28th, 2014

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Linguistics Colloquium 5/2 - Matt Gordon  

Speaker: Matt Gordon (UC Santa Barbara)
Title: The tonal phonology of Koasati: Hybrid prominence and prosodic typology
Date/Time: Friday, May 2, 4:15-5:45p (Note special time)
Location: 32-141

Although prosodic systems have traditionally been bifurcated into two camps, those with stress and those with tone, recent advances in our typological knowledge paint a far richer picture of prosodic variation, including languages with neither stress nor tone, languages blending stress and tone, and diverse types of interactions between intonation and stress/tone. In this talk, I will discuss ongoing research with Jack Martin (College of William and Mary) on the prosodic system of Koasati, an endangered Muskogean language spoken in Louisiana and Texas. Koasati words and utterances feature a complex array of pitch events, most of which are attributed to a combination of lexical/grammatical tone and intonational boundary tones. Some, however, are suggestive of pitch accents projected from a word-level stress system. Two recurrent themes hold of tonal events contributed by each of these prosodic systems: an avoidance of tonal crowding and tonal polarity effects whereby a high tone is accompanied by a leading low tone. The talk will compare from a diachronic perspective Koasati’s multidimensional prosodic system to the strikingly diverse set of prosodic systems found within the Muskogean family and beyond.

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April 28th, 2014

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Phonology Circle 4/22 - Ryo Masuda  

Speaker: Ryo Masuda
Title: Pitch perturbation in Japanese
Date/Time: Tuesday, Apr 22, 3pm (Note special date/time)
Location: 32-D831

Cross-linguistically, the fundamental frequency of vowels following voiced obstruents is lower than following voiceless stops, a phenomenon called pitch perturbation (House & Fairbanks 1953). It has been posited as a pathway to tonogenesis (Haudricourt 1954) and has been shown to be a cue to distinguish stop voicing contrasts for listeners (Whalen et al 1993). It is plausible, then, that pitch may be exploited by speakers as a dimension for phonetic enhancement (Kingston & Diehl 1994) in realizing a stop voicing contrast. In this talk I present phonetic production and corpus work on Japanese, investigating such an interaction between f0 and voicing in a pitch accent language.

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April 22nd, 2014

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Ling-Lunch 4/24 - Tianshan Dai  

Speaker: Tianshan Dai (Shenzhen Polytechnic University)
Title: The Taoist Perspective of Chomsky’s Philosophy of Language
Date/Time: Thursday, Apr 24, 12:30-1:45p
Location: 32-D461

In this talk, I will discuss and interpret some of the lines from Chuang Tzu’s writings about the nature of language, children’s acquisition of language, language’s communicative function and meaning, etc. I compare Chuang Tzu’s Taoist philosophy of language with that of Chomsky, pointing out many striking similarities between the two, which shed light on both historical traditions between the east and the west. I conclude in the talk that the Plato’s problem or the Descartes’ problem in the west could be appropriately labeled Chuang Tzu’s problem in the east, and the development of generative linguistics can serve as a modern interpretation of Chuang Tzu’s Taoist philosophy of language.

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April 22nd, 2014

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LFRG 4/24 - Benjamin Storme  

Speaker: Benjamin Storme
Title: Deriving Greenberg’s Universal 45
Date/Time: Thursday, Apr 24, 5:30-7p
Location: 32-D831

In this talk, I will propose a model deriving Greenberg’s universal 45 about the interaction of gender and number in third person pronouns.

(1) Greenberg’s universal 45: If there are any gender distinctions in the plural of the pronoun, there are some gender distinctions in the singular also.

The general idea will be that, lexicon size being equal, a lexicon with more gender distinctions in the singular is more efficient in terms of anaphora resolution than a lexicon with more distinctions in the plural, because of the higher frequency of use of singular pronouns. The specific proposal will be implemented using a grammar generating pronoun meanings with gender presuppositions and a harmonic grammar regulating the mappings from those meanings to lexicons via two constraints (“Minimize lexicon size” and “Maximize the number of correct anaphora resolutions”). Finally, I will discuss possible extensions of this model to treat grammatical gender in addition to semantic gender, to deal with mixed-gender pronouns (they seem to be rare cross-linguistically), and to derive the primitive gender predicates.

