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The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Events at MIT, Fall 2014  

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Talks

Linguistics colloquia for the academic year  

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

Fall 2014:

Spring 2015:

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September 2nd, 2014

Posted in Talks

LFRG 9/4 - Dorothy Ahn  

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

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

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

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

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

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September 2nd, 2014

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LingLunch 9/4 - Roman Feiman  

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

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

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

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September 2nd, 2014

Posted in Talks

Semantics Talks 6/3 - Patrick Elliott and Yasutada Sudo  

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

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

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

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

(Joint work with Benjamin Spector.)

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

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June 3rd, 2014

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Semantics Talks 6/5 - Matthijs Westera and Ayaka Sugawara  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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June 3rd, 2014

Posted in Talks

Summer Conference Round-Up, Part 2  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Talks

Phonology Circle 5/21 - Manchester Practice Talks  

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

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

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May 19th, 2014

Posted in Talks

LFRG 5/29 - Jacopo Romoli  

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

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

(Joint work with Clemens Mayr.)

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

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May 19th, 2014

Posted in Talks

No LFRG this week  

There will be no LFRG meeting this week.

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May 12th, 2014

Posted in Talks

Phonology Circle 5/12 - Suyeon Yun  

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

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

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May 12th, 2014

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Ling-Lunch 5/15 - Wataru Uegaki  

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

(This is a practice talk for SALT.)

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

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

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May 12th, 2014

Posted in Talks

ESSL 5/15 - Benjamin Storme  

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

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

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

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

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

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May 12th, 2014

Posted in Talks

LFRG 5/5 - Chris O’Brien  

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

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

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May 5th, 2014

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

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

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

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May 5th, 2014

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Ling-Lunch 5/8 - Sasha Podobryaev  

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

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

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

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May 5th, 2014

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ESSL 5/8 - Teresa Guasti  

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

The full abstract is available (pdf).

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May 5th, 2014

Posted in Talks

Linguistics Colloquium 5/9 - Julie Legate  

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

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

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May 5th, 2014

Posted in Talks

LFRG 4/28 - Roman Feiman  

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

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

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April 28th, 2014

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Syntax Square 4/29 - Mia Nussbaum  

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

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

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April 28th, 2014

Posted in Talks

Ling-Lunch 5/1 - Norvin Richards  

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

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

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April 28th, 2014

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Linguistics Colloquium 5/2 - Matt Gordon  

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

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

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April 28th, 2014

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Phonology Circle 4/22 - Ryo Masuda  

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

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

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April 22nd, 2014

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Ling-Lunch 4/24 - Tianshan Dai  

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

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

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April 22nd, 2014

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LFRG 4/24 - Benjamin Storme  

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

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

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

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

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April 22nd, 2014

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Colloquium 4/25 - Richard Kayne  

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

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

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

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

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

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April 22nd, 2014

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LFRG 4/14 - Cory Bill  

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

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

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April 14th, 2014

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Syntax Square 4/15 - Ayaka Sugawara  

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

(Joint work with Ken Wexler.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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April 14th, 2014

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Ling-Lunch 4/17 - Ciro Greco  

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

Please see the full abstract here (pdf).

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April 14th, 2014

Posted in Talks

No ESSL this week  

There will be no ESSL session this week.

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April 14th, 2014

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Ling-Lunch Special Session 4/19 - Caroline Heycock  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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April 14th, 2014

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LFRG 4/7 - Justin Khoo  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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April 7th, 2014

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Phonology Circle 4/7 - Benjamin Storme  

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

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

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

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

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

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April 7th, 2014

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Syntax Square 4/8 - Annie Gagliardi  

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

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

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April 7th, 2014

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Ling-Lunch 4/10 - Mark Baker  

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

(Joint work with Ümit Atlamaz)

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

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April 7th, 2014

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ESSL/LFRG 4/10 - Manuel Kriz  

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

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

(1) John read the books.

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

(2) Every student read the books.

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

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April 7th, 2014

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Syntax Square 4/1 - Ruth Brillman and Aron Hirsch  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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March 31st, 2014

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Ling-Lunch 4/3 - Aron Hirsch  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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March 31st, 2014

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Colloquium 4/4 - Adamantios Gafos  

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

Title/Abstract to be announced.

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March 31st, 2014

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LFRG 3/17 - CUNY poster presentations (encores)  

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

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

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Phonology Circle 3/17 - Gillian Gallagher  

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

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

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

(Welcome back, Gillian!)

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March 16th, 2014

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Syntax Square 3/18 - Ted Levin  

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

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

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March 16th, 2014

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Ling-Lunch 3/20 - Adam Szczegielniak  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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March 16th, 2014

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ESSL/LFRG 3/20 - Yimei Xiang  

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

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

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

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March 16th, 2014

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LFRG 3/10 - Manuel Kriz  

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

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

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

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

(2) Every girl read the books.

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

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March 10th, 2014

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Phonology Circle 3/10 - Snejana Iovtcheva  

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

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

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

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

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

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March 10th, 2014

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Ling-Lunch 3/13 - Hadas Kotek  

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

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

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March 10th, 2014

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Colloquium 3/14 - Marcel den Dikken  

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

Please see the full abstract here (pdf).

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

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March 10th, 2014

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LFRG 3/3 - Michael Yoshitaka Erlewine  

Speaker: Michael Yoshitaka Erlewine
Title: Focus and reconstruction
Time: Monday, 12-1:30
Room: 66-148

The focus operator ‘only’ must c-command its focus associate at LF, and therefore cannot associate with material which has moved out of its scope. In most cases, this is true even if scope reconstruction of the moved associate into a position under ‘only’s scope at LF is independently possible. I will discuss various potential solutions to this puzzle, and their own problems. Audience participation welcome.
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March 3rd, 2014

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Phonology Circle 3/3 - Juliet Stanton  

Speaker: Juliet Stanton
Title: Factorial typology and accentual faithfulness
Date/Time: Monday, Mar 3, 5:30pm
Location: 32-D831

(This is a practice talk for WCCFL.)

In many languages, the phonology of morphologically complex words is influenced by their morphological composition. This influence can be manifested as accentual faithfulness, where the stress of a complex word resembles the stress of its base or another related word. The question I address is the following: what types of constraints evaluate accentual faithfulness? I show that a modified version of Benua’s (1997) theory of Base-Derivative (BD) correspondence models accentual faithfulness effects in a large group of accentually similar Australian languages, and makes accurately restrictive predictions regarding the broader typology of BD correspondence.

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March 3rd, 2014

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Syntax Square 3/4 - Laura Grestenberger  

Speaker: Laura Grestenberger (Harvard)
Title: Two voice mismatch puzzles in Sanskrit and Greek
Date/Time: Tuesday, Mar 4, 1-2p
Location: 32-D461

Sanskrit and Greek both have binary voice systems in which active morphology alternatives with non-active (middle) morphology. In this talk I will present two problems in the morphosyntax of these languages, both of which concern exponence of voice morphology in unexpected syntactic environments (“voice mismatches”).

The first one comes from deponent verbs, which take non-active morphology, but syntactically and semantically behave exactly like active agentive verbs. The second problem arises in contexts in which a distinct passive morpheme is available. Contrary to what is expected in standard approaches to Voice, this passive morpheme obligatorily co-occurs with middle morphology (Sanskrit) or active morphology (Greek). I propose that both puzzles can be solved by adopting an approach in which only active and middle are values of vP, while passive is a distinct functional head. In this approach, only passive is valency-changing, while active/middle are sensitive to their syntactic environment but do not operate on it. I will show that this predicts the distribution of active and middle morphology in languages like Sanskrit and Greek, as well as where potential mismatches can occur.

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March 3rd, 2014

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Ling-Lunch 3/6 - Ted Gibson  

Speaker: Ted Gibson
Title: A pragmatic account of complexity in definite Antecedent-Contained-Deletion relative clauses
Date/Time: Thursday, Mar 6, 12:30-1:45p
Location: 32-D461

(Joint work with Pauline Jacobson, Peter Graff, Kyle Mahowald, Evelina Fedorenko, and Steven T. Piantadosi.)

