Whamit!

The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Phonology Circle 5/11 - Joan Mascaró  

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

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

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May 11th, 2015

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LFRG 5/13 - Alexandre Cremers  

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

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

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Ling Lunch 5/14 - Juliet Stanton  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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May 11th, 2015

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LFRG 5/4 - Sophie Moracchini  

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

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May 4th, 2015

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Phonology Circle 5/4 - Suyeon Yun  

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

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

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May 4th, 2015

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Syntax Square 5/5 - Despina Oikonomou & Snejana Iovtcheva  

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

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

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Ling Lunch 5/7 - Aron Hirsch  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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May 4th, 2015

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Joint linguistics/ philosophy colloquium 5/8 - Angelika Kratzer  

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

Abstract TBD

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May 4th, 2015

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Colloquium 5/8 - Jessica Coon (McGill)  

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

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

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

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

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

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May 4th, 2015

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Syntax Square 4/28 - Ted Levin  

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

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

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

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April 27th, 2015

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LFRG 4/27 - Leon Bergen  

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

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

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Ling Lunch 4/30 - Lena Karvovskaya  

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

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

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

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April 27th, 2015

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Colloquium 5/1 - Nina Topintzi  

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

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

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

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April 27th, 2015

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Ling Lunch 4/23 - Seid Tvica  

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

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

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LFRG 4/23 - Cassandra Chapman  

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

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April 21st, 2015

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Colloquium 4/24 - Ming Xiang  

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

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

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LFRG 4/13 - Zuzanna Fuchs  

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

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

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

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April 13th, 2015

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Phonology Circle 4/13 - Patrick Jones  

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

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

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

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April 13th, 2015

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Syntax Square 4/14 - Athulya Aravind  

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

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

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

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

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

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April 13th, 2015

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Colloquium 4/17 - Aditi Lahiri  

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

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

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LFRG 4/6 - Mia Nussbaum  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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April 6th, 2015

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Phonology Circle 4/6 - Chingting Chuang  

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

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

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April 6th, 2015

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Syntax Square 4/7 - Kenyon Branan  

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

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

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Ling Lunch 4/9 - Juliet Stanton and Sam Zukoff  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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April 6th, 2015

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LFRG 3/30 - Yimei Xiang  

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

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March 30th, 2015

Posted in Talks

Phonology Circle 3/30 - Juliet Stanton  

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

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

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

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March 30th, 2015

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Syntax Square 3/31 - Elise Newman  

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

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

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March 30th, 2015

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Ling Lunch 4/2 - Cassandra Chapman  

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

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

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

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March 30th, 2015

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Special Tuesday afternoon talk: Jan-Wouter Zwart  

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

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

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LFRG 3/16 - Benjamin Storme  

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

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

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

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

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March 16th, 2015

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Phonology Circle 3/16 - Lilla Magyar  

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

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

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

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

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

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March 16th, 2015

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Syntax Square 3/17 - Coppe van Urk  

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

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

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Ling Lunch 3/19 - Bradley Larson & Nicholas Longenbaugh  

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

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

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LFRG 3/9 - Aron Hirsch  

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

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

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

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

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March 9th, 2015

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Phonology Circle 3/9 - Hemanga Dutta and Michael Kenstowicz  

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

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

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March 9th, 2015

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Ling Lunch 3/12 - Coppe van Urk  

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

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

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LFRG 3/2 - Despina Oikonomou  

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

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March 2nd, 2015

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Phonology Circle 3/2 - Naomi Francis  

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

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

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March 2nd, 2015

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Syntax Square 3/3 - Martin Walkow  

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

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

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

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

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

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March 2nd, 2015

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Colloquium 3/6 - Richard Larson  

Speaker: Richard Larson (Stony Brook)
Title: Quantificational States/br> Date: Friday, March 6th
Time: 3:30-5:00p
Place: 32-141

The abstract of this talk is available here.

