Whamit!

The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Phonology Circle 5/2 - Abdul-Razak Sulemana  

Speaker: Abdul-Razak Sulemana (MIT)
Title: The Definite Morpheme in Bùlì
Date: Monday, May 2nd
Time: 5-6:30
Place: 32-D831

The abstract is available here.

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May 2nd, 2016

Posted in Talks

Syntax Square 5/3 - Colin Davis  

Speaker: Colin Davis (MIT)
Title: Locality and copular allomorphy in North Azeri
Date: Tuesday, May 3rd
Time: 1:00pm-2:00pm
Place: 32-D461

In this talk I analyze the distribution of copular allomorphy in North Azeri (Turkic), which I argue supports a theory of allomorphy that is constrained by structural locality. (Bobaljik 2012) In specific, when a copula is sufficiently local to a T bearing relevant features, copular allomorphy is possible, but when these conditions are unmet, either due to featural mismatch or lack of structural locality due to intervening phrases, the copula defaults to an elsewhere form. This system captures a range of facts in a principled way, while keeping a uniform syntax in all cases. I extend this argument to account for a syncretism between that elsewhere copular form, and the form of the verb “become”, which are the same in this language. I suggest that we can decompose “become” in the syntax into a copula plus an additional head encoding inchoative semantics or some related species of inner aspect, and that the addition of this head results in structural dis-locality between the copula and a potential allomorphy trigger, just as we see elsewhere in the language. That is, while we might posit accidental syncretism between these two things, I suggest that we do not have to do so.

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May 2nd, 2016

Posted in Talks

LFRG 5/4 - Itai Bassi  

Speaker: Itai Bassi (MIT)
Time: Wednesday, May 4th, 2016
Place: 32-D831
Title: Existential Semantics for Bare Conditionals (joint work with Moshe E. Bar-Lev)

Bare conditionals show quantificational variability contingent on whether they are in an Upward Entailing or a Downward Entailing environment. For example, the conditional in (1) is interpreted universally while (2) existentially:

1) if you work hard you succeed
in all cases where you work hard you succeed
2) no one will succeed if they goof off
no x is such that there is a case where they goof off and succeed

We suggest that contrary to the widely accepted view, the basic semantics of if p, q involves existential quantification, and its universal character in UE environments is derived by a grammatical strengthening mechanism of recursive exhaustification over domain alternatives. We further show how the phenomenon of Conditional Perfection (from if p, q to if and only if p, q), a long-standing puzzle, can be derived in our system.

Some challenges to the analysis will be mentioned, as well as the prospects of extending it to deal with Homogeneity phenomena in general.

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May 2nd, 2016

Posted in Talks

Ling Lunch 5/5 - Yuta Sakamoto  

Speaker: Yuta Sakamoto (UCONN)
Title: Beyond deep and surface: Clausal complement anaphora in Japanese
Time: Thursday, May 5th, 12:30-1:50 pm
Place: 32-D461

In this talk, I investigate the possibility of extraction out of both overt and covert anaphora sites in Japanese, i.e. extraction out of clausal complements that are “replaced” by soo ‘so’ and clausal complements that are phonologically missing. Specifically, I show that both of them allow certain types of extraction out of them, unlike clausal complement anaphora in English, where extraction is uniformly banned out of its domain. Based on the extraction possibility, I then argue that the Japanese cases in question are instances of ellipsis, not pro-forms. Furthermore, I argue that both deletion and LF-copying are available strategies for implementing ellipsis. In particular, I argue that “replaced” clausal complements are best analyzed in terms of deletion and silent clausal complement anaphora in terms of LF-copying.

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May 2nd, 2016

Posted in Talks

Colloquium 5/6 - Daniel Büring  

Speaker: Daniel Büring (University of Vienna)
Title: Backgrounded ≠ Given — The relation between focusing, givenness and stress in English
Date: Friday, May 6th
Time: 3:30-5:00 PM
Place: 32-141

Standard wisdom sees the given/new distinction, and its effects on (de)accenting, as either independent of, and ultimately secondary to, focusing (e.g. Fery & Samek-Lodovici 2006, Katz & Selkirk 2011), or subsumes it wholesale under an anaphoric theory of focusing (e.g. Schwarzschild 1999, Wagner 2006,2012, Büring 2012).

In this talk I explore a novel and rather different picture: givenness is a necessary, but not, ever, sufficient condition for deaccenting (or more in general for what I call “prosodic reversal”), and so is “contrastive focusabilty” (of the then-accented element). Crucially, the target of focussing (say, the value of C in Rooth’s, 1992, ~C), never has to be contextually salient; in other words: focusing is not anaphoric. Consequently, even the background of a focus only needs to be given if is deaccented (“prosodically demoted”).

This view offers new perspectives on a number of thorny problems, including the proper analysis of deaccenting (or the lack thereof) within broad foci (and yes, there will be “convertible” examples!). In a nutshell, using non-anaphoric focal targets (which now we may!), we can re-analyze all cases of apparent anaphoric deaccenting as narrow contrastive foci, while the givenness condition ensures that we do not deaccent (though possibly background) non-given elements.

The proposal is implemented in Unalternative Semantics, a new method for calculating focus alternatives, which solely looks at whether two sister nodes show default or non-default relative stress (no F- or G-marking!). I show that this method provides for a particularly natural implementation of the division of labor between focus and givenness argued for.

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May 2nd, 2016

Posted in Talks

Fieldwork Recording 5/6 - Edward Flemming  

Speaker: Edward Flemming (MIT)
Title: Fieldwork recording
Time: Friday, May 6th, 2-3pm
Place: 32-D831

This is a general talk on fieldwork recording that addresses practical questions, such as how to choose a recorder and recording accessories for a particular fieldwork setting, what to do or not do in a particular recording environment, etc.

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May 2nd, 2016

Posted in Talks

Daniel Büring: Mini-course on Unalternative Semantics  

Class 1 (Wednesday)
Title: Unalternative Semantics, basics
Time: 5:00-6:30pm
Venue: 32-461

UNALTERNATIVE SEMANTICS (UAS) provides a new method to calculate focus alternatives. It directly and compositionally calculates focus alternatives from relative stress patterns, without the mediation of [F]-markers or similar devices. Crucially, the structural cue for deriving focus alternatives (in English and similar languages) is the distinction between default and non-default metrical patterns among sister nodes, rather than properties of constituents in isolation (such as presence of an accent, or a particular amount of stress). The result is a simpler, yet arguably more adequate model of the connection between prosody and focus semantics.

The first class introduces the basic workings of UAS. I then discuss how UAS avoids classical problems such as over-focussing, under-accenting, and how it accounts for second occurrence focus.

Class 2 (Thursday)
Title: Unalternative Semantics, further applications
Time: 5:00-6:30pm
Venue: 32-461

The basic framework from class 1 is applied to new phenomena: focus positions, “unfocus” positions (in Hausa), and sentences with two intermediate phrases and two nuclear pitch accents (in English again). If we’re lucky, we can discuss impromptu ideas by students that work on related phenomena, speculate how they could be approached in UAS etc.
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May 2nd, 2016

Posted in Talks

Syntax Square 4/26 - Nick Longenbaugh  

Speaker: Nick Longenbaugh (MIT)
Title: Medium-distance movement
Date: Tuesday, April 26th
Time: 1:00pm-2:00pm
Place: 32-D461

Many filler-gap dependencies traditionally analyzed as involving A’-movement of a null operator show constraints on the gap site that are not observed with other types of A’-movement (Stowell 1986; Cinque 1990; Rezac 2006; a.o.) wh-question formation, finite relative clause formation). In this talk, I focus on four such cases: degree-clauses, purpose clauses, non-finite relatives, and tough-movement. In each of these constructions, intervening finite clauses (but not infinitives) degrade object gaps and completely block subject gaps. I term this constrained movement medium-distance movement (MDM).

(1) Intervening finite CPs degrade object gaps
a. ?(?)That book was hard [Inf to convince Sally [CP that John wrote t]].
b. ??Sally was too smart [Inf to convince Arthur [CP that the professor had failed t]].
c. ??I chose this piano [Inf to convince Bill [CP that Mozart had practiced on t]].
d. ?(?)I’m looking for a book [Inf to convince Sue [CP that Roth would love t]]

(2) Intervening finite CPs block subject-gaps
a. *John was hard [Inf to convince Sally [CP t wrote that book]].
b. *Sally was too smart [Inf to convince Arthur [CP t failed the test]].
c. *I chose Sue [Inf to convince Bill [CP t won the race]].
d. *I’m looking for an author [Inf to convince Sue [CP t wrote this book]]

I argue that the constraints on MDM arise due to type-theoretic constraints on the interpretation of the top link in the relevant movement chain. I show that in each of the four cases under discussion, the top link in the movement chain must be interpreted as a predicate over individuals (type ). Adopting van Urk’s (2105) type-driven approach to the A/A’-distinction, where A- and A’-movement differ in the type of abstraction they are associated with at LF, this precludes precluding any pure A’-movement step in the course of the derivation of these constructions. Instead, I suggest, following van Urk (2015) and Longenbaugh (2016), that the relevant mechanism is composite A/A’-movement, and that finite CPs (but not infinitives) are islands for such movement in English. MDM out of a finite clause is thus island-violating movement, which captures Cinque’s (1990) observation that MDM shows the same constraints as wh-island-violating movement. This analysis both provides a straightforward explanation of the constrained nature of the movement involved in these constructions and furnishes new evidence for the ubiquity of composite A/A’-movement in natural language.

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April 25th, 2016

Posted in Talks

Ling Lunch 4/28 - Aron Hirsch  

Speaker: Aron Hirsch (MIT)
Title: Coordination and constituency paradoxes
Time: Thursday, April 28th, 12:30-1:50 pm
Place: 32-D461

In Hirsch (2015), I discuss empirical diagnostics for hidden structure in examples like (1a), and argue for a “conjunction reduction” analysis, where (1a) involves vP conjunction rather than DP conjunction, (1b) (CR, cf. Schein 2014). Diagnostics involve the distribution of adverbs (cf. Collins 1988), available interpretations of VP ellipsis, and observed scope readings (cf. Partee & Rooth 1983).

(1) a. John saw every student and every professor.
b. John [t saw every student] and [t (saw) every professor].