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April 22nd, 2014

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Colloquium 4/25 - Richard Kayne  

Speaker: Richard Kayne (NYU)
Title: The Silence of Projecting Heads
Date/Time: Friday, Apr 25, 3:30-5p
Location: 32-141

Examination of sentence-final particles, complementizers, up/down-type particles, modal elements like ‘need’, the nominal character of agreement morphemes, aspect, tense, adjectives and adverbs, determiners, adpositions, focus and topic, derivational suffixes and light verbs leads to the conclusion that a preponderance of projecting syntactic heads are silent.

I suggest that we understand this to reflect the simpler fact that all syntactically projecting heads are silent. That simpler fact derives in turn from the fact that, for reasons having to do with the systematic antisymmetry-based association of Merge with temporal order, phonological material cannot be bundled together with a syntactic feature in a single node.

If so, then temporal order must be part of core syntax, as is suggested in any case by cross-linguistic asymmetries concerning backwards pronominalization that feed into interpretation.

The antisymmetry-based prohibition against feature-bundling simultaneouly has as a consequence the decompositionality principle of Kayne (2005).

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April 22nd, 2014

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LFRG 4/14 - Cory Bill  

Title: Indirect scalar implicatures are neither scalar implicatures nor presuppositions (or both)
Speaker: Cory Bill (Macquarie University)
Time: Monday, April 14, 12-1:30
Place: 66-148

This paper provides an experimental comparison of indirect scalar implicatures (2-a) with direct scalar implicatures (2-b) and presuppositions (2-c), in both children and adults. The results suggest a three-way distinction between direct SIs, indirect SIs, and presuppositions. This distinction challenges the standard view, which groups both types of SIs on one side and presuppositions on the other, as well as more recent accounts that analyze (certain) presuppositions as being (broadly) on par with SIs (Chemla 2009, Romoli 2012 a.o.).

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April 14th, 2014

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Syntax Square 4/15 - Ayaka Sugawara  

Speaker: Ayaka Sugawara
Title: A-scrambling, Reconstruction and the Computation of Alternatives under Prosody in Japanese: Evidence from Acquisition
Date/Time: Tuesday, Apr 15, 1-2p
Location: 32-D461

(Joint work with Ken Wexler.)

A major open question in the theory of language acquisition is why children speaking English seem to have difficulty interpreting inverse scope of negation and a universal subject quantifier. Our results contribute both to the solution to this puzzle and provide evidence for particular approaches to the A-movement of Japanese and the theory of contrastive topic. We will argue that children have difficulty with at least some forms of reconstruction, but do not have a problem with interpreting a particular logical form. In Japanese, a scope-rigid language, (1) is unambiguous, while its English counterpart is not.

(1) Minna-ga siken-o uke-nak-atta.
     Everyone-NOM exam-ACC take-NEG-PAST
     ‘Everyone didn’t take the exam’ (ok“all>not”, *“not>all”)

One way to get wide scope of negation is to scramble an object over the subject (Miyagawa ‘01, ‘10, a.o.). The scrambled sentence in (2) is ambiguous between the all>not reading (preferred) and the not>all reading (less preferred), while the non-scrambled sentence in (1) does not have the not>all reading.

(2) [siken-o] minna-ga uke-nak-atta.
     Exam-ACC everyone-NOM take-NEG-PAST
     ‘Everyone didn’t take the exam.’ (ok“all>not” ok“not>all”)

In Miyagawa’s analysis, (2) receives the not>all reading because it does not violate rigid scope; the scrambled object optionally moves to [Spec, T], leaving the subject in [Spec, v], thus c-commanding negation. If children accept the not>all reading in (2), then they understand the not>all LF and can access it when reconstruction is not necessary. Our first experiment shows that indeed children accept the not>all reading of (2).