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March 2nd, 2015

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LingLunch 2/26 - Byron Ahn  

Speaker: Byron Ahn (Boston University)
Title: Giving Reflexivity a Voice
Time: Thurs 2/26, 12:30-1:45
Place: 32-D461

Reflexive anaphora is not a homogeneous category whose members are licensed in a single uniform way. This talk highlights the formal properties of Local Subject-Oriented Reflexivity (LSOR), in which a reflexive anaphor’s antecedent must be the local subject. In languages across the world, LSOR is subject to a number of syntactic constraints, and is expressed differently from other types of reflexivity.

I show that the attested range of morphosyntactic configurations for LSOR arise from the same basic structural source. In particular, LSOR derivations involve two atoms of reflexivity:

(i) a semantic reflexivizer (associated with a unique grammatical Voice head, REFL), and
(ii) a reflexive anaphor which syntactic movement (triggered by that same REFL Voice)

Moreover, the same two atoms are reflexivity are active in English. For this reason, English also exhibits the same LSOR/non-LSOR split, though the difference manifests in the prosodic component: LSOR anaphors in English do not bear phrasal stress (while non-LSOR anaphors do). This is derived with a Nuclear Stress Rule based upon syntactic hierarchy (and not linearization) that is couched in a multiple spell-out architecture of grammar (e.g., Cinque 1993 and Zubizarreta 1998).

Local Subject-Oriented Reflexivity is implicated as a central aspect of reflexivity, across languages, and when such a distinction is not entirely (morphologically) apparent, closer investigation can elucidate it. Finally, LSOR, its grammatical properties, as well as its possible morphosyntactic instantiations, simply fall out from the general architecture of Language.

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February 23rd, 2015

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LFRG 2/23 - Ayaka Sugawara  

Speaker: Ayaka Sugawara
Time: Monday 2/23, 12-1:30pm
Place: 32-D831
Title: Acquisition of quantifier scope: Evidence from English Rise-Fall-Rise

Since Musolino (1998), many studies have reported that children trend to interpret sentences such as in (1a) to mean the LF illustrated in (1b), not the LF in (1c), which adults do not have trouble accessing (Musolino et al. 2000, Musolino & Lidz 2006, Viau et al. 2010, a.o.).

(1) a. Every house didn’t jump over the fence.
b. For every horse x, x did not jump over the fence.
c. It is not the case that for every house x, x jumped over the fence.

Meanwhile, at least since Jespersen (1933) it has been pointed out that different prosodic contours will/can differentiate readings in such sentences (Jackendoff 1972, Büring 1997, 2003, Constant 2012, 2014 a.o.; Cf. Ward and Hirschberg 1985). Specifically, sentences with L+H* on the Contrastive Topic (ALL in (2b)) and L-H% on the IntP (sentence-final in (2b)) will only have the reading where negation takes scope over the universal quantifier. (I will refer to the contour for (2b) as Rise-Fall-Rise, following Constant 2012.)

(2) a. All my friends didn’t come.
b. ALL my friends didn’t come…

In this experiment with children (Picture-selection Task), I investigate whether children are sensitive to the difference in prosody that conveys different readings. The results show that children are indeed sensitive - with “Falling” contour where the sentence-final L-H% is not observed, children picked pictures with “not>all (and some)” over “all>not” pictures 30% of the time, on the other hand with “Rise-Fall-Rise” contour, children picked “not>all (and some)” pictures over “all>not” pictures 70% of the time.

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February 23rd, 2015

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Phonology Circle 2/23 - Discussion of the Agreement by Correspondence model  

Date: Monday, February 23th
Time: 5-6:30
Place: 32-D461

In preparation for Gunnar Hansson’s colloquium talk, third-year student Juliet Stanton will lead a discussion of the basics of the Agreement by Correspondence model, and how it can be extended to account for dissimilation.