Hackl, Koster-Hale & Varvoutis (2012; HKV) provide data that suggest that in a null context, antecedent-contained-deletion (ACD) relative clause structures modifying a quantified object noun phrase (NP; such as every doctor) are easier to process than those modifying a definite object NP (such as the doctor). HKV argue that this pattern of results supports a “quantifier-raising” (QR) analysis of both ACD structures and quantified NPs in object position: under the account they advocate, both ACD resolution and quantified NPs in object position require movement of the object NP to a higher syntactic position. The processing advantage for quantified object NPs in ACD is hypothesized to derive from the fact that – at the point where ACD resolution must take place – the quantified NP has already undergone QR whereas this is not the case for definite NPs. Although in other work it is shown that HKV’s reading time analyses are flawed, such that the critical effects are not significant (Gibson, Mahowald & Piantadosi, submitted), the effect in HKV’s acceptability rating is robust. But HKV’s interpretation is problematic. We present five experiments that provide evidence for an alternative, pragmatic, explanation for HKV’s observation. In particular, we argue that the low acceptability of the the / ACD condition is largely due to a strong pressure in the null context to use a competing form, by adding also or same. This pressure does not exist with quantified NPs either because the competing form is absent (*every same) or because the addition of also actually degrades the sentence. In support of this interpretation, we show that the difference between the the / ACD and every / ACD conditions (a) persists even when the relative clause contains no ellipsis and thus nothing is forcing QR; (b) disappears when either also or same is added; and (c) disappears in supportive contexts. Together, these findings show that HKV’s QR hypothesis should be rejected in favor of a pragmatic account.

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March 3rd, 2014

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LFRG 2/24 - Aron Hirsch  

Speaker: Aron Hirsch
Title: Covert vs. overt exhaustification and polarity mismatch
Date/Time: Monday, February 24, 12-1:30p
Location: 66-148

When can the answer to a constituent question be interpreted as exhaustive, and when can’t it? This paper establishes a link between exhaustivity and polarity, both for covert exhaustification with exh and overt exhaustification with only. I report two sets of experimental data. Exp. 1 shows that an answer can be parsed with exh only if it and the question match in polarity (following Spector 2005, Uegaki 2013): (1/2a) can be interpreted exhaustively; (1/2b) can only be interpreted as partial answers.

(1) Which of the officers have a beard?
a. (exh) Ryan has a beard.
b. (*exh) Ryan doesn’t have a beard.
c. Only Ryan doesn’t have a beard.

(2) Which of the officers don’t have a beard?
a. (exh) Ryan doesn’t have a beard.
b. (*exh) Ryan does have a beard.
c. Only Ryan does have a beard.

Exp. 2 shows that only has a less restricted distribution than exh, but still shows subtle effects of polarity-sensitivity: only can exhaustify an answer which mismatches the question in polarity, (1/2c), but only if the dialog takes place in the right kind of context. I argue that exh and only both carry a presupposition which requires polarity match. When only occurs with polarity-mismatch, a question of the opposite polarity to the question actually asked is accommodated. I claim that accommodation incurs a cost that economy considerations regulate. Economy differentiates between exh and only, as well as between different contexts with only to predict the full distribution of the operators.

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February 24th, 2014

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Phonology Circle 2/24 - Michelle Fullwood  

Speaker: Michelle Fullwood
Title: Asymmetric correlations between English verb transitivity and stress
Date/Time: Monday, Feb 24, 5:30p
Location: 32-D831

It is well-known that lexical categories affect phonological behavior (Smith 2011). Perhaps the best-known example is that English disyllabic nouns are likely to be trochaic (94%), while disyllabic verbs are likely to be iambic (69%) (Chomsky & Halle 1968, Kelly & Bock 1988). In this talk, I will show that the asymmetry goes further: English disyllabic intransitive verbs are more likely to be trochaic than transitive verbs, even after controlling for morphological category and syllabic profile. I then explore possible explanations for the asymmetry and sketch a grammar that, based on the influence of prosodic environments, would result in the observed stress patterns.

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February 24th, 2014

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Syntax Square 2/25 - Norvin Richards  

Speaker: Norvin Richards
Title: Contiguity Theory and Pied-Piping
Date/Time: Tuesday, Feb 25, 1-2p
Location: 32-D461

Cable (2007, 2010) argues, on the basis of data from Tlingit, that wh-questions involve three participants: an interrogative C, a wh-word, and a head Q, which is visible in Tlingit but invisible in English. In Cable’s account, QP standardly dominates the wh-word, and wh-movement is always of QP. The question of how much material pied-pipes under wh-movement, on Cable’s account, is essentially a question about the distribution of QP. Cable offers several conditions and parameters governing the distribution of QP.

I will try to derive Cable’s conditions on the distribution of QP from Contiguity Theory, a series of proposals about the interaction of syntax with phonology that I have been developing in recent work.

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February 24th, 2014

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ESSL 2/27 - Leon Bergen  

Time: Thursday, February 27, 5-6:30
Place: 32-D831
Speaker: Leon Bergen
Title: Pragmatic reasoning as semantic inference

A number of recent proposals have used techniques from game theory to formalize Gricean pragmatic reasoning (Franke, 2011; Jäger, 2013). In this talk, I will discuss two phenomena that pose fundamental challenges to game-theoretic accounts of pragmatics. The first are manner implicatures, such as the following contrast (Horn, 1984):

1) a. John started the car.
b. John got the car started.

While both sentences are (plausibly) truth-conditionally equivalent, 1b. receives a marked interpretation due to its more complex form. The second set of phenomena are embedded implicatures which violate Hurford’s constraint (Hurford, 1974; Chierchia, Fox, & Spector, 2009):

2) a. Some of the students passed the test.
b. Some or all of the students passed the test.
c. Some or most of the students passed the test.

Standard game-theoretic models do not have the resources to explain the contrast between 2b. and c., as these sentences differ neither in their semantic content nor in their syntactic complexity. In order to account for these phenomena, I propose a realignment of the division between semantic content and pragmatic content. Under this proposal, the semantic content of an utterance is not fixed independent of pragmatic inference; rather, pragmatic inference partially determines an utterance’s semantic content. This technique, called lexical uncertainty, derives both M-implicatures and the relevant embedded implicatures, and preserves the derivations of more standard implicatures.

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February 24th, 2014

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LingLunch 2/27: Hedde Zeijlstra  

Speaker: Hedde Zeijlstra (University of Goettingen) Title: Universal Quantifier NPIs and PPIs: Evidence for a convergent view on the landscape of polarity-sensitive elements Date/Time: Thursday Feb. 27, 12:30-1:45p Location: 32-D461

Most known NPIs and PPIs, such as NPI/PPI quantifiers over individuals (like the any and some-series in English) are existentials/indefinites and never universal quantifiers. No PPI or NPI meaning ‚everybody’ or ‚everything’ has been reported. However, in the domain of modals, the picture seems to be reverse. Most attested NPIs and PPIs are universal quantifiers (cf. Homer t.a., Iatridou & Zeijlstra 2013) . Why have Positive Polarity Items that are universal quantifiers only been attested in the domain of modal auxiliaries and never in the domain of quantifiers over individuals? I first argue that universal quantifier PPIs actually do exist, both in the domain of quantifiers over individuals and in the domain of quantifiers over possible worlds, as is predicted by the Kadman & Landman (1993) – Krifka (1995) – Chierchia (2006. 2013) approach to NPI-hood. However, since the covert exhaustifier that according to Chierchia (2006, 2013) is induced by these PPIs (and responsible for their PPI-hood) can act as an intervener between the PPI and its anti-licenser, universal quantifier PPIs often appear in disguise; their PPI-like behaviour only becomes visible once they morpho-syntactically precede their anti-licenser. A conclusion of this paper is that Dutch iedereen (‚everybody’), opposite to English everybody, is actually a PPI. A second claim made in this paper is that universal quantifier modals that are NPIs are so because they have a lexical requirement that requires some abstract negation to be spelled out elsewhere in the structure (after Postal 2000). The question as to why NPIs that result from this mechanism only surface in the domain of modal auxiliaries and not elsewhere is due to their particular syntactic properties and the way how this lexical/syntactic requirement is acquired. Most discussion on the nature of NPIs and PPIs concerns two questions: (i) why are such elements are sensitive to the polarity of the clauses they appear in; and (ii) what is the range of variation in their licensing contexts? The general conclusion of this talk is that different NPIs/PPIs of different strengths are only superficially similar and that the underlying reasons as to why they are NPIs/PPIs can be quite different: some ill-licensed NPIs/PPIs give rise to contradictory assertions, whereas others violate syntactic or lexical requirements.
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February 24th, 2014

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Syntax Square 2/18 - Coppe van Urk  

Speaker: Coppe van Urk
Title: Intermediate movement is regular movement: Evidence from Dinka
Date/Time: Tuesday, Feb 18, 12-1p (Note special time)
Location: 32-D461

One problem in a derivational view of syntax is how intermediate steps of a successive-cyclic movement are triggered. To deal with this, several authors have suggested that intermediate movement is a special operation, not triggered like regular movement, either because it is not feature-driven or because it happens at a different point in the derivation (e.g. Heck and Mu ̈ller 2000, 2003; Chomsky 2000). This talk brings facts from Dinka (Nilotic; South Sudan) to bear on this issue, a language in which the left periphery interacts morphosyntactically with A ‘-movement in a number of ways. I show that, in these interactions, intermediate movement behaves just like regular movement. In particular, both consistently feed phi-agreement. I argue that this similarity can be captured if terminal and intermediate movement are established in the same way, and are feature-driven (Chomsky 1995; McCloskey 2002; Preminger 2011; Abels 2012).

