Whamit!

The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Ling Lunch 2/4 - Christopher Tancredi  

Speaker: Christopher Tancredi (Keio University)
Title: The Grammar of TOPIC, FOCUS and Givenness
Date: Thursday, February 4
Time: 12:30-1:45pm
Location: 32-D461

Theories of contrastive topic, focus and Givenness overlap to a high degree in what phenomena they explain. Each theory, however, uses its own primitives to explain its share of the phenomena. This suggests the possibility of reducing the number of primitives appealed to and also eliminating one or more of the explanations in favor of the other(s). I argue in this talk that such a reduction is not possible. The argument is made by showing that Givenness cannot be reduced to a side effect of focus or of contrastive topic, and nor can the revers reduction be made, and finally by showing that focus and contrastive topic show distinct phonological behavior that requires their being differentiated in the syntax. I finally show how this result is consistent with the analysis of focus and contrastive topic of Constant 2014.
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February 1st, 2016

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Colloquium 2/5 - Junko Ito  

Speaker: Junko Ito (UC Santa Cruz)
Title: Doubling up or remaining single—gemination patterns in Japanese loanwords
Date: Friday, Feb 5th
Time: 3:30-5:00 PM
Place: 32-141

In Japanese, a language whose native system employs consonant length contrastively, the distribution of geminates (/pp/, /dd/, /mm/, etc.) as opposed to singletons (/p/, /d/, /m/, etc.) in loanwords raises an interesting question: How is it determined in adaptations from English, a language with no contrastive length distinctions? Starting with the seminal work of Lovins (1975), who offered an insightful analysis of some of the gemination patterns in Japanese loanwords, there is a wealth of literature and research in more recent decades focusing on different aspects that include not only phonological, but also phonetic (acoustic and articulatory), experimental, as well as corpus studies. The goal of this research (in collaboration with Armin Mester and Haruo Kubozono) is to develop an optimality-theoretic analysis that accounts for all previously established generalizations as well as new factors that have emerged in the course of our own investigation. Whether or not a given consonant is geminated depends on a host of segmental factors that are the result of a family of anti-gemination and prosodic faithfulness constraints, ranked at different points within the OT constraint hierarchy. Finally, it appears that significant higher-level prosodic factors that are part of the native system are also at work, and explain many details of the gemination pattern that are rooted neither in faithfulness to the source word nor in segmental features.

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February 1st, 2016

Posted in Talks

Phonology Circle - call for presentations  

This semester, Phonology Circle will be meeting on Mondays. Presentations about work in progress, papers from the literature, and old squibs are every bit as welcome as practice talks. The following dates are still open:

February: 8, 16, 22, 29
March: 14, 28
April: 4

Please contact Juliet Stanton (juliets@mit.edu) and/or Sam Zukoff (szukoff@mit.edu) if you would like to reserve a slot.

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February 1st, 2016

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Syntax Square 12/15 - Jeremy Hartman  

Speaker: Jeremy Hartman (UMass)
Title: What is this construction, that we should be puzzled by it?
Date: Tuesday, December 15th
Time: 10:00am-11:00am
Place: 32-D461

I will discuss the construction exemplified below, where a wh-question is followed by a gapless subordinate clause:

a. What were you doing, that you couldn’t come help me?
b. Where is he from, that he talks like that?
c. Who are you, to make that demand?
d. What did she do, that everyone is so mad at her?

A puzzling fact about such sentences is that their declarative counterparts appear to be ungrammatical (*He is from Texas, that he talks like that, *I was on the phone, that I couldn’t come help you). Sentences like these have not, to my knowledge, received a detailed analysis in the syntactic literature. I will offer some preliminary observations about their syntactic properties, their meaning, and their relationship to other syntactic phenomena, including degree constructions.

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December 14th, 2015

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ESSL/LacqLab 12/16 - Jeremy Hartman  

Speaker: Jeremy Hartman (Umass)
Title: Building a corpus for root infinitives
Date and time: Wednesday, December 16, at 5:00 pm
Place: 32-D461

I will present work in progress, on the development of a large database of children’s optional infinitive utterances taken from the English CHILDES corpora, and coded for a variety of factors of interest. I’ll discuss how the database can be used to assess the effects of several syntactic and phonological factors that have been claimed to influence children’s use of the root infinitive, as well as the interactions between these factors.
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December 14th, 2015

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Syntax Square 12/8 - Despoina Oikonomou  

Speaker: Despoina Oikonomou (MIT)
Title: Analytic vs. Synthetic morphology in the domain of Passive: deriving the differences
Date: Tuesday, December 8th
Time: 10:00am-11:00am
Place: 32-D461

Cross-linguistically we observe two types of Passives; Analytic (e.g. English) and Synthetic (e.g. Greek). Evidence from different languages (Albanian, Armenian, Amharic, Greek, PA Arabic, Quechua, Shakkinoono/ Kafinoonoo, Swedish, Turkish) suggests the morphology used in synthetic - and crucially not in analytic passives - can also appear in at least one of the following environments; a) verbal reflexives and reciprocals, b) anticausatives, c) deponent verbs (as well as other constructions which vary cross-linguistically) which altogether constitute the so-called Middle Voice (see Kemmer 1993, Alexiadou & Doron 2012).

This talk aims to explain this contrast between Synthetic and Analytic Passives. I argue that under an analysis of Passive as existential binding of the external argument (Legate 2010, Bruening 2013) the crucial difference in synthetic vs. analytic Passives relies on the morphosyntactic merger (bundling) of the Passive Voice and the little-v head in Synthetic but not in Analytic Passives. In the spirit of dynamic approaches to phasehood (den Dikken 2006, Bobalijk & Wurmbrand 2013, Wurmbrand 2015) I take this merger operation (Pylkkänen 2008, Bobaljik 2012) to be responsible for the formation of a single interpretation domain in synthetic passives thus allowing a range of interpretations which depend on the properties of the vP predicate (cf. Maranz 2007, 2013, Alexiadou & Anagnostopoulou 2004, Alexiadou & Doron 2012, Anagnostopoulou & Samioti 2013).

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December 7th, 2015

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ESSL/LacqLab 12/9 - Florian Schwarz  

Speaker: Florian Schwarz (UPenn)
Title: Presupposition Projection from Disjunction - Unconditionally Symmetric?
Date and time: Wednesday, December 09, 3:00 PM
Room: 32-D461

The nature of presupposition projection from disjunction continues to be controversial in the literature, both empirically and theoretically: Does it yield a conditional or non-conditional presupposition? Is it symmetric for both disjuncts? Is local accommodation within a disjunct possible (and if so, for which triggers)? And are there effects based on linear order in processing, or are they due to the projection mechanism? I present recent results from a picture matching task in the covered box paradigm on ‘again’ that suggest that a) projection is non-conditional from both disjuncts, b) that local accommodation is in principle possible even with a ‘hard’ trigger such as ‘again’, and c) that access to local accommodation can be primed by preceding experimental blocks that force this interpretation. Two visual world eye tracking studies, on ‘stop’ in the first disjunct and ‘continue’ in the second disjunct, furthermore provide evidence that non-conditional global interpretations are at play in online processing. The study on the second disjunct also provides evidence that responses that are inconsistent with a non-conditional global interpretations are slower than ones that are, in line with previous findings in the literature that local-accommodation based responses come with a slow down in reaction times.
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December 7th, 2015

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Ling Lunch 12/10 - Florian Schwarz  

Speaker: Florian Schwarz(UPenn)
Title: Towards a Typology of Presupposition Triggers - Experimental Explorations
Time: Thursday, December 10th, 12:30-1:45pm
Place: 32-D461

Much recent work on presuppositions has argued for the need to distinguish different classes of presupposition triggers, perhaps most prominently in terms of the Hard vs. Soft distinction (Abusch 2002, 2010). Abusch, and more recently Romoli (2012, 2014), analyze the latter as a type of implicature. I present a summary of experimental investigations suggesting that soft triggers behave differently from implicatures, which poses a serious challenge for this line of analysis. At the same time, another set of experimental results suggests that differences between presupposition triggers are real, which raises the question of how to best capture these contrasts in a different way. I explore the possibility of explaining the relevant effects by distinguishing triggers in terms of whether or not they contribute their presupposition to the entailed content as well (Sudo 2012; cf. also Tonhauser et al. 2013’s notion of ‘obligatory local effects’), and present some initial experimental explorations that lend support to this approach.
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December 7th, 2015

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Colloquium 12/11 - Claire Halpert  

Speaker: Claire Halpert (University of Minnesota)
Title: Escape Clause
Date: Friday, Dec 11th
Time: 3:30-5:00 PM
Place: 32-141

In this talk, I investigate the syntactic properties of clausal arguments, looking in particular at whether A-movement is permitted out of finite clauses and at whether these clauses themselves may undergo movement or establish agreement relationships. In English, argument clauses show some puzzling distributional properties compared to their nominal counterparts. In particular, they appear to satisfy selectional requirements of verbs, but can also combine directly with non-nominal-taking nouns and adjectives. Stowell (1981) and many others have treated these differences as arising from how syntactic case interacts with nominals and clauses. In a recent approach, Moulton (2015) argues that the distributional properties of propositional argument clauses are due to their semantic type: these clauses are type e,st and so must combine via predicate modification, unlike nominals. In contrast to English, I show that in the Bantu language Zulu, certain non-nominalized finite CPs exhibit identical selectional properties to nominals, therefore requiring a different treatment from those proposed in the previous literature. These clauses, also like nominals, appear to control phi-agreement and trigger intervention effects in predictable ways. At the same time, these clauses differ from nominals (and nominalized clauses) in the language in certain respects of their distribution. I will argue that these properties shed light on the role that phi-agreement plays in the transparency/opacity of finite clauses for A-movement and on the nature of barrier effects in the syntax more generally.

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December 7th, 2015

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Phonology Circle 11/30 - Benjamin Storme  

Speaker: Benjamin Storme (MIT)
Title: The distribution of R in French and Haitian: evidence for the role of perception
Date: Monday, November 30th
Time: 5-6:30
Place: 32-D831

The distribution of R in French and Haitian (a French-based creole) is sensitive to the post-R context: R only occurs pre-vocalically and before glides in Haitian, R is subject to deletion in word-final position in fast speech in French. The constraint rankings corresponding to these generalizations are pictured in (1a) and (1b) respectively.

(1)

a. Haitian: *R#, *RC > Max(C) > *RV, *RG

b. French: *R# > Max(C) > *RC, *RV, *RG

In this talk, we test the hypothesis that these rankings have a perceptual basis (see Russell Webb 2010). According to this hypothesis, R is deleted preferentially in contexts where it is less perceptible. We present the results of a perception experiment with French speakers testing whether R is more perceptible pre-vocalically than pre-consonantally (see *RC > Max(C) > *RV in Haitian) and pre-consonantally than word-finally (see *R# > Max(C) > *RC in French).

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November 30th, 2015

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Syntax Square 12/1 - Snejana Iovtcheva  

Speaker: Snejana Iovtcheva (MIT)
Title: Distinguishing ‘non-core’ external possessors from possessor raising in Bulgarian
Date: Tuesday, December 1st
Time: 10:00am-11:00am
Place: 32-D461

Bulgarian has several different ways to convey possessive relation between two nominal phrases: the possessor can be expressed (i) with a DP-internal adjectival possessive pronominal as in (1), (ii) with a Dative clitic as in (2), and (iii) with a na-marked full nominal expression as in (3):

(1) (Az) xaresvam [DP negov-a-(ta) nov-a naučn-a statij-a]
I like.1SG his -SGf-the new-SGf scientific.SGf article.SGf
‘I like his new scientific article’

(2) (Az) xaresvam [DP nov-a-*(ta) mu naučn-a statij-a]
I like.1SG new-SGf-the he.DAT scientific.SGf articleSGf.
‘I like his new scientific article’

(3) (Az) xaresvam [DP nov-a-*(ta) naučn-a statij-a na professor-a]
I like.1SG new-SGf-the scientific.SGf article.SGf of professor.SGm-the
‘I like the professor’s new scientific article’

The main distinction between the adjectival possessive pronominals and the clitic possessor is that the clitic possessors can engage in external possessive structures, whereas adjectival possessors are locally fixed to their head-nouns and cannot appear outside the DP (5):

(4) (Az) mu xaresvam [DP nov-a-*(ta) naučn-a statij-a]
I he.DAT like.1SG new-SGf-the scientific.SGf articleSGf.
‘I like his new scientific article’

(5) *(Az) neg-ov-a xaresvam [DP nov-a-(ta) naučn-a statij-a]

The current paper concentrates on the external datival possessors (of the type in (4)) with the aim to distinguish between raised possessors (syntactic movement) and clausal base-generated possessors. That there is a need for this distinction has been already pointed out in a paper by Cinque and Krapova (2009). Their claim, however, is based on the valency frame of the verb and is limited to externally-generated inalienable body part relations. In a first step, the contribution of the current paper is to enlarge the empirical data to include well-accepted external alienable possession and to offer diagnostics, such as (i) possibility to doubly mark the possessor, (ii) possessive relation to indefinite DPs, and (iii) possessive relation to DPs within PPs. As it is shown, the novel data are able to sharpen the contrast between both structures and capture the intuitions of native speakers, thus allowing for informed investigation. With this background, the paper then proceeds to advance a claim that externally-generated possessors arise not due to the verb type and its ability to assign secondary theta roles, but due to the pragmatic context and the degree of ‘affectedness’ in the sense of Bar-Asher Siegel and Boneh (2015)’s ‘Affected Datives’. The current paper proposes that while Bulgarian can independently raise possessor clitic out of the DP into the clausal clitic domain, when ‘affectedness’ is given in the context, functional heads of Pylkkanen’s (2002, 2008) ‘high applicatives’, produce possessive readings that are contextually added to the entire proposition. These applicative (dative) arguments are not only different from ‘core’ dative arguments of verbs (as in give, put, etc.) but are also different from ‘core’ possessive arguments that start their syntactic live within the DP. Clausal idioms with external possessors that lack DP-internal variants and locality effects that show sensitivity to the pragmatic context further substantiate the current claim.