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February 23rd, 2015

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Syntax Square 2/24 - Lotte Hendricks  

Speaker: Lotte Hendricks (Meertens Instituut)
Title: Knowledge of verb clusters
Date/Time:Tuesday, Febrary 24, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461

Speakers are able to judge syntactic constructions that are not part of their own language variety. When they are asked to rank a number of variants of such a construction on a scale, this ranking turns out to be parallel to the geographic frequency distribution of these variants. We consider three possible explanations for this striking fact, based on (i) processing, (ii) familiarity and (iii) the syntactic system. We argue that only the third option can explain the behavior of the speakers.

We discuss two aspects of verb clusters that exhibit variation in the Dutch dialects: the order of the verbs in the cluster and interruption of the verb cluster by non-verbal material.

There is much variation in the order of the verbs in the cluster in (1); (cf. Barbiers 2005; SAND Volume II, Barbiers et al. 2008). While all varieties of Dutch have verb cluster constructions, we find a clear geographic distribution of different orderings across the language area, with differences in frequency of occurrence.

Verb cluster interruption shows a lot of geographical variation too, here with respect to the type of constituent that can interrupt the cluster, varying from particles (moet op-bellen ‘must up-call’) to various types of arguments (moet een schuur bouwen ‘must a barn built’) and adverbs (moet vroeg opstaan ‘must early rise’) (cf. SAND Volume II). Two factors turn out to be relevant, the complexity of the interrupting constituent and the position in the syntactic hierarchy (in the sense of Cinque 1999) where this element is base-generated (Hendriks 2014).

The clear geographic distribution of the various variants of these two constructions makes it possible to investigate if speakers have intuitions on variants that occur in language varieties different from their own.

We find a high degree of correspondence between the speakers’ rankings and the number of locations in the Dutch language area that have a particular construction. (i) verb cluster orders that are more frequent amongst the varieties of Dutch are ranked higher and (ii) speakers in areas where verb cluster interruptions are only used sporadically and with many restrictions, nevertheless have intuitions that correspond to the observed syntactic patterns in the Flemish varieties of Dutch.

We demonstrate that processing preferences and familiarity with the phenomenon cannot account for the observed correspondence between speakers’ intuitions of a construction and that constructions’ geographic distribution. Potentially, the intuitions follow from properties of the grammatical system.

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February 23rd, 2015

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Colloquium 2/27 - Gunnar Hansson  

Speaker: Gunnar Hansson (UBC)
Title: Learning Long-Distance Phonotactics: Dissimilation, Assimilation and Correspondence
Date: Friday, February 27th
Time: 3:30-5:00p
Place: 32-141

In current phonological theory, the leading constraint-based approach to modelling long-distance consonant assimilation is Agreement by Correspondence (ABC; Walker 2000, Hansson 2001/2010, Rose & Walker 2004). In the ABC model, long-distance agreement is dependent on an abstract, and in principle covert, correspondence relation that carves up the surface string into sets of corresponding segments (equivalence classes) in ways negotiated by ranked and violable constraints. Some of these (CORR constraints) demand that similar segments stand in correspondence, while others (CC-Limiter constraints) can curtail correspondence by demanding that pairs of correspondents obey certain criteria. However, there is reason for skepticism as to whether the formal machinery of the ABC model has adequate empirical support, in particular its fundamental notion that similarity-based agreement is a mediated effect (similarity-based correspondence; correspondence-based agreement). The factorial typology of ABC generates many unattested patterns that are highly suspect, while other attested and formally simple patterns become hard to capture; various proposed amendments merely highlight underlying flaws in the overall architecture. Recently the implications of the ABC model for consonant dissimilation have been explored in detail by Bennett (2013, 2014), who identifies a number of “mismatch predictions” whereby the typologies of dissimilation and harmony should be opposites of one another. I will report on a series of artificial grammar learning experiments (in collaboration with Kevin McMullin) which investigate how inductive biases and heuristics affect the learning of nonadjacent phonotactic dependencies between consonants. The central question is what implicational relationships, if any, learners assume to hold between “transvocalic” consonant pairs (…CVC…) and pairs separated by greater distance. Some of these experiments follow a poverty-of-stimulus paradigm, testing how learners generalize in the absence of overt evidence (cf. Wilson 2006, Finley & Badecker 2009, Finley 2011, 2012), whereas others are designed to provide explicit evidence for patterns of questionable status (cf. Lai 2012, White 2014). The findings suggest that, with respect to the hypothesis space, learners treat dissimilatory dependencies and assimilatory dependencies (harmony) equivalently, in ways that run counter to predictions of the ABC model. I will outline future studies that aim to clarify the formal nature of “transvocalic” locality: whether the relevant criterion is syllable-adjacency (Odden 1994, Rose & Walker 2004, Bennett 2013) or adjacency on a consonantal tier (Hansson 2010, McMullin & Hansson 2014).
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February 23rd, 2015