Another way, and the only unambiguous way to obtain the not>all reading is to have a high pitch contour on the universal quantifier followed by a topic marker –wa (Contrastive Topic), as in (3) (Hara ‘06, Nakanishi ‘07, a.o.). The not>all reading is derived by adopting Büring’s (1997) Alternative Semantics approach to German Topic-Focus sentences.

(3) [Minna-wa]_F siken-o uke-nak-atta.
     Everyone-TOP exam-ACC take-NEG-PAST
     ‘Everyone didn’t take the exam’ (*“all>not”, ok“not>all”)

Our second experiment shows that children completely fail to get the unambiguous not>all reading in (3). The difficulty seems to be related to the same type of “alternatives comparison” difficulty that is the major explanation of children’s difficulties with scalar implicatures.

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April 14th, 2014

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Ling-Lunch 4/17 - Ciro Greco  

Speaker: Ciro Grego (Ghent University & University of Milano-Bicocca)
Title: Wh-clustering and the role of coordination in Italian multiple wh-questions
Date/Time: Thursday, Apr 17, 12:30-1:45p
Location: 32-D461

Please see the full abstract here (pdf).

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April 14th, 2014

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No ESSL this week  

There will be no ESSL session this week.

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April 14th, 2014

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Ling-Lunch Special Session 4/19 - Caroline Heycock  

Speaker: Caroline Heycock (University of Edinburgh)
Title: The problem is agreement
Date/Time: Friday, Apr 19, 3-4p (Note special date and time)
Location: 32-D461

In his recent colloquium, Marcel den Dikken outlined some of the striking - and different - agreement patterns that are found in English and Dutch in the kind of specificational sentences in (1):

1. a. The problem is your parents.
    b. The culprit is you.

2. onze grootste zorg {zijn/*is} de kinderen
     our biggest worry {are/*is} the children
     `Our biggest worry is the children.’

The requirement for number agreement with the second DP in Dutch (even in contexts which exclude V2) seems to accord well with the proposal that in these cases the initial DP is a predicate, as in the influential analysis developed by from Williams 1983, Partee 1987, Heggie 1988, Moro 1997 and many others.

In this talk I will present current work, much of it done in collaboration with Jutta Hartmann (Tübingen) in which we have begun to explore the agreement possibilities of these sentences in a number of different Germanic languages, and I will argue that while the facts indeed support an inversion analysis of specificational sentences, the initial nominal does not in fact show the properties of a predicate of the usual kind, but instead behaves like a Concealed Question, as proposed in Romero (2005, 2007).

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April 14th, 2014

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LFRG 4/7 - Justin Khoo  

Speaker: Justin Khoo (MIT Philosophy)
Title: Backtracking counterfactuals, revisited
Date/Time: Monday, Apr 7, 12-1:30p
Location: 66-148

Backtracking interpretations of counterfactuals are weird, but very real. Under a backtracking interpretation, we evaluate the counterfactual by making the requisite changes to how its antecedent would have had to have come about, and then play out the resulting scenario to see whether its consequent would thereby be made true.

For instance, consider the following scenario from Frank Jackson: you see your friend Smith on the ledge of the roof of a twenty story building, poised to jump. Thankfully, he doesn’t! You feel relief, and say to yourself,

(1) If Smith had jumped, he would have died.

It seems pretty clear that the counterfactual you utter is true. Yet now suppose that a mutual friend Beth is also on the scene. Beth objects to your claim on the following grounds. “Smith would have jumped only if there had been a net below to catch him safely. Hence, (1) is false, and instead the following is true:

(2) If Smith had jumped, he would have lived.”

Beth’s utterance of (2) is true on its backtracking interpretation, while your utterance of (1) is true on its non-backtracking interpretation.

I am interested in the conditions under which backtracking interpretations of counterfactuals arise and why they only arise in such conditions. Related to this is the following troubling issue: given that counterfactuals are so semantically flexible, how do we ever communicate using them?