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November 30th, 2015

Posted in Talks

Ling Lunch 12/3 - Aron Hirsch  

Speaker: Aron Hirsch (MIT)
Title: A case for conjunction reduction — Part II
Time: Thursday, December 3rd, 12:30-1:45 pm
Place: 32-D461

The conjunction operator ‘and’ can apparently conjoin a range of different expressions:

(1) a. [John danced] and [John sang]
b. b. John [hugged] and [pet] the dog.
c. John saw [every student] and [every professor]

A possible starting hypothesis about the semantic analysis of and holds that and makes a parallel contribution to the connective & of propositional logic. If so, ‘and’ must compose with two expressions denoting truth-values. This is consistent with (1a), but incorrectly predicts (1b) and (1c) to be uninterpretable. This talk will focus on examples like (1c), and address the question: what mechanisms does the grammar make available to parse (1c), and do they localize in the syntax or in the semantics?

The semantic approach rests on type-ambiguity: and has a flexible type and so can directly conjoin a range of expressions, including quantificational DPs (‘DP analysis’; e.g. Partee & Rooth 1983). The syntactic approach holds that and in (1c) does not conjoin DPs, but rather larger constituents of type t (‘Conjunction Reduction; CR’; e.g. Ross 1967, Schein 2014).

The goal of the talk is to build a case for CR. Theoretically, I demonstrate that a CR analysis of (1c) “follows for fee” from independently proposed syntactic mechanisms, in particular Johnson’s (1996, 2009) syntax for gapping (Wilder 1994, Schwarz 1998, 1999, 2000). Empirically, I introduce data which CR can account for, but the DP analysis cannot, supporting the theoretical prediction that CR is available. Finally, I discuss empirical arguments for a strengthened conclusion that CR is not only an ‘available’ analysis of apparent DP conjunction, but is the only available analysis.

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November 30th, 2015

Posted in Talks

Phonology Circle 11/23 - Mingqiong (Joan) Luo  

Speaker: Mingqiong (Joan) Luo (Shanghai International Studies University)
Title: Opacity in Standard Chinese Nasal Rhymes – Phonology and Phonetics
Date: Monday, November 23rd
Time: 5-6:30
Place: 32D-831

(Click here for abstract)

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November 23rd, 2015

Posted in Talks

Phonology Circle 11/16 - Rafael Abramovitz  

Speaker: Rafael Abramovitz (MIT)
Title: Morphologically-conditioned restrictions on vowel distribution in Koryak
Date: Monday, November 16th
Time: 5-6:30
Place: 32-D831

When the morphemes of a language display systematic alternations in vowel quality based on other morphemes present in the same word, we usually consider vowel harmony to be the culprit. Based on the properties of the controllers of harmony, the attested vowel harmony systems can be roughly divided into two types: position-controlled systems and dominant-recessive systems. In both cases, standard analyses from various frameworks account for this phenomenon by appealing to the phonological features (or lack thereof) of the controlling and harmonizing vowels. In this presentation, I will argue that Koryak, a Chukotko-Kamchatkan language of the Russian Far East, displays systematic alternations in the quality of the vowels in its morphemes that are strongly reminiscent of dominant-recessive vowel harmony, but that these alternations cannot be accounted for by only appealing to the featural specifications of the various vowels. I will show that these alternations can only be captured by treating the harmonizing features as a property of morphemes, and will present two possible implementations of this idea, each of which requires the existence of yet-not-well-accepted machinery in either the phonological grammar or the set of post-syntactic operations. In particular, I will suggest that an explanation of the Koryak data requires there to be either constraints on the underlying representations, or a mechanism for percolating morpheme-level diacritics through the syntactic structure at PF.

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November 16th, 2015

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Syntax Square 11/17 - Snejana Iovtcheva  

Speaker: Snejana Iovtcheva (MIT)
Title: Distinguishing ‘non-core’ external possessors from possessor raising in Bulgarian
Date: Tuesday, November 17th
Time: 10:00am-11:00am
Place: 32-D461

Abstract.
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November 16th, 2015

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LFRG 11/17 - Itamar Kastner (NYU)  

Speaker: Itamar Kastner (NYU)
Title: Towards a compositional semantics for reflexives in Hebrew
Time: Tuesday, 11/17, 1-2:30pm
Location: 32-D769

The verbal system of Modern Hebrew consists of seven distinct verbal “templates”: specific morphophonological patterns of affixes and vowels which, on combining with a lexical “root” made up of consonants, result in verbal forms. This kind of non-concatenative morphology obscures the hierarchical arrangement of whichever syntactic, semantic and phonological primitives are involved; the affixes are all fused and superimposed one atop another, in a manner of speaking.

This talk focuses on the hitXaYeZ template (where X-Y-Z are the root consonants), the only one of the seven templates in which reflexive verbs can appear. The question is what is special about the morphosemantic structure of this template and how this structure interacts with the root.

On the one hand, the lexical semantic content of the root constrains the argument structure of the resulting verb (not all verbs in this template are reflexive). On the other hand, there must be something special about the hitXaYeZ template itself since it is the only one of the seven that derives reflexives; this behavior will be cashed out in terms of Voice-related heads in the syntax. I will discuss what this tension can tell us about the grammar of reflexivity, agentivity and unaccusativity crosslinguistically, reviewing a recent approach to the morphosemantics of reflexives in Greek (Spathas et al 2015).

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November 16th, 2015

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LFRG 11/18 - Raj Singh & Ida Toivonen  

Speaker: Raj Singh & Ida Toivonen (Carleton University)
Title: Distance distributivity and the semantics of indefinite noun phrases
Time: Wednesday, 11/18, 5:30-7 pm
Location: 32-D461

The sentences in (1) are equivalent ways of expressing the meaning that for each boy x, there is a ball y such that x kicked y:

(1a) Each boy kicked a ball
(1b) The boys each kicked a ball
(1c) The boys kicked a ball each

This meaning is transparently expressed in (1a) and (1b), but it is harder to see how to derive this compositionally in (1c) because the distributive marker “each” is far away from “the boys”, hence “distance distributivity”. Previous approaches have approached the problem by analyzing the “each” in (1c) — so-called binominal “each” — as a new kind of operator, either derived from another “each” through type-shifting or by lexical stipulation (see e.g., Zimmermann, 2002; Dotlacil, 2014; Champollion, 2014; Cable, 2014).

We present evidence within and across languages suggesting that this approach misses important empirical generalizations. For example, unlike (1a) and (1b), (1c) becomes ungrammatical if “a” is replaced by anything that’s not an existential quantifier (Safir & Stowell, 1988):

(3a) Each boy kicked {the/no/every/one} ball
(3b) The boys each kicked {the/no/every/one} ball
(3c) The boys kicked {*the/*no/*every/one} ball each

In fact, in some languages (e.g., East Cree, Hungarian), distance distributivity is marked simply by reduplicating the numeral: “the boys kicked one-one ball” (e.g., Farkas, 1997; Junker, 2000).

We also present new experimental evidence from English and Swedish suggesting that participants prefer NPs headed by numerals to NPs headed by the indefinite article as hosts for binominal “each”. That is, although both (4a) and (4b) are acceptable, (4a) is preferred to (4b):

(4a) The boys kicked one ball each
(4b) The boys kicked a ball each

The talk will overview these and other generalizations that come from our experimental data collection as well as from typological studies. We will suggest an approach to distance distributivity that introduces no new semantic operators. Instead, our proposal reuses semantic machinery that has been motivated independently, but has to make stipulations about how these meanings are or are not visible at the surface. Specifically, we will argue that (i) indefinite objects in English can receive an incorporation semantics even though there’s no overt evidence for this (building on Carlson, 2006), (ii) that on their non-incorporated interpretation indefinites denote General Skolem Functions (e.g., Kratzer, 1998; Chierchia, 2001; Winter, 2004; Schlenker, 2006; Steedman, 2012), and (iii) that binominal “each”, like other markers of distance distributivity across languages, is the overt realization of a bound variable inside the Skolem term denoted by the indefinite NP it appears adjacent to on the surface.

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November 16th, 2015

Posted in Talks

Ling Lunch 11/19 - Idan Landau  

Speaker: Idan Landau (Ben-Gurion University)
Title: Hybrid Nouns and Agreement Zones Within DP
Time: Thursday, November 19th, 12:30-1:45 pm
Place: 32-D461

“Hybrid” nouns are known for being able to trigger either syntactic or semantic agreement, the latter typically occurring outside the noun’s projection. We document and discuss a rare example of a Hebrew noun that triggers either syntactic or semantic agreement within the DP. To explain this and other unusual patterns of nominal agreement, we propose a configurational adaptation of the CONCORD-INDEX distinction, originated in Wechsler and Zlatić 2003. Morphologically-rooted (=CONCORD) features are hosted on the noun stem while semantically-rooted (=INDEX) features are hosted on Num, a higher functional head. Depending on where attributive adjectives attach, they may display either type of agreement. The observed and unobserved patterns of agreement follow from general principles of selection and syntactic locality.
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November 16th, 2015

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Colloquium 11/20 - Susi Wurmbrand  

Speaker: Susi Wurmbrand (University of Connecticut)
Title: Fake indexicals, feature sharing, and the importance of gendered relatives
Date: Friday, November 20th
Time: 3:30-5:00 PM
Place: 32-141

A popular trend in binding theories is to view binding as a dependency between the bindee and a functional verbal head (v, T, C), rather than a direct dependency between the antecedent DP and the bindee (Reuland 2001, 2005, 2011, Chomsky 2008, Kratzer 2009). In this talk, I will show that binding is not sensitive, nor can it be assumed to be driven or mediated by functional heads. Instead data are provided that argue for a return to the traditional view that binding requires a direct dependency between the antecedent and the bindee/variable. I propose that this dependency is formalized as Reverse Agree (Wurmbrand 2011 et seq.), constrained by a locality condition reminiscent of Rule H (Heim 1993, Fox 1998) and the concept of feature sharing proposed in Pesetsky and Torrego (2007).

The empirical focus of the talk will be bound variable interpretations, in particular (fake) indexical pronouns in four Germanic languages—English, Dutch, German, and Icelandic. In all four languages, bound variable interpretations are available for 1st and 2nd person pronouns in focus constructions such as Only I did my best—in these contexts, the 1st person pronoun my is not interpreted as the speaker in the set of alternatives (no one else did their best), but as a variable, hence the term fake indexicals. Fake indexicals are, however, restricted in relative clauses of the form I am the only one who takes care of my son/(*)who did my best: English and Dutch allow a bound variable interpretation of my in such contexts, whereas German and Icelandic prohibit fake indexicals (my can only be interpreted as referring to the speaker).

Kratzer (2009) proposes a morpho-syntactic spell-out approach for English vs. German, in which the feature sets of the relative pronoun, T, v, and the possessive pronoun unify, leading to conflicting 1st/3rd person feature specifications on T and the possessive pronoun, which leads to a fatal spell-out dilemma in German. In English, on the other hand, markedness rules allow ignoring certain features, and the spell-out dilemma can be resolved in favor of person for the possessive pronoun (my) and in favor of gender for verbs (with gender corresponding to 3rd person). This account does not address why only some languages have such markedness rules, in particular not why Dutch patterns with English and Icelandic with German.

Based on a series of word order differences, I show that the nature of the verbal inflection is irrelevant for the licensing of fake indexicals, but that the crucial factors are: c-command by the antecedent DP, and a locality condition favoring feature sharing with the closest possible binder whenever possible. I argue that the relevant difference between the two language groups lies in the morphological make-up of the head DP of the relative clause (and in German also the relative pronoun): the relative DP shows morphological gender distinctions in the singular in German and Icelandic, but not in English and Dutch. I propose that the lack of gender features allows by-passing the closest binder (the relative DP/pronoun) and long-distance binding by the indexical matrix subject directly, whereas morphologically fully specified relative pronouns/DPs restrict binding to the relative DP. Various consequences supporting this approach will be discussed, among them non-indexical bound variable contexts which show the same locality effect when gender agreement is attempted across a relative pronoun/DP with different morphological features.

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November 16th, 2015

Posted in Talks

Phonology Circle 11/9 - Laura McPherson  

Speaker: Laura McPherson (Dartmouth)
Title: Phrasal morphophonology: Dogon tonosyntax and beyond
Date: Monday, November 9th
Time: 5-6:30
Place: 32-D831

How do we account for phonological alternations at the phrase level, triggered not by adjacent phonological triggers or phrasing, but instead by specific morphosyntactic elements? Taking Dogon tonosyntax as the main case study, I propose a class of phenomena grouped under the heading “phrasal morphophonology” that can result when phrasal phonology undergoes restructuring. I argue that these phenomena are best accounted for in an extension of Construction Morphology, where the surface changes are phonological idiosyncrasies in lexicalized phrasal constructions. I discuss the diachronic development of phrasal morphophonological systems and suggest that Celtic mutations and French liaison may also fall under this heading.