In this talk, I employ these same empirical tests to identify a class of constituency paradoxes. I consider cases where `DP and DP’ appears to be singled out as a constituent — (pseudo)-clefts (2a), right node raising (2b), and examples with `both’ apparently adjoining to `DP and DP’ (2c) — and demonstrate that tests for hidden structure still come out positive in these cases.

(2) a. It’s a table and a chair that John saw.
b. John likes and Mary hates a table and a chair (respectively).
c. John saw both a table and a chair.

To resolve the paradoxes, I propose derivations of (2a)-(2c) which again involve hidden structure above the DP. Finally, I show how the proposal for (2c) may extend beyond apparent DP conjunction to provide an explanation for certain data involving apparent `CP coordination’: (3), where `or’ is interpreted as scoping above the intensional predicate, and observations from Bjorkman (2013).

(3) CNN believes either that Trump will be president or that Hillary will be. (or > believe, *believe > or)

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April 25th, 2016

Posted in Talks

Phonology Circle 4/25 - Benjamin Storme  

Speaker: Benjamin Storme (MIT)
Title: The loi de position and the acoustics of Southern French mid vowels
Date: Monday, April 25th
Time: 5-6:30
Place: 32-D831

Southern French is often described as having a syllable-based distribution of tense and lax mid vowels, traditionally known as the loi de position: tense mid vowels occur in open syllables and lax mid vowels in closed syllables. But there is disagreement among authors as to (i) whether the loi de position holds across contexts (Is it limited to stressed syllables? Is it limited to certain consonantal contexts?) and (ii) whether there is durational difference between tense and lax mid vowels (with tense mid vowels being longer). These debates are reflected in dictionaries, which show conflicting phonetic transcriptions of mid vowels (e.g. Ecossais “Scottish” and accoster “touch land” are transcribed as [ekosɛ] and [akɔste] in the Lexique 3.80, in accordance with the loi de position, but as [ekɔsɛ] and [akɔste] in the TLF).

To answer these questions, I will present two acoustic experiments investigating the realization of French oral vowels in different syllabic/segmental/stress contexts. The results support the view that the loi de position holds both in stressed and unstressed syllables and across a range of consonantal contexts (before [r], [l], and [s]). However, the tense/lax distinction is not necessarily accompanied by a durational difference, suggesting that closed syllable vowel laxing and shortening do not always go together, contrary to what has been assumed in most phonological accounts of the loi de position.

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April 25th, 2016

Posted in Talks

ESSL/LacqLab 4/25 - Cassandra Chapman  

Speaker: Cassandra Chapman
Time: Monday, April 25, at 1:00 PM
Place: 32-D831
Title: Processing of logical form structure: Evidence from binding

Previous psycholinguistic work on filler-gap dependencies demonstrates that the left-to-right incremental parser is sensitive to the syntactic dependency holding between a wh-filler and its gap position. However, little work has investigated how the parser might resolve constructions in which a phrase must be interpreted in a distinct structural position (i.e., in its logical form, or LF, position) from where it appears on the surface. The interpretation of three different types of DPs (namely, anaphors, pronouns and proper names) provide a tool to investigate LF structure in real-time. In three self-paced reading experiments, we examined how these DPs are processed in sentences where the anaphor or pronoun linearly preceded its antecedent. Results suggest that the parser searches for an antecedent as soon as it finds an unbound anaphor (Principle A) but that no such search occurs for pronouns (Principle B). Greater processing difficulty is also incurred when names are first introduced compared to pronouns, which can be explained by current models of variable binding: pronouns can enter the derivation with an index whereas an index needs to be created for names to serve as binders. In this talk, we propose a processing model which makes predictions about when processing difficulty will arise based on the current semantic theories.
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April 25th, 2016

Posted in Talks

LFRG 4/29 - Paul Marty  

Speaker: Paul Marty (MIT)
Time: Friday, April 29, 2-3pm
Place: 32-D831
Title: What it takes ‘to win’: a linguistic point of view

In this talk, I discuss and offer a solution to the `Puzzle of Changing Past’ presented in Barlassina and Del Prete (2014). This puzzle is based on the following true story:

The Rise And Fall Of Lance Armstrong: On 23rd of July 2000, Lance Armstrong is declared the winner of the 87th Tour de France by Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI). However, on 22 October 2012, UCI withdraws all of Armstrong’s wins at Tour de France.

Now, consider the following sentence:
(1) Lance Armstrong won the 87th Tour de France.

The puzzle arises from the following observations. If the proposition expressed in (1) is evaluated before `22 October 2012’, then it is true; however, if it is evaluated after `22 October 2012’, then its negation is true. This is puzzling because it challenges the platitude that the truth/falsity of what we say about the past depends on how the past is and stands as it is once and for all, as exemplified in (2).

(2) Lance Armstrong was born in 1971.
a. If (2) is true at a time t in w, then for any t’ such that t’>t, (2) is true at t’ in w.
b. If (2) is false at a time t in w, then for any t’ such that t’>t, (2) is false at t’ in w.

One possibility is to consider this puzzle as a metaphysical one, and embrace Barlassina and Del Prete’s provocative conclusion that the past can change. Instead of taking this avenue, I will argue that this puzzle is linguistic in nature, and defend the platitude. In substance, I will propose that `win’-sentences of (1) involve a covert modality which can be thought of as the remnant of the original speech-act whereby the winner is `declared’ to be so (e.g., `It was declared that Lance Armstrong won the 87th Tour de France’). I will show how this view can account for sentences of (3), and in particular for the presence of the past tense morphology in the embedded clause.

(3) It is no longer the case that [Lance Armstrong won the 87th Tour de France].
(4) #It is no longer the case that [Lance Armstrong was born in 1971].

In the meantime, if you want to look at the original argument, Barlassina and Del Prete’s paper is available here.

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April 25th, 2016

Posted in Talks

LFRG 4/20 - Keny Chatain  

Speaker: Keny Chatain (MIT/ENS)
Time: Wednesday, April 20th, 1-2pm
Place: 32-D831
Title: Some puzzles with demonstratives

In this talk, I will present of some of my work in progress on demonstrative descriptions. Demonstrative descriptions exhibit a wide range of uses: they can co-occur with gestures such as pointing (deictic use), they can refer to an entity previously mentioned in the discourse (anaphoric use), or can occur on their own, without the need for external material to determine their referent. In this talk, I will focus on some cases of anaphoric uses which prove challenging under Elbourne (2001)’s influential account of demonstrative descriptions. Those cases involve sloppy interpretation of an anaphoric demonstrative when its antecedent is under the scope of a quantifier. These examples can be thought of as the counterpart of « paycheck pronouns » with demonstratives. This will allow me to highlight some parallel properties between simple pronouns and demonstratives (bridging inferences, anaphoric use, bound variables, etc). As a conclusion, I will provide an initial sketch of an analysis for these cases.
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April 20th, 2016

Posted in Talks

Ling Lunch 4/21 - Daniel Margulis  

Speaker: Daniel Margulis (MIT)
Title: Expletive negation is an exponent of only
Time: Thursday, April 21th, 12:30-1:50 pm
Place: 32-D461

Contrary to the natural assumption that negative morphemes bring about truth-condition reversal, Hebrew sentential negation does not always make the expected contribution to meaning, just like other instances of expletive negation crosslinguistically.
Hebrew expletive negation is found in until-clauses (1) and free (headless) relative clauses (2).

(1)   yoni   yaSan ad     Se    ha-Sxenim       lo     hidliku muzika
+++ yoni slept   until that the-neighbors neg   lit       music
++ “Yoni was asleep until the neighbors turned on some music.”

(2)   mi    Se    lo      yaSav b-a-xacer    kibel ugiya
+++ who that neg sat      in-the-yard received cookie
++ “Whoever was sitting in the yard got a cookie.”

In this talk I discuss expletive negation’s contribution to interpretation and argue that the until data should be understood as an obligatory scalar implicature, arising due to an association between expletive negation and a covert `only’.

Why should the negative morpheme participating in expletive negation carry the meaning of `only’? I follow von Fintel & Iatridou’s (2007) decompositional analysis of `only’, according to which only has two components: negation and an exceptive, as attested overtly in some languages, e.g., French `ne…que’ and Greek `dhen…para’. Under such a view, the status of expletive negation would simply be that of any ordinary negation, and the only special property of expletive negation constructions would be that they contain a covert exceptive head.

I provide further support for the current proposal from the observations that expletive negation cannot license negative concord and that an overt `only’ cannot accompany expletive negation. Finally, I will mention a direction in which the proposal could be extended to the free relatives data.

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April 20th, 2016

Posted in Talks

4/21 - last talk by Giorgio Magri  

Speaker: Giorgio Magri (CNRS)
Title: The Merchant/Tesar theory of inconsistency detection for learning underlying forms
Time: Thurs 4/21 3-5pm
Place: 32-D461

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April 20th, 2016

Posted in Talks

Syntax Square 4/12 - Norbert Corver  

Speaker: Norbert Corver (Utrecht)
Title: small but BIG: Augmentative schwa in the morphosyntactic build of Dutch
Date: Tuesday, April 12th
Time: 1:00pm-2:00pm
Place: 32-D461

The abstract is available here.

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April 11th, 2016

Posted in Talks

Ling Lunch 4/14 - Despina Oikonomou  

Speaker: Despina Oikonomou (MIT)
Title: Sloppy pro in Greek: an E-type analysis
Time: Thursday, April 14th, 12:30-1:50 pm
Place: 32-D461

It has been observed that null subjects (NSs) in Japanese allow a sloppy interpretation whereas NSs in Romance languages do not (Oku 1998). This difference has led to the idea that NSs in Japanese-type languages is an instance of argument ellipsis whereas in Spanish-type languages they are silent pronouns (Oku 1998, Saito 2007, Takahashi 2007). However, Duguine (2014) provides empirical evidence for the availability of sloppy readings in Spanish and Basque NSs and argues for a unitary approach of NSs as Argument DP-Ellipsis.

In this talk, I show that sloppy readings are also available in Greek NSs (1), but I provide evidence against a DP-Ellipsis analysis. I argue instead that the sloppy NSs in Greek are E-type pronouns (`paycheck’ pronouns (Cooper 1979)) in the sense of Elbourne’s (2001) approach.