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April 7th, 2014

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Phonology Circle 4/7 - Benjamin Storme  

Speaker: Benjamin Storme
Title: Explaining the distribution of French mid vowels
Date/Time: Monday, Apr 7, 5:30p
Location: 32-D831

In French, mid vowels have a peculiar distribution (often called the “loi de position”), with closed mids [e, ø, o, ə] tending to occur in open syllables not followed by schwa and open mids [ɛ, œ, ɔ] in open syllables followed by schwa and in closed syllables. Making sense of this distribution requires addressing the two following questions:

a. Why should syllable structure be relevant for the distribution of vowels along F1?
b. Why do open syllables followed by schwa pattern with closed syllables rather than with open syllables?

In this talk, I will present results of two experiments suggesting that the relationship between vowel quality and syllable structure cannot be derived via duration alone, as hypothesized in most phonological accounts (Morin 1986, Fery 2003, Scheer 2006 among others). Closed mids and open mids do not appear to have a special duration apart from that contributed by F1. Also, French does not seem to have a closed syllable vowel shortening effect.

Instead, I will propose that the relationship between vowel quality and syllable structure can be understood in terms of the perceptual requirements of vowels and consonants. Consonants that are poorly cued by their release transitions require good closure transitions. Building on work by Burzio (2007) and Lisker (1999) on English, I will argue that longer and lower vowels provide better closure transitions than shorter and higher ones. This will derive the preference for open mids and the absence of schwa in closed syllables and open syllables followed by schwa. When the release transitions are good enough, then no pressure is imposed on preceding vowels and the vowel inventory that is best dispersed along F2 and maximizes the number of duration contrasts, namely the inventory with closed mids and schwa, is chosen. This proposal will be formulated using the OT implementation of Dispersion Theory by Flemming (2004).

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April 7th, 2014

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Syntax Square 4/8 - Annie Gagliardi  

Speaker: Annie Gagliardi (Harvard)
Title: Reconciling two kinds of subject-object asymmetries
Date/Time: Tuesday, Apr 8, 1-2p
Location: 32-D461

Built into the grammatical architecture of any language we find constraints on possible structures. The processing system that uses these structures appears to have inherent preferences in how we interpret them. By looking at a domain where there exists tension between what constraints a learner might expect their language to conform to and the interpretations that are easier to arrive at, we can learn more about what a learner’s own abilities and expectations contribute to language acquisition. In this talk we look at one case where grammatical constraints pull in the opposite direction of the preferences of the system using those constraints: A-bar extraction of transitive subjects. In particular, we look at the comprehension of relative clauses by children and adults in Q’anjob’al, Mayan language where extraction of ergative marked subjects is reportedly banned. Results of a comprehension experiment with adults and children suggest that this tension does affect language acquisition, and may effect language change.

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April 7th, 2014

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Ling-Lunch 4/10 - Mark Baker  

Speaker: Mark Baker (Rutgers)
Title: On Case and Agreement in Split-Ergative Kurmanji
Date/Time: Thursday, Apr 10, 12:30-1:45p
Location: 32-D461

(Joint work with Ümit Atlamaz)

We argue that tense-based split ergativity in Adıyaman Kurmanji (Northern Kurdish) is best accounted for by a theory in which nominative case is assigned by agreement, rather than a theory in which morphological case determines which NP the verb agrees with. In present tense sentences, the subject is nominative, the object oblique, and the verb agrees with the subject, whereas in past tense sentences, the subject is oblique, the object nominative, and the verb agrees with the object. To account for this, we develop a theory in which the agreement-bearing head is Voice (not T). In past tense, this undergoes cyclic Agree, agreeing downward with the object if there is one, otherwise upward with the subject. In present tense, however, VP is a distinct spell out domain, forcing Voice to always agree upward with the subject. Either way, Voice assigns nominative case to whatever it agrees with, and oblique is assigned to all other arguments. Additional support for this theory comes from the order of tense and agreement morphemes, from the passive nature of past stems but not present stems, from the special behavior of plural agreement, and from the fact that Kurmanji does not distinguish ergative, accusative, and dative, and genitive cases. We also include some remarks about how variation among NW Iranian languages relates to our main line of argument—for example, the fact that Central and Southern Kurdish have preserved the split ergative agreement pattern of Kurmanji, but have lost the split ergative case-marking pattern.