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November 9th, 2015

Posted in Talks

Syntax Square 11/10 - Bruna Karla Pereira  

Speaker: Bruna Karla Pereira (UFVJM; CAPES Foundation - Ministry of Education of Brazil)
Title: Allocutive agreement and the saP in dialectal Brazilian Portuguese
Date: Tuesday, November 10rd
Time: 10:00am-11:00am
Place: 32-D461

Abstract.
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November 9th, 2015

Posted in Talks

Ling Lunch 11/12 - Juliet Stanton  

Speaker: Juliet Stanton (MIT)
Title: Trigger Deletion in Gurindji
Time: Thursday, November 12th, 12:30-1:45 pm
Place: 32-D461

It is generally accepted in the literature that harmony processes are myopic. For example, a regressive harmony process operating on the string […x y z…], will spread from z to y, without looking ahead to check whether it can spread all the way to x, the end of the domain. Accounting for the apparent absence of non-myopic patterns has led analysts to propose substantial revisions to the architecture of classical OT (e.g. Wilson 2006, McCarthy 2009). In this talk, however, I suggest that a non-myopic, long-distance nasal harmony process is attested in Gurindji (Pama-Nyungan; McConvell 1988). When full application of harmony would lead to an undesirable result, the trigger deletes, preventing harmony from applying altogether. Trigger deletion is predicted by frameworks that permit non-myopic interactions, like parallel OT; the existence of the Gurindji pattern suggests that this is a feature, not a bug.
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November 9th, 2015

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Language Acquisition Lab Meeting 11/12 - Koji Sugisaki  

Speaker: Koji Sugisaki (Mie University)
Title: An Experimental Investigation into Sluicing in Child Japanese
Date and room: Thursday: 5-6:30; 32-D461

Sluicing is one of the best investigated instances of ellipsis in the theoretical literature. Despite its theoretical importance, few studies have examined children’s acquisition of this ellipsis phenomenon. In light of this background, this study investigates experimentally whether Japanese-speaking preschool children are sensitive to the identity condition on sluicing proposed by Merchant (2013), which requires that the sluiced constituent and its antecedent must match in voice (active/passive). If this ban on voice mismatches in sluicing follows from certain principles of UG as the theory claims, it is predicted that the knowledge of this constraint should be in the grammar of preschool children. In order to evaluate this prediction, we conducted an experiment with 21 Japanese-speaking children (mean age 5;07). The results of our experiment, which employed a question-after-story task, suggest that these children are in fact sensitive to the ban on voice mismatches in sluicing proposed by Merchant (2013). This finding would constitute a small but significant step toward understanding when and how children acquire the knowledge of sluicing and its constraints.
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November 9th, 2015

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Ling Lunch 11/5 - Maria-Margarita Makri  

Speaker: Maria-Margarita Makri (York)
Title: Not as might
Time: Thursday, November 5th, 12:30-1:45 pm
Place: 32-D461

Abstract.
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November 2nd, 2015

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Phonology Circle 11/2 - Hanzhi Zhu  

Speaker: Hanzhi Zhu (MIT)
Title: The Syllable Contact Law in Kyrgyz
Date: Tuesday, November 2nd
Time: 5-6:30
Place: 32-D831

Kyrgyz (Turkic) has been described as a language which abides by the Syllable Contact Law by requiring a drop in sonority (Gouskova 2004). For example, /aj+nɨ/ is realized as [ajdɨ], with n desonorizing to d, with *jn having a sonority drop too small to be permitted. Partly motivated by this observation, Gouskova proposes a relational constraint hierarchy based on sonority distance between C1 and C2 alone. However, a closer look at the data leads to a more complicated picture, revealing that an approach based solely on the sonority distance between two segments cannot work. Although glide-nasal (*jn) sequences are prohibited, glide-lateral (jl) sequences are permitted, despite having an even smaller sonority drop. In this talk, I will motivate the need for an alternative account to SyllCon in languages which resolve violations via desonorization.

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November 2nd, 2015

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Syntax Square 11/3 - Nico Baier  

Speaker: Nico Baier (Berkeley)
Title: Deriving Anti-Agreement in Berber
Date: Tuesday, November 3rd
Time: 10:00am-11:00am
Place: 32-D461

This presentation examines anti-agreement (Ouhalla 1993), an effect whereby the normal agreement pattern with an argument in a specific position is disrupted when that position is Ă-bound, in Berber. I argue that verbal agreement in Berber is pronominal, and that anti-agreement arises from a need to avoid a weak crossover violation that would occur when a subject is Ā-extracted from its base position in Spec-vP. I show that when combined with Erlewine’s (2014) Spec-to-Spec Anti-locality constraint, this theory correctly predicts the distribution of anti-agreement in Berber.

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November 2nd, 2015

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Thursday Talk 11/5 - Paul Portner  

Speaker: Paul Portner (Georgetown University)
Title: Imperative mood
Date: Thursday, November 5th
Time: 5:00-6:30 PM
Place: 32-D461

We usually think about imperatives as one of the major sentence moods, in a paradigm which also includes declaratives and interrogatives. But it is often sometimes described as a verbal mood, in opposition to indicatives and subjunctives. There are clear similarities between imperatives, on the one hand, and subjunctives and infinitives, on the other. For example:

1. Infinitives and imperatives can have controlled subjects when embedded.

2. Infinitives, imperatives and (to a lesser extent) subjunctives lack independent tense.

3. Infinitives, subjunctives, and imperatives are used in similar semantic contexts.

I will begin by presenting a framework in which point 3 can be made precise. This framework, a version of dynamic logic with preferences (Veltman 1986, van der Torre and Tan 1998), allows us to represent the central ideas of one of the major approaches to verbal mood (the Comparison-Based Approach; Giorgi and Pianesi 1997, Villalta 2008, Anand and Hacquard 2013, among others) and one of the major approaches to sentence mood (Dynamic Pragmatics; e.g. Hamblin 1971, Gazdar 1981, Roberts 2012, Portner 2004). This framework allows us to express part of what imperatives have in common with infinitives/subjunctives. Imperatives, infinitives, and subjunctives are used to report or affect which worlds are best-ranked according to a selected ordering relation.

Then we will see that the analysis presented does not seem to cover the relations among imperatives, infinitives, and subjunctives fully. Returning to points 1-2, both of these properties are tied to the semantics of de se attitudes. Specifically, 1 leads to a subject-oriented de se meaning, while 2 leads to temporal de se. It seems that clauses which normally give rise to de se interpretations are selected in contexts of modal comparison. What is the connection between de se meaning and comparison-based modality? Are clauses to which a de se operator has applied especially well-suited for computing comparison-based modal meanings? I leave this as an open puzzle.

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November 2nd, 2015

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Colloquium 11/6 - Paul Portner  

Speaker: Paul Portner (Georgetown University)
Title: Commitment to Priorities
Date: Friday, November 6th
Time: 3:30-5:00 PM
Place: 32-141

I will discuss variations in the “strength” of imperatives with the goal of better understanding the representation of priorities in discourse. Imperatives can seem stronger or weaker in several different ways. Sometimes they allow an inference to a strong necessity statement; in other instances, we can infer a weak necessity or a possibility statement:

(1) Soldiers, march! -> They must march.

(2) Have a cookie! -> He #must/should/may have a cookie.

In some cases, they make true to corresponding modal statement; in others, they are justified by it:

(3) Soldiers, march! => They must march.

(4) Have a cookie! <= He should have a cookie.

With some examples, the speaker doesn’t seem to care whether the addressee agrees; with others, the addressee’s choice determines the imperative’s effect:

(5) Sit down, and don’t get up until I tell you to!

(6) Have a seat. You’ll be more comfortable.

Rising or falling intonation often correspond to an imperative’s being strong or weak:

(7) Sit down[v]

(8) Have a seat[^]

Recent theories of imperatives treat them as affecting the relative priority of alternatives compatible with the common ground; relative priority is represented by means of a to-do list, ordering source, or other similar construct (e.g., Portner 2004, Mastop 2005, Charlow 2011, Kaufmann 2012, Condoravdi & Lauer 2012, Starr 2013). In this talk, I argue that, in order to understand the variations in imperative strength, we need to employ a more articulated representation of the discourse context which tracks speaker’s and addressee’s individual commitments concerning the relative priority of alternatives, as well as joint commitments. Specifically, I build on the model of commitment slates (Hamblin 1971) as developed for falling vs. rising declaratives like (9)-(10) and polar interrogatives by Gunlogson (2001) and Farkas & Bruce (2010).

(9) It’s raining[v].

(10) It’s raining[^]?

The central idea is that strong and weak imperatives differ in a way analogous to (9) and (10).

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November 2nd, 2015

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Phonology Circle 10/26 - Takashi Morita  

Speaker: Takashi Morita (MIT)
Title: Bayesian Learning of Lexical Classes in Japanese
Date: Monday, October 26th
Time: 5-6:30
Place: 32D-831

Morita_Phonology_Circle_abstract_20151026

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October 26th, 2015

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Syntax Square 10/27 - No meeting this week  

There will be no Syntax Square meeting this week.

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October 26th, 2015

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Fieldwork Support Group 10/28  

Last year we had the first two meetings of the “fieldwork lab” — an informal cross-departmental support group for students at Harvard and MIT who are doing independent fieldwork or are interested in getting (re)started. We are hoping to revive the group and restart our meetings.

To recap from our past meetings, it seems to us that there’s not much dialogue between the different students who do fieldwork, nor is there much information on the logistical/practical aspects of fieldwork (like funding, equipment, travel, etc.). We think it would be good to have something ongoing, self-sustainable, and student-organized beyond the field methods courses that are offered at either department.

We’re having our first meeting to brainstorm ideas on what this group can do to be maximally useful to everyone involved - so, our first meeting will be:

When: Wednesday October 28th, 5:30-7pm (there will be food!)

Where: MIT, 32-D831

If you can’t attend but would like to be a part of this, or you have any questions, please email Michelle Yuan or TC and we’ll include you on our future communications.

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October 26th, 2015

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Ling Lunch 10/29 - Adam Szczegielniak  

Speaker: Adam Szczegielniak (Rutgers University)
Title: Phase by Phase Givenness: The case of P-omission and Island alleviation in multiple remnant sluicing
Time: Thurs 10/29, 12:30-1:45
Place: 32-D461

Abtract.
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October 26th, 2015

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LFRG 10/30 - Isa Kerem Bayirli  

Who: Isa Kerem Bayirli (MIT)
When: Friday, October 30, 2-3:30pm
Where: 32-D461
Title: On the absence of free choice-type inferences in some Turkish constructions

I will talk about the absence of free choice-type inferences in the context of several expressions in Turkish. The complex disjunction `ya…ya…’ and complex conjunction `hem…hem…’ do not give rise to free choice-type effects (i.e. strenghtening to wide scope conjunction) in contexts in which their simple versions do. To capture these observations, we will need to revise the conditions on the distribution of the exh operator and on the proper use of these two constructions.
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October 26th, 2015

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Syntax Square 10/20 - Isa Kerem Bayirli  

Speaker: Isa Kerem Bayirli (MIT)
Title: On the concord phenomenon
Time: Tuesday 10/20, 10-11am
Place: 32-D461

I will talk about the morphosyntactic features (gender, number and case) that enter into concord in natural languages. I first attempt to establish the following generalization:

Concord Hierarchy

For some language L Let a1…an be features (canonically) hosted by functional heads in the extended projection of the noun such that aj+1 c-commands aj, then

If aj+1 enters into concord with the adjectives in L
then aj enters into concord with the adjectives in L

This generalization is derived from an extension of the FA Rule (first version) developed in Pesetsky (2013). It turns out that, when combined with some, hopefully plausible, assumptions, this system makes two more predictions: concord-suspension complementarity and idiosyncratic gender generalization. I provide some data indicating that the observations are in line with these predictions.

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October 19th, 2015

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ESSL/Language Acquisition Lab 9/21: Michael Clauss  

Speaker: Michael Clauss (UMass)
Title: Classifying Adjectives without Semantic Information (joint work with Jeremy Hartman)
Time: 5-6:30pm
Place: 32D-461

The problem of children’s acquisition of “Tough” constructions in English has a long history. It has often been found that children commonly interpret the subjects of “Tough” sentences as the subjects of the embedded clauses rather than the objects, analogous to Control adjectives like “eager”. Numerous studies have shown this phenomenon (Chomsky 1969, Solan 1978, Anderson 2005). Recent work by Becker (2014) suggests that children are better than previously claimed, and can use semantic cues (namely subject animacy) to give the correct parse to sentences of this form, based on novel word learning experiments.

  • The teacher is ADJ to draw → The teacher1 is ADJ [PRO1 to draw]
  • The apple is ADJ to draw → The apple1 is ADJ [PROar b to draw (e)1]

The present work seeks to expand the picture developed by this recent work by examining what syntactic cues children (and adults) may use to parse potentially ambiguous strings with novel adjectives, particularly in environments with as little semantic content as possible. To answer this, we start with the observation that Tough and Control adjectives appear in a different range of syntactic frames. Thus, a novel adjective may be ambiguous between Tough and Control interpretations in some syntactic frames, but unambiguously Tough or Control if it is heard in others.

a John is daxy to see (ambiguous)
b It’s daxy to see John (tough only)
c John is daxy to see Bill (Control only)
d John is daxy to look at (tough only)

In our experiment, participants were taught a novel adjective in one of the frames in (a-d), and then tested by being asked questions about a series of pictures using the ambiguous frame (which one is daxy to [verb]). We found that children, aged 4-6, consistently skew toward Control readings no matter which frame was used in training. For adults, however, we found that training condition had a strong effect on performance on the test; adults were at chance responding when trained on the ambiguous condition a, but tended to give the expected answers on the other conditions. The different performance of children and adults adds support to the notion that, for children, semantic information is crucial to choose between the two adjective types, while for adults syntax does most of the work.

However, we also find that the Tough construction is still difficult to learn from syntax for adults: adults are less likely to give target responses in the conditions which should train for Tough syntax than for the condition that trains for Control. We also argue that this shows that there is some general bias towards Control-type interpretations for both children and adults which interacts with cues that signify Tough constructions. We discuss further paths to piecing together all the cues which might signify that a word is of either of these types.

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October 19th, 2015

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Ling Lunch 10/22 - Kenyon Branan  

Speaker: Kenyon Branan (MIT)
Title: Licensing with Case: Evidence from Kikuyu
Time: Thurs 10/22, 12:30-1:45
Place: 32-D461

In Kikuyu, structurally low, post-verbal nominal arguments are subject to a curious restriction: adjacency between the noun head and the verbal complex must not be interrupted by any element. However, this restriction holds only when the relevant nominal is the only argument in the post-verbal domain—-when there are two or more nominals in the post-verbal domain, none are subject to this restriction. In this talk, I argue that this can be explained straightforwardly in a configurational Case system, where Case may be assigned between two sufficiently local DPs. I also discuss the implications of this for two recent approaches to Case and Licensing: Levin (2015) and Baker (2015). These data constitute a strong argument against one of the core arguments in Levin (2015); namely, that Case, regardless of how it is assigned, does not have a licensing function.
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October 19th, 2015

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LFRG 10/23 - Matt Mandelkern  

Who: Matt Mandelkern (MIT)
When: Friday, October 23, 2-3:30pm
Where: 32-D461
Title: A Note on the Architecture of Semantic Presupposition

The Proviso Problem is the problem of accounting for the discrepancy between the predictions of nearly every major theory of semantic presupposition about what is semantically presupposed by conditionals, disjunctions, and conjunctions, versus observations about what speakers of certain sentences are felt to be presupposing. I argue that the Proviso Problem is a more serious problem than has been recognized in much of the current literature. After briefly describing the problem and a set of standard responses to the problem, I give a number of examples which, I argue, the standard responses are unable to account for. I argue that not only are the details of those responses inadequate, but so is the more general theoretical architecture that they instantiate. I conclude by briefly exploring alternate approaches to presupposition that avoid this problem.
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October 19th, 2015

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Thursday Talk 10/22 - Philippe Schlenker  

Speaker: Philippe Schlenker (Institut Jean-Nicod, CNRS; New York University)
Title: Formal Monkey Linguistics
When and where: 5-630 PM Thursday, 32D-461
Abstract: Monkey_Linguistics-MIT-15.10.17

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October 19th, 2015

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Colloquium 10/23 - Philippe Schlenker  

Speaker: Philippe Schlenker (Institut Jean-Nicod, CNRS; New York University)
Title: Visible Meaning: Signs vs. Gestures
Date: Friday, October 23rd
Time: 3:30-5:00 PM
Place: 32-141

Semantic studies of sign language have led to two general claims. First, in some cases sign languages make visible some crucial aspects of the Logical Form of sentences, ones that are only inferred indirectly in spoken language. For instance, sign language ‘loci’ are positions in signing space that can arguably realize logical variables or ‘indices’, but the latter are covert in spoken language. Second, along one dimension sign languages are strictly more expressive than spoken languages because iconic phenomena can be found at their logical core. This applies to loci themselves, which may simultaneously function as logical variables and as simplified pictures of what they denote. As a result, the semantic system of spoken languages can in some respects be seen as a ‘degenerate’ version of the richer semantics found in sign languages. Two conclusions could be drawn from this observation. One is that the full extent of Universal Semantics can only be studied in sign languages. An alternative possibility is that spoken languages have comparable expressive mechanisms, but only when co-speech gestures are taken into account (Goldin-Meadow and Brentari 2015). In order to address this debate, one must compare a semantics with iconicity for sign language to a semantics with co-speech gestures for spoken language. We will sketch such a comparison, focusing on the assertive vs. non-assertive status of iconic/gestural enrichments in each modality.