(1) A: i   Maria ipe   oti     to   agapimeno tis       fagito ine o musakas.
+++ the Maria said that the favorite     her.Poss food is the moussaka
+++ ‘Maria said that her favorite food is moussaka.’

+ B: i   Yoko ipe   oti ∅   ine to sushi.
++ the Yoko said that ∅ is the sushi
++ ‘Yoko said [it] is sushi.’
√Sloppy reading: Yoko said that Yoko’s favorite food is sushi.

Elbourne (2001) analyzes E-type pronouns as a determiner plus NP-Ellipsis. I show that sloppy interpretation becomes available when the antecedent involves a relational as opposed to a sortal noun. This contrast follows from Elbourne’s analysis; in relational nouns the possessor is an argument of the NP (Barker 1991), therefore it is present in the elided NP and can be bound. Object clitics behave in a similar way, allowing sloppy interpretations under certain conditions (cf. Giannakidou & Merchant 1997). A new question arises as to whether an E-type analysis of sloppy NSs is applicable in Japanese as well (Miyagawa 2015).

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April 11th, 2016

Posted in Talks

LFRG 4/15 - Paul Marty  

Speaker: Paul Marty (MIT)
Time: Friday, April 15th, 12-1pm
Place: 32-D461
Title: What it takes ‘to win’: a linguistic point of view

In this talk, I discuss and offer a solution to the `Puzzle of Changing Past’ presented in Barlassina and Del Prete (2014). This puzzle is based on the following true story:

The Rise And Fall Of Lance Armstrong: On 23rd of July 2000, Lance Armstrong is declared the winner of the 87th Tour de France by Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI). However, on 22 October 2012, UCI withdraws all of Armstrong’s wins at Tour de France.

Now, consider the following sentence:
(1) Lance Armstrong won the 87th Tour de France.

The puzzle arises from the following observations. If the proposition expressed in (1) is evaluated before `22 October 2012’, then it is true; however, if it is evaluated after `22 October 2012’, then its negation is true. This is puzzling because it challenges the platitude that the truth/falsity of what we say about the past depends on how the past is and stands as it is once and for all, as exemplified in (2).

(2) Lance Armstrong was born in 1971.
a. If (2) is true at a time t in w, then for any t’ such that t’>t, (2) is true at t’ in w.
b. If (2) is false at a time t in w, then for any t’ such that t’>t, (2) is false at t’ in w.

One possibility is to consider this puzzle as a metaphysical one, and embrace Barlassina and Del Prete’s provocative conclusion that the past can change. Instead of taking this avenue, I will argue that this puzzle is linguistic in nature, and defend the platitude. In substance, I will propose that `win’-sentences of (1) involve a covert modality which can be thought of as the remnant of the original speech-act whereby the winner is `declared’ to be so (e.g., `It was declared that Lance Armstrong won the 87th Tour de France’). I will show how this view can account for sentences of (3), and in particular for the presence of the past tense morphology in the embedded clause.

(3) It is no longer the case that [Lance Armstrong won the 87th Tour de France].
(4) #It is no longer the case that [Lance Armstrong was born in 1971].

In the meantime, if you want to look at the original argument, Barlassina and Del Prete’s paper is available here.

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April 11th, 2016

Posted in Talks

Colloquium 4/15 - Amy Rose Deal  

Speaker: Amy Rose Deal (UC Berkeley)
Title: Shifty asymmetries: toward universals and variation in shifty indexicality
Time: Friday, 04/15/2016, 3:30-5:00pm
Venue: 32-141

Indexical shift is a phenomenon whereby indexicals embedded in speech and attitude reports depend for their reference on the speech/attitude report, rather than on the overall utterance. For example, in a language with indexical shift, “I” may refer to Bob in a sentence like “Who did Bob think I saw?”. The last 15 years have seen an explosive growth in research on indexical shift cross-linguistically. In this talk, I discuss three major generalizations that emerge from this work, and present a theory that attempts to explain them. The account that I develop concerns the syntax of indexical shift along with its semantics, and has consequences for the linguistic encoding of attitudes de se. Throughout the talk I will exemplify indexical shift primarily, though by no means exclusively, with data from original fieldwork on Nez Perce.
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April 11th, 2016

Posted in Talks

ESSL/LaqLab Meeting 4/11  

Speaker: Athulya Aravind (MIT)
Title: Children’s understanding of factive forget/remember
Date and time: Monday, April 11th, 1:00 to 2:00 PM
Venue: 32-D831

Children have been reported to have enduring difficulties with cognitive factives, even at an age when they don’t have generalized difficulties with (non-factive) attitude predicates or presupposition triggers. Specifically, children behave as if they don’t know that the veracity inference survives under negation. We examine 4-6-year-olds’ understanding of the factive verb-pair forget/remember and find two populations: one group (n=13) displays adult-like performance, while the other (n=19) appears to be treating factive predicates on par with their implicative counterparts. My goal for this talk will be twofold: (i) consider whether this pattern is indicative of an acquisition stage where children lack a factive representation for remember/forget and (ii) discuss ideas for follow-up experiments that could adjudicate between different interpretations of these results.
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April 11th, 2016

Posted in Talks

ESSL / LaqLab Meeting 4/4 - Sudha Arunachalam  

Speaker: Sudha Arunachalam (BU)
Title: How do children learn the meanings of event nominals?
Date and time: Monday, April 4th, 1:00 to 2:00 PM
Venue: 32-D831

Abstract: In the literature on vocabulary acquisition, much attention has been paid to the conceptual and linguistic differences between early-acquired verbs (labels for actions) and early-acquired nouns (labels for objects and people) and how these pose different learning tasks for the child. Event nominals pose an interesting challenge in that some are relatively early acquired, like “party” and “nap,” but they pose the same conceptual difficulties that accompany verbs while lacking the linguistic supports offered by verb argument structure. I would like to have an informal discussion about how we might investigate children’s representations for these early event nominals and what underlies their abilities to acquire them.
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April 4th, 2016

Posted in Talks

Phonology Circle 4/4 - Donca Steriade  

Speaker: Donca Steriade (MIT)
Title: ATB-shifts and ATB-blockage in vocalic plateaus
Date/Time: Monday, April 4, 5:00–6:30pm
Location: 32-D831

The abstract is available here.

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April 4th, 2016

Posted in Talks

Syntax Square 4/5 - Fabian Moss  

Speaker: Fabian Moss (TU Dresden) (BU)
Title: Towards a syntactic account for harmonic sequences in extended tonality
Date and time: Tuesday, April 5, 1:00 to 2:00 PM
Venue: 32-D461

A fundamental aspect of Western music is tonal harmony, or tonality, a complex rule system for specifying a) acceptable combinations of notes and chords within a key through reference to the tonic, its tonal center, and b) relationships between different keys. This is usually called harmonic function. Implicit knowledge of harmonic functions enables listeners to form strong expectations about the harmonic structure of musical pieces. To account for this phenomenon, previous research points to hierarchical grammatical models similar to those used to account for linguistic structure. The harmonic structure in music of the common practice period (Bach to Beethoven) is well described by grammars which define harmonic functions as recursive, tonic-headed patterns. In extended tonality, the language of the romantic period (Schubert to Mahler), harmonic patterns can be formalized in terms of finite state automata or as finite cyclic groups of transformations acting on notes or chords. However, the relationship to hierarchical descriptions and thus the integration into cognitive models that account for the building of harmonic expectations faces several challenges:
  • How to deal with cyclic patterns?
  • Are local dependencies enough?
  • How to determine head(s) of phrases?
  • This talk will outline the conceptual framework for dealing with musical instances of extended tonality in order to draw connections to current cognitive models of tonal harmony. Musical examples that will be discussed include:
  • F. Liszt: 5 Klavierstücke S. 192, No. 2 (Lento assai)
  • L. v. Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 op. 125, mvt. 2 (Scherzo)
  • J. Brahms: Double Concerto in A-minor, op. 102, mvt. 2 (Andante)
  • G. Verdi: Messa da Requiem (Rex Tremendae)
  • A. Dvořák: Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95 “From The New World”, mvt. 2 “Largo”
  • A. Bruckner: “Ecce sacerdos magnus”, WAB 13
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    April 4th, 2016

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    LFRG 4/6 - Mike Jacques  

    Speaker: Mike Jacques (MIT)
    Time: Wednesday, April 6th, 1-2pm
    Place: 32-D831
    Title: Approximators and Exceptives

    There is a class of approximators (almost, nearly, practically) that have an anomalous distribution with quantifiers - approximator + universal quantifier is grammatical, while approximator + existential quantifier is ungrammatical. Consider the following data:

    a. Almost/Nearly/Practically every student is here
    b. Almost/Nearly/Practically no students are here
    c. *Almost/Nearly/Practically {some/most/the/5} students are here

    Previous analyses of these operators have failed to account for the distribution in (1). I argue that the key data point in trying to give a semantics for these approximators is their close relation with exceptive phrases. Consider the exceptive phrases with but in (2):

    a. Every student but John is here
    b. No student but John is here
    c. *Some/Most/5/the students but John are here

    In this talk, I argue that a precise semantics for these approximators can be given in terms of an exceptive semantics, where the exception itself is existentially quantified. I show that this semantics, coupled with pragmatic considerations of “closeness,” gives a straightforward prediction for approximators and quantifiers, which correctly accounts for the data in (1).

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    April 4th, 2016

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    Ling Lunch 4/7 - Adina Dragomirescu & Alexandru Nicolae  

    Speaker: Adina Dragomirescu & Alexandru Nicolae (Romanian Academy - University of Bucharest)
    Title: Inflected `non-finite’ forms: The Romance inflected infinitive vs. the Romanian Supine
    Time: Thursday, April 7th, 12:30-1:50 pm
    Place: 32-D461

    In this talk we introduce the relevant data related to the inflected infinitive in the Romance languages and in languages from other families. We focus on the relation between inflected and non-inflected (regular) infinitives and on the origin of the inflected forms. The data presented make it difficult to give straightforward answers to questions like ‘what is an infinitive?’ or ‘how can we distinguish between an inflected infinitive and a subjunctive?’.