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Syntax Square 2/17 -Michelle Yuan  

Speaker: Michelle Yuan (MIT)
Title: Two tiers of case assignment in Yimas
Date/Time:Tuesday, November 17, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D831 (note exceptional location!)

Under the Marantzian (1991) model of case assignment, dependent case is assigned configurationally and on the basis of competition. In this talk, I examine the case and agreement system of Yimas (Lower Sepik; Papua New Guinea; data from Foley 1991) and argue that, while Yimas supports the fundamentals of this system, it also necessitates an extension of it. In Yimas, ERG and DAT behave like dependent cases, realized only in the presence of a case competitor. However, dependent case is determined over a series of optionally-present verbal agreement clitics, not over the arguments they cross-reference (i.e. clitics are case competitors for other clitics). The realization of dependent case thus hinges on the number of clitics hosted by the verb, not the number of arguments present in the syntax. The puzzle that this talk addresses is how dependent case comes to be realized over the clitics.

I argue that this can be resolved under a two-tiered system of case assignment. First, I show that there is reason to posit that the overt nominals are being assigned abstract case (NOM for subjects and ACC for objects) in the syntax, though this is obfuscated by the zero spell-out of both NOM and ACC (see Legate 2008 on ABS=DEF languages). The doubled clitics encode both the phi-features and abstract case features of their associated arguments. In the morphological component, dependent case realization is calculated over the series of verbal clitics; subject clitics are ERG in the presence of a case competitor and NOM (=ABS) otherwise, while object clitics are DAT in the presence of a case competitor and ACC (=ABS) otherwise.

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February 17th, 2015

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Phonology Circle 2/17 - Donca Steriade  

Speaker: Donca Steriade (MIT)
Title: The Tribrach Law
Date: Tuesday, February 17th
Time: 5-6:30
Place: 32-D461

In a 1884 paper, Saussure sketched the evidence for a rhythmic constraint operating in prehistoric Greek, whose effect was to eliminate non-final sequences of three light syllables. Saussure called it la loi du tribraque, the tribrach law (abbbrev. TL; tribrach = three lights). The TL is interesting in several ways. It’s typologically unusual. It employs, in Greek, a wide range of solutions, from vowel lengthening to syncope, to ineffability and violation of morphological exponence constraints. It is a rhythmic phenomenon that’s easier to interpret in a foot–free theory of metrical prominence, than in a foot-based one. Finally, a closer look at the evidence shows that the TL was still alive in 5th cent. Attic, but morphologically limited: Saussure was thinking as a neogrammarian when he denied TL’s survival in historical Greek. Once we realize that TL continues to operate in historical times, it turns into the most reliable evidence available to determine the weight of different consonant clusters in Greek. This has consequences for the analysis of reduplication and for our understanding of the ways in which weight is computed.

