Whamit!

The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Archive for the ‘Talks’ Category

Ling-Lunch 5/22 - Jay Keyser

The day has finally come and Prof. Jay Keyser will give a special Ling-Lunch talk today!

Speaker: Jay Keyser
Title: Music, Poetry, Painting and Easter Eggs
Date/Time: Monday, May 22/12:30-1:50pm [notice the exceptional time!]
Location: 32-D461
Abstract:

This talk takes the view that modernism in the so-called sister arts of music, poetry and painting resulted from the abandonment of sets of rules that characterized each genre and that were shared by the artist and his/her audience. Rules governing meter and tonal music are reasonably well understood. I propose a way to think about “rules” for the third genre, painting. These rules define a natural aesthetic, ’natural’ in that the rules are shared by the artist and his or her audience in the way that the rules of one’s natural language are shared by speaker and listener.

I suggest that the esoteric direction that the sister arts took in the period cultural historians call “Modernism” is a direct result of abandoning the natural, i.e. shared aesthetic for private formats whose origins can be found in the 14th century.

Finally, I will speculate on the similarity between what happened to the arts at the turn of the 20th century and what happened in science after the publication of Principia Mathematica two centuries earlier.

Share

Written by Suzana

May 22nd, 2017 at 6:05 am

Posted in Talks

[cancelled] Ling-Lunch 5/18 - Colin Davis

Speaker: Colin Davis (MIT)
Title: Cyclic Linearization and Intermediate Stranding: English Possessor Extraction and Beyond
Date/Time: Thursday, May 18th/12:30-1:50pm
Room: 32-D461
Abstract:

In this work, I argue that the Cyclic Linearization view of phases (CL, Fox & Pesetsky 2005, Ko 2005, 2014) accurately constrains pied-piping/stranding, incorporating unexamined facts from the English possessor extraction (PE) construction, first noted in Gavruseva & Thornton (2001). McCloskey (2000) showed that West Ulster English all can be stranded by wh-movement, not only in the base position, but in an intermediate one also, which he takes as evidence for successive-cyclic movement:

(1). What (all) did he say [CP t (all) that we should buy t (all)]?

Intriguingly in contrast, Postal (1974) noted that English prepositions cannot be stranded in intermediate positions:

(2). (To) who do they believe [CP t (*to) that the students spoke t (to)]?

A Puzzle: West Ulster English all and English prepositions are both strandable elements in principle. Why then is only the first capable of IS? This, as McCloskey noted, is mysterious.

Another IS context is the English PE construction, a colloquial option for many speakers. Long-distance PE out of non-subject DP, such as whose money in (3), requires IS of that DP in the embedded spec-CP. Why does English tolerate IS in PE derivations, but not with prepositions? This fact compounds the puzzle.p>

(3). Who did they say[CP [ts money John stole t]? (PE with object pied-piping)

Solution: Chomsky (2001, inter alia) and CL both offer theories of how phases and their spellout determine the properties of successive-cyclic movement. Whereas Chomsky’s conception of phases does nothing to rule out preposition IS, leaving Postal’s puzzle and related facts mysterious, I argue that CL gets the facts right, predicting (1-3). This solution also predicts a generalization about IS, stated in (4).

(4). Intermediate Stranding Generalization (ISG, Predicted by CL)
IS is possible when what pied-pipes, and then is stranded, was adjoined to the right of the mover.

This generalization fits the fact that IS is possible for the strandable all of West Ulster English and [‘s NP] in possessor-extracting English, as these items follow the moving wh-word. (4) rules out IS of prepositions, which precede a mover they are adjoined to. I argue that (4) is cross-linguistically robust, fitting all cases of IS I’ve so far found.

Share

Written by Suzana

May 15th, 2017 at 6:02 am

Posted in Talks

Save the date: Ling-Lunch 5/22 - Jay Keyser

Mark you calendar! Jay Keyser will give a special Ling-Lunch talk on Monday, May 22.

Speaker: Jay Keyser
Title: Music, Poetry, Painting and Easter Eggs
Date/Time: Monday, May 22/12:30-1:50pm [notice the exceptional time!]
Location: 32-D461
Abstract:

This talk takes the view that modernism in the so-called sister arts of music, poetry and painting resulted from the abandonment of sets of rules that characterized each genre and that were shared by the artist and his/her audience. Rules governing meter and tonal music are reasonably well understood. I propose a way to think about “rules” for the third genre, painting. These rules define a natural aesthetic, ’natural’ in that the rules are shared by the artist and his or her audience in the way that the rules of one’s natural language are shared by speaker and listener.

I suggest that the esoteric direction that the sister arts took in the period cultural historians call “Modernism” is a direct result of abandoning the natural, i.e. shared aesthetic for private formats whose origins can be found in the 14th century.

Finally, I will speculate on the similarity between what happened to the arts at the turn of the 20th century and what happened in science after the publication of Principia Mathematica two centuries earlier.

Share

Written by Suzana

May 15th, 2017 at 5:57 am

Posted in Talks

Phonology Circle 5/8 - Ting Huang (MIT)

Speaker: Ting Huang (MIT)
Title: On the Unreleased Stops in Taiwanese Southern Min
Date/Time: Monday, May 8, 5:00–6:30pm
Location: 32-124
Abstract:

Unreleased stops, lacking a burst, have been claimed to have low perceptibility and are more likely to neutralize place contrasts (Stevens 1994; Ohala 2001), which has been supported by examining no-burst VC fragments spliced from released stops. The common consensus is that stop perception relies on two sources of acoustic cues: (i) formant transition and (ii) spectral frequency of burst noise. It is clear that the latter cue is absent in unreleased stops, and therefore the hypothesis is that the cues of formant transition will be enhanced. This study investigates the acoustic correlates of VC (where C=unreleased stops p̚, t̚, k̚) in Taiwanese Southern Min. We argue that the cues of VC are not totally diminished or undistinguishable. Moreover, different morphoprosodic structures (VC-V vs. VC#V vs. VC#C) further complicate the dispersion of stop contrasts in this study, which will also be discussed in this talk. A further comparison of stop cues exhibits that the coronal and dorsal are contrastive in terms of vowel duration and quality. This may be related to the asymmetrical behaviors of consonant-to-consonant assimilation in several languages (e.g. English and Korean) and diachronic changes of stop contrasts in Chinese Phonology.
Share

Written by yadav

May 8th, 2017 at 6:08 am

Posted in Talks

LFRG 5/10 - Daniel Margulis

Speaker: Daniel Margulis (MIT)
Title: Quantifier float with overt restriction
Date and time: Wednesday May 10, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461
Abstract:

Example (1) demonstrates quantifier float. The quantifier each intuitively quantifies over individual parts of the subject they, but the two are not linearly adjacent. The Hebrew quantifier kol has to be overtly restricted, even when it floats: (2) is ungrammatical without exad ‘one’ or a full NP like student.

1. They have each read a different book.

2. hem kar’u kol *(exad) sefer axer
they read each one book other
“They each read a different book.”

I will discuss several syntactic and semantic puzzles posed by the construction in (2) and their implications for the analysis of quantifier float.