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February 18th, 2014

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Phonology Circle 2/18 - Takashi Morita  

Speaker: Takashi Morita
Title: Prominence correspondence
Date/Time: Tuesday, Feb 18, 5:30p (Note special date)
Location: 32-D831

Prominent phonological units are likely to appear in metrically prominent positions. For instance, syllables with a more sonorous nucleus tend to constitute the head of a foot, receiving stress (de Lacy, 2002a,b, 2004; Kenstowicz, 1997). Likewise, high-toned syllables, considered more prominent than low- toned ones, tend to be placed in foot-head positions (de Lacy, 2002b).It has been suggested that syllables, just as feet, also contain a metrically prominent position: the first mora of their nucleus by default (Kager, 1993). Syllable-internal metrical prominence gives an explanation for preference of falling diphthongs over rising diphthongs. Given a language with the default falling metrical prominence contour, rising diphthongs in the language cause disagreement between metrical prominence and sonority; sonority rises in the diphthongs while metrical prominence falls in the domain. This is a motivation that syllable-internal metrical prominence also requires sonority to correspond just as in feet. Since sonority is sensitive to metrical prominence in both feet and syllables, tone, whose relation to foot-internal metrical prominence has been reported (de Lacy, 2002b), is also expected to be associated with syllable-internal metrical prominence. The present paper provides detailed evidence from Tokyo Japanese (TJ) for the mora-level correspondence between tone and metrical prominence, and gives an formal analysis of it within the framework of Optimality Theory (OT) (Prince and Smolensky, 1993/2004). Based on this evidence, we can com- plete the claim that metrical prominence, segmental prominence (or sonority), and tonal prominence must all agree, or at least must not disagree.

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February 18th, 2014

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No Ling-Lunch this week  

There is no Ling-Lunch scheduled for this week.

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February 18th, 2014

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LFRG 2/10 - Wataru Uegaki  

Speaker: Wataru Uegaki
Title: Emotive factives and the semantics of question-embedding
Date/Time: Monday, Feb 10, 12:00pm
Room: 66-148

At least since Karttunen (1977), it has been observed that emotive factives such as “surprise”, “amaze” and “annoy” exhibit puzzling embedding behavior. As in (1) below, they embed declaratives and constituent wh-complements, but don’t embed polar questions (PolQs) and alternative questions (AltQs).

(1) a. It is surprising that they served coffee for breakfast. (declarative)
b. It is surprising what they served for breakfast. (constituent question)
c. *It is surprising whether they serve breakfast. (PolQ)
d. *It is surprising whether they served coffee or tea for breakfast. (AltQ)

This fact poses an interesting challenge for the semantics of question-embedding. First of all, since this embedding behavior holds across predicates of similar intuitive semantic class cross-linguistically (e.g., German, French and Japanese), it is desirable if it can be derived from the semantics of these predicates, rather than from idiosyncratic selection restrictions. However, in the standard treatment of question-embedding, where embedded questions are converted to some form of their answer, it is not clear why emotive factives are incompatible with PolQs and AltQs. This is so because there is no semantic anomaly in the predicted truth-conditions of surprise + PolQ/AltQ sentences: ‘x is surprised by the answer of whether p’ or ‘x is surprised by the answer of whether p or q’.

In this talk, I propose a solution to this puzzle employing the independently established distinction between strongly exhaustive and weakly exhaustive readings of questions (Heim 1984; Beck & Rullmann 1999). According to the proposal, a strongly exhaustive reading is ruled out in questions embedded under emotive factives as it would violate a principle similar to Strongest Meaning Hypothesis (Dalrymple et al. 1998). On the other hand, AltQs and PolQs are inherently strongly exhaustive (George 2011, Nicolae 2013), which conflicts with the requirement against strong exhaustivity under the relevant predicates. After giving the detailed account of the embedding behavior of emotive factives, I lay out the general typology of attitude predicates that the proposed view entails, and discuss some open issues.

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February 10th, 2014

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Phonology Circle 2/10 - Organizational Meeting  

Phonology Circle will meet on Mondays at 5pm in 32-D831 this semester. Today’s meeting will be an organizational one to plan the schedule. Please contact Michael Kenstowicz if you cannot attend but would like to reserve a date.

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February 10th, 2014

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No Syntax Square This Week  

There is no Syntax Square meeting this week. Please contact the organizers, Mia Nussbaum and Michelle Yuan, if you would like to present. The following dates are still open: Feb 25, Apr 1, Apr 8, May 6, and May 13.

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February 10th, 2014

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Ling-Lunch 2/13 - Elena Anagnostopoulou  

Speaker: Elena Anagnostopoulou (University of Crete)
Title: Approaching the PCC from German
Date/Time: Thursday Feb. 13, 12:30-1:45p
Location: 32-D461

“In this talk, I focus on a lesser known/studied case arguably falling under the PCC, namely PCC with weak pronouns, addressing some issues one is confronted with in an attempt to characterize the phenomenon. Based on previous research (Anagnostopoulou 2008), I present evidence that the weak PCC does arise in German, contra Cardinaletti (1999), Haspelmath (2004), under two conditions: (i) The PCC arises only when weak pronouns occur in the Wackernagel position. (ii) In addition, the subject must follow the weak pronoun cluster in order for the effect to become visible. I explore how the weak PCC can be analyzed in German, pointing to some questions concerning a) the relative order of Wackernagel pronouns, and from there to clitics showing the PCC in Romance and to other weak pronouns in Germanic languages and b) the order of the subject relative to the pronouns showing PCC effects.”

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February 10th, 2014

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ESSL 2/13 - Discussing Kent Johnson’s paper “Gold’s Theorem and cognitive science”  

The ESSL will be meeting this Thursday at 5:00 PM in the 8th floor seminar room. We will be having an informal discussion of Kent Johnson’s paper “Gold’s Theorem and cognitive science”. The paper and discussion should appeal to anyone with an interest in language acquisition or learnability. The conversation will be most useful if as many people as possible have read the paper, so if you are interested in participating, please use the Stellar website for the ESSL (https://stellar.mit.edu/S/project/hackl-lab/index.html) for access to this paper, as well as Gold’s original paper. If you are unable to access the Stellar site, please contact Erin Olson, ESSL Lab Manager (ekolson@mit.edu) or Martin Hackl (hackl@mit.edu). Dinner will be provided.

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February 10th, 2014

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Colloquium 2/14 - Elena Anagnostopoulou  

Speaker: Elena Anagnostopoulou (University of Crete)
Title: Decomposing adjectival/ stative passives
Time: Friday February 14th, 3:30-5pm
Place: 32-141

This talk argues for a decomposition analysis of different types of adjectival/stative passives in terms of the following domains (Kratzer 1996, Marantz 2001, Alexiadou, Anagnostopoulou & Schäfer 2006, forthcoming, Ramchand 2010 and others):

(1) [VoiceP [vP [ResultP ]]]

I focus on the distribution of Voice in adjectival/stative passives. Three views have been expressed in the literature:

a) Adjectival/stative passives never contain Voice (Kratzer 1994, 1996, Embick 2004).

b) Adjectival/stative passives sometimes contain Voice (Anagnostopoulou 2003).

c) Adjectival/stative passives always contain Voice (McIntyre 2013, Bruening to appear).

The diagnostics I employ for Voice are by-phrases, instruments, agent-oriented and manner adverbs and crucially not the Disjointness Restriction (Kratzer 1994 building on Baker, Johnson & Roberts 1989), which is linked to the type of passive hidden in the structure (passive vs. middle; Spathas, Alexiadou & Schäfer 2013, Alexiadou, Anagnostopoulou & Schäfer, forthcoming).

On the basis of these diagnostics, I argue that stative passives may contain Voice in all languages under investigation, and parametrization in the properties of Voice should be traced to the nature of the underlying event: specific event (Greek, Russian, Swedish; Anagnostopoulou 2003, Paslawska & von Stechow 2003, Larsson 2009) or event kind (English, German; Gehrke 2011).