    We then turn to the data regarding the Romanian supine and the competition between supine, infinitive and subjunctive forms in Modern Standard Romanian. We also pay attention to the usage of the supine in the northern varieties of Romanian, which, in contrast to the standard supine allows clitics, negation and even person and number agreement. This suggests that the functional structure of the standard supine is reduced when compared to the northern varieties.

    Finally, we try to put all these data in the context of the ‘exfoliation’ hypothesis, presented by David Pesetsky in his class this semester. We show that the Romanian infinitive, like the inflected infinitive in other Romance languages, projects a full non-finite clausal domain, so that exfoliation is not relevant here. However, the standard supine (incompatible with subjects, clitics, and negation) obtains via exfoliation of the C domain, the higher projection being probably the MoodP, where de, the supine marker, is hosted. However, in the northern varieties, the supine is a CP, with de hosted by the C domain, and its functional domain contains at least NegP (where the negation is hosted), and a PersP (where clitics are hosted). Empirical arguments for distinguishing between ‘exfoliation’ and (Rizzi’s / Wurmbrand’s) ‘restructuring’ are also presented.

    Open issues: Is exfoliation relevant from a diachronic point of view? Is exfoliation reversible? What is the relation between grammaticalization and exfoliation?

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    April 4th, 2016

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    ESSL/LacqLab 3/28 - Brian Dillon  

    Speaker: Brian Dillon (UMass)
    Title: Which noun phrases is this verb supposed to agree with… and when?
    Date and time: Monday, March 28, in 32-D831, 1:00-2:00 pm

    The study of agreement constraints has yielded much insight into the organization of grammatical knowledge, within and across languages. In a parallel fashion, the study of agreement production and comprehension have provided key data in the development of theories of language production and comprehension. In this talk I present work at the intersection of these two research traditions. I present the results of experimental research (joint work with Adrian Staub, Charles Clifton Jr, and Josh Levy) that suggests that the grammar of many American English speakers is variable: in certain syntactic configurations, more than one NP is permitted to control agreement (Kimball & Aissen, 1971). However, our work suggests that this variability is not random, and in particular, optional agreement processes are constrained by the nature of the parser. We propose that variable agreement choices arise in part as a function of how the parser stores syntactic material in working memory d uring the incremental production of syntactic structures.
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    March 28th, 2016

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    Phonology Circle 3/28 - Kevin Ryan  

    Speaker: Kevin Ryan (Harvard)
    Title: Strictness functions in meter
    Date/Time: Monday, March 28, 5:00-6:30pm
    Location: 32-D831

    Meters can vary in strictness along several dimensions, four of which I’ll illustrate using the Finnish Kalevala, though the principles are arguably universal.
    1. Strictness increases across constituents such as the line (couplet, etc.), such that exceptions are most frequent at the beginning and taper off towards the end.
    2. Although the meter is conventionally described as regulating only stressed syllables, I show that degree of regulation correlates with degree of stress, such that violations of the meter are more tolerated for more weakly stressed syllables, but not fully ignored.
    3. Although conventionally described as binary, the meter evidently treats weight as gradient, such that the more the duration of a syllable deviates from its metrical target, the more the mapping is penalized.
    4. Word boundaries are increasingly avoided towards the end of the line (beyond prose baselines). The conventionally recognized prohibition on line-final monosyllables is only the most extreme manifestation of this tendency.
    In all four cases, strictness of mapping (i.e. how much a violation of the meter is “felt”) is modulated by some scale such as position in the line, stress level, or duration. I discuss how such modulations of strictness can be modeled in a maxent or logistic constraint framework and some resulting typological predictions.
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    March 28th, 2016

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    Syntax Square 3/29 - Kenyon Branan  

    Speaker: Kenyon Branan (MIT)
    Title: Real object agreement in Tigre
    Date: Tuesday, March 29th
    Time: 1:00pm-2:00pm
    Place: 32-D461

    Whenever the phi-features of an argument are cross-referenced by a morpheme in the verbal complex, the question arises: is this morpheme an agreement morpheme, or is it a doubled clitic. Recently, instances of object cross-referencing have been argued to be clitic doubling (Woolford 2008, Preminger 2009, Nevins 2011, Kramer 2014), raising the question of whether or not languages ever allow for true object agreement. I’ll argue, based on a variety of diagnostics, that object cross-referencing in Tigre appears to be a real instance of Agree.
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    March 28th, 2016

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    LFRG 3/30 - Daniel Margulis  

    Speaker: Daniel Margulis (MIT)
    Time: Wednesday, March 30, 1-2pm
    Place: 32-D831

    Daniel Margulis will discuss Champollion’s (2016) paper titled Overt distributivity in algebraic event semantics.

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    March 28th, 2016

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    Ling Lunch 3/31 - Naomi Francis  

    Speaker: Naomi Francis (MIT)
    Title: Scope in negative inversion constructions: Evidence from positive polarity item modals
    Time: Thursday, March 31th, 12:30-1:45 pm
    Place: 32-D461

    Negative inversion is a construction that involves the preposing of a negative expression and obligatory subject-auxiliary inversion (e.g. `Under no circumstances are you to buy another pet giraffe’). Collins and Postal (2014) claim that the preposed negative element takes scope over everything else in the clause. I show that, while the negative expression does take scope over quantificational DPs, deontic modals should, must, and to be to, which have been argued to be positive polarity items (PPIs) (Iatridou & Zeijlstra 2013), are able to outscope it. I argue that this can be explained if PPI modals undergo covert movement to escape environments where they are not licensed, as proposed by Iatridou and Zeijlstra (2013) and Homer (2015). This picture is complicated by the fact that epistemic PPI modals behave differently from their deontic counterparts in negative inversion constructions. Furthermore, there is interspeaker variation in the acceptability of epistemic PPI modals in these constructions; at least two patterns of data are attested. I propose that these facts can be captured if we allow certain aspects of the Epistemic Containment Principle (von Fintel & Iatridou 2003) to vary across speakers.

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    March 28th, 2016

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    Reading group 3/31 - Hayes, Wilson, and Shisko (2012)  

    Paper: Hayes, Wilson, and Shisko (2012) “Maxent Grammars for the Metrics of Shakespeare and Milton” Language 88.4, pp. 691-731
    Time: Thursday, 03/31/2016, 5:00-6:30 PM
    Venue: 32-D461

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    March 28th, 2016

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    Colloquium 4/1 - Bruce Hayes  

    Speaker: Bruce Hayes (UCLA)
    Title: Stochastic constraint-based grammars for Hausa verse and song
    Date: Friday, April 1st
    Time: 3:30-5:00 PM
    Place: 32-141

    I pursue a long-standing tradition in phonology, namely appeal to poetic metrics as a testing ground for ideas more broadly applicable in phonology as a whole. The research I will describe is from an ongoing collaboration with Russell Schuh of UCLA.

    The rajaz meter of Hausa is based on syllable quantity. In its dimeter form, it deploys lines consisting of two metra, each with six moras. A variety of metra occur, and the analytical challenge is to single out the legal metra from the set of logically possible metra. Our analysis, framed in maxent OT, does this, and also accounts for the statistical distribution of metron types — varying from poem to poem — within the line and stanza. We also demonstrate a law of comparative frequency for rajaz and show how it emerges naturally in maxent when competing candidates are in a relationship of harmonic bounding.

    Turning to how verse is sung, we observe that rajaz verse rhythm is always remapped onto a sung rhythm, and we consider grammatical architectures, some serial, that can characterize this remapping. Lastly, we develop a maxent phonetic grammar, adapting the framework of Edward Flemming, to predict the durations of the sung syllables. Our constraints simultaneously invoke all levels of structure: the syllables and moras of the phonology, the grids used for poetic scansion, and the grids used for sung rhythm.

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    March 28th, 2016

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    ESSL/LacqLab 3/14 - Katsuo Tamaoka  

    Speaker: Katsuo Tamaoka(Nagoya University, Japan)
    Title: Indexing Movement: Eye-tracking experiments on Japanese scrambled sentences
    Date/Time: Monday, March 14, 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm
    Location: 32-D769 (location change)

    Movement is part of many syntactic structures. However, due to the absence of a directly-compatible baseline, it is usually difficult to visualize syntactic movement in sentence. Japanese scrambled sentences provide an ideal environment for visualizing movement. This talk presents the results of eye-tracking experiments that compared scrambled and canonical Japanese sentences. The results indicate three possible indexes for movement; (1) re-reading time of a moved phrase, (2) regression frequency ratio into the moved phrase, and (3) regression frequency ratio out of the possible trace position. At least one of these three (if not all), depending on the ease of processing load, is likely to appear in the scrambled sentences. This talk will propose the possible indexes for movement in the cognitive processing of sentences.
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    March 14th, 2016

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    Phonology Circle 3/14 - Patrick Jones and Jake Freyer  

    Speaker: Patrick Jones (Harvard) and Jake Freyer (Brandeis)
    Title: Emergent complexity in melodic tone: The case of Kikamba
    Date/Time: Monday, March 14, 5:00-6:00pm
    Location: 32-D831

    Melodic tone assignment, in which inflectional features of verbs are signaled entirely through tonal morphemes assigned to particular positions within verb stems, are pervasive within Bantu languages. A considerable body of recent work has focused on melodic tone in various Bantu languages, in an effort to better understand its core properties (in particular, the extensive 2014 volume of Africana Linguistica, edited by Lee Bickmore and David Odden). From this work, one possible conclusion is that melodic tone is relatively unconstrained both in what tones it may assign and what positions within the verb stem they may target. For example, in one extreme case, in Kikamba, a melody reportedly assigns four distinct tones to three separate positions simultaneously. In this talk, we propose a reanalysis of Kikamba which (a) restricts melodies to two target positions and (b) reduces the total inventory of target sites. More generally, we argue that since core properties of melodic tone are often obscured in surface forms due to interactions with language-particular rules, the cross-linguistic comparison of melodic tone should proceed on the basis a (more) underlying level in which these rules are controlled for.
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    March 14th, 2016

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    Syntax Square 3/15 - Abdul-Razak Sulemana  

    Speaker: Abdul-Razak Sulemana (MIT)
    Title: Deceptive Overt wh-movement in Bùlì
    Date: Tuesday, March 15th
    Time: 1:00pm-2:00pm
    Place: 32-D461

    Deceptive Overt wh-movement in Bùlì: Abstract

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    March 14th, 2016

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    LFRG 3/16 - Aron Hirsch  

    Speaker: Aron Hirsch
    Time: Wednesday, March 16, 1-2pm
    Place: 32-D831
    Title: Co-ordinating questions

    There is disagreement in the literature about whether or not constituent questions can be disjoined (e.g. Groenendijk & Stokhof 1989, Szabolcsi 1997, Krifka 2001, Haida & Repp 2013). In this talk, I introduce novel data arguing that questions can be both disjoined and conjoined. I propose an analysis of disjoined constituent questions which unifies them with alternative questions and mention-some questions. Although questions are often taken to denote sets of propositions (type ), the proposed analysis will further render the data compatible with a hypothesis that only type t meanings can be co-ordinated (e.g. Hirsch 2015, Schein 2014, Ross 1967).
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    March 14th, 2016

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    Ling Lunch 3/17 - Polina Berezovskaya  

    Speaker: Polina Berezovskaya (University of Tübingen)
    Title: `Small Degrees’: Degree Modification in Nenets.
    Time: Thursday, March 17th, 12:30-1:45 pm
    Place: 32-D461

    In Nenets, an underrepresented Samoyedic language from the Uralic language family, the suffix ‘-rka’ is commonly found on the gradable adjective in comparison constructions, cf. (1):

    (1) Katja Masha-xad saml’ang santimetra-nh pirc’a-rka.
    Katja Masha-ABL five cm-DAT tall-RKA
    ‘Katja is a little taller than Masha.’