Share

Written by mitya

May 8th, 2017 at 6:04 am

Posted in Talks

MIT Colloquium 5/12 - Rajesh Bhatt (UMass Amherst)

Speaker: Rajesh Bhatt (UMass Amherst)
Title: Polar Questions, Selection and Disjunction: clues from Hindi-Urdu ‘kyaa’
Time: Friday, May 12th, 3:30-5:00 pm
Place: 32-155
Abstract:

[joint work with Veneeta Dayal, Rutgers] Hindi-Urdu has an optional marker ‘kyaa’ that appears in polar and alternative questions. We delineate its properties distinguishing from the homophonous thematic ‘kyaa’ (what); in particular we locate it in ForceP. We demonstrate that its distribution in embedded environments is similar to that of embedded inversion in English. Then we use `kyaa’ to argue that projection of alternatives (as in Alternative and Inquisitive Semantics) is constrained by the syntax. In particular, A-bar movements lead to `closure’ of alternatives, making them inaccessible. Consequently we expect a bleeding relationship between such movements and operations that depend upon alternatives such as alternative questions. Finally we also explore interactions between the intonational marking of Y/N questions and syntax.
Share

Written by yadav

May 8th, 2017 at 6:00 am

Posted in Talks

Phonology Circle 5/1 - Rafael Abramovitz

Speaker: Rafael Abramovitz (MIT)
Title: A Case for Morpheme Structure Constraints from Koryak Labials
Date/Time: Monday, May 1, 5:00–6:30pm
Location: 32-D461
Abstract:

One of the central departures of Optimality Theory and its descendants from earlier models of generative phonology is the principle of the Richness of the Base (ROTB), which holds that the set of inputs to the grammar lacks language-specific properties (Prince and Smolensky 2004). Since the set of ranked constraints is the only locus of crosslinguistic variation in these models, morpheme structure constraints (MSC) (Stanley 1967, Chomsky and Halle 1968 et. seq.) are inadmissible. In this talk, I present an argument against this view based on the distribution of labials in Koryak (Chukotko-Kamchatkan). In this language, v and w contrast prevocalically (1-2), but are neutralized to w elsewhere (3).
  1. wutku ‘here’ vs. vutq-ə-vut ‘darkness’
  2. e-wejulʔ-et-ke ‘not scared’ vs. ɣənt-ev-e ‘you ran’
  3. waɲav-at-ə-k ‘to speak’, but waɲaw ‘word’, a-waɲaw-ka ‘without words’
For morphemes like the root in (3), we can set up the root-final segment in the UR as v, but morphemes with an underlying final w, giving rise to a putative pattern *waɲaw ~ waɲaw-at-ə-k, do not exist. While these facts are straightforwardly captured by an MSC banning w morpheme-finally, as well as by equivalent machinery like morpheme-level filtering, analyses assuming ROTB without intermediate filtering are unable account for them.
Share

Written by yadav

May 1st, 2017 at 6:05 am

Posted in Talks

Syntax Square 5/2 - Rafael Abramovitz

Speaker: Rafael Abramovitz (MIT)
Title: Outward-Sensitive Phonologically Conditioned Allomorphy in Koryak
Date and time: Tuesday May 2, 1—2pm
Location: 32-D461
Abstract:

In realizational theories of morphology like Distributed Morphology, syntactic operations are taken to apply to structures that lack phonological information, which then needs to be inserted at some later point in the derivation. A question we can then ask is whether there are any principled restrictions on how this insertion proceeds. One influential answer comes from Bobaljik (2000), who argues that vocabulary insertion is cyclic and phase-based: vocabulary items are inserted bottom-up within phases, and bottom-up from phase to phase. This makes predictions about restrictions on allomorphy determined at vocabulary insertion because it entails that, when a morpheme is undergoing insertion, only phonological information is present about the nodes below it, and only morphosyntactic information is available about those above it. This view predicts, then, that outward-looking allomorphy can be only conditioned by morphosyntactic features, and inward looking allomorphy by only conditioned by phonological/morphological features. In line with this prediction, cases of outward-looking phonologically conditioned allomorphy are very scarce, the only clear example that I know of coming from Deal and Wolf (2014). In this presentation of work in progress, I will provide partial support for cyclic spellout. In particular, I will present 3 cases of allomorphy from the Koryak (Chukotko-Kamchatkan, Kamchatka) verb-word, and will argue that they are outward-looking and phonologically conditioned, contrary to one of the claims of cyclic spellout. Based on this, I will argue that the phase-internal part of cyclic spellout is either false as a universal or unfalsifiable: these patterns of allomorphy pattern cannot be captured by it, but a theory of phonology sufficiently powerful to account for them negates cyclic spellout’s predictive power. However, I will argue that the predictions of phase-by-phase cyclicity are, in fact, borne out: in none of these cases can morphemes trigger allomorphy across a phase boundary, even if they are linearly adjacent to each other.
Share

Written by Suzana

May 1st, 2017 at 6:04 am

Posted in Talks

LFRG 5/3 - Athulya Aravind

Speaker: Athulya Aravind (MIT)
Title: Against a unified treatment of obligatory presupposition effects
Date and time: Wednesday May 3, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461
Abstract:

Since its original conception, the principle Maximize Presupposition (Heim 1991, Sauerland 2003) has been recruited to explain why the use of certain presupposition triggers is obligatory in contexts that satisfy their presuppositions (1).

1. a. The/#A sun is shining.
b. I washed both/#all of my hands.
c. Does your dog have a bushy tail/#bushy tails?

In this talk, I re-examine one type of “obligatory presupposition” environment, involving additive particles (2), and argue that they do not fall within the purview of Maximize Presupposition (contra e.g. e Amsili and Beyssade, 2006, Chemla 2008, Singh 2008).

2. a. Sue went to the party. John went to the party #(too).
b. Jenn went to the movies yesterday. She went #(again) today.

Building on previous work (Krifka 1999, Saebo 2004, Bade 2016), I will first propose an account for the effects in (2), on which insertion of additives is one strategy (among many) to circumvent inconsistencies arising from uncancellable exhaustivity inferences. I will then present experimental results from both adults and children that offer support for a non-unified treatment of obligatory presupposition effects.

Share

Written by mitya

May 1st, 2017 at 6:03 am

Posted in Talks

Ling-Lunch 5/4 - Amanda Rysling

Speaker: Amanda Rysling (UMass Amherst)
Title:  Preferential early attribution in segmental perception
Date/Time: Thursday, May 4th, 12:30-1:50pm
Location: 32-D461
Abstract:

Recognizing the speech we hear as the sounds of the languages we speak requires solving a parsing problem: mapping from the acoustic input we receive to the sounds and words we recognize as our language. The way that listeners do this impacts the phonologies of the world’s languages.

Most work on segmental perception has focused on how listeners successfully disentangle the effects of segmental coarticulation. An assumption of this literature is that listeners almost always attribute the acoustic products of articulation to the sounds whose articulation created those products. As a result, listeners usually judge two successive phones to be maximally distinct from each other in clear listening conditions. Few studies (Fujimura, Macchi, & Streeter, 1978; Kingston & Shinya, 2003; Repp, 1983) have examined cases in which listeners seem to systematically “mis-parse” (Ohala, 1981; et seq.), hearing two sounds in a row as similar to each other, and apparently failing to disentangle the blend of their production. I advance the hypothesis that listeners default to attributing incoming acoustic material to the first of two phones in a sequence, even when that material includes the products of the second phone’s articulation. I report studies which show that listeners persist in attributing the acoustic products of a second sound’s articulation to a first sound even when the signal conveys early explicit evidence about the identity of that second sound. Thus, in cases in which listeners could have leveraged articulatory information to begin disentangling the first sound from the second, they did not do so. I argue that this behavior arises from a domain-general perceptual bias to construe temporally distributed input as evidence of one event, rather than two.

These results support a new conceptualization of the segmental parsing problem. Since listeners necessarily perceive events in the world at a delay from when those events occurred, it may be adaptive to attribute the incoming signal to an earlier speech sound when no other determining information is available. There are cases in which listeners do not disentangle the coarticulated acoustics of two sequential sounds, because they are not compelled to do so. Finally, I argue that this has affected the phonologies of the world’s languages, resulting in, for example, predominantly regressive assimilation of major place features.