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February 17th, 2015

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Ling Lunch 2/19 - Marie-Christine Meyer  

Speaker: Marie-Christine Meyer (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Title: Redundancy and Embedded Exhaustification
Time: Thurs 2/19, 12:30-1:45
Place: 32-D461

In this talk we are going to look at some of the most recent developments in the area of embedded exhaustification, by which I mean the insertion of a grammatical operator exh as one possible mechanism to derive embedded implicatures (see e.g. Sauerland 2010, 2012 for others). As recently as 2009 (Geurts&Pouscoulos), the mere existence of embedded implicatures has been disputed. On the other hand, the last decade has seen various successful applications of (embedded) exhaustification, ranging from polarity sensitivity (Chierchia 2004 et seq.) and Free Choice (Fox 2007, Meyer 2014b) to surface redundant disjunctions (Chierchia,Fox&Spector 2012, Gajewski&Sharvit 2012,Meyer 2014a, Mayr&Romoli 2014). However, these contributions concentrate on what embedded exhaustification can do, and background the old question of what it can not do, and why not (e.g. Horn 1989). I propose that, for starters, embedded exhaustification cannot violate the Gricean maxim of Brevity. Departing from a formalization of this idea, we will see how it addresses Horn’s old question and related challenges currently discussed (Fox&Spector 2014, Spector 2014): What happens in downward-entailing environments? — e.g., Mary didn’t talk to Bill or Sue (*or both) Why are some, but not all logically redundant disjuncts acceptable? — e.g., Mary either studied physics, or (she didn’t and) she studied math. Why do certain embedded implicatures have to be marked phonologically? — e.g., Mary didn’t study math OR physics.

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February 17th, 2015

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Colloquium 2/20 - Sigrid Beck (Tübingen)  

Speaker: Sigrid Beck (Tübingen)
Title: Readings of ‘noch’ (still)
Date: Friday, February 20th
Time: 3:30-5:00p
Place: 32-141

The talk develops an analysis of the particle ‘noch’, the German counterpart of ‘still’. These particles can give rise to a lot of different readings, making it hard to figure out their semantic contribution (e.g. ‘Washington still wore a wig’). The literature has analysed ‘noch/still’ as focus sensitive and ambiguous. I suggest that it is not focus sensitive, and I try to propose just one lexical entry to account for the different readings that sentences with ‘noch/still’ can have.
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February 17th, 2015

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Syntax Square 2/10 - Martin Walkow  

Speaker: Martin Walkow (MIT)
Title: Locating variation in person restrictions: When they arise and how to get out of them
Date/Time:Tuesday, November 10, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461

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

The two approaches have not been applied to the same data though. While Cyclic Agree has been applied to variation in person-restrictions between subjects and objects, Multiple Agree has been applied to restrictions on combinations of internal arguments known as the Person Case Constraint (PCC, Bonet 1994). This talk shows that Cyclic Agree can also account for the variation between two kinds of PCC, the Strong PCC (Bonet 1994) and the Ultrastrong PCC (Nevins 2007) via different specifications of the probe. Key to the analysis is the observation that the PCC can be understood as the lower direct object (DO) bleeding person Agree with the higher recipient, the reverse of what is typically assumed.

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

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February 9th, 2015

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LFRG 2/10 - Wataru Uegaki  

Speaker: Wataru Uegaki (MIT)
Title: Interpreting questions under attitudes
Date: Tuesday, February 10th
Time: 5-6:30
Place: 32-D831

Since Karttunen (1977), interpretations of embedded questions have played a central role in the development of the semantics of questions. One of the important observations in this domain is that interpretations of embedded questions vary depending on the type of embedding attitude predicates. More specifically, cognitive attitude predicates like “know” prefer strongly-exhaustive interpretations of their interrogative complements (Groenendijk & Stokhof 1984) while emotive factives like “surprise” and “be happy” only allow weakly-exhaustive interpretations (Heim 1994, a.o). Also, Égré & Spector (2007, to appear) argue that the class of predicates that are veridical with respect to interrogative-embedding are precisely the class of predicate that are factive with respect to declarative-embedding. Despite the rich literature on embedded questions, however, there has been no account that succeeds in predicting both their exhaustivity and veridicality given the lexical semantics of embedding predicates. In this talk, I propose a theory of question-embedding that is properly constrained to achieve this prediction.