I furthermore argue that Kratzer’s (2000) resultant state vs. target state dichotomy is important for understanding the distribution of Voice and, more generally, for understanding the properties and architecture of stative passives within and across languages. The stativizing morpheme may embed Voice only in resultant state adjectival passives and not in target state adjectival passives (Anagnostopoulou 2003). In target state adjectival passives, Voice, when present, is necessarily external to the stativized vP. I present evidence from verb classes in favor of the claim that target state passives systematically lack Voice and offer a potential reason for why Voice is absent in target state passives based on a phenomenon of coercion of participles formed by manner verbs from resultant-/manner to target-state/result readings. This phenomenon has implications for our understanding of “manners”, “results” and the “manner-result complementarity hypothesis” (Rappaport Hovav & Levin 1998, 2008 and related literature).

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February 10th, 2014

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MIT Linguistics Colloquium Schedule, Spring 2014  

The colloquium series talks are held on Fridays at 3:30pm. Please check the Colloquium webpage for any updates.

February 7: Raj Singh, Carleton
February 14: Elena Anagnostopoulou, University of Crete
March 14: Marcel den Dikken, CUNY
March 27: Sharon Inkelas, UC Berkeley
April 4: Adamantios Gafos, Haskins Laboratories, Universität Potsdam
April 25: Richard Kayne, NYU
May 2: Matthew Gordon, UCSB
May 9: Julie Legate, UPenn

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February 3rd, 2014

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Syntax Square Continues on Tuesdays  

Syntax Square will continue at its regularly scheduled time on Tuesdays 1-2pm in 32-D461. The organizers for the term are Mia Nussbaum and Michelle Yuan. The following dates are open for presentaton: Feb 11, 25, Mar 18, Apr 1, 8, May 6 and 13. Please contact the organizers to claim a date.

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February 3rd, 2014

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LFRG 2/6 - Organizational meeting  

LFRG will be kicking off the semester with an organizational meeting in the 8th floor conference room on Thursday, February 6 at 5 PM.

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February 3rd, 2014

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Ling-Lunch 2/6 - Danny Fox  

Ling-Lunch, the weekly informal talk series for all linguistics topics will be held at its usual time and location (Thursdays 12:30pm, 32-D461) this semester. The first talk is scheduled for this week and will be by Danny Fox. The organizers are Juliet Stanton and Athulya Aravind. Please contact them to reserve a presentaton spot — they report that the following dates are still open: Feb 20, 27, Mar 6, 13, Apr 10, 17, 24, May 1, 8, and 15.

Speaker: Danny Fox (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem / MIT)
Title: Extraposition and scope: evidence for deeply embedded late merge
Date/Time: Thursday, Feb 6, 12:30-1:45p
Location: 32-D461

In this talk I will address various puzzles that pertain to the syntactic and semantic representations associated with ‘extraposition from NP’. I will argue for a resolution of these puzzles based on the assumption that “late merge” (of the sort postulated by Lebeaux and further motivated by Fox and Nissenbaum) can apply in deeply embedded positions.

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February 3rd, 2014

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Colloquium 2/7 - Raj Singh  

Speaker: Raj Singh (Carleton)
Title: Implicature and free-choice signatures: embedding, processing complexity, and child development
Time: Friday February 7th, 3:30-5pm
Place: 32-141

Scalar implicatures are inferences that strengthen what is sometimes called the “basic meaning” of the sentence:

(1) John ate some of the cookies

(1a) Basic Meaning: that John ate some, possibly all, of the cookies

(1b) Scalar Implicature: that John did not eat all of the cookies

(1c) Strengthened Meaning: that John ate some but not all of the cookies (BM + SI)

This strengthening has been shown to generate various detectable “signatures,” some of which are highlighted in (2):

(2) SI Signatures

(2a) SIs tend to disappear in DE environments (e.g., the restrictor of “every”).

(2b) SIs are detectable, but not very robust, in non-DE environments (e.g., the scope of “every”).

(2c) SIs are processed slow: (1a) is processed faster than (1c) (cf. Bott & Noveck, 2004; and much work since).

(2d) SIs show up late in acquisition: There is a stage of development at which children behave as if they assign (1a) to (1) but do not assign (1c) to (1) (cf. Noveck, 2001; and much work since).

So-called “free-choice” inferences, exemplified in (3), have been shown to also disappear in negative environments. Taking this to be one of the signatures of an SI (cf. (2a)), it has been argued that free-choice inferences should be derived in the cognitive system that computes SIs (e.g.,Kratzer & Shimoyama, 2002; Schulz, 2005; Alonso-Ovalle, 2005).

(3) John may eat the cookies or the pie

(3a) Basic Meaning: that John is allowed to eat one, and possibly both, of the cookies and the pie

(3b) Free-Choice: that John is allowed to eat the cookies and he is allowed to eat the pie

In stark contrast with the SI in (1), however, free-choice (3b) is not processed slower than (3)’s basic meaning (3a) (cf. (2c); Chemla & Bott, 2014), and free-choice (3b) is preferred to the basic meaning (3a) in positive embeddings, such as in the nuclear scope of “every” (cf. (2b); Chemla, 2009).

In this talk, I present evidence that free-choice and SIs also have diverging developmental signatures (cf. (2d)). Specifically, I present evidence that children (3;9-6;4, M = 4;11) compute conjunctive free-choice SIs for disjunctive sentences (reporting on joint work with Ken Wexler, Andrea Astle, Deepthi Kamawar, and Danny Fox). Our finding replicates earlier results showing that children often interpret disjunctions as if they were conjunctions (Paris, 1973; Braine and Rumain, 1981), and extends this to embedding in the scope of “every.” We argue that this conjunctive SI follows from: (i) Katzir’s (2007) theory of alternatives in the steady state, (ii) the assumption that children differ from adults by not accessing the lexicon when generating alternatives, and (iii) Fox’s (2007) mechanism for free-choice computation in the steady state. We further provide evidence that children at this stage of development share the adult preference for free-choice SIs in matrix and embedded positions.

These data raise the challenge of explaining why free-choice and SIs both disappear in negative environments but differ with respect respect to developmental trajectories, embeddability, and processing complexity (see Chemla & Singh, 2014 for generalizations to other scalar items). I will explore strategies for addressing this challenge.

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February 3rd, 2014

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Phonology Circle 12/9 - Morgan Sonderegger  

Speaker: Morgan Sonderegger (McGill)
Title: Phonetic and phonological variation on reality television: dynamics and interspeaker variation
Date/Time: Monday, Dec 9, 5:30p
Location: 32-D831

This talk examines two types of variability in phonetics and phonology about which relatively little is known: (1) the dynamics of the accents of individuals from day to day, and (2) differences among speakers of the same language in the structure of variability. We examine a number of variables (focusing on VOT and t/d deletion) in a corpus of spontaneous speech from a setting which is particularly well-suited to examining (1) and (2) — a British reality television show (Big Brother UK) where individuals live in a house with no outside contact for three months — using statistical models of synchronic variability across speakers, and dynamics within individual speakers. Speakers show several qualitatively different types of dynamics; the most common types are day-by-day variability and absolute stability in the use of a variable. There is a surprising degree of variability across speakers in the quantitative strength of each variable’s conditioning factors, e.g. the effect of place of articulation on VOT. However, nearly all speakers show the same qualitative effects of each conditioning factor (e.g., bilabials < velars for VOT). We discuss the relevance of these findings for theories of language change, phonetics, and phonology, as well as directions for future work with this corpus.

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December 9th, 2013

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Phonology Circle II 12/13 - Sandrien van Ommen  

Speaker: Sandrien van Ommen (Utrecht Institute of Linguistics, OTS) (joint study with Rene Kager)
Date/Time: Friday, Dec 13, 3 pm (please note unusual time)
Location: 32-D831
Title: Language-specific metrical segmentation in Dutch, Turkish, Polish and Hungarian

With the current study we investigated the role of stress as a boundary marker in processing. Previous studies have shown that listeners interpret stressed or strong syllables as potential word-beginnings in a.o. English (Cutler & Norris, 1988), and Dutch (Quené & Koster, 1998; Vroomen & de Gelder, 1995). This is interpreted as evidence for the Metrical Segmentation Hypothesis, which predicts that listeners have and use a parsing ability based on edge-aligned stress. Unfortunately, most empirical evidence supporting this hypothesis comes from languages with (statistically dominant) word-initial stress. Evidence for a facilitatory effect of right-edge aligned stress is sparse and inconclusive (see a.o. Toro-Soto et al., 2007, Cunillera et al. 2008, Kabak et al., 2010). We designed a cross-linguistic experiment to address the question of language-specificity in metrical segmentation. In this experiment, we measured response latencies in a non-word spotting task with six different metrical conditions. The participants were speakers of Dutch (penultimate word-stress, variable), Polish (penultimate word-stress, fixed), Turkish (word-final stress, variable) and Hungarian (word-initial stress, fixed).