Share

Written by Suzana

May 1st, 2017 at 6:02 am

Posted in Talks

Syntax Square 4/25 - Nick Longenbaugh

Speaker: Nick Longenbaugh (MIT)
Title: Towards a unified treatment of the φ-Agree/Move correlation
Date/Time: Tuesday April 25, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461
Abstract:

The past two decades have seen an explosion of research into the cross-linguistic manifestation of φ-Agreement and the basic principles at stake in its operation. Much of the original impetus for this investigation came from a desire to understand the precise correlation between φ-Agree and movement. If anything, however, ensuing discoveries have muddied the waters in this domain. While it is almost universally acknowledged that φ-Agree and Move are related (see van Urk 2015 for discussion and a formalization of this link), there has been a steady retreat from the strong position of the early 1990s that φ-Agree is parasitic on movement.

(1) Specifier-head agreement (Kayne 1989): If AgrX is an agreement head and DP a phrase bearing φ-features, morphological agreement obtains only if the following structural configuration obtains: [AgrXP DP [AgrXP AgrX […DP…]]]

A principle like (1) is especially successful for capturing agreement phenomena in the vP domain, e.g., past-participle agreement (PPA) in Romance and Scandinavian (Kayne 1985, 1989a; Christensen and Taraldsen 1989), but a wealth of cross-linguistic data (in at least Tsez (Polinsky and Potsdam 2001; English (Chomsky 2000, 2001), Icelandic (Sigurðsson 1996, 2008; Boeckx 2010), Hindi-Urdu (Boeckx 2004; Bhatt 2005), Basque (Etxepare 2006; Preminger 2009)) supports a “long-distance” φ-Agree operation, as in Chomsky 2000, 2001.

(2) Agree (Chomsky 2000, 2001): An Agree relation obtains between a head H and a phrase XP, provided:
(i) Matching: XP bears valued features that are a superset of the unvalued features on H
(ii) Locality: There is no YP asymmetrically c-commanding XP that satisfies matching

Given that (2) formally dissociates Agree and Move, the link so commonly observed between them must be added back in, a task that usually falls to ad-hoc “EPP” features, either stipulated to be present on heads or probes themselves. This state of affairs leaves unanswered a number of fundamental questions, both theoretical and technical: How do we handle cases like PPA and other apparent instances of Spec-Head agreement? Can we predict which probes trigger movement, or must this be stipulated in an ad-hoc, language specific way? Most crucially, why should Agree and Move ever be correlated in the first place?

It is to these questions that this talk will be addressed. Beginning with a case study of PPA, I argue for the conclusion that every φ-probe has the postulated “EPP-property,” so that φ-Agree must trigger movement unless independent factors intervene to block it. This allows us to remove “EPP” as a feature of heads or probes, and to predict straightforwardly whether φ-Agree triggers movement. I then explore two consequences of this proposal. The first is that those “null subject” languages where T has φ-probe have both the traditional EPP (T must project a specifier) and null expletives (following Chomsky’s 1981 proposal), a result I argue for on independent grounds following Bresnan & Kanerva (1989) and Sheehan (2010). The second is a new theory of expletive there that treats it as a semantically vacuous oblique pronoun. By analogy to the behavior of oblique pronouns in Icelandic and cross-linguistically, I show this treatment better captures the distribution of there in English and cross-linguistically with fewer stipulations than competing treatments.

Share

Written by Neil

April 24th, 2017 at 6:07 am

Posted in Talks

LFRG 4/26 - Keny Chatain

Speaker: Keny Chatain (MIT)
Title: Relative clauses; interactions with modals and definite article choice in Fering and Akan
Date and time: Wednesday April 26, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461
Abstract:

In this talk, I propose a different semantics for relative clauses that brings them closer to the semantics of conjoined sentences. This accounts for the intuition that in many cases (albeit not all), a sentence with a relative clause is paraphrasable as a conjunction of two clauses:

1. I saw a dog that was limping.

2. I saw a dog and it was limping.

I explore two consequences of this idea in two unrelated areas.

First, I show that this semantics can improve over the standard Grosu & Krifka (2007)’s account of intensional relative clauses (as in (3)), in that it avoids postulating type-shifters that are specific to this construction and it does not posit higher-order abstraction.

3. The gifted mathematician you claim to be should be able to solve this problem in no time.

Second, I show that this semantics can explain interactions between relative clauses and the choice of the definite article in languages with the weak/strong definite article distinction. While strong articles are standardly taken to be anaphoric to previously mentioned entities (Schwarz 2012), they can appear in combination with a restrictive relative clause even when no previous referent is available. However, using the strong form in contexts where they are not licensed is not possible in all languages that make the weak/strong distinction: while Fering can, Akan and Haitian creole cannot. I account for this split in terms of the syntax/semantics interface given here.

Finally, I will discuss other patterns that may fall out from the proposal, and patterns that probably won’t.

Share

Written by mitya

April 24th, 2017 at 6:06 am

Posted in Talks

MIT Colloquium 4/28 - Jonathan Bobaljik (UConn)

Speaker: Jonathan Bobaljik (UConn)
Title: On Some Universals(?) of Case and Agreement
Time: Friday, April 28th, 3:30-5:00 pm
Place: 32-155
Abstract:

The distribution of the major case and agreement alignments has been held to reflect a tetrachoric (implicational) universal: languages may show the same alignment in both case and agreement, but if they diverge, then it is always the case that case alignment is ergative-absolutive, while agreement alignment is apparently nominative-accusative. The reverse combination is unattested. After reviewing the explanation of this universal in Bobaljik 2008 (cf. Baker 2008, Legate 2008), I examine alleged counter-examples, arguing that the universal survives scrutiny, once the distinction between accusative case and differential object marking is made clear. The proposed explanation makes use of the grouping of cases known as the Dependent Case Hierarchy: {nom/abs} < {erg/acc} < {dat/obl}. Dependent Case Theory may play a central role in the explanation of another asymmetry between case and agreement, specifically, in explaining the the typological observation that “Split-S” and other “active” alignments are surprisingly much rarer as case alignments than as alignments of bound person marking. The account, developed in joint work in progress with Mark Baker, relies on the observation that where active agreement systems can be readily described, an active case pattern cannot arise as a core alignment under DCT. Such patterns can only arise as the interaction of one of the core alignment patterns with independent aspects of the grammars of individual languages. In developing that account, we predict a further, and as far as we are aware previously unobserved, asymmetry between what Bittner & Hale called “accusative active” and “ergative active” languages.
Share

Written by yadav

April 24th, 2017 at 6:05 am

Posted in Talks

Ling-Lunch 4/20 - Ian Roberts

Speaker: Ian Roberts (University of Cambridge/UConn)
Title: Verb Movement and Cartography in English and Romance
Date/Time: Thursday, April 20th, 12:30-1:50pm
Location: 32-D461
Abstract:

I begin by presenting the recent important proposals in Schifano (2014, 2015a,b) showing that across Romance there are at least four distinct landing sites in the TMA zone of the clause for finite lexical verbs, all of them higher than the position of the English lexical verb and lower than the V2 landing site. I then show, on the basis of the interaction of verb- and object-placement with very low adverbs in the Cinque (1999) hierarchy, that English has low vP-fronting, to SpecVoiceP. Both Romance and English verb-movement license a very low event variable (arguably a condition on “anchoring” the clause to the utterance situation, in Wiltschko’s 2014 sense). I then briefly consider the English auxiliary system, drawing largely on Harwood (2013). Finally, I briefly consider three further kinds of system: the fully analytical TMA system of Haitian Creole, and two kinds of V-initial system, comparing Welsh/Irish with Niuean. A range of quite simple parameters governing V-movement and licensing the TMA field emerges.
Share