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April 7th, 2014

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ESSL/LFRG 4/10 - Manuel Kriz  

Speaker: Manuel Kriz (Vienna/Harvard)
Title: Finding truth-value gaps
Date/Time: Thursday, Apr 10, 5:30-7p
Location: 32-D831

A sentence with a definite plural like (1) has non-complementary truth- and falsity conditions. It is clearly true if John read all of the books, and clearly false if he read none, but if he read exactly half of them, it seems to be neither true nor false.

(1) John read the books.

We develop an experimental method for detecting such a truth-value gap and apply it to sentences where the definite plural is embedded in the scope of a quantifier (as in (2)) to ground empirically recent theoretical approaches to the phenomenon of homogeneity in plural predication.

(2) Every student read the books.

The paradigm we develop is promising also for the study of and comparison between other phenomena, including presuppositions, vagueness, and scalar implicatures.

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April 7th, 2014

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Syntax Square 4/1 - Ruth Brillman and Aron Hirsch  

Speakers: Ruth Brillman and Aron Hirsch
Title: Don’t move too close
Date/Time: Tuesday, Apr 1, 1-2p
Location: 32-D461

There are numerous cross-linguistic phenomena showing that extraction of subjects is more restricted than extraction of objects. Our focus will be on English: subjects show a that-trace effect, non-subjects do not; subjects cannot undergo tough-movement, non-subjects can; matrix subject wh questions do not in general license parasitic gaps, non-subject questions do; and so forth.

The range of subject/non-subject asymmetries may look disparate, but we argue that they can be accounted for in a unified way under a cross-linguistically operative spec-to-spec anti-locality constraint, (1), following Erlewine (2014).

(1) Movement of a phrase from the specifier of XP must cross a maximal projection other than XP. Movement from position α to β crosses γ if and only if γ dominates α but does not dominate β.

Anti-locality prohibits movement from spec-TP to spec-CP with TP complement to C. This in general rules out subject movement, except in particular circumstances, e.g. when there is an XP intervening between TP and CP, so TP is not complement to C and movement from spec-TP to spec-CP is thus not anti-local.

We look in detail at the English subject/non-subject asymmetries, and show that they follow from anti-locality, and neutralize in those circumstances where anti-locality permits subject movement.

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March 31st, 2014

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Ling-Lunch 4/3 - Aron Hirsch  

Speaker: Aron Hirsch
Title: Exhaustivity and polarity-mismatch: Economy in accommodation
Date/Time: Thursday, Apr 3, 12:30-1:45p
Location: 32-D461

When can the answer to a constituent question be exhaustive, and when can’t it? This talk focuses on the relationship between exhaustivity and polarity. I report experimental data showing that the puzzle is multi-layered. First: an answer can be inferred to be exhaustive only when it matches the question in polarity (Uegaki 2013, Spector 2003, i.a.).

(1) Which of the men have beards?
a. Ryan does. (can be interpreted ‘only Ryan does’; complete answer)
b. Ryan doesn’t. (cannot be interpreted ‘only Ryan doesn’t’; partial answer)

Second: an answer that mismatches the question in polarity can, nonetheless, be overtly exhaustified with ‘only’. (2b), as well as (2a), is reasonably felicitous.

(2) Which of the men have beards?
a. Only Ryan does.
b. Only Ryan doesn’t.

Why can (1b) not be interpreted as exhaustive when (1a) can? Why can’t (1b) be interpreted as exhaustive at the same time that (2b) is felicitous?

I argue that the resolution to the puzzle reveals something deep about the nature of accommodation.

To satisfy question/answer congruence requirements, when a negative answer is given to the positive question, (1/2b), an unasked negative question must be accommodated; the negative answer is congruent to this accommodated negative question. I argue that accommodation incurs a cost (pragmatic or processing), which is regulated by economy considerations. In particular, there is a constraint on accommodation “Avoid Redundant Accommodation” by which a new question can be accommodated only to convey something that couldn’t be conveyed with an answer congruent to the original question. The contrasts between (1a) and (1b), and (1b) and (2b) follow from this constraint.