My analysis of exhaustivity is based on a reformulation of Klinedinst and Rothschild’s (2011) analysis of the so-called intermediate exhaustivity. Under this analysis, matrix exhaustification derives intermediate exhaustivity, but the exhaustification is vacuous when the embedding predicate is non-monotonic. Strong exhaustivity is argued to be pragmatically derived from intermediate exhaustivity. Thus, exhaustivity of embedded questions depends on the monotonicity property of embedding predicates, which I argue to be the relevant property distinguishing between cognitive attitude predicates and emotive factives.

Building on Uegaki (to appear), I further analyze declarative-embedding as a special, trivial, case of question-embedding. Under this analysis, factivity is derived as a limiting case of veridicality, providing a natural explanation for Égré & Spector’s generalization (cf. Theiler 2014). The analysis will then be extended to mention-some readings, including George’s (2011) “non-reducibility” puzzle. I will conclude by discussing several open questions concerning the syntax and semantics of attitude predicates and interrogatives in general.

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February 9th, 2015

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MIT Linguistics Colloquium Schedule, Spring 2015  

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

  • February 6: Kristine Yu, UMass Amherst
  • February 20: Sigrid Beck, Tübingen
  • February 27: Gunnar Hansson, UBC
  • March 6: Richard Larson, Stony Brook University
  • April 17: Aditi Lahiri, University of Oxford, Somerville College
  • April 24: Ming Xiang, University of Chicago
  • May 1: Nina Topintzi, Aristotle University of Thessalonik
  • May 8: Jessica Coon, McGill University
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    February 2nd, 2015

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    Ling Lunch - 2/5 - Despoina Oikonomou  

    Speaker: Despoina Oikonomou (MIT)
    Title: C-Negation is not Constituent Negation but CP-Negation: Evidence from Modern Greek
    Time: Thurs 2/5, 12:30-1:45
    Place: 32-D461

    Abstract: C-Negation is not Constituent Negation but CP-Negation: Evidence from Modern Greek

    Please join us for our first Ling Lunch this semester!

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    February 2nd, 2015

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    Colloquium 2/6 - Kristine Yu (UMass)  

    Speaker: Kristine Yu (UMass)
    Title: Tonal marking of absolutive case in Samoan
    Date: Friday, January 6th
    Time: 3:30-5:00p
    Place: 32-141

    This paper argues that the ergative-marking Austronesian language Samoan has a high boundary tone that occurs on the last mora of the word preceding an absolutive argument, and that the source of this tone is inflectional morphology and not lexical representations, pragmatics, syntax, semantics, or phonology. In short, the claim is that Samoan has an absolutive high boundary tone case morpheme. This claim is surprising for two reasons. First, Samoan is not a tone language. Second, regardless of the source of the absolutive tone, positing it: (1) introduces a boundary paradox since it groups an absolutive case head with the prosodic constituent preceding the absolutive argument, and (2) implies that the presence of an absolutive induces a new phonological constituent. Nevertheless, I show that inflectional morphology must be the source of the absolutive high tone based on a converging body of evidence from: (1) the distribution of the rarely discussed ia particle that optionally precedes absolutive arguments and (2) the phonetic and phonological analysis of intonational patterns in the spoken utterances of a systematically varied set of syntactic structures. I also address the puzzles that the presence of an absolutive tonal case morpheme in Samoan raises.
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    February 2nd, 2015

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    Phonology Circle 12/15 - Sam Zukoff  

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

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

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

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

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    December 15th, 2014

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    Ling-Lunch 12/15 - Chris O’Brien  

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

    Note the special date.

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

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    Ling-Lunch 12/15 - Chris O’Brien  

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

    Note the special date.