Written by Suzana

April 19th, 2017 at 6:09 am

Posted in Talks

Explanatory Adequacy in Formal Semantics Reading Group 4/21 - Itai Bassi (MIT)

Speaker: Itai Bassi (MIT)
Title: Katzir, R., & Singh, R. (2013). Constraints on the lexicalization of logical operators. Linguistics and Philosophy 36:1–29.
Date/Time: Friday, April 21, 2–3pm
Location: 32-D831

Abstract:
We revisit a typological puzzle due to Horn (Doctoral Dissertation, UCLA, 1972) regarding the lexicalization of logical operators: in instantiations of the traditional square of opposition across categories and languages, the O corner, corresponding to ‘nand’ (= not and), ‘nevery’ (= not every), etc., is never lexicalized. We discuss Horn’s proposal, which involves the interaction of two economy conditions, one that relies on scalar implicatures and one that relies on markedness. We observe that in order to express markedness and to account for a bigger typological puzzle, namely the absence of lexicalizations of ‘XOR’ (= exclusive or), ‘all-or-none’, and many other imaginable logical operators, one must restrict the basic lexicalizable elements to a small set of primitives. We suggest that an ordering based perspective, following Keenan and Faltz (Boolean semantics for natural language, 1985), makes the stipulated primitives that we arrive at more natural. We also propose a modification to Horn’s proposal, based on recent work on implicatures, in which only the implicature condition is operative and in which markedness is part of the definition of the alternatives for scalar implicatures rather than an independent condition.
Share

Written by yadav

April 19th, 2017 at 6:08 am

Posted in Talks

MIT Colloquium 4/21 - Gaja Jarosz (UMass Amherst)

Speaker: Gaja Jarosz (UMass Amherst)
Title: Sonority Sequencing in Polish: Interaction of Prior Bias and Experience
Time: Friday, April 21st, 3:30-5:00 pm
Place: 32-155
Abstract:

Recent work on phonological learning has questioned the traditional view that innate principles guide and constrain language development in children and explain universal properties cross-linguistically. In this talk I focus on a particular universal, the Sonority Sequencing Principle (SSP), which governs preferences among sequences of consonants syllable-initially. Experimental evidence indicates that English, Mandarin, and Korean speakers exhibit sensitivity to the SSP even for consonant sequences that never occur syllable-initially in those languages (such as [nb] vs. [bn] in English). There is disagreement regarding the implications of this finding. Berent et al. (2007) argue that these results can only be explained with reference to an innate principle; however, Daland et. al (2011) show that computational models capable of inferring statistical generalizations over sound classes can detect evidence for these preferences based on related patterns in the language input (and therefore no reference to innate principles is required). Building on these studies, I argue that English is the wrong test case: it does not differentiate predictions of these two hypotheses. I examine learning of syllable structure phonotactics in Polish, a language with very different sonority sequencing patterns from English. Polish provides a crucial test case because the lexical statistics contradict the SSP, at least in part. I review developmental evidence indicating that children acquiring Polish are nonetheless sensitive to the SSP, producing larger sonority rises more accurately in spontaneous production (Jarosz to appear). I then present results from two experiments investigating adult Polish native speakers’ phonotactic knowledge. The findings indicate that Polish native speakers’ phonotactic preferences are sensitive to the SSP and that this SSP sensitivity is not predicted by the computational models that succeeded for languages like English, Mandarin, and Korean. This suggests a crucial role of an inherent bias or a constraint on generalization from the input. At the same time, native speakers’ sonority-sequencing preferences are not entirely expected on the basis of SSP alone, suggesting an important role for experience as well. I discuss implications of these prior bias – experience interactions for modeling of phonological learning.
Share

Written by yadav

April 19th, 2017 at 6:07 am

Posted in Talks

Phonology Circle 4/10 - Benjamin Storme

Speaker: Benjamin Storme (MIT)
Title: Cyclicity in Standard French: the role of stem-base perceptual similarity
Date/Time: Monday, April 10, 5:00–6:30pm
Location: 32-D461
Abstract:

In Standard French, stems in derivatives behave regularly or cyclically depending on the phonological shape of the suffix: stem-final mid vowels behave regularly if the suffix starts with a non-schwa vowel or a glide, and cyclically otherwise. I compare two approaches to explain this pattern: a syllable-based analysis (cf van Oostendorp 2004 on a similar pattern in Dutch), and a perceptually-based analysis. The syllable-based analysis predicts that cyclic application entails identical syllabification of the base-final consonant and its correspondent in the stem. The perceptually-based analysis predicts that cyclic application entails greater perceptual similarity of the base-final consonant and its correspondent in the stem. A comparison of the results of two experiments (a small experiment based on a syllabification task and an experiment based on a discrimination task) suggests that the perceptually-based analysis is superior: it can better explain the difference between liquid-initial suffixes (before which stems behave cyclically) and glide-initial suffixes (before which stems behave regularly). The results of this study are relevant for two debates in phonology: whether phonotactics are better explained in syllable-based or perceptually-based terms (Steriade 1999), and whether phonetic detail plays a role in cyclicity (Steriade 2000).
Share

Written by yadav

April 10th, 2017 at 6:06 am

Posted in Talks

LFRG 4/12 - Neil Banerjee

Speaker: Neil Banerjee (MIT)
Title: A problem with future-shifting
Date and time: Wednesday April 12, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461
Abstract:

The English verbs hope and want are future-shifters in that they allow their non-future complements to be interpreted as occurring in the future.

(1) a. Paul hopes to win the championship.
b. Sam wants to live in Boston.

Assuming that non-finite clauses behave like bound present tense, Abusch (2004) builds the future shift into the lexical semantics of future-shifting verbs. Work by Lekakou and Nilsen (2008), as well as Klecha (2016) suggests that the difference, while lexical, can be made to fall out from Condoravdi’s (2001) diversity condition and the modal base of the attitude report. This gives us a lexical semantics where the future is introduced because of the modal base of the attitude report. Verbs compatible with non-doxastic modal bases are predicted to be future-shifters. Independent evidence from want suggests that it can indeed have a non-doxastic modal base, and is also a future-shifter. But the prediction then is that hope and want should then have the same truth conditions in the following case.

(2) a. I have what I want
b. *I have what I hope

Evidence from other future shifters in English (other attitude verbs, antecedents of conditionals, probability reports) suggests that locating the source of futurity in the modal base may not be on the right track. I leave finding the right track as a puzzle for the future.
Share

Written by mitya

April 10th, 2017 at 6:05 am

Posted in Talks

Ling-Lunch 4/13 - Ezer Rasin

Speaker: Ezer Rasin (MIT)
Title: Severing stress from phonology
Date/Time: Thursday, April 13th, 12:30-1:50pm
Location: 32-D461
Abstract:

According to the consensus view in generative linguistics, the cognitive module known as ‘phonology’ is responsible for various phonological computations, including the computation of word stress, tone, and segmental processes. I will present two differences between stress and segmental phonology to motivate a modular decomposition of phonology, where the computation of stress is carried out in a separate module with a limited interaction with the rest of phonology:

1) Information Encapsulation: drawing on observations by de Lacy (2006) and Blumenfeld (2006), I propose a universal asymmetry between stress and segmental processes. Segmental processes are often sensitive to the position of stress (In American English, for example, [t] is flapped between a preceding stressed vowel and a following unstressed vowel, as in políDical vs. politícian) but the computation of stress is never directly sensitive to segmental information: stress patterns like ‘stress the rightmost vowel followed by a velar’ are unattested, and can be excluded in the modular architecture if the input to the stress module excludes representations of segmental features.