Besides finding the expected overall effect of facilitation of the native canonical stress pattern in (non-)word segmentation, we conclude to have found a language-specific anticipitory use of stress in segmentation. Furthermore, the results invite us to further investigate the role of peripherality and variability of stress in processing. To gain more insight into what role these factors may have, we recently started designing a computational model for the acquisition and use of metrical patterns. This is a very recent and tentative project that we welcome discussion on.

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December 9th, 2013

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Syntax Square 12/3 - Yusuke Imanishi  

Speaker: Yusuke Imanishi
Title: Default ergative: A story of Ixil
Date/Time: Tuesday, Dec 3, 1-2p
Location: 32-D461

I will discuss the unexpected emergence of the ergative in intransitive clauses of Ixil (Mayan). This occurs when an instrumental phrase is fronted to a clause-initial position (Ayres 1983, 1991; Yasugi 2012). I will argue that the intransitive subject receives ergative Case as syntactic default Case because it would be otherwise Case-less. It will be shown that a fronted instrumental phrase blocks the assignment of absolutive Case to the intransitive subject. In other words, the unexpected instance of the ergative indicates failure of absolutive Case assignment. To formulate this analysis, I will propose (i) a model of default ergative Case assignment and (ii) the Absolutive Case Parameter in Mayan (cf. Aldridge 2004, 2008; Legate 2008; Coon et al. 2012).

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December 2nd, 2013

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Ling-Lunch 12/5 - Juliet Stanton  

Speaker: Juliet Stanton
Title: Constraints on English preposition stranding
Date/Time: Thursday, Dec 5, 12:30-1:45p
Location: 32-D461

In this talk, I discuss an asymmetry in English preposition stranding, illustrated by the following contrasts:

(1) Which bench were you sitting on?
Which holiday do you eat lamb on?

(2) Not a single bench will I ever sit on.
*Not a single holiday will I ever eat lamb on.

I show that the ability of a given preposition (P) to be stranded is partially dependent on whether or not P accepts a pronoun as its complement, i.e. whether or not P is an antipronominal context (Postal 1998). Certain A-bar extractions permit stranding of antipronominal Ps, while others do not.

I extend the theory of wholesale late merger (Takahashi 2006, Takahashi & Hulsey 2009) and propose that while a subset of A-bar extractions obligatorily leave full copies in the base position, others don’t. I show that this proposal derives the observed restrictions on P-stranding, and present some additional evidence in support of the analysis.

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December 2nd, 2013

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Colloquium 12/6 - Gillian Ramchand  

Speaker: Gillian Ramchand (University of Tromsø/CASTL)
Time: Friday December 6th, 3:30-5pm
Venue: 32-141
Title: Minimalism and Cartography (joint work with Peter Svenonius)

Abstract:

While many current syntacticians have felt queasy about embracing the full extent and number of the functional decompositions as proposed in classic cartography (e.g. Cinque 1999), we believe that cartography in the broad sense is essential for any generative theory - it consists in establishing what the category labels of the symbolic system are, how they are hierarchically organized, and how rigidly. We too find it implausible that extremely fine-grained functional sequences of highly abstract heads with no deterministic relationship to compositional semantics is either universal or innate. However, we do think that the parts of the functional sequence that are universal and driven by innate mechanisms are directly related to pressure from the interfaces, and in particular to the facts about human concept formation. So we will push a strong semantically grounded thesis about why templatic effects of a certain sort emerge. It is an empirical question how fine-grained the universal spine is (cf. also Wiltschko, to appear), although we suspect with Wiltschko that it is rather abstract. In this talk I will first outline the basis for a methodological reconciliation between the practice and results of cartography, and more minimalistic pressures to explain and ground the complex ordering effects we see on the surface. Secondly, I will exemplify with a case study. Using the domain of English auxiliary orders, I argue that one cannot ignore the detailed mapping evidence, and that understanding it is crucial to making progress on the more theoretical questions of universality vs. language particularity, locality effects/phases, and the mapping to the cognitive-intentional systems of mind/brain.

In this talk therefore, I will offer entertainment both for those who like to talk about the ‘big picture’ and and for those who like to get their hands dirty: (i) an articulation of distinctive kind of research programme which many are actually embarked on but which needs a name and some more visibility, (ii) a novel compositional semantic take on aspectual auxiliaries and the modal circumstantial/epistemic distinction and (iii) a new perspective on ‘affix’-hopping.

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December 2nd, 2013

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Phonology Circle 11/25 - Juliet Stanton  

Speaker: Juliet Stanton
Title: Factorial typology and accentual faithfulness
Date/Time: Monday, Nov 25, 5:30p
Location: 32-D831

I investigate the nature of accentual faithfulness constraints and their rankings relative to markedness constraints, starting from an analysis of stress in 23 Pama-Nyungan (PN) and neighboring Australian aboriginal languages (e.g. Pintupi, Diyari, Warlpiri). In many of these systems, unsuffixed forms are stressed identically, but suffixed forms differ according to the type of paradigmatic uniformity effect observed. The proposed account differs from prior work (e.g. Crowhurst 1994, Kager 1997, Kenstowicz 1998) as it does not appeal to feet and uses directional base-derivative (BD) identity constraints (Benua 1997) to model cyclic effects.

Predictions of the constraint set are explored through a factorial typology. To constrain the typology’s predictions, I introduce the visibility hypothesis: constraints backed by positive evidence from frequent forms dominate constraints that lack such evidence. Integrating the visibility hypothesis into the factorial typology results in accurately restrictive predictions for the typology of stress-morphology interactions.

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November 25th, 2013

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Phonology Circle 11/18 - Ryo Masuda  

Speaker: Ryo Masuda
Title: The morphophonology of verb doubling in Chechen/Ingush
Date/Time: Monday, Nov 18, 5:30p
Location: 32-D831

As described by Conathan & Good (2001) and Nichols (2011), Chechen and Ingush (Northeast Caucasian) exhibit a case of word-level reduplication, henceforth verb doubling, in which the presence of a clause chaining clitic ‘a on a simple intransitive verb triggers insertion of an infinitival form of the verb (1).

(1) Ahwmad sialxana wa ‘a wiina dwa-vaghara
Ahmed yesterday stay.INF & stay.ANT DEIX-go.WP
‘Ahmed, having stayed yesterday, left.’ (Chechen)

The doubling is blocked in complex verb constructions with a preverbal particle (2), object, or deictic marker in the verb phrase.

(2) Ahwmada, kiexat jaaz ‘a dina, zheina
Ahmed.ERG letter write & do.CVANT book read.PRES
‘Ahmed, having written a letter, reads a book.’ (Chechen)

I argue that this instance of verb doubling is a consequence of a prosodic requirement on the chaining clitic, namely to be enclitic to a non-final stressed element (cf. Good 2005). I then situate the Chechen/Ingush case within a larger body of clitic placement and verb doubling phenomena, whose accounts have included appeals to the syntactic component of the grammar (Franks and Bošković 2001), and discuss consequences for the syntax-phonology interface.

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November 18th, 2013

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Syntax Square 11/19 - Ruth Brillman  

Speaker: Ruth Brillman
Title: Too tough to see
Date/Time: Tuesday, Nov 19, 1-2p
Location: 32-D461

This talk argues for a deep syntactic similarity between gapped degree phrases (GDPs) and tough-constructions (TCs). Building on novel observations as well as previous findings (Akmajian 1972, a.o.), I argue that GDPs contain a tough-movement structure within them, plus an additional layer of syntactic structure particular to GDPs. I argue that TCs, and the TC core within GDPs, involve both an A-step and an A-bar step (cf. Hicks 2007, Hartman 2012). This explains the syntactic and semantic similarities and differences, between the two constructions.