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October 19th, 2015

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Phonology Circle 10/13 - Edward Flemming  

Speaker: Edward Flemming (MIT)
Title: Deriving Implicational Universals in Optimality Theory
Date: Tuesday, October 13rd
Time: 5-6:30
Place: 32-D461

Many phonological universals are implicational in form, e.g. ‘If a language allows obstruents to be syllabified as the nucleus of a syllable then that language also allows sonorant consonants to be syllabified as the nucleus of a syllable.’ In Optimality Theory, implicational universals are often supposed to follow from the existence of hierarchies of constraints with universal rankings (or from stringency hierarchies). Implicational universals do follow from the possible rankings of a constraint hierarchy and a single conflicting constraint, but the more common situation of interaction between two conflicting constraint hierarchies is more complex because the constraints in two hierarchies can be interleaved in many ways. We will see that there are cases where positing a constraint hierarchy is not sufficient to derive an implicational universal because the structure of the conflicting hierarchy undermines the expected implication. I will propose a revision of standard OT, Ranked Violations OT, in which it is possible to constrain the interactions between constraint hierarchies, allowing for the correct derivation of implicational universals in these cases.

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October 13th, 2015

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ESSL/Language Acquisition Lab 10/14 - William Snyder  

Speaker: William Snyder (UConn)
Title: Relativized Minimality in Children’s Passives
When: October 14, 2015, 5pm - 6:30pm
Where: 32-D461

The acquisition literature on English passives is strikingly inconsistent. Many studies have found that children under age four have considerable difficulty with unequivocally verbal passives, and that children as old as six are still struggling with passives of non-actional verbs. Yet, a small number of studies (e.g. Pinker, Lebeaux & Frost 1987) find adult-like performance on both the comprehension and the production of passives, including the passives of both actional and non-actional verbs, in children as young as three. In this talk I will present a proposal from Snyder & Hyams (2015) that aims to make sense of these inconsistencies. A key observation is that the studies finding early success are precisely the ones that motivate a discourse-related feature such as [+Topic] or [+Focus] on the derived subject. The Snyder-Hyams account combines Rizzi’s (2004) version of Relativized Minimality with proposals from Collins (2005) and Grillo (2007); and leads to a number of novel predictions, as I would like to discuss.
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October 13th, 2015

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Ling Lunch 10/15 - Bruna Karla Pereira & Eloisa Pilati  

Note: There will be two shorter talks this week.

Time: Thursday, October 15, 12:30-1:45pm Place: 32-D461

Speaker: Bruna Karla Pereira (UFVJM; CAPES Foundation - Ministry of Education of Brazil)
Title: Speech Act Phrase in Brazilian Portuguese: possessive agreement with the addressee

This talk presents an initial hypothesis to analyze agreement in dialectal Brazilian Portuguese (BP) data, such as (1) and (2). In (1), while noun and number receive a plural morpheme, the possessive does not. In contrast, in (2), while noun and determiner do not receive a plural morpheme, the possessive does.

(1) Amanhã ele verá dois serviços seu (Belo Horizonte, September 10th 2015)
Tomorrow he see-FUT two-PL task-PL your-SG
Tomorrow he is coming to see your two works.

(2) Para eu avaliar o pedido seus, vou precisar de mais dados (Belo Horizonte, June 15th 2015)
To I evaluate the-SG request-SG your-PL, go-FUT need of more data
In order to evaluate your request, I will need some more data.

In standard BP, possessive ‘seu(s)’ agrees in number with the noun and may refer to either 2nd person plural or 2nd person singular, as it is shown in (3) and (4), resulting in ambiguity. This is not the case in European Portuguese (EP) where, on the one hand, ‘vosso(s)’ is for 2nd person plural and, on the other hand, ‘teu(s)’ is for 2nd person singular.

(3) Preciso de seus favores (‘seus’ = ‘de você’ or ‘de vocês’)
Need-I of your-PL favor-PL (your = ‘of you-SG’ or ‘of you-PL’)
I need your favors (favors from you or from you guys)
(4) Preciso de seu favor (‘seu’ = ‘de você’ or ‘de vocês’)
Need-I of your-SG favor-SG (your = ‘of you-SG’ or ‘of you-PL’)
I need your favor (a favor from you or from you guys)

Therefore, looking at the data in (1) and (2), we observe that ‘-s’ is added to the possessive pronoun when thespeaker addresses to a plural ‘you’, and no ‘-s’ is added when the speaker addresses a singular ‘you’, which clearly seems to be an instance of agreement with the addressee.

Several works have shown not only how syntax codifies discourse participants but also how syntactic operations may be displayed in their scope. Firstly, according to Tsoulas and Kural (1999), indexical pronouns ‘I’ and ‘you’ arevariables bound by operators, respectively, SPEAKER and ADDRESSEE, that are situated above C in the syntactic structure. Secondly, Speas and Tenny (2003) suggest that speaker and hearer are functional projections inside SAP, proposal that is further developed by Haegeman and Hill (2011) with West Flemish data. Thirdly, Miyagawa (2012) showsthat verbal politeness marker ‘-mas-’, used to formally address the hearer in Japanese, “is in fact an implementation of second person agreement”. In this case, the probe moves from C to SAP for checking phi-features.

Having said that, I will investigate (1) and (2) as an instance of agreement between possessive and hearer, being the latter (c)overtly realized as vocative in SAP. As a consequence, vocative number phi-feature, in the speech act domain, is probably what triggers possessive number agreement inside the DP, in the sentential domain.

Speaker: Eloisa Pilati (University of Brasilia)
Title: Locative pronouns as subjects in Brazilian Portuguese

The goal of this presentation is to account for the licensing of locative DPs and deictic adverbs in subject position in Brazilian Portuguese (henceforth, BP), taking into consideration specifically the status of third person null subjects/ inflection in this language. Following Pilati & Naves 2011, 2013 and Pilati, Naves & Salles 2015, I will show a unified analysis for the phenomena, which concern the current discussion on Brazilian Portuguese (BP) as a partial null subject language (cf. Holmberg 2010). The proposal is that third person inflection on the verb, unlike first and second person inflection, is unable to license referential definite null subjects, although it is able to license a (null) locative adverb/ pronoun in preverbal position. The emergence of the constructions with locatives in subject position is due to the possibility of filling the subject position with a locative pronoun/adverb or a locative DP, on the assumption that third person inflection in BP is no longer referential (cf. Rabelo 2010).

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October 13th, 2015

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Logical Form Reading Group 10/16 - Milena Sisovics  

Speaker: Milena Sisovics (MIT)
Time: Friday, October 16, 2-3:30
Place: 32-D831
Title: The ironic use of dürfen: an analysis in terms of ordering source adjustment

Click here to read the abstract.

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October 13th, 2015

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Phonology Circle 10/5 - Juliet Stanton  

Speaker: Juliet Stanton (MIT)
Title: Environmental shielding is contrast preservation
Date: Monday, October 5th
Time: 5-6:30
Place: 32D-831

The term “environmental shielding” refers to a class of processes where the phonetic realization of a nasal depends on its vocalic context. In Kaiwá (Tupí, Bridgeman 1961), for example, nasals are prenasalized before oral (/ma/ > [mba]) but not nasal (/mã/ > [mã]) vowels. Herbert (1986:199) claims that shielding occurs to protect a contrast in vocalic nasality: if Kaiwá /ma/ were realized as [ma], the [a] would likely carry some degree of nasal coarticulation, and be less distinct from nasal /ã/ as a result. This paper provides new arguments for Herbert’s position. I show that a contrast-based analysis of shielding correctly predicts a number of typological generalizations, and argue that any successful analysis of shielding must make reference to contrast.

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October 5th, 2015

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Special LFRG 10/6 - Patrick Grosz  

Speaker: Patrick Grosz (Tuebingen)
Time: Tuesday, Oct. 6, 1-2:30pm
Location: 32-D831
Title: On the syntax and semantics of God knows what – a scalar epistemic indefinite

This talk investigates phrases such as ‘weiß Gott w-’ (‘God knows wh-‘) in German, in (1). Similar constructions are attested in a wide range of European languages (Haspelmath 1997:131).

(1) Der muss gedacht haben, wir seien weiß Gott wer. [DeReKo corpus, U03/AUG.02157]
intended: ‘He must have thought that we are someone important.’
literal: ‘He must have thought that we are God knows who.’

While ‘weiß Gott w-’ phrases originate as separate clauses (CPs) that are parenthetically inserted into a host clause (so-called “Andrews amalgams”, Lakoff 1974), I argue that ‘weiß Gott’ (‘God knows’) in Present Day German (PDG) has fully grammaticalized into an indefinite particle (like German ‘irgend’ [‘any, some’]); it combines with a wh-element to form a complex word of category D (an indefinite determiner/pronoun). I argue that ‘weiß Gott w-’ indefinites are scalar in that they [i.] existentially quantify over a subset X of the alternatives that the wh-element introduces, [ii.] and the alternatives in this subset X are high on a salient scale. This scalar effect is illustrated in (1), where ‘weiß Gott wer’ (‘God knows who’) is understood to mean ‘someone important’ (i.e. someone who is high on a scale of importance). I argue that the scalarity of ‘weiß Gott w-’ is part of the truth-functional at-issue content of a sentence (cf. Potts 2015), due to semantic reanalysis of what used to be a conversational implicature (cf. Eckardt 2006).

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October 5th, 2015

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Syntax Square 10/6 - Nick Longenbaugh  

Speaker: Nick Longenbaugh (MIT)
Title: The processing of long-distance dependencies in Niuean (joint work with Masha Polinsky)
Time: Tuesday 10/6, 10-11am
Place: 32-D461

It is well documented that nominative-acccusative alignment coincides with a strong subject-preference in long-distance dependency formation, both in terms of processing (in particular, subject gaps in relative clauses are processed more easily than other types of gaps) and accesibility for extraction (there appears to be an implicational universal that the availability of relativization with a gap entails the availability of subject relativization with a gap Keenan & Comrie 1977). This subject preference does not, however, carry over uniformly to languages with ergative-absolutive alignment; in some morphologically ergative languages, the ergative subject cannot extract with a gap at the extraction site, a phenomenon termed `syntactic ergativity’. In this talk, I explore the viability of a processing-based explanation of syntactic ergativity. Much as has been proposed for various island phenomena (Kluender 1998, 2004), the extraction of ergative arguments may simply be more taxing on the parser than corresponding absolutive extraction. If this is true, following Hawkins (2004, 2014), syntactically ergative languages could then be taken to differ from their morphologically ergative counterparts in their tolerance for difficult structure, eliminating the less efficient, more difficult ergative extraction. To test this account, I explore the processing of relative clauses in Niuean, a morphologically, but not syntactically, ergative language. Niuean is an ideal test case, given that it is closely related to the syntactically ergative Tongan, and thus might be expected to show an obvious bias against ergative extraction (a bias that Tongan turns into a categorical restriction). I present novel experimental data showing that ergative subject gaps in Niuean RCs do not impose any additional processing difficulty as compared to the processing of absolutive object gaps, thus calling into question the viability of the processing account in this domain.
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October 5th, 2015

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Ling Lunch 10/8 - Athulya Aravind & Nick Longenbaugh  

Note: Because these are practice talks for NELS, there will be two shorter talks this week.

Time: Thursday, October 8, 12:30-1:45pm
Place: 32-D461

Speaker: Athulya Aravind (MIT)
Title: Minimality and wh-licensing in Malayalam

Malayalam (Dravidian) is characterized as a wh-in-situ language, but wh-phrases in embedded clauses cannot take matrix scope (Madhavan 1987). This restriction is surprising in light of two facts (i) the wh-in-situ strategy is not clause-bounded in other wh-in-situ langages like Japanese and Korean, and (ii) Malayalam finite embedded clauses are otherwise transparent to syntactic and semantic operations. Similar restrictions in languages like Hindi, Bangla and Iraqi Arabic have led some researchers to conclude that wh-in-situ languages may vary parametrically in locality of wh-agreement (Ouhalla 1996, Simpson 2000). I will argue instead that the wh-in-situ strategy is uniformly non-clause-bounded. Failure to licensewh-phrases across a clause boundary can be shown to result from the interaction of wh-agreement and independent operations affecting embedded clauses. In Malayalam, wh-licensing is disrupted by A-bar movement of finite CPs, which creates a minimality violation. The features on the head of the embedded clause triggering clausal movement in the first place are sufficiently similar to wh-features that they block Agree between a higher C and an embedded wh-phrase. I show that in configurations in which such intervention is circumvented, e.g. in cleft questions, finite embedded clauses do not appear to be wh-scope islands.

Speaker: Nick Longenbaugh (MIT)
Title: Difficult movement

Abstract.