    Contrary to claims in the descriptive literature (e.g. Terezhenko 1947, Nikolaeva 2014), according to which this suffix is a comparative marker, original fieldwork data shows that it is not. I am proposing an analysis under which ‘-rka’ is a degree modifier that modifies a difference degree stating that this degree is small.

    The Puzzle. The striking fact is that this suffix also appears outside of comparison constructions. (2) and (3) show instances of ‘-rka’ on nouns and verbs.

    (2) a. ngamderc’- chair, ngamderc’arka - kind of a chair
    b. neb’a - mother, neb’arka - a mother who kind of fulfils her duties as a mother, but not quite
    c. ne - woman, nerka - kind of a woman (e.g. doesn’t really behave like one)

    (3) Man’ s’urba-rka-dm.
    I run-RKA-1.SG
    ‘I ran a little.’

    The question here is what the core meaning contributed by ‘-rka’ in all these cases is and whether nouns and verbs carrying this suffix make reference to some kind of an implicit comparison.

    The Plot. In this talk, I will explore the meaning contribution of this suffix in and outside of comparison constructions. An analysis of Nenets comparisons that are not marked by ‘-rka’ will be provided in the spirit of the standard analysis (cf. von Stechow 1984, Heim 2001, Beck 2011). I will also propose an analysis of cases like (1) using a certain type of the Restrict operation (cf. Chung and Ladusaw 2004). Ultimately, we will discuss the meaning contribution of -rka outside of comparisons.

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    March 14th, 2016

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    Fieldwork Meeting 3/16 - Norvin Richards  

    Speaker: Norvin Richards (MIT)
    Title: Fieldwork Methodology and More
    Date: Wednesday, March 16th
    Time: 5-6pm (UPDATED - one hour later than originally announced)
    Place: 7th floor seminar room

    Norvin will be talking to us about a few fieldwork-related issues (elicitation preparation, types of judgment, etc.)

    A few topics that he might cover are:

    (i) judgment types (grammaticality, felicity, etc.), judgment scale (good/?/*, numeric, etc.), ways to elicit judgments

    (ii) elicitation prep: questionnaires with randomized items, grouping questions that target the same phenomenon together (not randomized), etc.

    (iii) ways to elicit specific constructions, diagnostics to detect certain phenomenon

    (iv) how to recruit speakers: any criteria for selecting speakers to work with when one just starts on a language (gender, education background, occupation, etc.).

    (v) his fieldwork in Australia

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    March 14th, 2016

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    3/16 - Naomi Feldman  

    Speaker: Naomi Feldman (University of Maryland)
    Title: How phonetic learners should use their input
    Time: Wednesday, 03/16/2016, 3:30-5:00 pm
    Venue: 32D-461

    Children have impressive statistical learning abilities. In phonetic category acquisition, for example, they are sensitive to the distributional properties of sounds in their input. However, knowing that children have statistical learning abilities is only a small part of understanding how they make use of their input during language acquisition. This work uses Bayesian models to examine three basic assumptions that go into statistical learning theories: the structure of learners’ hypothesis space, the way in which input data are sampled, and the features of the input that learners attend to. Simulations show that although a naïve view of statistical learning may not support robust phonetic category acquisition, there are several ways in which learners can potentially benefit by leveraging the rich statistical structure of their input.
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    March 14th, 2016

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    Colloquium 3/18 - Naomi Feldman  

    Speaker: Naomi Feldman (University of Maryland)
    Modeling language outside of the lab
    Time: Friday, 03/18/2016, 3:30-5:00 pm
    Venue: 32D-461

    Speakers and listeners operate in complex linguistic environments. They extract phonetic information from highly variable speech signals and track the salience of entities in rich discourse contexts. However, little is known about the representations that support language use in these complex environments. In this talk, two cognitive models that were developed for laboratory settings are modified to operate over more naturalistic corpora. A rational speaker model is used to predict how entities are referred to in news articles, and a model of speech perception is trained and tested directly on speech recordings. In each case, simulation results show how cognitive modeling can be used to probe the way in which speakers and listeners represent the complexity of their linguistic environment.
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    March 14th, 2016

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    ESSL/LacqLab 3/7 - Athulya Aravind and Aron Hirsch  

    This week’s ESSL/LacqLab weekly meeting will feature two short presentations - one on language acquisition, by Athulya Aravind, and one on processing, by Aron Hirsch. The meeting will take place on Monday, March 07, 1:00-2:00 PM, in 32-D831.

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    March 7th, 2016

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    Phonology Circle 3/7 - Erin Olson  

    Speaker: Erin Olson (MIT)
    Title: Intermediate markedness: a case for using gradual OT learners
    Date: Monday, March 7th
    Time: 5-6:30
    Place: 32-D831

    In the phonological acquisition literature, it has been observed that there are some children who acquire marked structures of the target language in a two-step fashion: they go through a stage where they are only able to produce the marked structure in some privileged position(s) within the word before being able to produce that structure in the full range of positions allowed in the target language. It is commonly assumed that the intermediate stage is due to the ranking Positional Faithfulness >> Markedness >> General Faithfulness (Tessier 2009). However, if this characterization is adopted, gradual OT learners such as the GLA (Boersma 1997, Magri 2012) will not predict that children should ever go through such a stage (Jesney & Tessier 2007, 2008; Tessier 2009). This failure to predict an intermediate stage has been used to argue that gradual OT learners either must be modified (Tessier 2009) or abandoned in favour of using HG (Jesney & Tessier 2007, 2008).

    In this talk, I will show that gradual OT learners as currently formulated are capable of predicting such stages, so long as positional Markedness is an option for their characterization. I will also examine cases where description of a privileged position within the word cannot be reduced to positional Markedness, and will show that while reference to positional Faithfulness can still guide children’s productions, it can do so while ranked much lower than would be necessary under previous analyses. Since gradual OT learners can properly model such intermediate stages, their existence should not be used as an argument for preferring one learning algorithm over another.

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    March 7th, 2016

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    Syntax Square 3/8 - Michelle Yuan  

    Speaker: Michelle Yuan (MIT)
    Title: Wh-movement to complement position in Kikuyu (and cross-linguistically)
    Date: Tuesday, March 8th
    Time: 1:00pm-2:00pm (the previously announced time was incorrect)
    Place: 32-D461

    In Kikuyu (Northeast Bantu; Kenya), wh-questions are formed by moving a wh-word to the left periphery of any clause (matrix or embedded) or by leaving it in situ. In the cases of overt movement, the wh-word surfaces with a left-peripheral focus morpheme, which I take to occupy Foc in an articulated CP (Rizzi 1997). The main claim of this talk is that wh-movement in Kikuyu, triggered by an EPP property on Foc, lands in the complement of Foc, rather than in Spec-FocP (as is usually assumed); I’ll refer to this kind of movement as Undermerge, following Pesetsky (2007, 2013). Undermerging to complement position allows the focus morpheme, analyzed here as a focus operator (cf. Abels & Muriungi 2008), to directly take the wh-word as its semantic argument. I additionally demonstrate that this analysis accounts for some seemingly unrelated properties of Kikuyu such as the morphosyntactic behaviour of negation. This proposal for Kikuyu dovetails with previous work on association with focus via covert movement (Wagner 2006, Erlewine & Kotek 2014) and also lets us draw novel parallels with similar-looking phenomena from Turkish (Özyıldız 2015) and Navajo (Bogal-Allbritten 2013, 2014). Finally, I extend the Kikuyu facts to Cable’s (2007, 2010) Q theory of wh-movement/pied piping and show how this extension lets us explore the nature of the relationship between the Q particle and the higher interrogative C it forms a dependency with.

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    March 7th, 2016

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    LFRG 3/9 - Paul Crowley  

    Speaker: Paul Crowley (MIT)
    Time: Wednesday, March 9, 1-2pm
    Place: 32-D831
    Title: A puzzle with contrastive polarity

    Contrastive stress is commonly taken to indicate F-marking in the syntax, which is licensed under conditions that apply in the focus semantic domain (Rooth 1992, Schwartzchild 1999). This talk will be concerned with a puzzle relating to the licensing conditions on the contrastive stress appearing in expressions like (1), represented in CAPS.

    (1) John didn’t read a singleNPI book that MARY DID read.

    The sentence in (1) features two points of contrastive stress, on Mary and did. Stress on Mary expresses a contrast between the subjects of the matrix and relative clauses and stress on did indicates a contrast between the polarity of the two clause domains. Standard accounts of contrastive polarity assume that the accenting on did in the affirmative clause is associated with a covert affirmative head, which acts as the counterpart to the overt Neg (Chomsky 1955, 1957, Laka 1994). It will be shown that a parallel antecedent for the F-marked object containing the affirmative head in (1) can only be created by raising the object DP to scope above the negation at LF. However, the object DP cannot scope above the negation given that it contains an NPI which is only licensed within the scope of that negation.