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November 18th, 2013

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Ling-Lunch 11/21 - Aron Hirsch  

Speaker: Aron Hirsch
Title: Presupposition projection and incremental processing in disjunction
Date/Time: Thursday, Nov. 21, 12:30-1:45p
Location: 32-D461

Presupposition projection in conjunction shows asymmetries sensitive to the linear order of the conjuncts: presuppositions project cumulatively out of the first conjunct, and out of the second conjunct only if not entailed by the asserted content of the first conjunct. One possibility is that this asymmetry is linked to general processing considerations. This predicts similar asymmetries to be observable in complex sentences with other sentential connectives. A well-known counter-example is disjunction. The existence presupposition triggered by the definite description the bathroom does not project in (1) (Partee 2005), independent of order:

(1) Either there is no bathroom, or the bathroom is in a funny place.
Either the bathroom is in a funny place, or there is no bathroom.

The aim in this talk is to show that disjunction in fact does show linear order asymmetries consistent with conjunction, and is directly supportive of presupposition evaluation being integrated with incremental parsing.

We build the argument in three steps. (i) We identify a confound in (1) which interferes with projection in both orders, making (1) not a fair test case for global projective asymmetry (Gazdar 1979). (ii) We construct new examples which remove the confound, and show that to the extent that these elicit a stable intuition, the intuition is asymmetric. (iii) We report experimental results demonstrating that even with the confound in place, examples like (1) show traces of asymmetry at an intermediate stage of parsing, predicted by the processing account we advocate.

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November 18th, 2013

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Donca Steriade Speaks at Harvard, 11/22  

Faculty member Donca Steriade will be giving a talk at Harvard’s GSAS Workshop on Indo-European and Historical Linguistics this Friday.

Speaker: Donca Steriade
Title: Latin t-participles and t-derivatives: a new analysis
Date/Time: Friday, Nov 22, 4:30p
Location: Boylston Hall 103

Full abstract is available here (pdf).

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November 18th, 2013

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Ling-Lunch 11/14 - Dennis Ott  

Speaker: Dennis Ott (HU Berlin/MIT)
Title: Deletion in disjunct constituents
Date/Time: Thursday, Nov 14, 12:30-1:45p
Location: 32-D461

Parenthesis has received little attention in linguistic theory, despite the fact that the phenomenon raises fundamental questions concerning the division of labor between “sentence grammar” and “discourse grammar.” Some researchers (e.g., Haegeman 1991, Espinal 1991, Peterson 1999) have argued tha parentheticals are syntactically “orphan” constituents (or “disjuncts”), and hence beyond the purview of syntax, whereas other approaches take the linear intercalation of parentheticals into their host clauses to be a sign of syntactic integration (e.g., Emonds 1976, Potts 2005, de Vries 2012). Integration analyses invariably rely on construction-specific machinery, hence imply a prima facie undesirable enrichment of UG. Non-restrictive appositives in particular are often taken to be syntactically integrated, either implicitly (Espinal 1991) or explicitly (Heringa 2012). In this talk, I contest this view and develop a novel argument for taking the relation between non-restrictive appositives and their host clauses to be non-syntactic (established in “discourse grammar”). Building on Burton-Roberts’ (2006) intuitive characterization of appositives as “reduplicative reformulations,” I show that appositive disjunct constituents are sentential fragments, derived by familiar mechanisms of PF-deletion (Merchant 2004, Ott & de Vries in press). Crucially, the fact that the antecedent of appositive-internal ellipsis is the host clause itself entails that deletion is antecedent-contained, and hence irresolvable, on the assumption that the appositive fragment is syntactically integrated into the host. Ellipsis being resolvable, appositives must be taken to be separately generated expressions whose linear insertion into the host is a matter of discourse/production rather than syntax proper.

 

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November 12th, 2013

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No Syntax Square This Week  

Ruth writes: “There’s no Syntax Square this week. But never fear, the talk will regularly resume next Tuesday (with talks each week until the end of the semester!)”

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November 4th, 2013

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Ling-Lunch 11/7 - Coppe van Urk  

Speaker: Coppe van Urk
Title: A’-movement, case and “marked nominative” in Dinka
Date/Time: Thursday, Nov 7, 12:30-1:45p
Location: 32-D461

“In this talk, I examine a type of ”marked nominative” system that is found in many African languages (e.g. Koenig 2006, 2008), and has the following two characteristics:

1. Non-initial subjects occur in a morphosyntactically marked case, which may be used for obliques elsewhere.
2. Initial subjects are in the unmarked case, used also for objects and in default contexts.

This is an unusual system, both because of the case alternation and because the subject case described in (1) is unlike ergative (it shows no sensitivity to properties of the verb) and unlike nominative (it can be used to mark obliques).

I study ”marked nominative” in Dinka (Nilotic; South Sudan) and argue that it arises when C, and not T, is responsible for licensing the subject. I propose that, as a result of this, A’-movement may interfere with structural licensing of the subject. In this situation, an adposition may be merged directly with the subject, so that it requires no outside licensing, following Halpert’s (2012) treatment of augment morphology in Zulu. The presence of this adposition causes the subject to be look like an oblique. I show that this analysis makes sense of the Dinka pattern, and the profile of such ”marked nominative” systems in a diverse set of languages (Koenig 2006, 2008; Dimmendaal 2007).”

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November 4th, 2013

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Phonology Circle 10/28 - Eduard Artes Cuenca  

Speaker: Eduard Artes Cuenca (MIT/Barcelona)
Title: Valencian hypocoristics: when morphology meets phonology
Date/Time: Monday, Oct 28, 5:30pm
Location: 32-D831

This talk aims to present evidence in favor of a grammar governed by strong interactions between morphology and phonology. Valencian hypocorostics demonstrate that the need to conform to certain prosodic patterns forces the insertion of morphologically meaningful vowels (inflectional exponents), i.e., ‘morphological epenthesis’ (Cardinaletti & Repetti 2008). Instead of creating new phonological material, the grammar chooses an exponent already listed in the lexicon, thus resorting to Lexical Conservatism (Steriade 1994).

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October 28th, 2013

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Ling-Lunch 10/31 - Pauline Jacobson  

Speaker: Pauline Jacobson (Brown)
Title: The Myth of Silent Linguistic Material
Date/Time: Thursday, Oct 31, 12:30-1:45p
Location: 32-D461

The literature abounds with arguments for the claim that there is actual silent (or deleted) linguistic material in a variety of “ellipsis” constructions - call this the Silent Linguistic Material (SLM) hypothesis. While obviously not all such arguments can be deconstructed over lunch, this talk aims to show that the reasoning behind many of them is fallacious, and that there is no reason to think there is linguistic material which is silenced or deleted under identity.

First we begin with the broader question at issue. The reason for doubting the SLM hypothesis is not driven by a stubborn allergy to silent material; rather we will put this hypothesis in the context of Direct Compositionality. Direct compositionality (see, e.g., Montague’s English as a Formal Language) maintains that the syntax and semantics work in tandem locally building expressions and assigning them a meaning. While mapping an expression into a silent version of that expression can be done quite locally, what is difficult to reconcile with this architecture is the idea of material being silenced under some sort of identity with something else in the discourse context, as this kind of identity condition is not a local property of an expression. I will briefly mention alternative accounts of both fragment answers and VP Ellipsis that don’t make use of SLM, although time precludes details arguments for the alternatives. Here then I can only level the playing field and show that SLM has no real advantage.

The arguments for SLM to be considered (and deconstructed) here fall into two classes. The first is based on the idea that the “remnant” acts as if it were surrounded by additional material with respect to certain grammatical processes/generalizations. But I will show that this itself relies on non-direct compositional and non-local account of the relevant generalizations, and that for an interesting class of such cases there are indeed alternative accounts “on the market” which undermine the rationale for SLM. Moreover, facts about indexicals known about since at least as early as Hankamer and Sag (1984) make it clear that the requisite “identity” condition cannot be formal. But if that is the case, some of the arguments for SLM also collapse as they crucially assume formal identity. The second type of argument is often implicit but seems to underlie much of the reason that SLM seems at first glance like a commonsense view: this is that the “meaning” of constructions with ellipsis becomes trivial to account for if there is SLM. But we don’t know the actual meaning - only the likely understanding in a discourse context, so this view only makes sense if put in terms of processing. But I will argue that positing SLM makes the job of the processor no easier than not positing SLM. In fact, work on processing often (or at least occasionally) makes the mistake of assuming that there is SLM, that the processor has access to the quiet material, and that processing proceeds from there. In other words, some claims about the processing of ellipsis make sense only if the processor already knows what it meaning it is “trying” to compute. As a case study I will consider an argument from Hackl, Koster-Hale and Varvoutis (2010) concerning the interaction of ACD, processing, QR, and de re vs. de dicto readings. My discussion of this point is based on joint work with Ted Gibson, Ev Fedorenko, Steven Piantadosi and Peter Graff.