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October 5th, 2015

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LFRG 10/9 - Paul Marty  

Speaker: Paul Marty (MIT)
Time: Friday, October 9, 2-3:30
Place: 32-D831
Title: Economize Binding Theory

In the stream of generative linguistics, it has been proposed that derivations and interface representations are subject to global economy principles. In this talk, I investigate the predictions made by such proposals regarding the licensing of the bound-variable construal of pronouns in natural languages. Capitalizing on Ruys (1994), I propose that the so-called Crossover effects, i.e. cases in which the bound-variable interpretation of a pronouns is unavailable (e.g., *He_i likes every student_i, *His_i mother likes every student_i), reduce to violations of the following two economy principles:

(1) Interface Economy: Be as economical as possible in deriving an LF output representation.

(2) Interface Transparency: Favor transparent reflections of LF properties in PF precedence relationships.

I will begin by setting out the basic proposal behind Interface Economy and show that it provides a principled account for the distribution of the Strong Crossover (SCO) effects. I will argue, however, that the Weak Crossover (WCO) effects might be better captured by Interface Transparency, (2). It will be shown that the perspective advocated here sheds a new light on the cross-linguistic variations in WCO effects and offers a better grasp on the most recalcitrant counterexamples to previous WCO generalizations. If time permits, I will discuss how these facts support a model of grammar in which the rules assigning appropriate interpretations to anaphoric elements do not form a specific module but rather follow from more general principles that govern the whole computational system.

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October 5th, 2015

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10/6 - Getting From Here to There: Prof. Shigeru Miyagawa  

Tuesday, October 06, 2015
Speaker: Shigeru Miyagawa, MIT Professor of Linguistics and Professor of Japanese Language and Culture
Time: 5:15p–6:15p
Location: 3-133

Getting From Here to There: A Series of Faculty Talks for Students

MIT students may find it hard to imagine their accomplished professors as uncertain twenty-somethings, making choices about grad school, first jobs and career paths. This series is designed to give students new insights into the many twisting and unexpected paths one can take toward a successful career.

On Tuesday, October 6th at 5:15pm in 3-133, Professor Shigeru Miyagawa will share his journey from growing up as a Japanese-American in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to becoming an MIT faculty member with a career bridging Japan and America, linguistics and culture, education and technology.

Open to: the general public
Sponsor(s): Chancellor’s Office, Professor Lorna Gibson

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October 5th, 2015

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Ling Lunch 10/1 - Adam Albright and Young Ah Do  

Speaker:Adam Albright (MIT) and Young Ah Do (Georgetown)
Title: Paradigm uniformity in the lab: prior bias, learned preference, or L1 transfer?
Time: Thursday, October 1, 12:30-1:45pm
Place: 32-D461

Abstract.

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September 28th, 2015

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Phonology reading group 10/2 - “Blocking and Complementarity in Phonological Theory”  

A reading group on “Blocking and Complementarity in Phonological Theory” by Eric Bakovic will meet on Friday (October 2) at 12-1 pm in the 7th floor conference room. The group is planning to discuss Chapters 4 and 6 of the book. For more details, contact Ezer Rasin (rasin@mit.edu).

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September 28th, 2015

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Phonology Circle 9/21 - Charles B. Chang  

Speaker: Charles B. Chang (BU)
Title: Relative informativeness as a guiding principle of crosslinguistic transfer
Date: Monday, September 21st
Time: 5-6:30
Place: 32D-831

Transfer of language structures from the native language (L1) to a second language (L2) is a concept central to the study of L2 acquisition, yet there is no general consensus on the level at which such transfer occurs. This study explored the hypothesis that in L2 perception, transfer occurs at the level of processing biases shaped by the relative informativeness (RI) of acoustic cues in the L1. To examine the role of RI, perception of unreleased final voiceless stops was tested in L1 English listeners and four groups of late-onset L2 English learners whose L1s differ in the RI of a crucial cue to unreleased stops (vowel-to-consonant formant transitions). Speeded discrimination and identification tasks were used to investigate perception in English (a familiar L2) and Korean (an unfamiliar L2). With two exceptions, the results support the view that RI in the L1 influences processing biases that transfer to L2 perception. However, these biases interact with prior L2 knowledge, which may result in significantly different perceptual consequences for a familiar and an unfamiliar L2.

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September 21st, 2015

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Syntax Square 9/22 - No meeting this week  

There will be no Syntax Square meeting this week.

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September 21st, 2015

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ESSL/LacqLab 9/23 - Roger Levy  

Speaker: Roger Levy (UCSD)
Title: Bayesian pragmatics: lexical uncertainty, compositionality, and the typology of conversational implicature
Date: Wednesday, September 23rd
Time: 3:00p
Place: 32-D831

A central scientific challenge for our understanding of human cognition is how language simultaneously achieves its unbounded yet highly context-dependent expressive capacity. In constructing theories of this capacity it has been productive to distinguish between strictly semantic content, or the “literal” meanings of atomic expressions (e.g., words) and the rules of meaning composition, and pragmatic enrichment, by which speakers and listeners can rely on general principles of cooperative communication to take understood communicative intent far beyond literal content. Major open questions remain, however, of how to formalize pragmatic inference and characterize its relationship with semantic composition. Here I describe recent work within a Bayesian framework of interleaved semantic composition and pragmatic inference. First I show how two major principles of Levinson’s typology of conversational implicature fall out of our models: Q(uantity) implicature, in which utterance meaning is refined through exclusion of the meanings of alternative utterances; and I(nformativeness) implicature, in which utterance meaning is refined by strengthening to the prototypical case. Q and I are often in tension; I show that the Bayesian approach derives quantitative predictions regarding their relative strength in interpretation of a given utterance, and present evidence supporting these predictions from a large-scale experiment on interpretation of utterances such as “I slept in a car” (was it my car, or someone else’s car?). I then turn to questions of compositionality, focusing on two of the most fundamental building blocks of semantic composition, the words “and” and “or”. Canonically, these words are used to coordinate expressions whose semantic content is least partially disjoint (“friends and enemies”, “sports and recreation”), but they can also be used to coordinate expressions whose literal semantic content is in a one-way inclusion relation (“boat or canoe” — c.f. Hurford, 1974; “roses and flowers”) or even in a two-way inclusion relation, or total semantic equivalence (“oenophile or wine-lover”). But why are these latter coordinate expressions used, and how are they understood? Each class of these latter expressions falls out as a special case of our general framework, in which their prima facie inefficiency for communicating their literal content triggers a pragmatic inference that enriches the expression’s meaning in the same ways that we see in human interpretation. More broadly, these results illustrate the value of integrating recursive probabilistic models with formal semantic theories in the study of linguistic meaning and communication.

This talk covers joint work with Leon Bergen, Michael C. Frank, Noah Goodman, Daniel Lassiter, Till Poppels, and Christopher Potts.

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September 21st, 2015

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Ling Lunch 9/24 - Mia Nussbaum  

Speaker: Mia Nussbaum (MIT)
Title: Tense and Scope in Superlatives
Time: Thurs 5/14, 12:30-1:45
Place: 32-D461

This paper provides new evidence that relative superlatives are indefinites, as proposed by Szabolcsi (1986) and Heim (1985, 1999), and contra Farkas and É. Kiss (2000) and Sharvit and Stateva (2002). Szabolcsi (1986) discovered several ways that absolute superlatives pattern with definites, and relative superlatives with indefinites. In this paper, I discuss the puzzle presented by the novel data in (1) and (2), and show that its solution depends on the same contrast between the definite and the indefinite article in superlatives that Szabolcsi argues for.

(1) Context: On a certain game show, the game ends up with each contestant receiving a box with money in it. There are 20 boxes available, each with a different amount of money inside, and 10 contestants. The top prize is a million dollars. At the end of the show, the contestants all open their boxes at the same time.

a. Which contestant opened the box that has the most money inside?

b. Which contestant opened the box that had the most money inside?

(2) Who married the tallest first-grader?

(1b) obeys Sequence of Tense, and is ambiguous between a relative reading (asking who won the game) and an absolute reading (asking who got the million dollars); (1a) only has the absolute reading. In (2), a relative reading is incompatible with an interpretation where the time-sensitive predicate first-grader held at an earlier time than the matrix verb married.

Tense mismatch and independent temporal interpretation are incompatible with relative superlatives (which, according to the theories of Heim and Szabolcsi, are indefinites), and require an absolute (definite) interpretation. I argue that this contrast is an instance of Musan’s Generalization (Musan 1997): a noun phrase can have a temporally independent interpretation if and only if it is strong. I adopt Schwarz (2009)’s analysis of determiners, whereby strong determiners come with their own situation pronoun arguments, and show how it can explain the contrast between strong absolute superlatives and weak relative superlatives.

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September 21st, 2015

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LingLunch 9/17 - Michelle Yuan  

Speaker: Michelle Yuan (MIT)
Title: Dependent case and clitic dissimilation
Time: Thursday 9/17, 12:30-1:45pm
Place: 32-D461

In Yimas (Lower Sepik; Papua New Guinea), case and agreement are encoded on a series of optional preverbal clitics, which are doubled from arguments in the syntax. In this talk, I propose that the Yimas clitic system provides clear evidence for the dependent theory of case, as well as for the broader view that dependent case is fundamentally a subtype of featural dissimilation, which applies to avoid multiple morphosyntactically non-distinct objects (cf. Richards 2010, Baker 2015). The distributions of case in Yimas are exactly as predicted under a dependent theory of case assignment (Marantz 1991), though in Yimas it is determined jointly by the structural configuration of nominals and the clitic environment. I argue that dependent case assignment in Yimas prevents sequences of featurally identical clitics, and show how this follows from the logic of clitic doubling. This proposal is moreover supported by the existence of several other dissimilatory strategies applying on the clitics, which share the same endgoal; these other strategies are illustrated through modal clitic/AGR clitic interactions and case-sensitive participant dissimilation effects.
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September 14th, 2015

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LFRG 9/18 - Naomi Francis  

Speaker: Naomi Francis (MIT)
Time: Friday, September 18, 2-3:30
Place: 32-D831
Title: Positive polarity items and scope in negative inversion constructions

Negative inversion is a construction that involves the preposing of a negative expression and obligatory subject-auxiliary inversion (e.g. ‘Never have I seen such a majestic giraffe!’). Collins and Postal (2014) claim that the preposed negative element takes scope over everything else in the clause. However, I show that, while the negative expression does take scope over quantificational DPs, deontic modals should, must, and to be to, which have been argued to be positive polarity items (Iatridou and Zeijlstra 2013), are able to outscope it. I explore ways of capturing this fact and argue that several initially appealing explanations turn out to be problematic.
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September 14th, 2015

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Colloquium 9/18 - Eric Bakovic  

Speaker: Eric Bakovic (UCSD)
Title: Ensuring the proper determination of identity: a model of possible constraints
Date: Friday, September 18th
Time: 3:30-5:00 PM
Place: 32-141

Some phonological patterns can be described as sufficient identity avoidance, where ‘sufficiently identical’ means ‘necessarily identical with respect to all but some specific feature(s)’. The first part of the talk addresses this question: why are specific features ignored for the purposes of determining sufficient identity? In previous work (Bakovic 2005, Bakovic & Kilpatrick 2006, Pajak & Bakovic 2010), we have found that patterns of sufficient identity avoidance where a specific feature F is ignored also involve F-assimilation in the same contexts. Direct reference to sufficient identity is thus unnecessary: sufficient identity is indirectly avoided because F-assimilation would otherwise be expected, resulting in total identity. Avoiding sufficient identity without assimilation is the better option, as predicted by the minimal violation property of Optimality Theory. This analysis predicts rather than stipulates the features that will be ignored for the purposes of determining sufficient identity. (Corollary consequences of the analysis will also be discussed in the talk.)

The explanatory value of the analysis, however, is predicated on the absolute non-existence of constraints directly penalizing all-but-F identity, which could be active independently of F-assimilation. The second part of the talk addresses this question: how can such constraints be ruled out formally? I propose a model of constraints and of how they evaluate candidate sets that results in just the types of constraints necessary for the analysis above. More broadly, the proposed model is intended as a contribution to our formal understanding of what a ‘possible constraint’ is.

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September 14th, 2015

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Special summer talk: Claire Halpert 6/17  

Speaker:  Claire Halpert (University of Minnesota)
Title:        Raising Hell
Date:       Wednesday, June 17
Time:      3:30pm
Place:      32-D461

In this talk, I investigate cross-linguistic variation in raising constructions, proposing a unified account for the derivation of hyper-raising and standard raising. I argue that the presence or absence of these constructions in a given language can be determined by independent properties of CP and TP in the language, including: 1) whether CPs or infinitival phrases are phi-goals in the language and 2) the presence of an EPP effect on T and (and how it can be satisfied). I show that variation in these factors can capture the different raising profiles found in Zulu, Makhuwa, and English, and Uyghur.


Note: a previous version of this announcement mistakenly gave the month of this talk as July. It is happening in June!

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June 16th, 2015

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Phonology Circle 5/11 - Joan Mascaró  

Speaker: Joan Mascaró (UAB)
Title: Phase impenetrability in phonology
Date: Monday, May 11th
Time: 5-6:30
Place: 32D-831

There are several proposal that entertain the idea that the phase impenetrability condition, PIC (Chomsky, 2000, 2001) also applies to the phonological computation (Phase Impenetrability in Phonology, PIP). I will give an overview of these poposals and discuss some of them (e.g. D’Alessandro and Scheer to appear, Samuels 2009, 2011). I will also present a set of data from phonologically conditioned allomorph selection that show that a meaningful version of the PIP is difficult to maintain.

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May 11th, 2015

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LFRG 5/13 - Alexandre Cremers  

Speaker: Alexandre Cremers (ENS, LSCP)
Time: Wednesday 5/13, 12-1:30
Place: ***TBA***
Title: Plurality effects with embedded questions and exhaustive readings.