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

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    Phonology Circle 12/8 - Adam Albright  

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

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    December 8th, 2014

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    ESSL/LacqLab 12/10 - Ito Masuyo  

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

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

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

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    December 8th, 2014

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    Colloquium 12/12 - Tim Stowell  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    December 8th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    December 1st, 2014

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    Ling Lunch 12/04 - Heidi Klockmann  

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

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

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    Phonology Circle 11/24 - Angela Carpenter  

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

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

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

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

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    November 24th, 2014

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

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

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

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    LingLunch 11/20 - Loes Koring  

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

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

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    Colloquium 11/21 - Karlos Arregi  

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

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

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    Ling Lunch 11/13 - Isabelle Charnavel  

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

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

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    Lectures by Emmanuel Chemla  

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

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

    Below is the abstract and information for the lectures:

    We will ask how simple psycholinguistic methods can be relevant for the study of various questions in linguistic theory. We will start by discussing the case of scalar implicatures, where many illustrations can be found, both in terms of questions and methods, without a perfect alignement between the two, however. We will quickly move to other topics including questions, scopal relations, cumulative/distributive readings of plurals. The methods we will discuss include truth value and acceptability judgments, basic “priming” studies and response time studies. The hope is to demonstrate that these methods are useful and simple to deploy.
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    November 12th, 2014

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    LFRG 11/6 - Loes Koring  

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

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

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    Colloquium 11/7 - Klaus Abels  

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

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

    (1) Somebody just left. - Guess who!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    November 3rd, 2014

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    Syntax Square 11/4 - Rebecca Woods  

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

    Abstract: See attachment SyntaxSquare abstract

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    November 3rd, 2014

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    Ling-Lunch 11/6 - Christiana Christodoulou  

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

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

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    Phonology Circle 11/3 - no meeting this week  

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

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    November 3rd, 2014

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    NELS at MIT this week  

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

    Please visit the conference website for more information.

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    October 27th, 2014

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    Phonology Circle 10/27 - no meeting this week  

    There will be no Phonology Circle meeting this week.

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    October 27th, 2014

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    ESSL/Lacqlab 10/29 - TBA  

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

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    October 27th, 2014

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    Ling-Lunch 10/30 - Andreea Nicolae  

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

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

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

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

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    October 27th, 2014

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    Phonology Circle 10/20 - Laura McPherson  

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

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

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

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

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    October 20th, 2014

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    Syntax Square 10/21- Kenyon Branan  

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

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

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

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

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

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    October 20th, 2014

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    Ling-Lunch 10/23 - Aron Hirsch  

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

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

    (1) Every student but John came.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    October 20th, 2014

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    LFRG 10/23 - Yimei Xiang  

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

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

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    Syntax Square 10/14 - Heidi Klockmann  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    October 14th, 2014

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    ESSL/LacqLab 10/15 - Amanda Swenson  

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

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

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    Ling-Lunch 10/16 - Ayaka Sugawara  

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

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

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    LFRG 10/17 - David Nicolas  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    October 14th, 2014

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    LFRG 10/8 - Brian Buccola  

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

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

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    ESSL/LacqLab - No meeting this week  

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

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    October 6th, 2014

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    Ling-Lunch 10/9 - Ethan Poole  

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

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

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    Syntax Square 9/30 - Ted Levin  

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

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    September 29th, 2014

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    Colloquium 10/3 - Paul Egré  

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

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

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    ESSL/LacqLab 10/1 - Despina Oikonomou  

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

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    September 29th, 2014

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    Ling-Lunch 10/2 - Ivy Sichel  

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

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

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    Phonology Circle 09/22 - Benjamin Storme  

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

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

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    Ling-Lunch 9/25 - Edwin Howard  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    September 22nd, 2014

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    Phonology 2014 at MIT this week  

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

    Visit the conference website for more information.

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    September 15th, 2014

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    Phonology Circle 09/15 - Suyeon Yun  

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

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

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    Syntax Square 9/16 - Coppe van Urk  

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

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

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    ESSL/LacqLab 09/17 - Iain Giblin  

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

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    September 15th, 2014

    Posted in Talks