    It will be argued that the conflict in (1) must be resolved by assuming that contrastive polarity accenting does not indicate F-marking in the syntax and is licensed under different conditions than ‘normal’ contrastive accenting, e.g. contrastive subjects. Additional data will be offered as evidence for this. The rough beginnings of an analysis will be discussed, with many crucial details missing and many questions left unanswered. Lastly, contrastive polarity will be compared to another case of ‘abnormal’ contrastive accenting, contrastive voice, which raises independent questions. It will be suggested that these two types of accenting should be analyzed in a similar way.

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    March 7th, 2016

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    Ling Lunch 3/10 - Amanda Swenson  

    Speaker: Amanda Swenson (MIT)
    Title: A Semantics for Malayalam Conjunctive Participles Constructions
    Time: Thursday, March 10th, 12:30-1:45 pm
    Place: 32-D461

    Amritavalli & Jayaseelan (2005), Hany Babu & Madhavan (2003), a.o. raise the question of whether the traditional tense morphemes should be reanalyzed as aspect in Malayalam, making Malayalam a tenseless language. Conjunctive Participle/Serial Verb Constructions, (1), play a central role in this debate.

    (1) a. njaan oru maanga pootticch-u thinn-u
    I one mango pluck-U/I eat-PAST
    ‘I plucked and ate a mango.’ (Amritavalli & Jayaseelan 2005 p199: 37a)
    b. mani avan-te katha karanj-u paranj-u.
    Mani he-GEN tale cry-U/I tell-PAST
    ‘Weeping, Mani told his tale.’ (Gopalkrishnan 1985 p18: 8)

    In this talk I assume, following Hany Babu & Madhavan (2003) and Asher & Kumari (1997) a.o., that the –u/i marker in Conjunctive Participles (`non-main verbs’) has a distinct temporal analysis from that of main verbs. In main verbs, –u/i is a past tense marker and in non-main verbs it is a semantically vacuous, frozen form (cf. Jayaseelan 2003). I propose an account for the way multi-verb constructions are temporally interpreted based on Stump (1985), thereby removing an argument for the claim that Malayalam is a tenseless language.

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    March 7th, 2016

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    Colloquium 3/11 - Elliott Moreton  

    Speaker: Elliott Moreton (UNC)
    Title: Inside adult phonotactic learning
    Date: Friday, March 11th
    Time: 3:30-5:00 PM
    Place: 32-141

    Lab studies of phonological learning by adults (“artificial-language” studies) have become common in recent years as a way to test hypotheses about phonological inductive biases. However, not much is at present known about what participants are actually doing in the experiments. Do all participants approach the task in the same way? How does the experimental procedure affect the participants’ approach? Does the participant’s approach affect which patterns are easier or harder to learn? In this talk, we will discuss results from a series of phonotactic pattern-learning experiments that address these questions using both objective measures (e.g., proportion correct, reaction time, abruptness of the learning curve, etc.) and subjective ones (analysis of participants’ introspective reports). The main conclusion is that in any of a range of experimental conditions, two sub-populations emerge: implicit (intuitive, cue-based) and explicit (rational, rule-based) learners, and that the two learning modes can differ in sensitivity to different patterns: Rule-seeking amplifies an advantage which family-resemblance patterns enjoy over exclusive-or patterns. The existence and experimental signatures of implicit and explicit learning modes are very similar to what has been found in non-linguistic pattern learning; however, the effect of rule-seeking on relative difficulty is quite different. Implications will be discussed for both phonological theory and for the relationship between phonological and non-phonological pattern learning.
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    March 7th, 2016

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    ESSL/LacqLab 2/29 - Zuzanna Fuchs  

    Speaker: Zuzanna Fuchs (Harvard)
    Joint work with Gregory Scontras (Stanford) and Maria Polinsky (UMaryland)
    Date and time: Monday, February 29, from 1:00 to 2:00 PM
    Place: 32-D831

    At some point in their childhood, heritage speakers shift from their first acquired language to their second language — the language of their community — that becomes their new dominant language. For heritage speaker, language comprehension and production in the non-dominant L1 is therefore difficult and costly, and thus the grammar of this L1 may be somewhat different than the baseline native grammar, shaped by principles of economy that make comprehension and production tasks easier. In this talk, we consider number and gender agreement in Heritage Spanish, in order to determine whether difficulties with agreement morphology observed in heritage speakers (Benmamoun et al. 2013, and references therein) reflect any underlying differences in how number and gender are represented in the grammar of Heritage Spanish. We put number and gender features into conflict with each other through agreement attraction, and observe how errors in agreement are perceived in a language comprehension task, replicating the methodology from Fuchs et al. (2015). The results indicate that number and gender in Heritage Spanish are bundled, unlike in the native grammar in which they are split. Thus, we identify an instance of divergence in grammar, which provides evidence that not all surface differences between native and heritage grammars can be ascribed to principles of economy of processing — representational economy also plays a role in shaping heritage grammars.
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    February 29th, 2016

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    Phonology Circle 2/29 - Sam Zukoff  

    Speaker: Sam Zukoff (MIT)
    Title: The Mirror Alignment Principle: Morpheme Ordering at the Morphosyntax-Phonology Interface (Part II: Arabic)
    Date: Monday, February 29th
    Time: 5-6:30
    Place: 32D-831

    The topic of Semitic nonconcatenative morphology is a vexed question in linguistic theory. Unlike most other languages, morphological derivation of complex forms in Semitic does not straightforwardly consist of sequential affixation to a fixed base of derivation. Individual morphemes can be segmented and identified with varying degrees of clarity and ease, but they are often interspersed within other morphemes, and their addition often significantly alters the segmental order and/or larger prosodic organization relative to the corresponding less derived morphological form. In this talk, I argue that the Mirror Alignment Principle approach to morpheme ordering (introduced last week at Ling Lunch; Zukoff 2016) provides the tools for deciphering this system, both from the phonological perspective and the morphosyntactic perspective.

    The Mirror Alignment Principle (MAP) is an algorithm which maps c-command relations in the hierarchical morphosyntactic structure into ranking relations among Alignment constraints (McCarthy & Prince 1993) in the phonological component. By implement morpheme ordering in the phonological component using gradient, violable Alignment constraints, ordering preferences can interact with phonological constraints. The interaction between Alignment constraints, syllable well-formedness constraints, and a few morpheme-specific phonotactic constraints, will allow an analysis of the phonological aspects of the nonconcatenative system without any appeal to prosodic templates (McCarthy 1979, 1981).

    Since the MAP directly relates the ranking of Alignment constraints to hierarchical morphosyntactic structure, the rankings determined through this phonological analysis inform morphosyntactic structure; the Map thus allows syntactic structure to be reverse engineered from the phonology. In considering the syntax deduced by this reasoning, we will observe larger regularities within the system. Based on these generalizations, I will suggest that certain apparent surface distinctions can be collapsed, such that the overall morphosyntactic verbal system looks generally unremarkable from a typological perspective. In fact, upon careful inspection, it even illustrates Mirror Principle effects (Baker 1985), such as mirror-image ordering that correlates with reversal in semantic interpretation. This approach thus shows that nonconcatenative morphological processes are fully compatible with the Mirror Principle, a result which Baker’s (1985) original proposal was unable to achieve.

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    February 29th, 2016

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    LFRG 3/2 - Aurore Gonzalez & Sophie Moracchini  

    Speaker: Aurore Gonzalez (Harvard) & Sophie Moracchini (MIT)
    Time: Wednesday, March 2, 1-2pm
    Place: 32-D831
    Title: Discussion of Guerzoni (2003)’s dissertation: Even across languages and the scope theory.

    There’s been a slight change of plans for LFRG tomorrow. Sophie and Aurore will be presenting a chapter of Elena Guerzoni’s (2003) dissertation.

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    February 29th, 2016

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    Ling Lunch 3/3 - Ray Jackendoff and Jenny Audring  

    Speaker(s): Ray Jackendoff (Tufts University) and Jenny Audring (Leiden University)
    Title: Morphology in the Mental Lexicon
    Date/Time: Thursday, March 3, 12:30pm-1:50pm
    Location: 32-D461

    We explore a theory of morphology grounded in the outlook of the Parallel Architecture (PA, Jackendoff 2002), drawing in large part on Construction Morphology (Booij 2010). The fundamental goal is to describe what a speaker stores and in what form, and to describe how this knowledge is put to use in constructing novel utterances. A basic tenet of PA is that linguistic structure is built out of independent phonological, syntactic, and semantic/conceptual structures, plus explicit interfaces that relate the three structures, often in many-to-many fashion.

    Within this outlook, morphology emerges as the grammar of word-sized pieces of structure and their constituents, comprising morphosyntax and its interfaces to word phonology, lexical semantics, and phrasal syntax. Canonical morphology features a straightforward mapping among these components; irregular morphology is predominantly a matter of noncanonical mapping between constituents of morphosyntax and phonology.

    As in Construction Grammar, PA encodes rules of grammar as schemas: pieces of linguistic structure that contain variables, but which are otherwise in the same format as words – in other words, the grammar is part of the lexicon. Novel utterances are constructed by instantiating variables in schemas through Unification. A compatible morphological theory must likewise state morphological patterns in terms of declarative schemas rather than procedural or realizational rules.

    Non-productive morphological patterns can be described in terms of schemas that are formally parallel to those for productive patterns. They do not encode affordances for building new structures online; rather, they motivate relations among items stored in the lexicon. Productive schemas too can be used in this way, in addition to their standard use in building novel structures; hence they can be thought of as schemas that have “gone viral.” We conclude that morphological theory should be concerned with relations among lexical items, from productive to marginal, at least as much as on the online construction of novel forms.

    This raises the question of how lexical relations are to be expressed. Beginning with the well-known mechanism of inheritance, we show that inheritance should be cashed out, not in terms of minimizing the number of symbols in the lexicon, but in terms of increased redundancy (or lower entropy). We propose a generalization of inheritance to include lexical relations that are nondirectional and symmetrical, and we develop a notation that pinpoints the regions of commonality between pairs of words, between words and schemas, and between pairs of schemas.

    The upshot is a richly textured lexicon, one that invites comparison with other domains of human knowledge.