Questions are known to behave like plural nouns. Most famously, Berman (1991) showed that embedded questions can be modified by adverbs of quantity such as ‘mostly’ or ‘in part’ (quantificational variability effect). They also give rise to cumulative readings (Lahiri, 2002), and homogeneity effects (observed but never implemented). Recently, it has also been shown that questions embedded under verbs like ‘know’ are ambiguous between weak, strong and intermediate readings. This ambiguity is usually seen as an orthogonal issue, and most recent literature on the various levels of exhaustivity completely ignores plurality effects. Here I show how an updated version of Lahiri’s (2002) proposal can be combined with ideas from Klinedinst & Rothschild (2011) to yield a theory of strong and intermediate readings compatible with recent theories of plurality effects of definite plurals (e.g., homogeneity, cumulative readings). Along the way, we may discuss a few puzzles such as mention-some questions, emotive-factive verbs (‘surprise’) and the reason why ‘believe’ does not (usually) embed questions.
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May 11th, 2015

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Ling Lunch 5/14 - Juliet Stanton  

Speaker: Juliet Stanton (MIT)
Title: Constraints on contrast motivate nasal cluster effects
Time: Thurs 5/14, 12:30-1:45
Place: 32-D461

Many languages disallow sequences of nasal clusters (*[NC1 V NC2]). In languages where these sequences are banned, there are a number of attested repairs. For example, in some systems, the first NC is realized as a plain nasal, N (1).

(1) NC1 nasalization in Ngaju Dayak (Blust 2012)

a. /maN-bando/ > [ma-mando] ‘turn against’ (cf. [mam-bagi] ‘divide’)

b. /maN-gundu/ > [ma-ŋundul] ‘wrap up’ (cf. [maŋ-gila] ‘drive crazy’)

Previous analyses of nasal cluster effects generally fall into one of two camps. Many authors (e.g. Meinhof 1932, Blust 2012) claim that effects like (1) are dissimilation, driven by an OCP constraint (*NC…NC). Others (Herbert 1977, 1986; Jones 2000) claim that effects like (1) are neutralization, driven by a constraint on contrast: in the sequence [NC1 V NC2], anticipatory nasalization from NC2 renders NC1 insufficiently distinct from N.

In this talk I argue from the larger typology of nasal cluster effects that the contrast-based analysis is the right one. I show that the contrast-based account (i) accurately predicts the conditions under which languages exhibit certain types of repairs, (ii) accurately predicts implicational generalizations regarding which kinds of [NC1 V NC2] sequences are repaired, and (iii) accurately predicts generalizations regarding the locality of repairs. I show that an analysis in which effects like (1) are treated as dissimilation is not capable of accounting for any of these generalizations, let alone all of them together.

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May 11th, 2015

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LFRG 5/4 - Sophie Moracchini  

Speaker: Sophie Moracchini (MIT)
Time: Monday May 4, 12-1:30
Place: 32-D831
Title: Construal of pronouns in French and Vietnamese
Abstract: Abstract LFRG

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May 4th, 2015

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Phonology Circle 5/4 - Suyeon Yun  

Speaker: Suyeon Yun (MIT)
Title: Non-native Cluster Perception by Phonetic Confusion, Not by Universal Grammar
Date: Monday, May 4th
Time: 5-6:30
Place: 32D-831

Experimental results of non-native cluster perception have been used as evidence that the Sonority Sequencing Principle is synchronically active. Notably, Berent et al. (2007 et seq.) argue that the knowledge of onset cluster phonotactics is projected from UG on the basis of evidence that speakers whose native languages do not have the relevant clusters perceive universally preferred clusters with rising sonority more accurately than universally dispreferred clusters with level or falling sonority. In this talk, I will report results of my perception experiments with English and Korean listeners in which phonetically diverse stimuli were used. I will argue that the results of Berent et al.’s experiments are just one possible result we may get from some combinations of initial consonant clusters, and thus cannot be evidence for the Sonority Sequencing Principle in synchronic grammar. More importantly, I argue that it is the auditory properties of the consonant cluster that play a more important role in non-native cluster perception than the cluster’s sonority profile.

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May 4th, 2015

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Syntax Square 5/5 - Despina Oikonomou & Snejana Iovtcheva  

Speaker: Despina Oikonomou (MIT) & Snejana Iovtcheva (MIT)
Title: Island insensitive fragment answers to Bulgarian li-questions
Time: Tuesday 5/5, 1pm-2pm
Place: 32-D461

We discuss fragment answers to Bulgarian yes/no question that are formed with the particle Li. Different than English, Bulgarian yes/no questions have an overt focus particle that can attach to a wide variety of constituents and allows the speakers to form a grammatical fragment answer even out of a syntactic island. This is significant because island insensitiveness has long been observed in sluicing (Ross 1969, Merchant 2001, Merchant 2004, Griffiths & Liptak 2014 (G&L)) but not in fragment answers. In this sense, the Bulgarian data shed new light on the question of ‘island insensitivity under ellipsis’ as they suggest that islands can be ameliorated under any type of TP-ellipsis, thus allowing for a uniform treatment of sluicing and answer fragments.
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May 4th, 2015

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Ling Lunch 5/7 - Aron Hirsch  

Speaker: Aron Hirsch (MIT) (MIT)
Title: A case for conjunction reduction
Time: Thurs 5/7, 12:30-1:45
Place: 32-D461

Disjunction can take wider scope than appears to be the case in the surface string, as in (1a), which can be interpreted similarly to (1b). This has been linked to the availability of ellipsis processes, in particular VP-ellipsis familiar from Johnson’s (e.g. 2014) work on gapping (Schwarz 1999); (1a) can be derived from an LF similar to that for (1b) via ellipsis.

(1) a. John wants to see Mary or Sue.
b. John (either) wants to see Mary or < he wants to see > Sue (but I’m not sure which).

In this talk, I evaluate the strength of evidence that and, as well as or, can take scope via a mechanism other than QR. Is there, for instance, a “conjunction reduction” (Schein 2015 and references therein) mechanism whereby e.g. (2a) can be derived from (2b) via ellipsis?

(2) a. John wants to see every student and every professor.
b. John wants to see every student and < he wants to see > every professor.

This talk (i) develops new arguments which support the view that reduction is at least an available option, and (ii) shows that a commitment to the copy theory of movement and ex situ interpretation of object quantifiers entails a commitment to reduction as the only option for certain cases of conjoined quantifiers. I will provide some support for this prediction by considering the scope behavior of conjoined quantifiers in embedded environments.

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May 4th, 2015

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Joint linguistics/ philosophy colloquium 5/8 - Angelika Kratzer  

Speaker: Angelika Kratzer (UMass Amherst)
Title: Constructing attitude and speech reports
Time: 2:00-4:00pm, Friday May 8th
Place: 32-155

Abstract TBD

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May 4th, 2015

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Colloquium 5/8 - Jessica Coon (McGill)  

Speaker: Jessica Coon (McGill)
Title: Two types of ergative agreement: Implications for Dependent Case Theory
Date: Friday, May 8th
Time: 4:30-6:00p Note special time!
Place: 32-141

A range of literature has shown that agreement is sensitive to morphological case (e.g. Bobaljik 2008, et seq). While the dependence of agreement on case has been robustly demonstrated, the source of morphological case remains controversial. This talk focuses on the assignment of ergative case. Under one line of approach, ergative is an inherent case, assigned by a functional head to external arguments in their thematic position (Woolford 1997; Legate 2008). On another approach, ergative is the mirror image of accusative, assigned configurationally to the higher of two arguments in some local domain (Marantz 1991; Baker & Bobaljik to appear). Through an investigation of ergative agreement systems, I argue that a Dependent Case approach is not only unmotivated for a less-studied type of ergative agreement, but also runs the risk of over-generating.

I argue that ergative-absolutive agreement patterns have two different sources. Type 1: In languages like Hindi-Urdu, agreement comes from T; morphologically case-marked ergative subjects are inaccessible for agreement, resulting in an “ergative” agreement pattern (i.e. absolutive arguments agree; see Bobaljik 2008). Type 2: In languages like Chol and Halkomelem, transitive subjects (i.e. ergative arguments) agree, and the source of this agreement is low: v (Coon to appear; Wiltschko 2006).

This talk has two main goals. First, I provide morphophonological and syntactic evidence for the existence of the less-discussed Type 2 system; specifically, I argue that ergative agreement in Chol has a low source and is the result of a direct relationship between v and the ergative subject. Second, I argue that a Dependent Case analysis––while easily able to handle the Hindi-Urdu-type agreement system––faces problems with the Chol-type agreement system. Not only must the language keep track of two different types of null case, but we are left without a way to rule out languages with nominative-accusative case and ergative-absolutive agreement, a well-known typological gap.

While Dependent Case has achieved a range of empirical coverage (e.g. Baker & Vinokurova 2010; Levin & Preminger 2015; Baker & Bobaljik to appear), the end result is one in which the mechanism of ergative case assignment––inherent or dependent––must minimally be parameterized. Given that Type 2 ergative languages lack morphological case altogether, I suggest that this may not be a bad result.

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May 4th, 2015

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Syntax Square 4/28 - Ted Levin  

Speaker: Ted Levin (MIT)
Title: The Case Filter is Real
Date: Tuesday, April 28/br> Time: 1:00-2:00pm
Place: 32D-461

Case Theory holds that there is a syntactic property of nominals, Case, that captures aspects of their distribution and form that do not otherwise follow from their PF or LF content (Chomsky 1981, 1986; Chomsky & Lasnik 1995; Lasnik 2008). Nominals that do not receive Case in the course of the derivation violate the Case Filter, yielding ungrammaticality. In the Agree framework, Case is (commonly) held to be feature-valuation and deletion via Agree to satisfy Full Interpretation of the nominal at LF and to give the nominal case morphology at PF (Chomsky 2000, 2001, 2008). However, current thinking has shifted much of the work earlier done by Case to the needs of functional heads, such as [uPhi], reducing the role of Case in DP-licensing. Various accounts have suggested that Case serves solely as a condition on Agree or Move (e.g. Chomsky 2000, 2001), arises ”for free” in the syntax by virtue of [uCase] being able to survive the derivation (e.g.Preminger 2011, 2014), or might be eliminated entirely from syntax (e.g. Marantz 2000, McFadden 2004, Bobaljik 2008, Sigurdsson 2009).

In this talk, I argue that consideration of the needs of nominals cannot be completed eliminated from the calculation of well-formed derivations. I show that in the absence of [uCase], nominals must satisfy alternative distributional requirements, indicative of an alternative licensing strategy that satisfies the Case Filter and cross-cuts any of the implementations of Case above. Specifically, in two disparate environments . pseudo noun incorporated objects and some Austronesian in-situ subjects . the nominal head must display strict linear-adjacency with the verbal head. This need of nominals distinguishes well- and ill-formed derivations. Furthermore, I argue that, because the head-head adjacency requirement is sensitive to linear, not hierarchical, adjacency, the Case Filter must be operative at PF (e.g. Chomsky 1980, Lasnik 2008).

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April 27th, 2015

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LFRG 4/27 - Leon Bergen  

Speaker: Leon Bergen (MIT)
Time: Monday 4/27, 12-1:30
Place: 32-D808
Title: The strategic use of noise in pragmatic reasoning

We combine two recent probabilistic approaches to natural language understanding, exploring the formal pragmatics of communication on a noisy channel. We first extend a model of rational communication between a speaker and listener, to allow for the possibility that messages are corrupted by noise. A further extension of the model, which allows the speaker to intentionally reduce the noise rate on a word, is used to model prosodic emphasis. We show that the model derives several well-known interpretive effects associated with prosodic emphasis, including exhaustification, question-and-answer pairing, and the interaction between stress and focus-sensitive adverbs. We also use this model to provide a simplified semantics for even. Our results show that nominal amounts of actual noise can be leveraged for communicative purposes.
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April 27th, 2015

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Ling Lunch 4/30 - Lena Karvovskaya  

Speaker: Lena Karvovskaya (MIT/Universiteit Leiden)
Title: Complex relatives in Russian
Time: Thurs 4/30, 12:30-1:45
Place: 32-D461

I will discuss the intensifier “sam” in Russian (which is similar to English “himself” in its “emphatic reflexive” function). The intensifier “sam” can combine with a reflexive pronoun. Two agreement patterns are possible in this case, “sam” can either agree in case with the internal argument (the reflexive) or it can agree in case with the external argument (the subject). The second agreement pattern is puzzling, because the intensifier is not a part of the subject constituent.

I will present the properties that correspond to each of the agreement patterns and argue that we are dealing with two different constructions: in one case the intensifier is a modifier of the reflexive, in the other case it adjoins to the vP and receive its case marking as the result of agreement with the subject.

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April 27th, 2015

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Colloquium 5/1 - Nina Topintzi  

Speaker: Nina Topintzi (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki)
Title: Edge Geminates: typology and asymmetries*
Date: Friday, May 1st
Time: 3:30-5:00p
Place: 32-141

Edge geminates (EG) are a different species from intervocalic geminates. They are rarer and structurally different; they emerge – at least superficially – as tautosyllabic within an onset (word-initial geminate) or coda (word-final geminate), as opposed to the typically heterosyllabic intervocalic geminates. In this paper, I present a typology of the weight properties of EGs and make observations that may predict whether an EG patterns as heavy or light. For the latter part, I consider the relationship between EGs and edge consonant clusters in the language under consideration and investigate the existence of correlations. For example, an initial finding suggests that if EGs are unique in a language, i.e. the language possesses no edge clusters, then the EG is more likely to pattern as moraic (cf. Trukese and Pattani Malay in initial position and Hadhrami Arabic finally). Additionally, when edge clusters do arise, then the EG will tend to pattern the same way as the cluster with respect to weight. Finally, I discuss exceptions to this and speculate on the reasons the typology is shaped the way it is.