2) Weak Generative Capacity: Heinz (2014) observes that the computational complexity of attested stress patterns goes beyond that of segmental patterns. In particular, stress patterns can require exactly one primary stress per word, but segmental patterns that require exactly one e.g. sibilant per word are unattested. This difference places stress and segmental phonology in two different domains of the Chomsky hierarchy of formal languages, a hallmark of modularity.

Share

Written by Suzana

April 10th, 2017 at 6:04 am

Posted in Talks

Explanatory adequacy in formal semantics 4/14 - Keny Chatain

The reading group on explanatory adequacy in formal semantics continues this week with a discussion of the paper “The logical primitives of thought” by Piantadosi, S. T., Tenenbaum, J. B., and Goodman, N. D. led by Keny Chatain.

Speaker: Keny Chatain (MIT)
Title: Piantadosi, S. T., Tenenbaum, J. B., and Goodman, N. D. (2016). The logical primitives of thought: Empirical foundations for compositional cognitive models. Psychological review, 123(4):392–424 (link)
Date/Time: Friday, April 14, 2:00-3:00pm
Location: 32-D831
Abstract:

The notion of a compositional language of thought (LOT) has been central in computational accounts of cognition from earliest attempts (Boole, 1854; Fodor, 1975) to the present day (Feldman, 2000; Penn, Holyoak, & Povinelli, 2008; Fodor, 2008; Kemp, 2012; Goodman, Tenenbaum, & Gerstenberg, 2015). Recent modeling work shows how statistical inferences over compositionally structured hypothesis spaces might explain learning and development across a variety of domains. However, the primitive components of such representations are typically assumed a priori by modelers and theoreticians rather than determined empirically. We show how different sets of LOT primitives, embedded in a psychologically realistic approximate Bayesian inference framework, systematically predict distinct learning curves in rule-based concept learning experiments. We use this feature of LOT models to design a set of large-scale concept learning experiments that can determine the most likely primitives for psychological concepts involving Boolean connectives and quantification. Subjects’ inferences are most consistent with a rich (nonminimal) set of Boolean operations, including first-order, but not second-order, quantification. Our results more generally show how specific LOT theories can be distinguished empirically.
Share

Written by mitya

April 10th, 2017 at 6:03 am

Posted in Talks

Phonology Circle 4/3 - Kevin Ryan (Harvard)

Speaker: Kevin Ryan (Harvard)
Title: Onset vs. rime effects in phrasal weight
Date/Time: Monday, April 3, 5:00–6:30pm
Location: 32-D461
Abstract:

Prosodic end-weight (PEW) refers to the specifically phonological aspect of end-weight, whereby prosodically heavier constituents tend to be preferred domain-finally, all else being equal (i.e. controlling for semantics, frequency, morphosyntactic complexity, etc.). This tendency can be seen in coordination (“X and Y” or “Y and X”?) among numerous other constructions, is widespread (though not universal) cross-linguistically, and is amply supported by experiments, including wug-tests. Several explanations have been put forth for PEW, including final lengthening, complexity deferral (for reasons related to processing), metrical optimization, phonotactic optimization, and (esp. in my own work) stress-weight alignment in sentential prosody. I maintain that the stress-weight interface best explains the core properties of PEW, while the other factors are either irrelevant or at least largely orthogonal to it. One area in which the stress-weight analysis illuminates PEW concerns its differing treatment of onset vs. rime segments. For instance, in the nucleus and coda, greater sonority correlates with greater weight, while in the onset, the generalization is reversed: Greater obstruency patterns as heavier. This reversal is also evident from other types of weight systems (with phonetic rationales in Gordon 2005, Ryan 2014). Thus, I propose that PEW instantiates the same stress-weight interface that is well-documented for stress, meter, etc., a generalization of Weight-to-Stress (Prince 1983 et seq.). The proposed generalization is formalized as a stringent weight hierarchy (e.g. moraic sonorant X > moraic X > X), partly to avoid monsters, but stringency can only be maintained if one recognizes a natural class that is the union of onset obstruents (which cannot be analyzed as moraic in English) and rime segments (which are moraic), among other issues.
Share

Written by yadav

April 3rd, 2017 at 6:11 am

Posted in Talks

Syntax Square 4/4 - Colin Davis

Speaker: Colin Davis (MIT)
Title: English Possessor Extraction, Pied-piping, and Cyclic Linearization
Date and time: Tuesday April 4, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461
Abstract:

In my previous syntax square, I introduced possessor extraction in English. This essentially undocumented possibility in colloquial speech stands in contrast to canonical pied-piping wh-movement of possessors in English.
  1. Who do they say[[_’s cat] is cute]? (Possessor extraction)
  2. [Whose cat] do they say [_ is cute]? (Pied-piping)
English possessor extraction cannot happen all the time, however. In this talk, I go on to analyze the phenomenon’s restrictions. For example, non-subject DPs must be pied-piped to the edge of their clause for PE out of them to be licit, producing a unique instance of partial pied-piping. In a very general sense, pied-piping to an intermediate position provides a nice piece of overt evidence for successive-cyclic movement through intermediate specifiers of CP.
  1. *Who do they think [John likes [_’s cake]]? (No PE from object in-situ)
  2. Who do they think[[_’s cake] John likes _]? (PE from pied-piped object)
I argue that this pied-piping and a number of other details result from an adjacency condition between possessor and the saxon genitive (cf. Gavruseva & Thornton 2001) which interacts with phase-by-phase linearization of syntactic structure (Fox & Pesetsky 2005, Ko 2005, 2014). Along the way, this analysis finds a explanation for the fact that successive-cyclic movement through spec-vP cannot strand anything in English, a curious gap in the paradigm of McCloskeys’s all-stranding and true of P-stranding in English generally. This finding leads to a number of broader predictions about stranding and its interaction with movement and the nature of specifiers (cf. Ko). The interaction of English possessor extraction with existential constructions also leads to a novel argument from linearization that expletive there originates in vP (Biberauer & Richards 2005, Deal 2009).
Share

Written by Neil

April 3rd, 2017 at 6:10 am

Posted in Talks

LFRG 4/5 - Colin Davis

Speaker: Colin Davis (MIT)
Title: English possessor extraction and LF pied-piping
Date and time: Wednesday April 5, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461
Abstract:

The colloquial speech of many English speakers permits what looks like possessor extraction, which A’-moves a possessor (1) without pied-piping the rest of the DP (2).

1. Who do they think [[_’s fat cat] is cute]? (Possessor extraction)

2. [Whose fat cat] do they think [_ is cute]? (Standard pied-piping)

This movement is interesting in light of the fact that English is a language that otherwise obeys the Left Branch Condition (Ross 1967), which describes a lack of extraction of the leftmost constituent of a nominal phrase. I argue that despite appearances, the possessum is in fact covertly pied-piped in (1), meaning that there really is no Left Branch Condition exception here. Some evidence for this comes from parasitic gaps, where a possessum stranded in an embedded clause can bind a parasitic gap in the matrix clause, as in (3).

3. [Who did you say[_’s haircut is awful] despite wanting help from PG]?