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October 28th, 2013

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LFRG 11/1 - Wataru Uegaki  

Speaker: Wataru Uegaki
Date/Time: Friday 1 November, 1 pm
Location: 32-D831
Title: Exhaustive inferences and intonation-discourse congruence

Abstract:

[This is a revision of the talk I presented last semester at LFRG.]

It has been observed that an exhaustive inference (hereafter ExhInf) of question-answers arises only when the polarity of the answer matches that of the question (Schulz and van Rooij 2006; Spector 2007). E.g., although the answer “I will invite Sue” to the question “Who will you invite?” gives rise to the inference that Sue is the only person that the speaker will invite, the answer “I won’t invite Sue” to the same question does not readily give rise to the inference that Sue is the only person that the speaker will not invite (pace von Stechow and Zimmermann 1984).

Previous approaches to this phenomenon stipulate mechanisms that are specific to polarity (or monotonicity)-mismatching question-answer pairs (Schulz and van Rooij 2006; Spector 2007) and largely ignored the role of intonation. In this presentation, I provide an account of the phenomenon in terms of a general constraint on the alternatives to be used in the derivation of ExhInfs, taking into account the discourse structure modelled as a tree of Question under Discussions (Roberts 1996, Büring 2003). Specifically, the constraint states that the alternatives are restricted to be members of the Hamblin-denotation of the immediate QUD of the utterance (the mother of the utterance in terms of the discourse tree representation).

Taking a closer look at the data, we see that there is a restriction on the felicitous intonations in a polarity-mismatching answer. The only available intonation involves a contrastive topic intonation on the item corresponding to the wh and a focus intonation on the item indicating polarity. I argue that this reflects the general intonation-discourse interface conditions (in particular, Question-answer congruence and CT congruence by Rooth 1992, Büring 2003), and the uniquely available intonation reflects a discourse structure in which the wh-question is divided into multiple polar questions. Given the general constraint on alternatives stated above, such a discourse structure is predicted not to give rise to an exhaustive inference.

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October 28th, 2013

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Colloquium 11/1 - Eric Reuland  

Speaker: Eric Reuland (Utrecht)
Date/Time: Friday November 1st, 3:30-5pm
Location: 32-141
Title: Why reflexivity is (not) so special

Abstract:

Cross-linguistically one sees a variety of ways in which languages express reflexivity. Languages use bodypart reflexives, self-anaphors, clitics, special verbal markings, but one also sees simplex anaphors, pronominals, and verb forms that have been characterized as ‘detransitivized’. The vast majority of languages does ‘something special’ to express reflexivity. In my talk I will address two major questions that keep intriguing me:

i. Why would this domain be special? Why would the prima facie simplest way to express reflexivity, namely a structure where the subject just binds an object pronominal (‘brute force’ reflexivization, BFR) be so generally avoided?

ii. Are there nevertheless commonalities underlying the various ways in which reflexivity is expressed, and if so what principles of grammar do they follow from?

For an answer, we need sufficiently detailed analyses of languages that prima facie exhibit non-standard properties. In this talk I will focus on the way reflexivity is expressed in languages of two rather different types, namely Tegi Khanty (an Uralic language), and Bahasa Indonesia (Malay), and related languages. I will show that each in its own way raises intriguing issues, from having locally bound pronominals to having multiple ways of expressing reflexivity.

I will briefly review some current approaches to binding, and show that despite their merits they are unable to capture and explain the patterns of variation we find. I will show how the facts discussed follow from the interplay between the effects of binding per se and independent properties of the grammatical system, along the lines proposed in Reuland (2011). Thus, what appeared to be special turns out to be not so special after all.

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October 28th, 2013

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Phonology Circle 10/21 - Anthony Brohan, Ezer Razin, and Sam Zukoff  

Date/Time: Monday, Oct 21, 5:30pm
Location: 32-D831

Anthony Brohan: A case study in assimilation: The view from PBase

This talk will explore the hypothesis that the directionality of assimilation in a given language may be affected by typical stress location in a language. Data from PBase (Mielke 2008) and StressTyp (Goedmans et. al 1996) are used to develop a model of the characteristic behavior of features, which is then used to probe for directionality biases in languages based on stress systems. Second, a case study of lenition is presented, aiming to sharpen the findings of the stress/assimilation interaction. The “lattice” of leniting changes (Hock 1999) is empirically filled in with patterns from PBase and functional pressures of contrast preservation in lenitions (Gurevich 2004) are explored in this lattice.

Ezer Razin: An evaluation metric for Optimality Theory (joint work with Roni Katzir, Tel Aviv University)

Our goal is to develop an evaluation metric for OT, a criterion for comparing grammars given the data. Using this criterion, the child can try to search through the space of possible grammars, eliminating suboptimal grammars as it proceeds. Our empirical focus is the lexicon and the constraints, and our evaluation metric is based on the principle of Minimum Description Length (MDL). We wish to model aspects of knowledge such as the English-speaking child’s knowledge that the first segment in the word ‘cat’ involves aspiration, that [raiDer] is underlyingly /raiter/, and that [rai:Der] is underlyingly /raider/. We take it that any theory of phonology would require this knowledge to be learned rather than innate, making this a convenient place to start. The learner that we present succeeds in obtaining such knowledge, which, to our knowledge, makes it a first. The generality of the MDL-based evaluation metric allows us to learn additional parts of the grammar without changing our learner. We demonstrate this by learning not just the lexicon and the ranking of the constraints but also the content of the constraints (both markedness and faithfulness constraints) from general constraint schemata. The learner that we present succeeds in obtaining this knowledge, making it a first in this domain as well.

Sam Zukoff: On the Origins of Attic Reduplication

In Ancient Greek, the perfect tense is marked by reduplication. The default pattern of reduplication for consonant-initial roots is to have a CV reduplicant, and the default pattern for vowel-initial forms is to show lengthening of the initial vowel. However, for a subset of (synchronically) vowel-initial roots, there exists a different pattern, known as Attic Reduplication. Attic Reduplication forms have a reduplicant of the shape VC with concomitant lengthening of the root-initial vowel. For example, √ager- ‘gather together’ : perfect ἀγήγερμαι [agɛ̄germai], √eleuth- ‘go, come’: perfect ἐλήλουθα [elɛ̄loutha], √ol- ‘destroy’ : perfect ὄλωλα [olɔ̄la].

In this talk, I will argue that Attic Reduplication is a well-motivated outcome of the regular phonology of a Pre-Greek system that still contained laryngeals, rather than an analogical development or a stipulated alternative pattern.

The account that will be developed here uses independent evidence from the process of “vowel prothesis” and other alternative reduplication patterns, both in Greek and the other Indo-European daughter languages, to demonstrate that the normal CV reduplication pattern was blocked for laryngeal-initial roots due to markedness considerations. In avoiding these markedness violations, an alternative copying pattern emerges. This new pattern turns out to involve reduplicant-internal epenthesis and copying of both the root-initial laryngeal and the second root-consonant. The ranking which ultimately selects this repair is consistent with, and may even directly follow from, the intersection of the independent rankings necessary to generate vowel prothesis and the default reduplication pattern.

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October 21st, 2013

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Syntax Square 10/22 - Despina Ikonomou  

Speaker: Despina Ikonomou
Title: Middle morphology in Modern Greek: Same mechanism in different environments
Date/Time: Tuesday, Oct 22, 1-2p
Location: 32-D461

Many languages (Germanic, Romance, Slavic, Albanian, Hebrew, Modern Greek, et al.) use the same morphology (usually described as Middle or Non-Active morphology) in a range of argument structure phenomena that usually involve i) anticausatives, ii) verbal reflexives and iii) generic middles (see Kemmer (1993) for a typology). Despite the large amount of work on each of the above phenomena, it has been proven hard to provide a unified account for all of them (cf. Embick 1997, Reinhart 2000, Alexiadou & Doron 2012). In this talk, I focus on Modern Greek and I propose a unified analysis of Middle Voice across the different structures that appears. Namely, I argue that in all cases Middle Voice can be analyzed as a functional head that existentially binds the external argument variable (as it has been proposed for the English Passive by Bach (1980), Roberts (1987), Bruening (2011)). The default structure that arises from this operation is a passive structure. However, each of the structures in (i)-(iii) involves an additional component that differentiates them from passives. More particularly, i) anticausatives involve an additional cause event, ii) verbal reflexives carry a reflexivity feature in their verbal root and iii) generic middles involve a generic operator that universally quantifies over events. If there is no additional component, then a passive structure arises by existential binding over the external argument. If time permits, I will also discuss verbs that appear only in Middle Voice (the so-called deponent verbs) suggesting that most of them fall into the class of either reflexive or anticausative verbs (cf. Zombolou & Alexiadou 2012, Kallulli 2013).