*Based on joint work with Stuart Davis (Indiana University)

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April 27th, 2015

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Ling Lunch 4/23 - Seid Tvica  

Speaker: Seid Tvica (MIT/ University of Amsterdam)
Title: Rich Agreement Hypothesis beyond Indo-European
Time: Thurs 4/23, 12:30-1:45
Place: 32-D461

It is well-established in the literature that many Germanic and Romance languages differ in the placement of adverbs, appearing either before or after the finite verb. This typological distinction is standardly accounted for via v-to-I0 movement, arguably triggered by the subject agreement features that are assumed to be located at I0 (cf. Roberts 1985; Kosmeijer 1986; Rohrbacher 1994; Vikner 1995; Bobaljik and Thráinsson 1998; Koeneman and Zeijlstra 2014, among many others). The observed correlation between the properties of agreement morphology and verb movement gave rise to the so-called “rich agreement hypothesis” (RAH) which, in its strong version, states that in controlled environments the finite verb moves to a vP-external position if and only if the agreement morphology is rich (cf. Koeneman and Zeijlstra 2014). Building on the work done so far in this talk I present the results of a typological investigation of RAH, showing that RAH holds across many languages, well beyond the Indo-European family. In particular, I will discuss verb movement in three unrelated non-Indo-European languages.
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April 21st, 2015

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LFRG 4/23 - Cassandra Chapman  

Speaker: Cassandra Chapman (McMaster/MIT)
Time: Thursday 4/23, 5:30-7
Location: 32-D831
Title: On the encoding of evidentiality in English: an experimental approach
Abstract: ChapmanDoranSchmidtke_LFRG_abstract_final

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April 21st, 2015

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Colloquium 4/24 - Ming Xiang  

Speaker: Ming Xiang (University of Chicago)
Title: Parsing covert dependencies—the case of Mandarin wh-in-situ constructions
Date: Friday, April 24th
Time: 3:30-5:00p
Place: 32-141

While modeling cross-linguistic structural variations, linguistic analyses sometimes postulate abstract “covert” representations that do not have any morpho-phonological reflexes in the surface word string. Little is known as to whether and how such representations are constructed in language comprehension and production. In this talk, I will examine the processing of Mandarin wh-in-situ questions. Drawing on data from production, eyetracking-reading, and the speed-accuracy tradeoff paradigm, I will address two questions: (i) Does the parser construct a covert non-local syntactic dependency in processing? (ii) What is the parsing mechanism that supports such non-local dependencies? In particular, how is a “silent” scope position retrieved from memory? The current data suggests that the parser indeed constructs a covert dependency in real time processing, but the retrieval of the scope position is supported by two distinct (maybe simultaneous) mechanisms: one that relies on associative cue-based memory retrieval, and the other (cyclically) searches through intermediate clause edge positions.
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April 21st, 2015

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LFRG 4/13 - Zuzanna Fuchs  

Speaker: Zuzanna Fuchs (Harvard)
Title: pro-drop in Coordinated-WH Questions: Further Challenges for Multidominance and Ellipsis
Time: Monday 4/13, 12-1:30
Place: 32-D831

Languages vary as to the freedom with which they coordinate WH-expressions in coordinated-WH questions (CWHs) like When and where is the party?, which differ from familiar multiple-WH questions in the that they contain the conjunction and between two WH-expressions and require a multiclausal analysis (although monoclausal analyses have been suggested (Kazenin 2000, Liptak 2011)). On one end of the spectrum, English-like languages are very limited in their CWHs, while on the other end, Polish and its relatives allow free WH-coordination in CWHs. There seems to be little consensus in the literature as to what the underlying structure of these constructions is, with the two most prominent analyses being ellipsis (Giannakidou & Merchant 1998, Tomaszewicz 2010) and multidominance (Gracanin-Yuksek 2007, 2009).

In this talk, I present ongoing work on what licenses CWHs and whether multidominance and ellipsis can account for these properties. In particular, I focus on the observation — based on comparing Polish, English, and Italian CWHs — that the availability of pro-drop and/or optional transitivity seems to correlate with the degree of freedom to which languages allow CWHs with argument WH-expressions: If an argument can be somehow null in the main clause (as pro or as the missing argument of an optionally transitive verb), it can appear as a WH-phrase in a CWH. Independent analyses of seeming pro-drop in Italian (Cardinaletti 1994, Brandi & Cordin 1989) and Slavic (Gribanova 2013) allow us to more precisely compare the two main approaches to CWH. I demonstrate that the English, Italian, and Polish facts introduce further challenges to multidominance (ex. violations of the Constraint on Sharing (Gracanin-Yuksek 2013) by pro and problems with WH extraction) and ellipsis (issues of parallelism and coindexation).

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April 13th, 2015

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Phonology Circle 4/13 - Patrick Jones  

Speaker: Patrick Jones (Harvard)
Title: Underlying falling tones in Interlacustrine Bantu, and their implications for Meeussen’s rule
Date: Monday, April 13th
Time: 5-6:30
Place: 32D-831

In this talk, I argue that in a number of Bantu languages spoken near Lake Victoria – namely Luganda, Shi, Kinande, Haya, and Runyankore – the basic underlying tone contrast is between a falling tone and no tone (i.e. H͡L vs. Ø), rather than the H vs. Ø contrast normally posited for other Bantu languages. Evidence for this comes from a range of different phenomena which require the presence of a L tone following a H tone. These include surface falling tones (Luganda, Shi, Kinande, Haya, Runyankore), downstep (Luganda, Shi), leftward H tone shift (Kinande), and the blocking of intonational H tones (Luganda, Kinande). All of these phenomena, I argue, may be viewed as consequences of different repairs of underlying H͡L.

Positing underlying H͡L requires that certain well known tonal processes be re-examined. In particular, Meeussen’s Rule – normally described as a process by which H lowers to L (or deletes entirely) after another H tone (H-H → H-L) – must be recast as a rule in which a falling tone simplifies to L either following another falling tone (H͡L-H͡L → H͡L-L) or simply following a L tone (L-H͡L → L-L) (Hyman and Katamba, 1993). I argue that this latter reformulation, rather than being an unwarranted complication of Meeussne’s Rule, actually produces a number of positive results, allowing us to explain cases of tonal lowering which are otherwise entirely mysterious. These results, which are entirely independent of the original motivations for underlying HL, provide strong additional support for it.

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April 13th, 2015

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Syntax Square 4/14 - Athulya Aravind  

Speaker: Athulya Aravind (MIT)
Title: Minimality and wh-licensing in Malayalam
Time: Tuesday 4/14, 1pm-2pm
Place: 32-D461

This talk discusses long-distance wh-licensing asymmetries in Malayalam, a wh-in-situ language. The licensing of a matrix scope taking, embedded wh-phrase depends on whether or not the clause containing it undergoes movement. I will argue that despite not involving two instances of movement, the configuration of interest is parallel to remnant movement. Since Müller (1996), it has been known that remnant movement is disallowed if the two movement steps are of the same type, an effect that has been argued to fall out from the Minimal Link Condition (e.g. Kitahara 1997). I show that a generalized minimality constraint on Agree can derive both the Malayalam wh-licensing patterns and the restriction on remnant movement. If the proposal is on the right track, the Malayalam data provide crucial evidence for the simple and intuitive generalization that all probe-goal relations, of which movement happens to be a special case, are subject to minimality conditions.
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April 13th, 2015

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Ling Lunch 4/16 - Maria del Mar Bassa Vanrell (MIT/ UT Austin)  

Speaker: Maria del Mar Bassa Vanrell (MIT/ UT Austin)
Title: One or two UNTILs? The case of single-UNTIL languages
Time: Thurs 4/16, 12:30-1:45
Place: 32-D461

Abstract: One or two UNTILs? The case of single-UNTIL languages

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April 13th, 2015

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Colloquium 4/17 - Aditi Lahiri  

Speaker: Aditi Lahiri (University of Oxford)
Title: In support of asymmetric phonological representations
Date: Friday, April 17th
Time: 3:30-5:00p
Place: 32-141

Word recognition has less impediments than one might expect although no word can ever be pronounced in an identical fashion even by the same speaker. I would like to defend our model, the Featurally Underspecified Lexicon (FUL), which claims that variation in speech can be resolved by assuming that the representation of words is phonologically sparse. The assumption is that privative underspecified feature representations, which can account for a number of asymmetries typical and pertinacious in synchronic and diachronic phonological systems, are also responsible for asymmetries at the onset of word recognition. The acoustic signal is converted into phonological features by roughly defined acoustic parameters which are then mapped on to the lexical representation using a three-way matching logic ranging from a perfect match, no-mismatch to mismatch along with a coherence metric which is used to evaluate the ‘strength’ of the matching features. The talk will present a phonological sketch of the model along with evidence from a series of psycholinguistic and neurolinguistic experiments from German, English and Bengali. .
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April 13th, 2015

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LFRG 4/6 - Mia Nussbaum  

Speaker: Mia Nussbaum (MIT)
Title: On the difference between only and just
Time: Monday, April 6, 2015
Place: 32-D808

In some cases, the exclusive particles only and just appear to be interchangeable:

(1) Mary (only/just) read War and Peace.
(2) (Only/just) three professors came to the party.

In this talk, I’ll be taking a look at some contexts where they diverge, foremost among them the phenomenon of “minimal sufficiency readings” in conditionals.

(3) If just three people get on the boat, it will sink.
(4) #If only three people get on the boat, it will sink.

In addition to the somewhat implausible reading where three people will sink the boat but four people might not, the sentence with just in (3) has an interpretation that’s unavailable with only. This is the minimal sufficiency reading, which can be paraphrased as “If at least three people (which is not a lot) get on the boat, it will sink.”

I will look at some arguments for and against two competing analyses of minimal sufficiency readings: Grosz (2011)’s lexical-ambiguity hypothesis, and Coppock and Beaver (2014)’s scope hypothesis.

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April 6th, 2015

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Phonology Circle 4/6 - Chingting Chuang  

Speaker: Chingting Chuang (National Tsinghua University)
Title: How does circular chain shift tone sandhi evolve?
Date: Monday, April 6th
Time: 5-6:30
Place: 32D-831

Penang Hokkien (PH) is a representative variety of Southern Min Chinese spoken by the descendants of emigrants from the Chinese province of Fuijian in Northern Malaysia. In previous studies (Chang & Chuang, 2012) and (Chuang, Chang, & Hsieh, 2013), it has been observed that the original tonal system remains intact among older speakers, especially the famous chainshift tone sandhi rules (see Chen 2000), while language change occurs among younger speakers. The goals of this talk are twofold: first, we examined an interesting phenomenon of synchronic reorganization of tonal inventories by obtaining data from more speakers and more age groups. Our results conform to previous results that tonal reorganization can be shown in three stages and the pace of sound change differs by syntactic position. Second, we are going to show that tonal variation in stage 2 (intermediate stage) is context-sensitive. Speakers are sensitive to the neighboring tones when they choose a variant such that the pattern of consecutive F tones is dispreferred by stage 2 learners.

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April 6th, 2015

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Syntax Square 4/7 - Kenyon Branan  

Speaker: Kenyon Branan (MIT)
Title:Attraction at a distance: A’-movement and Case
Time: Tuesday 4/7, 1-2pm
Place: 32-D461

This talk is about how A’-movement of a subject is licensed (or not) by the structural position of the CP from which subject extraction takes place. I adopt a dependent approach to Case and Agreement, following Marantz (1991); Preminger (2011;2014). In this approach to modeling Case, Case is a reflection of structural relations between objects which participate in the Case system; in contrast to an Agree-based approach to Case modeling, in which Case reflects Agreement relations between objects which participate in the Case system. I assume that CPs participate in the Case system. I argue that a CP in a dependent Case configuration licenses subject extraction, but a CP in a non-depedent Case configuration does not. This provides a unified account for several otherwise mysterious—and understudied—subject/object extraction asymmetries in English.
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April 6th, 2015

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Ling Lunch 4/9 - Juliet Stanton and Sam Zukoff  

Speaker: Juliet Stanton and Sam Zukoff (MIT)
Title: Prosodic effects of segmental correspondence
Time: Thurs 4/9, 12:30-1:45
Place: 32-D461

In this talk, we examine how extensions of Correspondence Theory (McCarthy & Prince 1995) can be used to explain a class of misapplication effects arising in reduplication and copy epenthesis. In these domains, we frequently see exceptional patterning in the assignment of phonological properties relating to prominence (i.e. stress, pitch, length). We will argue that, in order to explain these effects, the phonological grammar must have the following two properties:

(i) The existence of a Correspondence relation among surface segments, arising under particular structural configurations, and

(ii) Output-Output faithfulness constraints that require identity among surface correspondents for prosodic properties.

We show that a grammar with these properties is sufficient and necessary to generate a range of effects, many of which have heretofore failed to receive satisfactory explanations in the literature:

(i) Stress-matching in Ngan’gityemerri reduplication (Reid 2011)

(ii) Sub-categorical durational matching between copy vowels and their hosts in Scots Gaelic (Bosch & de Jong 1997) and Hocank (e.g. Miner 1989)

(iii) Opaque interactions between copy epenthesis and stress placement in Selayarese (e.g. Broselow 2001), Tahitian (Bickmore 1995), and Hocank (e.g. Miner 1989)

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April 6th, 2015

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LFRG 3/30 - Yimei Xiang  

Speaker: Yimei Xiang (Harvard)
Title: Number-marking in wh-questions: Uniqueness and mention-some
Time: Monday, 3/30, 12-1:30
Place: 32-D831
Abstract: plq_lfrg_abstract

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March 30th, 2015

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Phonology Circle 3/30 - Juliet Stanton  

Speaker: Juliet Stanton (MIT)
Title: Environmental shielding is contrast preservation
Date: Monday, March 30th
Time: 5-6:30
Place: 32D-831

The term “environmental shielding” refers to a class of processes where the phonetic realization of a nasal stop depends on its vocalic context. In Kaiwá (Tupí; Bridgeman 1961), for example, plain nasal stops are realized as prenasalized stops before oral vowels (i.e. /ma/ > [mba]) but as nasal stops before nasal vowels (i.e. /mã/ > [mã]). Herbert (1986:199) claims that the purpose of shielding is to protect a contrast between oral and nasal vowels. If Kaiwá /ma/ were realized as [ma], without the intervening [b], [a] would likely carry some degree of perseveratory nasal coarticulation and be less distinct from its nasal counterpart /ã/ as a result.

This paper provides several arguments that Herbert’s position is correct – that environmental shielding is contrast preservation, and that any successful analysis of shielding must make explicit reference to contrast. Results from a survey of over 150 languages reveal a stark asymmetry in the typology of shielding: all languages that exhibit shielding also license a contrast in vocalic nasality (see also Herbert 1986:219). In addition, further asymmetries within the typology mirror known cross-linguistic asymmetries in the direction and extent of nasal coarticulation. I propose an analysis referencing auditory factors that predicts these asymmetries, and show that its broader predictions, though not yet fully investigated, appear to be on the right track.