If who moved alone and didn’t carry haircut into the matrix clause, we expect the PG to be bound by who and so refer to a person. If there was full pied-piping we predict whose haircut to bind the PG, giving a silly reading where you want help from a haircut. By the judgments of most speakers, it turns out that the silly reading is the most salient for sentences like this, with the non-silly reading being absent or difficult. Importantly, we only expect the silly reading to be available if the possessum was covertly pied-piped, binding the PG. von Stechow (1996) argues against Nishigauchi (1990), saying that covert pied-piping does not exist, or at least is not interpreted. In (3), covert pied-piping is interpreted. I also apply the logic of covert pied-piping to sluicing in answers to possessor-extracting questions, and some puzzles regarding free relatives, which don’t pattern as expected.
Share

Written by mitya

April 3rd, 2017 at 6:09 am

Posted in Talks

Ling-Lunch 4/6 - Adrian Stegovec

Speaker: Adrian Stegovec (UConn)
Title: Two’s company, three’s a crowd: Strength implications in syntactic person restrictions
Date/Time: Thursday, April 6th, 12h30—1h50pm
Location: 32-D461
Abstract:

In this talk I argue for a novel approach to syntactic person restrictions (SPRs) such as the Person-Case Constraint (PCC) in ditransitives and analogous restrictions in transitives. I present data from a broad cross-linguistic survey of SPRs (101 languages), revealing a generalization on the distribution of SPRs across combinations of External-Internal and Internal-Internal arguments —- the Strength Implication Generalization: “If a language has both an External-Internal argument and an Internal-Internal argument SPR, the Internal-Internal one is never “weaker” than the External-Internal one”. I propose that SPRs arise due to the inherent person feature underspecification of relevant pronominal markers which makes them dependent on phase heads for external person feature valuation. This is shown not only to derive the generalization from standard assumptions on argument structure, but also to capture the cross-linguistic variation in SPR types in terms of lexical (micro-)variation in pronominal markers and a contextual approach to phases.
Share

Written by Suzana

April 3rd, 2017 at 6:08 am

Posted in Talks

Explanatory adequacy in formal semantics 4/7 - Irene Heim

Earlier this semester there were three LFRG presentations on topics that had to do with explanatory adequacy in formal semantics. Since there was interest in discussing these issues further, a separate reading group on explanatory adequacy in formal semantics will start this week.

The goal is to discuss theoretical, experimental, and computational work in formal semantics that addresses the question of how denotations of lexical items are acquired, with a special focus on 1) typological and experimental work that contributes to the characterization of the range of possible denotations available to the child, and 2) computational work on semantic learning.

The reading group will meet on Fridays at 2-3pm in 32-D831. The first meeting’s details are below.

Speaker: Irene Heim (MIT)
Title: Type Economy
Date/Time: Friday, April 7, 2:00-3:00pm
Location: 32-D831
Abstract:

Lexicalist and syntactic accounts of a given construction have often been pitted against each other in the linguistic literature. Proponents of either account ought to do more than argue that their favorite account derives better empirical predictions from simpler assumptions. They also should tell us how the language learner chooses this analysis. For example, a linguist who favors a raising-to-subject analysis of verbs like seem should formulate constraints or biases which may guide children to acquire this analysis and not a lexicalist one. Informally, a bias in favor of “simpler” semantic types could fill the bill in this case. But what exactly is the relevant metric of simplicity?
Share

Written by Neil

April 3rd, 2017 at 6:07 am

Posted in Talks

MIT Colloquium 4/7 - Ricardo Bermúdez-Otero (Manchester)

Speaker: Ricardo Bermúdez-Otero (Manchester)
Title: The phonological lexicon, usage factors, and rates of change: Evidence from Manchester English
Time: Friday, April 7, 3:30-5:00 pm
Venue: 32-155
Abstract:

This paper reports the results of research conducted jointly with George Bailey (University of Manchester), Maciej Baranowski (University of Manchester), and Danielle Turton (University of Newcastle upon Tyne).

In classical modular feedforward architectures of grammar, phonetic implementation does not have access to information about lexical items beyond the discrete properties encoded in phonological representations. This hypothesis accounts for fundamental facts of human language such as double articulation and the existence of neogrammarian change, but it fails to explain the fact that fine phonetic detail is also affected by gradient usage-related properties of lexical items such as token frequency and neighbourhood density.

Exemplar Theory seeks to explain the phonetic effects of usage factors by abandoning the classical hypothesis that lexical phonological representations consist solely of categorical information. Less radical approaches, however, continue to uphold this assumption: some, such as Baese-Berk & Goldrick’s (2009) account of neighbourhood density effects, rely on the notion of gradient symbolic computation, according to which phonological representations are made up of symbols that are discrete but exhibit continuously varying degrees of activation (Smolensky & Goldrick 2016).

These two approaches to the phonetic effects of usage factors differ in their diachronic predictions. In the case of lexical token frequency, in particular, it has been repeatedly observed that, synchronically, high-frequency words exhibit more lenition than low-frequency words. From this observation the proponents of Exemplar Theory infer that, during historical language change, high-frequency words undergo reduction at a relatively faster rate due to greater exposure to reductive phonetic biases, whose effects are claimed to be directly registered in phonetically-detailed lexical representations. Pace Hay & Foulkes (2016), however, this diachronic pattern has never been reliably observed, and these accounts fail to consider another logical possibility: namely, that high-frequency words are ahead synchronically but actually change at the same rate as low-frequency words.

In this talk I report the findings of an investigation into the effect of lexical token frequency on the glottal replacement of word-medial /t/ in Manchester English, using apparent-time data from 62 speakers born between 1926 and 1985 (2131 tokens). Two stringent tests (mixed effects logistic regression and comparison between curve-fitting models) show that lexical token frequency gives rise to a ‘constant rate effect’ in the sense of Kroch (1989): high-frequency words exhibit more glottalization at all points in apparent time, but the size of their advantage remains unchanged. This suggests that glottalization advances historically through an increase in the probability of application of a single process targeting both high- and low-frequency words, whilst the impact of frequency is produced by time-invariant orthogonal mechanisms, possibly involving gradient symbolic computation. Thus, the evidence is consistent with the classical assumption that lexical phonological representations consist solely of discrete categories and do not encode fine phonetic detail.

A PDF copy of the abstract (with references) is also available.

Share

Written by yadav

April 3rd, 2017 at 6:06 am

Posted in Talks

Phonology Circle 3/20 - Joan Mascaró Altimiras (UAB)

Speaker: Joan Mascaró Altimiras (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona/MIT)
Title: Stress Dependent Harmony and Featural Affixation: Metaphony in Romance
Date/Time: Monday, March 20, 5:00–6:30pm
Location: 32-D461
Abstract:

Stress-dependent harmony in Romance (aka metaphony) has been usually analyzed as a case of phonological spreading from/licensing of a final trigger affecting the stressed vowel. In cases in which the trigger has become opaque, either an abstract analysis (Calabrese 1985, 1998) or a morphological analysis (featural affixation or similar; Kaze 1989, Finley 2009) has been proposed. The determination of trigger-target interactions has been analyzed as determined by a prosodic domain (the foot, Hualde 1989, Flemming 1994) or as licensing of features in a weak position (Cole 1998, Majors 1998, Walker 2005). In this talk, I will examine all these possibilities and suggest that even in transparent cases an analysis in terms of featural affixation cannot be ruled out given current empirical evidence, and that the original analyses in terms of foot domains might be a more appropriate solution.
Share

Written by yadav

March 20th, 2017 at 6:08 am

Posted in Talks

Syntax Square 3/21 - Kenyon Branan

Speaker: Kenyon Branan (MIT)
Title: Contiguity Preservation: Another Look at Defective Intervention
Date and time: Tuesday March 21, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461
Abstract:

Some languages, like English, allow raising across an experiencer in sentences like [John seems to me to be intelligent]. Other languages, like Icelandic, don’t. In this talk, I will attempt to build a theory that will predict whether or not a language will allow raising across an experiencer. This theory will not make reference to the notion of defective intervention, which has commonly been used to account for the facts in Icelandic. I show that a number of other syntactic properties correlate with the “allows raising across a dative property”, and that these properties can be explained straightforwardly with Richards’ (2016) Contiguity. I then propose a requirement that Contiguity relationships may not be broken in the same phase they are created, and show that this accounts for the fact that English-like languages allow raising across a dative, but not Icelandic-like languages. Finally, I attempt to extend the account to English tough-constructions.
Share

Written by Neil

March 20th, 2017 at 6:07 am

Posted in Talks

LFRG 3/22 - Itai Bassi

Speaker: Itai Bassi (MIT)
Title: Phi features on focus-bound pronouns: a semantic account
Date and time: Wednesday March 22, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461
Abstract:

Some researchers (Kratzer 1998, Heim 2008, a.o.) have argued that phi features on bound pronouns are not (always) semantically interpreted. Their presence, it is claimed, is a PF-only phenomenon, perhaps as a reflex of an agreement relationship with the binder of their pronoun. One motivation for this conclusion comes from focus constructions like (1). The point is that under standard assumptions about binding and about the meaning of phi features, the phi features on my better not be semantically active, or else the right interpretation of (1) would not be derived.

1. Only I brushed my teeth.

But other authors (Jacobson 2012, Sauerland 2013) have taken a more semantic view, capitalizing on the observation that (1) is a focus construction. On this approach the phi-features in (1) do contribute their usual meaning, but only at the level of the regular semantic value of the expression and not at the level of its focus semantic value.

The goal of this talk is to develop a novel account of focus constructions like (1) within the semantic approach. The core of the proposal is that (1) involves F-coindexation between the two pronouns:

2. Only [I]F1 brushed [my]F1 teeth.

My account builds on Kratzer’s (1991) version of focus semantics, where focused phrases carry an indexed F-feature. I will propose that the grammar has a mechanism that allows a focused phrase to share its F-index to matching pronouns. The fact that phi-features contribute only to the regular semantic value will be derived in this system.

I will show how the phenomenon of split binding (Rullmann 2004), which is problematic to PF accounts, can be handled in my theory rather straightforwardly.

Finally, I will try to independently motivate the notion that focus dependencies like (1) makes the dependent pronoun (silently) F-marked.

Share

Written by mitya

March 20th, 2017 at 6:06 am

Posted in Talks

Talk 3/22 - Loes Koring

Speaker: Loes Koring (MIT)
Title: Looking for structure in strings
Time: Wednesday March 22, 3:00 – 5:00 pm
Room: 32-D461
Abstract:

The class of intransitive verbs poses an interesting puzzle for the language-acquiring child. The child has to work out which of these verbs project an unergative and which an unaccusative syntax. The puzzle here is that, in many languages, the surface strings these verbs give rise to, do not provide any (useful) information regarding their underlying structure. A potential complicating factor is that there are reasons to think that young children are not able to project an unaccusative structure in which the internal argument has moved up to subject position. In this talk, I will use the Visual World Paradigm to probe more directly into the underlying structure children assign to sentences with unaccusative verbs by looking at children’s processing signatures for these sentences. The results from the eye-tracking experiments I present are not only informative regarding (the acquisition of) unaccusativity, but the paradigm itself opens up a new way to uncover the underlying structures of different strings (and thus to tease apart competing hypotheses about the structure). Finally, I will discuss the implications of these results with respect to how we think about (the acquisition of) constraints on structural alternations verbs can participate in.
Share

Written by Neil

March 20th, 2017 at 6:05 am

Posted in Talks

Ling-Lunch 3/23 — Michelle Yuan

Speaker: Michelle Yuan (MIT)
Title: Against morphological diagnostics for object agreement vs. clitic doubling: Evidence from Inuktitut
Date/Time: Thursday, March 23, 12:30—1:50pm
Location: 32-D461
Abstract:

There has been much recent debate concerning the proper analysis of object agreement—whether it is true agreement (phi-feature valuation) or clitic doubling (a pronominal D0 co-referring with a DP). Various diagnostics have been put forth to determine whether a given “object-referencing morpheme” is one or the other (e.g. Preminger 2009, Nevins 2011, Kramer 2014). In this talk, I argue against the use of morphological diagnostics (as in Zwicky & Pullum 1983, also Nevins 2011) in discerning between the two, based on a comparison between Inuktitut and related Inuit languages (mostly West Greenlandic).

In Inuit, subject- and object-referencing morphemes surface as mood-sensitive portmanteaux; this has been previously taken as an argument for true object agreement in Inuit (Compton 2014). However, novel data from Inuktitut reveal that the Inuit languages actually display a split: while in West Greenlandic the object-referencing portion of these portmanteaux is underlyingly true agreement, in Inuktitut it is clitic doubling. Unlike West Greenlandic, Inuktitut displays a number of syntactic and semantic effects that strongly parallel the behaviour of pronominal object clitics cross-linguistically (e.g. Dobrovie-Sorin 1990, Cardinaletti & Starke 1999). I will moreover show that this split is not arbitrary, but falls within a broader pattern across Inuit.

Crucially, despite this contrast, the West Greenlandic and Inuktitut agreement paradigms are almost entirely identical; their morphological properties therefore have no bearing on the underlying syntax associated with these forms. To properly discern between agreement and clitic doubling, we must instead focus on syntactic and semantic diagnostics that specifically take into account the determiner/pronominal status of doubled clitics, i.e. that they are D0’s in a syntactic dependency with a co-referring DP (see, for example, Preminger 2009).

Share

Written by Suzana

March 20th, 2017 at 6:04 am

Posted in Talks

MIT LingPhil Colloquium 3/24 - Cleo Condoravdi (Stanford)

This Friday, Cleo Condoravdi will be giving our third annual MIT Linguistics and Philosophy Colloquium!

Speaker: Cleo Condoravdi (Stanford)
Title: Conditional imperatives
Time: Friday, March 24th, 3:30-5:00 pm
Venue: 32-155

I present an analysis of imperatives as preferential commitments and show how preferential commitments get conditionalized in conditional imperatives, including imperatives in anankastic conditionals. The analysis allows for uses of modals and imperatives to be equivalent in their communicative effect, despite their different underlying semantics. It also accounts for a new observation about a crucial difference between modals and imperatives: while modals can be used to give advice on why a certain goal should be rescinded given the facts of the matter, imperatives cannot.