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    February 29th, 2016

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    Colloquium 3/4 - Veneeta Dayal  

    Speaker: Veneeta Dayal (Rutgers)
    Title: List Answers through Higher Order Questions
    Date: Friday, March 4th
    Time: 3:30-5:00 PM
    Place: 32-141

    Higher order questions have been invoked in the context of local as well as long-distance list answers. List answers to multiple wh questions and questions with quantifiers display functionality: domain cover and one-one/many-one pairings. One proposal for capturing this functionality involves iterating the question forming operation by projecting a double C structure. This results in a family of questions. Distributing an answerhood operator over the members of this set and intersecting the result yields the right type of list (Hagstrom 1998, Fox 2012). This talk explores the possibility of extending the proposal to scope marking constructions. Two problems are noted, one having to do with the absence of the truth requirement in these constructions, the other with restrictions on the type of predicate that can participate in scope marking. Higher order questions have also been used to explain list answers across wh islands (Dayal 1996). An embedded multiple wh question, interpreted as a family of questions, enters into a functional dependency with a wh expression in the matrix clause, resulting in a long-distance pair-list answer. This account is challenged by the phenomenon of trapped pair-lists (Ratiu 2005 and Cheng and Demirdache 2010), which seems to disallow a matrix wh from pairing up with one embedded wh to the exclusion of its clause-mate wh. Looking at this range of facts suggests that higher order questions do play a role in list answers, but not for all list answers.
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    February 29th, 2016

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    Phonology Circle 2/22 - Kenyon Branan  

    Speaker: Kenyon Branan (MIT)
    Title: A purely prosodic approach to intervention
    Date: Monday, February 22nd
    Time: 5-6:30
    Place: 32-D831

    The simple intervention effect can be charactarized as a ban on wh-words appearing to the right of words bearing focus. I will argue that simple intervention effects arise as the result of conflicting prosodic requirements, and that the most well attested repair, leftward scrambling of the wh-element, results in a better-formed prosodic structure. I will show that the simple intervention effect is a particular instance of a more general phenomenon, looking primarily at Japanese and Korean. I will also show that this approach predicts that languages with different prosodic requirements on focus-bearing items should not have intervention effects. I look at Egyptian Arabic, which has all of the syntactic ingredients necessary to produce the intervention effect, but nonetheless does not. I show that the prosody of focus in Egyptian Arabic leads us to expect this
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    February 22nd, 2016

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    Syntax Square 2/23 - Bruna Karla Pereira  

    Speaker: Bruna Karla Pereira (UFVJM; CAPES Foundation- Ministry of Education of Brazil)
    Title: The plural morpheme in BP nominal concord

    This talk is focused on number nominal concord in non-standard Brazilian Portuguese (BP). I will start by analyzing structures with the wh-determiner ‘ques’ (1) and end by examining the pattern of nominal concord in other structures too.

    (1) Ques coisa interessante! (Nunes, 2007, p. 13)
    What-PL thing interesting
    ‘How interesting those things are!’

    Concerning the syntactic derivation of (1), ‘ques’ is a head that checks φ-features in D, while the DP to which it belongs moves, from the predicate position of a Small Clause, to check illocutionary force in the Spec,CP (Pereira, 2014). Concerning the system of concord, non-standard BP marks, with the plural morpheme, either only D or D plus its most adjacent element, leaving the other elements unmarked. This fact has two consequences: as a D, ‘ques’ licenses φ-features, as opposed to previous predictions (Vidor; Menuzzi, 2004); as a morpheme that may appear more than once in the DP (Castro; Pratas, 2006, p. 18), ‘-s’ cannot be “singleton”, as opposed to current assumptions (Costa; Figueiredo Silva, 2006). In addition, besides structures with ‘ques’, data from dialectal BP show that other wh-words may be inflected (2); so does the indefinite article, followed by the numeral ‘meio(a)’ and a singular NP (3).

    (2) Quantos que custa isso?
    How-much-PL that cost it
    ‘How much does it cost?’

    (3) Nossa reunião pode ser daqui a umas meia hora?
    Our meeting may be from-here to some-PL half hour-SG
    ‘Could we have a meeting within half an hour?’

    Therefore, apparent φ-feature “mismatches” will be addressed in order to investigate the system of nominal concord (Baker, 2008; Norris, 2014; Höhn, 2015) in BP.

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    February 22nd, 2016

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    LFRG 2/24 - Mora Maldonado  

    Speaker: Mora Maldonado (ENS-MIT)
    Time: Wednesday, February 24, 1-2pm
    Place: 32-D831
    Title: Understanding plural ambiguities. An experimental perspective.
    (Joint work with Emmanuel Chemla and Benjamin Spector)

    Sentences that involve plural expressions, such as numerical expressions, give rise to systematic ambiguities. For example, the sentence Two boys have three balloons can either mean that there are two boys who, between them, have three balloons (cumulative reading) or that there are two boys who each have three balloons (distributive reading).

    In this set of studies, we explore the online comprehension of plural ambiguous sentences using both a mouse-tracking and a priming paradigm. While priming effects help us detecting the representations involved in the derivation of different readings, mouse-paths inform us not only about the preference of particular interpretations, but also about whether the derivation of one reading is a necessary step for the derivation of the other.

    Overall, our findings suggest that (i) abstract semantic representations corresponding to different readings of plurals can give rise to priming effects; and (ii) primitive readings of plural ambiguous sentences are processed automatically, even when alternative representations are later selected.

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    February 22nd, 2016

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    LingLunch 2/25 - Paul Crowley  

    Speaker: Paul Andrew Crowley (MIT)
    Title:Imparallel VP ellipsis
    Date/Time:Thursday February 25/12:30pm-1:50pm
    Location: 32-D461

    This talk will be concerned with a class of VP ellipsis expressions illustrated by the sentence in (1) where VP ellipsis is licensed despite an imparallelism between the antecedent VP and the interpretation the ellipsis site. CAPS indicates obligatory contrastive accenting.

    (1) JOHN is expecting NOT to pass the exam but MARY IS .

    The imparallelism is attributed to the presence of the negation within the matrix VP in the first conjunct, which is acting as the antecedent to an elided VP that does not contain that negation. Under no formulations of the identity conditions on ellipsis—whether syntactic or semantic—is the ellipsis in (1) expected.

    The proposed analysis of the effect, which will be referred to as Imparallel VP Ellipsis (IVPE), will not treat it as a case of non-identity tolerance but rather as an illusion of non-identity created by an LF opacity effect. It will be proposed that the problematic negation in the first conjunct is situated outside of the antecedent VP at LF, where the identity conditions on ellipsis are taken to apply. It will be shown that this assumption is necessary in order to resolve an additional problem of imparallelism that arises where IVPE appears in ACD environments in which VP ellipsis and an NPI are both licensed despite having prima facie conflicting scope requirements.

    Assuming that the negation is really situated high at LF, the task of deriving IVPE expressions will then be split into two pieces. The first is to explain why the negation is pronounced low when it is high at LF. The second is to explain why is the negation interpreted with narrow scope when it is high at LF. An account of the first question will be shown to come from the assumption that there is a syntactic Neg-raising operation active in a single-output grammar that creates Neg copy chains, which are interpreted separately by each interface component. An answer to the second question will come from a generalization that will be observed for the IVPE phenomenon where the effect is only felicitous if the verb heading the antecedent and elided VPs is a Neg Raising verb. By treating the Neg Raising phenomenon as the result of a pragmatic strengthening effect which gives the negation narrow scope in the truth conditions post-derivationally, we can account for the disconnect between the LF and output truth conditions in IVPE expressions. Independent evidence will be provided for this approach to Neg Raising, which involves cases of VPE similar to (1) but lacking the problematic imparallelism.

    Finally, two points of overgeneration will be shown to come from the assumptions used here in light of the Neg Raising generalization on IVPE and a means of overcoming them will be proposed by way of pragmatic principles.

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    February 22nd, 2016

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    2nd Annual Linguistics-Philosophy Joint Colloquium 2/26 - Zoltán Gendler Szabó  

    Speaker: Zoltán Gendler Szabó (Yale)
    Time: Talk: 3:30-4:30; Q&A: 4:30-5:30
    Place: 32-141
    Title: Semantic Categories

    A good deal of contemporary semantics for natural language is based on a simple type-theory inspired by Frege’s ideas. This type-theory categorizes all linguist expressions on the basis of the kind of semantic value they have: it tells us that the semantic value of proper name is an object, the semantic value of a declarative sentence is a truth-value, the semantic value of a common noun is a function from objects to truth-values, and so on. Doing semantics this way has two main drawbacks: it commits us to a semantic categorization that seems gerrymandered both from the point of view of syntax and the point of view of ontology, and it imposes severe expressive limitations on the languages we can interpret. The drawbacks are the result of two fundamental assumptions: that every linguistic expression has exactly one semantic value and that there is exactly one semantic relation linking linguistic expressions and semantic values. I will argue that abandoning these assumptions is a good idea.
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    February 22nd, 2016

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    LFRG 2/17 - Yimei Xiang  

    Speaker: Yimei Xiang
    Time: Wednesday, February 17, 1-2pm
    Place: 32-D831
    Title: Short answers, mention-some, and uniqueness: A hybrid approach for questions

    This talk will discuss three issues related to the semantics of questions, including (i) the derivation of short answers, (ii) the variations of exhaustivity in diamond-questions like (1), and (iii) the dilemma between uniqueness (Dayal 1996) and mention-some (Fox 2013).

    (1) Who can chair the committee?

    First, to derive short answers grammatically, I propose a hybrid approach to compose the semantics of questions. Under this approach, the root denotation of a question is a topical property (a la categorial approaches), while then exercising an answerhood-operator returns a set of good propositional answers (like Hamblin-Karttunen semantics) or a set of good short answers. Second, to predict mention-some grammatically, I adopt Fox’s (2013) view that completeness amounts to maximal informativity instead of strongestness. I argue that the mention-some/mention-all ambiguity in a diamond-question comes from the absence/presence of a covert DOU-operator (viz., the covert counterpart of Mandarin dou) (compare Fox 2013). Third, to solve the dilemma between uniqueness and mention-some, I propose that the strongestness of a true short answer can be evaluated under any property that yields the same world partition (Groenendijk & Stokhof 1984) as the actual topical property.