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March 30th, 2015

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Syntax Square 3/31 - Elise Newman  

Speaker: Elise Newman (MIT)
Title: Extended EPP: A New Approach to English Auxiliaries and Sentential Negation
Time: Tuesday, March 31, 1-2pm
Place: 32-D461

Abstract: Extended EPP: A New Approach to English Auxiliaries and Sentential Negation

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March 30th, 2015

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Ling Lunch 4/2 - Cassandra Chapman  

Speaker: Cassandra Chapman (McMaster University/ MIT)
Title: Restricting the antecedent domain using focus: New evidence from English DPs
Time: Thurs 4/2, 12:30-1:45
Place: 32-D461

In this talk, I investigate a previously overlooked use of the English morphological form one, which occurs with the definite determiner and an overt noun, i.e. “the one dress”. I show that these constructions have a distinct interpretation from numeral “one” constructions and definite descriptions. Similarly to a subset of definite descriptions, the referent in “the one” N constructions must have an antecedent in the context. However, they differ from definite descriptions because the context cannot restrict the domain to a set that contains only one individual. I also show that in “the one” N constructions, either “one” or a modifier, e.g. “blue”, must be Focus-marked.

I argue that the English data provide empirical support for a covert restrictor variable, R (Bartošová, accepted; von Fintel and Heim, 2011), in the DP structure. I propose that R ensures that there is a salient antecedent in the common ground, in a similar way to Rooth’s ~ operator. Unlike Rooth’s ~ operator, which requires a propositional antecedent, I argue that R is of a flexible semantic type (cf. Schwarzschild 1999’s compositional notion of givenness). Specifically, I propose that R adjoins to Focus-marked maximal projections, and that its type depends on the semantic type of its sister. I argue that the introduction of a covert restrictor variable into the structure of English DPs not only allows us to provide a unified analysis of the different anaphoric readings of one but that it may also shed light on how we might understand Rooth’s ~ operator, and how we might relate Rooth’s theory of focus to Schwarzschild’s theory of givenness.

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March 30th, 2015

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Special Tuesday afternoon talk: Jan-Wouter Zwart  

Speaker: Jan-Wouter Zwart (Groningen)
Title: Revisiting complementizer agreement
Date: Tuesday, March 31
Time: 5:30-7:00
Place: 32D-461

In this talk I intend to return to the phenomenon of complementizer agreement as found in (dialects of) Dutch, Frisian and German, one of the research topics during my stay at MIT in 1991. This phenomenon played an important role in early minimalist analyses of verb movement and subject-verb agreement and has since gained added significance as providing evidence for the presence of (uninterpretable, unvalued) phi-features in C, consistent with the idea that even these inflectional features, typically associated with T (or with Agr in earlier minimalism), really derive from the phase head C. I argue, however, that complementizer agreement has many peculiar properties that suggest that its origin lies elsewhere, namely in the analogical generalization of an auxiliary-cum-weak subject pronoun pattern (as argued earlier by Goeman 1980). If we look at the phenomena in detail, it appears that the morphological and distributional properties of complementizer agreement need to refer to interface processes outside of narrow syntax, suggesting that the phenomenon cannot serve as a model for core cases of syntactic agreement, currently described in terms of Agree. If so, not all agreement phenomena can be reduced to the agency of unvalued features probing for a goal with valued counterparts to those features. I will also reflect on the consequences of this for the idea that the features relevant to subject-verb agreement derive from the phase head C, suggesting instead that these core cases of agreement be described in terms of the minimally needed structure building mechanism of narrow syntax, and the asymmetric relations of dependency that it yields.
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March 30th, 2015

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LFRG 3/16 - Benjamin Storme  

Speaker: Benjamin Storme (MIT)
Title: Aspectual asymmetries across tenses
Time: Monday, 3/16, 12-1:30
Place: 32-D831

It has been observed that languages typically have a richer aspectual morphology (in particular, to express the perfective/progressive distinction shown in (1) in English) in the past than in the present (for instance, Comrie 1976).

(1) a. At 8 pm, I was jumping. (progressive)
b. At 8 pm, I jumped. (perfective)

In this talk, I discuss two approaches to this asymmetry, (i) a semantic approach, where the absence of a perfective/progressive distinction in the present tense corresponds to a semantic incompatibility between present tense and perfective aspect, and (ii) a syncretism approach, where the perfective/progressive distinction exists in the present tense, but only covertly. I argue in favor of the second option based on French data. I then propose an explanation of (i) why syncretism happens preferentially in the present tense and (ii) why the progressive is used as the underspecified form in case of syncretism.

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March 16th, 2015

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Phonology Circle 3/16 - Lilla Magyar  

Speaker: Lilla Magyar (MIT)
Title: The role of universal markedness in Hungarian gemination processes
Date: Monday, March 16th
Time: 5-6:30
Place: 32D-831

Gemination in loanwords is a cross-linguistically widespread phenomenon attested in such languages as Japanese (Kubozono et al. 2008), Finnish (Karvonen 2009), Italian (Passino 2004), Telugu (Krishnamurti & Gwynn 1985) and Hungarian (Nádasdy 1989; Törkenczy 1989 and Kertész 2006), amongst many others. The process involves lengthening of a singleton consonant which is preceded by a short (stressed) vowel in the source word, even when gemination does not have an orthographic reflex in the source word. None of the source languages allow phonetic geminates and all of the borrowing languages do. Furthermore, none of the borrowing languages require geminates phonotactically in the positions where lengthening happens in loanwords.

In Hungarian, borrowings from English and German (and occasionally, from French) participate in this process. The propensity of loanwords to undergo gemination depends on the position of the consonant. Gemination is most predictable in monosyllables (e.g. fitt (Eng. fit)). In other contexts, it primarily applies when the consonant in question is spelt with a double consonant letter in the source word (e.g. koffer (G. Koffer ‘suitcase’)) or when the word ends with -er (e.g. szvetter (Eng. sweater)).

Apart from position, consonant class also determines whether a consonant is likely to be geminated or not. Even though practically all consonants can be geminated in the native Hungarian phonology, not all consonants can undergo gemination in loanwords, and even those which can, do so to different degrees. The ranking of consonants undergoing gemination in loanwords lines up with hierarchies of universal geminate markedness, which potentially supports the hypothesis that Hungarian speakers are drawing on their knowledge of this universal hierarchy. However, before we can conclude this, we must ask whether a less direct mechanism could be at play: phonetic pressures shape the native lexicon, and learners learn the preference from that.

The goal of the present study is to test the following hypotheses: (1) Even native speakers of Hungarian (a language which allows all kinds of geminates) have some awareness of universal geminate markedness. (2) This knowledge comes from the native lexicon: the frequency distribution of geminates in the native phonology reflects patterns of universal markedness. (3) These patterns can be learned from the native Hungarian lexicon based on phonotactic generalisations.

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March 16th, 2015

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Syntax Square 3/17 - Coppe van Urk  

Speaker: Coppe van Urk (MIT)
Title:Pronoun copying in Dinka and the realization of copies
Time: Tuesday 3/17, 12:30-1:45
Place: 32-D461

In a number of cases, pronouns seem to be able to spell out more articulated copies of lexical DPs. This has been argued for resumptive pronouns in many languages (e.g. Aoun et al. 2001; Boeckx 2003; Sichel 2014) and also for clitic doubling, subject doubling, and wh-copying (e.g. Felser 2004; Bruening 2006; Holmberg and Nikanne 2008; Harizanov, to appear). In this talk, I present further evidence for this claim from a pattern of pronoun copying in the Nilotic language Dinka (South Sudan). In Dinka, long-distance extraction of any plural noun phrase, regardless of person or complexity, is accompanied by the appearance of a 3rd person plural pronoun at the edge of each verb phrase on the path of movement. I show that similar number asymmetries are attested in resumption and subject doubling. On the basis of this, I propose that copies may undergo partial spell-out, targeting just the phi-layer, resulting in a pronoun. This allows us to connect the asymmetry in Dinka pronoun copying to a general asymmetry in how number is spelled out in the language.
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March 16th, 2015

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Ling Lunch 3/19 - Bradley Larson & Nicholas Longenbaugh  

Speaker: Bradley Larson (Harvard) & Nicholas Longenbaugh (MIT)
Title: Subject/Object Parity in Niuean and the Labeling Algorithm
Time: Thurs 3/19, 12:30-1:45
Place: 32-D461

We present novel data from the Polynesian language Niuean, based on recent fieldwork, that shows a lack of many expected structural asymmetries between subjects and objects. This structural parity runs counter to traditional theoretical and empirical differences between subjects and objects. For example, languages like English show ECP effects such that operations over objects are generally freer than those over subjects, and languages like Chol specifically privilege operations over subjects (Coon 2010). In order to account for the Niuean in a way that does not make incorrect or ad hoc predictions for other types of languages, we develop notions from Chomsky’s (2013) labeling algorithm and argue for a lack of relevant labeling in the domain where subjects and objects are potential operands.
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March 16th, 2015

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LFRG 3/9 - Aron Hirsch  

Speaker: Aron Hirsch (MIT)
Title: Conjoining quantifiers
Time: Monday 3/9, 12-1:30
Place: 32-D831

The examples in (1) are straightforward to interpret if movement leaves in situ a variable (e.g. Heim & Kratzer 1998). I will show, however, that they pose a challenge under the well-motivated view that movement leaves in situ copies that are converted into definite descriptions by Fox’s (1999, 2002) trace conversion.

(1) a. I talked to John and every student.
b. I talked to every student but no professor. (due to Kai von Fintel)

I will explore possible analyses for (1a) and (1b) compatible with trace conversion, and suggest that the most promising solution involves conjunction reduction. In the final part of the presentation, I will discuss evidence which contradicts a classic variable-based approach, and supports the trace conversion-based approach suggested.

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March 9th, 2015

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Phonology Circle 3/9 - Hemanga Dutta and Michael Kenstowicz  

Speaker: Hemanga Dutta (EFLU / MIT) and Michael Kenstowicz (MIT)
Title: Laryngeal Contrasts in Assamese
Date: Monday, March 9th
Time: 5-6:30
Place: 32-D461

The Indic languages are well known for the four-way /p,b,ph,bh/ contrast in their stop systems that freely combines [±voice] and [±spread gl] at three points of articulation. In this presentation we examine how these contrasts are expressed in Assamese in four contexts: prevocalic, presonorant, word-final, and preobstruent. Our principal finding is that aspirated stops modify their minor point of articulation in word-final position to replicate aspiration as noise either in the release of the stop or during the constriction while in the preobstruent context aspiration is largely lost leading to neutralization with the plain stops. In addition, the voicing contrast is also largely neutralized in preobstruent position. These modifications are analyzed in the licensing by cue framework of Steriade (1997, 2009).

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March 9th, 2015

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Ling Lunch 3/12 - Coppe van Urk  

Speaker: Coppe van Urk (MIT)
Title: Movement in Dinka
Time: Thurs 3/12, 12:30-1:45
Place: 32-D461

In this talk, I examine the syntax of phrasal movement in Dinka (Nilotic; South Sudan). Most theoretical approaches to syntactic structure in some way distinguish at least three types of displacement: A-movement, A’-movement, and intermediate movement steps of a successive-cyclic dependency. I show that, in Dinka, these three movement types make use of the same two positions in the clause, one at the edge of the clause and one at the edge of the verb phrase, and have the same morphosyntactic repercussions for verb-second, voice, case, agreement, and binding. On the basis of these facts, I argue that all types of phrasal movement are established in the same way, as the reflex of a featural relation between a probe and a goal (Chomsky 1995, 2000, 2001), with the differences between them deriving only from independent properties of the features involved. In this framework, we can view Dinka as a language in which different movement-driving features act in unison, by virtue of being merged on the same head. After developing this argument, I discuss some of the ways in which we might derive the differences between A- and A’-movement, drawing on proposals by Takahashi and Hulsey (2009), Sauerland (1998, 2004), and Ruys (2000), among others.
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March 9th, 2015

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LFRG 3/2 - Despina Oikonomou  

Speaker: Despina Oikonomou (MIT)
Title: The interpretation of alos ‘other’ in Modern Greek
Time: Monday, March 2, 12-1:30pm
Place: 32-D831
Abstract: see Despina_abstract

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March 2nd, 2015

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Phonology Circle 3/2 - Naomi Francis  

Speaker: Naomi Francis (MIT)
Title: A foot-free approach to Nanti stress
Date: Monday, February 2nd
Time: 5-6:30
Place: 32-D461

Nanti (Kampa, Peru) has an intricate stress system that is sensitive to syllable weight, syllable shape, and vowel quality. Crowhurst and Michael (2005) capture this complex system in a foot-based framework. In light of recent work (e.g. Gordon 2002) that has demonstrated that it is possible to derive a wide range of quantity-insensitive stress patterns without making use of feet, I will attempt to extend this foot-free approach to account for Nanti’s stress system.

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March 2nd, 2015

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Syntax Square 3/3 - Martin Walkow  

Speaker: Martin Walkow (MIT)
Title: Locating variation in person restrictions: When they arise and how to get out of them
Date/Time:Tuesday, March 3, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461

Two analyses have emerged from work on variation in person based restrictions on agreement and cliticization. Cyclic Agree analyses (Bejar 2003,Bejar & Rezac 2009) locate the variation in (i) the feature specification of probes, (ii) the syntactic position of probes, and as a function thereof, (ii) the locality pattern of Agree. On the other hand, Multiple Agree analyses (Anagnostopoulou 2005, Nevins 2007, 2011) assume that both the specification of the probes and the locality pattern are constant, but that variation arises from the availability of different syntactic operations in different languages. Nevins (2007, 2011) in particular argues that the operation MultipleAgree is parameterized differently in different languages.

The two approaches have not been applied to the same data though. While Cyclic Agree has been applied to variation in person-restrictions between subjects and objects, Multiple Agree has been applied to restrictions on combinations of internal arguments known as the Person Case Constraint (PCC, Bonet 1994).

This talk shows that Cyclic Agree can also account for the variation between two kinds of PCC, the Strong PCC (Bonet 1994) and the Ultrastrong PCC (Nevins 2007) via different specifications of the probe. Key to the analysis is the observation that the PCC can be understood as the lower direct object (DO) bleeding person Agree with the higher recipient, the reverse of what is typically assumed.

Cyclic Agree’s flexibility of deriving person restrictions in different syntactic structures also offers a better understanding of a second type of variation. Languages that show the same types of PCC can differ in the alternative strategies they use to realize person combinations banned by the PCC. This is demonstrated for Catalan (Bonet 1991) and Classical Arabic, which both show have strong and ultrastrong PCC speakers but differ in the which argument is targeted for alternative realization in PCC-violating person combinations. This difference will be derived from the different underlying structures in which the PCC arrises in the two languages.

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March 2nd, 2015

Posted in Talks