In the last part of the talk, I report two additional sets of experimental results providing direct support for the proposal.

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March 31st, 2014

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Colloquium 4/4 - Adamantios Gafos  

Speaker: Adamantios Gafos (Haskins Laboratories, Universität Potsdam)
Date/Time: Friday, Apr 4, 3:30-5p
Location: 32-141

Title/Abstract to be announced.

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March 31st, 2014

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LFRG 3/17 - CUNY poster presentations (encores)  

Time: Monday March 17, 12-1:30
Location: 66-148
Subject: CUNY posters

This past weekend, MIT Linguistics presented two posters at the CUNY Conference on Human Sentence Processing (http://cuny14.osu.edu). Martin Hackl, Erin Olson, and Ayaka Sugawara presented “Processing asymmetries between Subject-Only and VP-Only”. Aron Hirsch presented “Exhaustivity and Polarity Mismatch”. Come to LFRG for an encore performance of these presentations! All are most welcome.
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March 16th, 2014

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Phonology Circle 3/17 - Gillian Gallagher  

Speaker: Gillian Gallagher (NYU)
Title: Evidence for featural and gestural representations of phonotactics
Date/Time: Monday, Mar 17, 5pm
Location: 32-D461
(Note special time and room)

In this talk, I present experimental results that assess Quechua speakers’ representations of two phonotactic restrictions and argue that the results are best accounted for in a model with both traditional phonotactic constraints on features and a distinct set of constraints on gestural coordination.

A repetition experiment compares forms that violate the cooccurrence restriction on pairs of ejectives and the ordering restriction on plain stops followed by ejectives, in both disyllabic (*k’ap’i, *kap’i) and trisyllabic (*k’amip’a, *kamip’a) stimuli. Accuracy on the cooccurrence restriction violating forms is constant across disyllables and trisyllables, and errors on these stimuli are consistently phonotactic repairs. For the ordering restriction, accuracy is higher in the trisyllables than the disyllables, and errors are evenly split between repairs and non-repairs. It is argued that the cooccurrence restriction is best analyzed as a phonotactic constraint in the usual sense, but that behavior on ordering restriction violating forms suggests that this constraint is largely encoded as a preference for particular gestural coordinations.

(Welcome back, Gillian!)

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March 16th, 2014

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Syntax Square 3/18 - Ted Levin  

Speaker: Ted Levin
Title: Towards an EPP-movement theory of control
Date/Time: Tuesday, Mar 18, 1-2p
Location: 32-D461

In this talk, I argue in favor of a Movement Theory of Control (MTC) as proposed by (O’Neil 1995; Hornstein 1999 et seq.). However, unlike previous proposals of this sort which argue that control-movement is triggered by thematic requirements of the controlling predicate (θ-features), I suggest that control, like raising, is triggered by EPP-requirements. In the first half of the talk, I motivate this alternative by building on the work of Legate (2003) and Sauerland (2003), arguing that raised arguments follow identical movement steps as those of controllers (contra e.g. Chomsky 2000, 2001; Baltin 2001). If raising and controlling arguments undergo identical movement operations, the most parsimonious analysis of the constructions is one in which the trigger of both operations is identical. As raising is thought to be triggered by EPP-features, I contend that we should reduce control to an instance of EPP-movement. In the second half of the talk, I argue that evidence from Japanese direct passives, a non-canonical control environment, force the adoption of an EPP-MTC.

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March 16th, 2014

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Ling-Lunch 3/20 - Adam Szczegielniak  

Speaker: Adam Szczegielniak (Rutgers)
Title: The syntax of the semantics of ellipsis
Date/Time: Thursday, Mar 20, 12:30-1:45p
Location: 32-D461

The talk argues for an analysis of ellipsis that combines:(i) the licensing of the antecedent-anaphor relationship in elided structures via mutually entailing Givenness, modulo focus (Rooth 1992, Merchant 2001) with (ii) a syntax based phase driven account of ellipsis (Rouveret 2012, Chung 2013, Boskovic 2014). The connection between the syntax and semantics of ellipsis will be the observation that the lower bound of a Givenness Domain is encoded in the syntax in the form of a [G] operator that can trigger overt XP movement (Kucerova 2012).