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October 21st, 2013

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Colloquium 10/25 - Barbara Partee  

Speaker: Barbara Partee (UMass Amherst)
Date/Time: Friday October 25th, 3:30-5pm
Location: 32-141
Title: The Starring Role of Quantifiers in the History of Formal Semantics

The history of formal semantics is a history of evolving ideas about logical form, linguistic form, and the nature of semantics. This talk emphasizes parts of the history of semantics where quantifiers played a major role, including the “Linguistic Wars” of the late 1960’s and the conflicts in the philosophy of language between the Ordinary Language philosophers and the Formal Language philosophers. Both conflicts resulted in part from the mismatch between first-order logic and natural language syntax. Both were resolved in part once Montague applied his higher-order typed intensional logic to the analysis of natural language, as illustrated most vividly by the treatment of noun phrases as generalized quantifiers. In subsequent developments, generalized quantifier theory led to the first substantive ideas in formal semantics about semantic universals (Barwise and Cooper, Keenan), and the failure of Barwise and Cooper’s universal provoked some of the earliest work in formal semantic typology. Quantifiers have also been central in debates about dynamic approaches to semantics, and about the nature of anaphora.


Reference: Partee, Barbara H. In Press. The starring role of quantifiers in the history of formal semantics. In The Logica Yearbook 2012, eds. Vit Punčochár and Petr Svarny. London: College Publications.

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October 21st, 2013

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NECPhon 10/26  

The Northeast Computational Workshop (NECPhon) will be held this Saturday, Oct 26, 2013, at MIT. The program is below. All events will be held in the Stata Center in 32-D461.

11:30 Coffee/lunch

12:00 Ezer Rasin (MIT) An evaluation metric for Optimality Theory (joint work with Roni Katzir, Tel Aviv University)

12:30 Joe Pater and Robert Staubs (UMass) Modeling Learning Trajectories with Batch Gradient Descent

1:00 Tal Linzen and Gillian Gallagher (NYU) Modeling the timecourse of generalization in phonotactic learning

1:30-1:45 break

1:45 Jane Chandlee (University of Delaware) Strictly Local Phonological Processes

2:15 Anthony Brohan (MIT) A case study in assimilation: The view from PBase

2:45-3:00 break

3:00 Naomi Feldman (UMD), Caitlin Richter (UMD), Josh Falk (U Chicago), and Aren Jansen (JHU) Predicting listeners’ perceptual biases using low-level speech features

3:30 Sean Martin (NYU) Phonetic category learning with unsupervised cue selection

4:00-4:15 break

4:15 Tamas Biro (Yale) Title TBA

4:45 Adam Jardine (University of Delaware) Computationally, tone is different

End: 5:15 pm

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October 21st, 2013

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Colloquium 10/18: Jennifer Smith  

Speaker: Jennifer L. Smith (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)
Time: Friday October 18th, 3:30-5pm
Location: 32-141
Title: Lexical-category effects in phonology: Whence and why?

Please see the full abstract (pdf).

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October 16th, 2013

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Syntax Square 10/8 - Sam Steddy and Coppe van Urk  

Speakers: Sam Steddy and Coppe van Urk
Title: A Distributed Morphology View of Person-driven Auxiliary Selection
Date/Time: Tuesday, Oct 8, 1-2p
Location: 32-D461

We examine the BE vs. HAVE auxiliary splits of Upper-Southern Italian, which differ from familiar Romance languages in being conditioned not by verb type (Burzio 1986), but by person. Building on the work of D’Alessandro (2012 et. prev) and Manzini & Savoia (2005, 2011), we apply the methodology of Arregi & Nevins (2012) to the auxiliaries of Ariellese (Chieti, Abbruzzo) and other languages. Specifically, splits arise because subject clitics and a prepositional head, which turns BE into HAVE (Freeze 1992; Kayne 1993), compete to reach T. This proposal provides support for the idea that HAVE is derived from BE in syntax, and for Arregi & Nevins’ (2012) account of the PCC in Basque.

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October 7th, 2013

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Ling-Lunch 10/10 - Alexander Podobryaev  

Speaker: Alexander Podobryaev
Title: Context and assignment in indexical shifting
Date/Time: Thursday, Oct 10, 12:30-1:45p
Location: 32-D461

Recently, there has been a lot of work done on “shifting” of indexical pronouns in embedded contexts, in various languages. In this talk I examine some novel data from Mishar Tatar (MT<Turkic). There seems to be two kinds of indexical pronouns in MT: indexicals that are context-dependent (cf. Anand 2006), and those that are are only assignment-dependent (cf. Sudo 2012). It is only the latter that can get “shifted” interpretation in embedded contexts (because the monster operator in MT presumably can only manipulate the assignment function but not the context). Crucially, it is also only the latter that can appear as “fake” (semantically bound) indexicals. What’s more, it also happens that context-dependent pronouns are phonologically overt, while assignment-dependent pronouns are null. Time permitting, I will discuss why this would be the case.

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October 7th, 2013

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ESSL meeting 10/10 - Aron Hirsch  

Speaker: Aron Hirsch
Date/Time: Thursday 10 October, 5 pm
Location: 32-D831
Title: Incremental presupposition projection in disjunction

Abstract:

Presupposition projection in conjunction shows left-to-right asymmetries, sensitive to the linear order of the conjuncts. Theories have been proposed linking such asymmetries to general processing considerations, predicting similar asymmetries to be observable across sentential connectives. We address an apparent counter-example – disjunction – which in the classic examples in the literature appears projectively symmetric. We argue that the classic examples are confounded, and show (i) that once the confound is resolved, disjunction is projectively asymmetric, and (ii) that even with the confound in place, there are experimentally observable traces of asymmetry consistent with a processing-based approach.
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October 7th, 2013

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Phonology Circle 9/30 - Gaja Jarosz  

Speaker: Gaja Jarosz (Yale/MIT)
Title: Inductive Bias in the Acquisition of Syllable Structure in Polish
Date/Time: Monday, Sept 30, 5:30pm
Location: 32-D831

(Joint work with Shira Calamaro and Jason Zentz, Yale University.)

A growing body of recent computational and experimental work investigates the kinds of constraints or inductive biases that are needed to explain adult learning outcomes and artificial language learning results. This paper contributes to this discussion by investigating the extent to which inductive biases are needed to explain phonological development. Our focus is on modeling development of production to probe the learning biases that affect the acquisition process in a naturalistic setting. We use statistical modeling to make and test predictions for learning based on properties of the language input. In particular, on the basis of a longitudinal corpus of spontaneous productions of four Polish-learning children, we present detailed analysis of the acquisition of syllable structure in Polish and the phonological factors underlying the observed development. We subsequently construct a variety of phonotactic probability models estimated from a corpus of spontaneous speech spoken to these children and examine the abilities of these input-based models to explain the observed acquisition effects. Our findings indicate that, while certain phonotactic probabilities are highly predictive of acquisition, none can explain the full range of observed acquisition effects. We show that development of syllable structure is sensitive to phonological factors not recoverable from the phonotactic probabilities, suggesting a crucial role for inductive biases. We also show that access to abstract phonological representations plays a key role in explaining the developmental effects. We discuss implications of these results for theories of phonological learning.

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September 30th, 2013

Posted in Talks

Syntax Square 10/1 - Ted Levin  

Speaker: Ted Levin
Title: On the structure of Japanese passive constructions
Date/Time: Tuesday, Oct 1, 1-2p
Location: 32-D461

Please see the full abstract (pdf).

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September 30th, 2013

Posted in Talks

Ling-Lunch 10/3 - Hadas Kotek  

Speaker: Hadas Kotek
Title: What moves where when you process wh-in-situ
Date/Time: Thursday, Oct 3, 12:30-1:45p
Location: 32-D461

Recent theories of interrogative syntax/semantics adopt two strategies for the interpretation of in-situ wh-phrases: covert movement (Karttunen 1977, a.o.) and in-situ interpretation (Hamblin 1973, a.o.). The availability of covert movement is traditionally assumed to be all-or-nothing: the in-situ wh covertly moves to C or else stays in its base-generated position and is interpreted without movement at LF. In this talk I argue that this assumption cannot be maintained. I present evidence from real-time sentence processing of English multiple wh-questionswhich shows that wh-phrases require both covert movement and in-situ interpretation for their derivation. I propose a new syntax-semantics for multiple questions that can derive the experimental data.

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September 30th, 2013

Posted in Talks