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    February 16th, 2016

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    Ling Lunch 2/18 - Sam Zukoff  

    Speaker: Sam Zukoff (MIT)
    Title: The Mirror Alignment Principle: Morpheme Ordering at the Morphosyntax-Phonology Interface (Part 1: Bantu)
    Date: Thursday, February 18
    Time: 12:30-1:45pm
    Location: 32-D461

    Since at least Baker’s (1985) proposal of the “Mirror Principle”, it has been widely recognized that the linear order of morphemes within a morphologically complex word generally correlates with hierarchical syntactic structure (see also Muysken 1981). In morphologically complex words, morphemes which represent the exponents of morphosyntactic terminals that are lower in the syntactic tree generally surface closer to the root than those morphemes which are exponents of higher morphosyntactic terminals. A question that Baker does not directly explore in his original proposal is by what formal means this ordering relation is implemented in the grammar

    In this talk, I outline a new proposal for implementing the Mirror Principle, which I refer to as the “Mirror Alignment Principle” (MAP). The MAP is an algorithm which translates c-command relations in the hierarchical (morpho)syntactic structure into ranking relations between Alignment constraints (McCarthy & Prince 1993) in the phonological component:

    (1) The Mirror Alignment Principle:
    If α c-commands β → Align-α » Align-β

    By using ranked, competing Alignment constraints on different morphemes in this way, we can determine the surface order of morphemes through constraint interaction while still having a principled connection to the syntax.

    I will demonstrate that this framework can straightforwardly generate Mirror Principle effects in Bantu, where differences in semantic scope between verbal derivational morphemes (Causative, Applicative, Reciprocal, Passive) correlate with differences in linear order. I will also address how the apparent counterevidence to the Mirror Principle posed by the so-called “CARP Template” (Hyman 2003) can be accommodated within the present proposal.

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    February 16th, 2016

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    Colloquium 2/19 - Seth Cable  

    Speaker: Seth Cable (UMass)
    Title: The Curious Implicatures of Optional Past Tense in Tlingit (and Other Languages)
    Date: Friday, Feb 19th
    Time: 3:30-5:00 PM
    Place: 32-141

    Some languages appear to have a morpheme that combines the meaning of past tense with a variety of additional implications, the nature of which depend upon the aspectual marking of the verb. For non-perfective verbs (imperfective, habitual, future,etc.), the additional implication is that the event/state in question fails to extend into the present. For perfective verbs, however, the additional implication is either that (i) the result state of the event fails to extend into the present, or (ii) some natural, expected consequence of the event failed to occur. Importantly, unlike the superficially similar ‘cessation implicatures’ of past tense in languages like English, these aforementioned implications cannot be directly cancelled. Consequently, prior authors have viewed these additional inferences as semantic in nature, as being encoded directly in the lexical semantics of the morpheme (Leer 1991; Copley 2005; Plungian & van der Auwera 2006). Under this view, the morphemes in question express a special category of tense, one that has been labeled ‘discontinuous past’ by Plungian & van der Auwera (2006).

    Through in-depth investigation of one such ‘discontinuous past’ marker in the Tlingit language, I argue that – to the contrary – the special inferences of these morphemes are not semantic, and are instead defeasible pragmatic inferences. Consequently, putative instances of ‘discontinuous past’ are in their semantics simply past tenses. I provide a formalized analysis of the pragmatic inferences associated with these past tenses, whereby they ultimately follow from (i) the optionality of the tense markers in question, and (ii) a special principle relating to the inherent topicality of the utterance time. The empirical and analytic results align well with a restrictive theory of cross-linguistic variation in tense semantics, one where the only tense categories across language are Past, Non-Future, and (maybe) Present (Cable 2013).

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    February 16th, 2016

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    LFRG 2/10 - Despina Oikonomou  

    Speaker: Despina Oikonomou
    Time: Wednesday, February 10, 1-2pm
    Place: 32-D831
    Title: Imperatives are existential modals; Deriving the must-reading as an Implicature

    The diverse interpretation of Imperatives has been a long-lasting puzzle in the literature (Wilson & Sperber 1988, Han 2000, Schwager 2006 / Kaufmann 2012, Portner 2007, Condoravdi & Lauer 2012, von Fintel & Iatridou 2015). For example, the sentence in (1) is interpreted as permission in a context where the Addressee wants to open the window and as command/request in an out-of-the-blue context where a Professor asks a student to open the window:

    (1) Open the window.

    In this talk I argue that Imperatives involve an existential modal, drawing evidence from scopal ambiguities in the presence of other quantificational elements such as only and few (cf. Haida & Repp 2011). I show that the need for a covert existential operator in Imperatives is evident in languages like Greek where overt movement resolves scopal ambiguities. The universal reading is explained on the basis of two factors; i) lack of a stronger scalar counterpart as opposed to overt modals (cf. Deal 2011) ii) strengthening via an implicature derived in the presence of certain Focus Alternatives (cf. Schwager 2005). If time permits, I will discuss some other covert modals (unembedded subjunctives in Greek and dispositional middles) which also seem to be ambiguous between an existential and a universal reading and suggest that the present analysis can be extended in these environments as well.

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    February 8th, 2016

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    Ling Lunch 2/11 - John Kingston  

    Speaker: John Kingston (UMass Amherst)
    Title: When Do Words Influence Perception? Converging Evidence that the Ganong Effect is Early
    Date: Thursday, February 11
    Time: 12:30-1:45pm
    Location: 32-D461

    (joint work with Amanda Rysling, Adrian Staub, Andrew Cohen, and Jeffrey Starns)

    Ganong (1980, JEP:HPP, 6, 110-125) first showed that listeners prefer to categorize ambiguous stimuli from a word-nonword continuum with the category corresponding to the word endpoint. Fox (1984, JEP:HPP 10, 526-540) showed that this preference, the so-called “Ganong effect,” was stronger in slower than faster responses, perhaps because it takes time for a word to be activated and for that activation to feed back on the phonemic decision process. Subsequent work has failed to replicate Fox’s finding (see Pitt & Samuel, 1993, JEP:HPP, 19, 699-725, for additional evidence and a metanalysis). We present evidence using four different designs, free response, response signal, eye tracking, and gating, that words are instead activated and influence categorization as soon as the listener hears supporting acoustic evidence.
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    February 8th, 2016

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    Ling Lunch 2/4 - Christopher Tancredi  

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

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

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    Colloquium 2/5 - Junko Ito  

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

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

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    February 1st, 2016

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    Phonology Circle - call for presentations  

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

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

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

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    February 1st, 2016

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    Syntax Square 12/15 - Jeremy Hartman  

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

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

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

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

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    December 14th, 2015

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    ESSL/LacqLab 12/16 - Jeremy Hartman  

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

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

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    Syntax Square 12/8 - Despoina Oikonomou  

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

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

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

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    December 7th, 2015

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    ESSL/LacqLab 12/9 - Florian Schwarz  

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

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

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    Ling Lunch 12/10 - Florian Schwarz  

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

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

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    Colloquium 12/11 - Claire Halpert  

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

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

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    December 7th, 2015

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    Phonology Circle 11/30 - Benjamin Storme  

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

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

    (1)

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

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

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

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    November 30th, 2015

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    Syntax Square 12/1 - Snejana Iovtcheva  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    November 30th, 2015

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    Ling Lunch 12/3 - Aron Hirsch  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    November 30th, 2015

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    Phonology Circle 11/23 - Mingqiong (Joan) Luo  

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

    (Click here for abstract)

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    November 23rd, 2015

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    Phonology Circle 11/16 - Rafael Abramovitz  

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

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

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    November 16th, 2015

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    Syntax Square 11/17 - Snejana Iovtcheva  

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

    Abstract.
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    November 16th, 2015

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    LFRG 11/17 - Itamar Kastner (NYU)  

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

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

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

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

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    November 16th, 2015

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    LFRG 11/18 - Raj Singh & Ida Toivonen  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    November 16th, 2015

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    Ling Lunch 11/19 - Idan Landau  

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

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

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    Colloquium 11/20 - Susi Wurmbrand  

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

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

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

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

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

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    November 16th, 2015

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    Phonology Circle 11/9 - Laura McPherson  

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

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

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    November 9th, 2015

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    Syntax Square 11/10 - Bruna Karla Pereira  

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

    Abstract.
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    November 9th, 2015

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    Ling Lunch 11/12 - Juliet Stanton  

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

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

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    Language Acquisition Lab Meeting 11/12 - Koji Sugisaki  

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

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

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    Ling Lunch 11/5 - Maria-Margarita Makri  

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

    Abstract.
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    November 2nd, 2015

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    Phonology Circle 11/2 - Hanzhi Zhu  

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

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

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    November 2nd, 2015

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    Syntax Square 11/3 - Nico Baier  

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

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

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    November 2nd, 2015

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    Thursday Talk 11/5 - Paul Portner  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    November 2nd, 2015

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    Colloquium 11/6 - Paul Portner  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    (7) Sit down[v]

    (8) Have a seat[^]

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

    (9) It’s raining[v].

    (10) It’s raining[^]?

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

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    November 2nd, 2015

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    Phonology Circle 10/26 - Takashi Morita  

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

    Morita_Phonology_Circle_abstract_20151026

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    October 26th, 2015

    Posted in Talks

    Syntax Square 10/27 - No meeting this week  

    There will be no Syntax Square meeting this week.

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    October 26th, 2015

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    Fieldwork Support Group 10/28  

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

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

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

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

    Where: MIT, 32-D831

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

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    October 26th, 2015

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    Ling Lunch 10/29 - Adam Szczegielniak  

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

    Abtract.
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    October 26th, 2015

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    LFRG 10/30 - Isa Kerem Bayirli  

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

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

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    Syntax Square 10/20 - Isa Kerem Bayirli  

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

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

    Concord Hierarchy

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

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

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

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    October 19th, 2015

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    ESSL/Language Acquisition Lab 9/21: Michael Clauss  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    October 19th, 2015

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    Ling Lunch 10/22 - Kenyon Branan  

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

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

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    LFRG 10/23 - Matt Mandelkern  

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

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

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    Thursday Talk 10/22 - Philippe Schlenker  

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

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    October 19th, 2015

    Posted in Talks