Data will come from Polish and other Slavic VP (1) and TP (2) ACD structures (Szczegielniak 2005, Craenenbroeck & Liptak 2006).

1.Jabedeczytal[kazdksiazke[cotybedziesz]]
Iwillreadeverybookthatyouwill
‘I will read every book that you will.’
2.Jabedeczytal[kazdaksiazke[coty]]
Iwillreadeverybookthatyou
‘I will read every book that you will.’

Based on the interaction of both (1) and (2) with (i) Negation (Witkos 2008, Zeijlstra 2013), (ii) post verbal subjects (Zubizaretta 1998, Gallego 2013), (iii) Subject in-situ (Alexiadou & Anagnostopoulou 2006), (iv) verb stranding (Gribanova 2013), (v) contrastive vs. presentational focus and topic (Neelman & Titov 2009, Konietzko & Winkler 2010), the following claims will be put forward and defended:

A. Ellipsis is triggered by an [E] feature that can be present on a phase head H (Gengel 2008). The feature targets H’s complement and marks Given strings as lacking PF (provided the string is in a mutually entailing relationship with the antecedent modulo focus, Merchant 2001).
B. Phase extension (Den Dikken 2007) is carried out via head movement, but is ‘closed’ when head movement is preceded by XP movement to a phase edge.
C. XP Movement to ‘close’ a vP phase results in XP Focus interpretation, subsequent movement can generate contrastive readings of the displaced XP.
D. Givenness movement is phase based, but Givenness domains are established via Functional Application (Kucerova 2012).
E. MaxElide (Takahashi & Fox 2005, Hartman 2011) is a condition on the placement of [E] features.
F. VP raising to Spec TP is a form of Predicate Inversion (Bailyn 2004, Den Dikken 2006) and can be driven by Givenness, that in turn feeds ellipsis.

My proposal that syntactically constrained movement can ‘feed’ an ellipsis site, combined with existing evidence that movement can ‘evacuate’ constituents from ellipsis sites (Vincente 2010), supports the claim that elided strings not only have syntactic architecture, but also that this structure participates both in syntactic and semantic computations that feed discourse.

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March 16th, 2014

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ESSL/LFRG 3/20 - Yimei Xiang  

Time: Thursday, March 19, 2014, 5-30-7
Location: 32-D831
Speaker: Yimei Xiang (Harvard)
Title: Exhaustification, Focus Structure, and NPI-licensing

It is well-known that NPI any must stay in DE contexts. However, any can also be licensed within the c- command domain of only. In particular, any part of the any-phrase can not be focused. Previous studies attribute the licensing effect in (1a) to the Strawson-DE condition. However, this condition has been argued to be neither necessary nor sufficient (Crnic 2011, Gajewski 2011). I will show how an exhaustification-based theory (Krifka 1995, Lahiri 1998, Chierchia 2013) captures the (anti-)licensing effects in (1a-c), and then discuss various potential syntactic theories (Rooth 1996, Wagner 2006 a.o.) for focus-association, so as to explain the ungrammaticality of (1d).

(1) a. Only JOHNF read any paper.
b. *John only read ANYF paper.
c. *John only read [any PAPER]F, (he didn’t read every book).
d. *John only read any PAPERF, (he didn’t read any book).

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March 16th, 2014

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LFRG 3/10 - Manuel Kriz  

Speaker: Manuel Kriz (Vienna/Harvard)
Time: Monday, March 10, 12-1:30.
Location: 66-148

Sentences with definite plurals display a property known as ‘homogeneity’: (1a) is true if John read (roughly) all of the books, (1b) is true if he read none of the books. If he read half of the books, neither sentence is true.

(1)a. John read the books.
b. John didn’t read the books.

The talk will be devoted to presenting this phenomenon in greater detail - including the way it extends to collective predicates - and laying out the problem of homogeneity projection. A sentence like (2) with a definite plural embedded unter a quantifier still has an extension gap (i.e. cases where neither it nor its negation are true).

(2) Every girl read the books.

The development of a principled theory to derive which situations are in the extension gap of such sentences poses considerable difficulties. The lack of a fully satisfactory theory forces an exploration of these issues by way of demonstrating how and why the approaches that have been tried fail.

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March 10th, 2014

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Phonology Circle 3/10 - Snejana Iovtcheva  

Speaker: Snejana Iovtcheva
Title: Paradigm Uniformity in the Bulgarian vowel-zero alternation
Date/Time: Monday, Mar 10, 5p (Note special time)
Location: 32-D461 (Note special room)

This paper proposes an analysis of the vowel-zero alternation in Standard Bulgarian using Output-to-Output (OO) correspondence. In particular, the paper proposes that the language has a general markedness M constraint that targets non-round mid-vowels [e/ә] in open/light medial syllables triggering a systematic Syncope in the inflectional <no.kәt, *nokә.t-i/nokt-i> and derivational <*nokә.t-ov/nokt-ov, nokәt.-če> morphology of the language. This M constraint is then shown to interact systematically with the phonotactics of the language producing expected exceptions to the Syncope process. More crucially, it is also shown that the M constraint interacts with symmetrical paradigm-internal (McCarthy 2005) Output-to-Output faithfulness F constraints, producing some unexpected exceptions such as in the case of masculine-inflected en-derived adjectives and plural-inflected ec-derived nouns <begl-e.c-i>.

Based on an analysis of the inflectional paradigm patterns, the paper claims that under the condition of uneven suffixal distribution, the under-application of the Syncope process in forms with more than one deletion site - as in <nokә.t-en/*nokt-en, nokәt.-n-a/*nokә.te-n-a> - is systematically controlled by intra-paradigmatic pressure for uniformity (Kenstowicz 1996), including majority-rules effects (McCarthy 2005).

The claim of paradigm-internal correspondence is further supported by the fact that while the Syncope fails to apply in certain inflectional forms, it is regular throughout the derivational morphology. Similar asymmetry between derivational and inflectional morphology is further observed in other phonological processes in the language, such as Palatalization.

Additional treatment of the post-positioned vowel-initial definite article and the specific vowel-initial numeral morpheme <(dva) nokә.t-a> provide a nice contrast that serves to demonstrate that while certain morpho-syntactic dependencies in the Bulgarian morphology obey asymmetric base-derivative dependencies (Benua 1997), the inflectional morphology can only be treated uniformly if we assume symmetric paradigm-internal dependencies.

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March 10th, 2014

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Ling-Lunch 3/13 - Hadas Kotek  

Speaker: Hadas Kotek
Title: What intervenes where and why
Date/Time: Thursday, Mar 13, 12:30-1:45p
Location: 32-D461

In this talk I introduce new data on intervenetion effects in wh-questions which motivate a new empirical description of intervention configurations. I show that, contrary to descriptions of wh-intervention in the literature, (a) English superiority-obeying questions sometimes exhibit intervention effects, (b) such effects can sometimes be avoided in superiority-violating questions, and (c) non-interveners can be forced to act as interveners in certain environments. I discuss challenges that this landscape poses for current theories of intervention.

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March 10th, 2014

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Colloquium 3/14 - Marcel den Dikken  

Speaker: Marcel den Dikken (CUNY Graduate Center)
Title: The attractions of agreement
Date/Time: Friday, Mar 14, 3:30-5p
Location: 32-141

Please see the full abstract here (pdf).

Agreement in specificational copular sentences is a complex matter, empirically as well as theoretically. Patterns that are attested are often not easy to make fall out from a restrictive theory of Agree relations; patterns that are not attested would sometimes seem hard to exclude. In this paper, I will try my hand at coming to terms with a number of prima facie problematic φ-feature agreement patterns in specificational copular sentences, with particular emphasis on pseudoclefts and their close relatives (though double-NP specificational copular sentences will also be addressed).

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March 10th, 2014

Posted in Talks