What I will talk about builds on three previous papers on imperatives and on anankastic conditionals (1, 2, 3), but there is no paper yet corresponding to the content of the talk and one does not need to be familiar with the previous work.
Share

Written by yadav

March 20th, 2017 at 6:03 am

Posted in Talks

Phonology Circle 3/13 - Aleksei Nazarov (Harvard)

Speaker: Aleksei Nazarov (Harvard)
Title: Learning to mark exceptionality in probabilistic OT
Date/Time: Monday, March 13, 5:00–6:30pm
Location: 32-D461
Abstract:

In this work in progress, I seek to simulate how the language-learning infant learns that certain words are exceptions to their phonological grammar. Existing learners that assign exceptionality marking to words in OT (Becker 2009, Coetzee 2009) are non-probabilistic, making them unable to represent within-word variation (Coetzee and Pater 2011; see Temkin-Martínez 2010 for the necessity of representing both variation and exceptionality). The logic of those learners – comparing (pairwise) ranking conditions between words – cannot be applied to most existing probabilistic OT learners (e.g., Boersma 1997, Goldwater and Johnson 2003). I present an extension of Jarosz’s (2015) Expectation Driven Learning approach that is able to embody this logic and induce exceptionality labels. The efficacy of this approach is tested on several mini-case studies, including the case of default and exceptional Dutch stress (Kager 1989).
Share

Written by yadav

March 13th, 2017 at 6:06 am

Posted in Talks

Syntax Square 3/14 - Colin Davis

Speaker: Colin Davis (MIT)
Title: English Possessor Extraction and Linearization
Date and time: Tuesday March 14, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461
Abstract:

Continuing from my previous Syntax Square, I analyze English possessor extraction, which is interestingly restricted. One such restriction that becomes apparent in long-distance possessor extraction is that non-subject DPs must be pied-piped to the edge of their clause for PE out of them to be licit:
  1. *Who do they think [John likes [t’s cake]]? (No PE from object in-situ)
  2. Who do they think[[t’s cake] John likes t]? (PE from pied-piped object)
I argue that this and other restrictions result from an adjacency condition between possessor and the Saxon genitive (cf. Gavruseva & Thornton 2001) which interacts with phase-by-phase linearization of syntactic structure (Fox & Pesetsky 2005, Ko 2005, 2014). Along the way, this analysis provides further evidence for Ko’s claim that specifiers of a head cannot be rearranged, finds an explanation for a general lack of spec-vP stranding in English, and additionally, an independent argument from linearization that expletive there originates in vP.
Share

Written by Neil

March 13th, 2017 at 6:05 am

Posted in Talks

LFRG 3/15 - Robert Pasternak

Speaker: Robert Pasternak (Stony Brook/MIT)
Title: Want comparatives and the natural language metaphysics of desire
Date and time: Wednesday, March 15, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461
Abstract:

Bach (1986) famously argues that part of the task of model-theoretic semantics is to engage in what he refers to as natural language metaphysics: in short, the determination of what sorts of objects and relations must be included in our model in order to account for the full range of possible meanings in natural language. In this talk, I will propose a natural language metaphysics of desire states—-and a semantics of want to go with it—-in which the intensity of desire tracks the part-whole relations of a desire state in a particular dimension. This is based on two independent observations from the literature. The first is that want can appear in comparatives in which the intensity of desire is being compared (Villalta 2008, Lassiter 2011):

1. Ann wants to leave more than Mary wants to stay.

The second observation is that verbal comparatives require that the measure functions used track part-whole relations of eventualities (Nakanishi 2007, Wellwood et al. 2012, Wellwood 2015). Hence, (2) can be a comparison of the time or distance of Ann’s and Mary’s running (since a running event covers more time/distance than its proper parts), but not the speed:

2. Ann ran more than Mary did.

If this constraint is to hold more generally, and if want comparatives—-which by all appearances are verbal comparatives—-allow for a comparison of intensity, then intensity of desire must track part-whole relations of desire states. After illustrating what such a natural language metaphysics might look like, as well as how the denotation of want interacts with the part-whole structure of such states, I then show how this view can be folded in with von Fintel’s (1999) broadly Hintikkan semantics of want, in which the denotation of want universally quantifies over bouletically ideal worlds.

Share

Written by mitya

March 13th, 2017 at 6:04 am

Posted in Talks

Talk 3/16 - Robyn Orfitelli

Speaker: Robyn Orfitelli (University of Sheffield)
Title: Middle Class Acquisition
Time: Thursday March 16, 12:30 – 2:30 pm
Room: 32-D461

Abstract:

One of the most discussed puzzles in language acquisition is that children learning English (and a typologically diverse array of other languages) are delayed in acquiring adult comprehension of verbal passives and subject-to-subject raising (1a-b), but show very early comprehension of numerous other forms of A-movement, including subject-to-object raising and unaccusatives (2a-b).

I have previously argued that the cause of this split is that the sentences in (1) violate locality restrictions on movement, making them impossible for young children to derive, while the sentences in (2) do not violate these restrictions. In this talk, I present data from three studies investigating the acquisition of the A-movement that derives the middle voice (3), and a related structure with similar properties (4). Both (3) and (4) are structurally ambiguous: the nominative subject may be interpreted as either the external argument (reading i) or internal argument (reading ii) of the predicate, making these ideal test cases for locality-based intervention accounts.

Collectively, the data from the three studies suggest that children have no difficulty representing internal arguments as subjects, despite their non-canonical alignment, and the extreme rarity of sentences like (3) and (4) in child-directed speech. I discuss the significance of these findings for both our understanding of A-movement acquisition, and for our understanding of implicitly represented arguments in syntactic/semantic structure.

  1. a. Amber was seen by Graham.
    b. Amber seems to Graham to be lying.
  2. a. Amber believes Graham to be lying.
    b. Amber arrived.
  3. Adorable kittens sell easily.
    i. Adorable kittens make particularly talented sales-cats.
    ii. Adorable kittens can easily be sold.
  4. Scientists make great parents.
    i. (Mad) scientists create great parents (a la Dr. Frankenstein).
    ii. Scientists are generally great parents.
Share

Written by Neil

March 13th, 2017 at 6:03 am

Posted in Talks

Phonology Circle 3/6 - Abdul-Razak Sulemana

Speaker: Abdul-Razak Sulemana (MIT)
Title: GETCASE is Violable: Evidence for Wholesale Late Merger
Date/Time: Monday, March 6, 5:00–6:30pm
Location: 32-D461

In this talk, I examine reconstruction effects in a class of A-bar constructions in Bùlì, building on recent proposals about the mechanisms that yield reconstructions asymmetries in A and A-bar movement Takahashi and Hulsey (2009) and the asymmetries within English preposition stranding (P-stranding) Stanton (2016).

A well known asymmetry between A and A-bar movement is that: while A-movement bleeds binding Condition C, A-bar movement doesn’t. This led to the conclusion that: while A-movement optionally leaves a trace, A-bar movement obligatorily leaves a copy (Sauerland 1998, Fox 1999). This conclusion, however, posses a serious challenge to the copy theory of movement. To resolve this, Takahashi and Hulsey (2009), extending the idea of late marge (Lebeaux 1988, Chomsky 1995) and adopting insights from (Fox 2002), argue that late merger is allowed whenever an output representation can be interpreted in the semantic component (wholesale Later merger(WLM)). By this operation, they maintain that there is no distinction between A and A-bar movement with respect to the copy theory, independent properties of grammar like Case, account for the reconstruction properties of A and A-bar movement: while WLM can apply to A movement because it involves movement from a non-Case position to a Case position, WLM cannot apply to A-bar movement because A-bar movement involves movement from a Case position to a non-Case position. The goal of this talk is to show that wh-questions in Bùlì, a Gur language spoken in Ghana, provides new evidence for WLM. In particular, I argue that the outcome of overt movement in the language is as a result of ranking the constraint LATEMERGE, which requires constituents to merge as late as possible, above GETCASE, which penalizes a Caseless NP and *TOOLATE, which assigns a violation to late merge if the relationship it establishes is not the structurally highest of its type (Stanton 2016). I argue that the interactions of these constraints are responsible for the cross linguistic variations we observe between A-bar extractions and reconstruction effects in Bùlì as well as other well studied languages, including English.

Data and Analysis: Bùlì permits wh-phrases to appear in the left periphery of the clause (1a-b). The sensitive of these phrases to islands (1c) is taken as evidence to show that they undergo movement.

(1)  a. (ká) bwa ātì bí:ká dìgì:
Q what C child.DEF cook
‘What is that the child cooked?

b. ká lām būnā ātì bí:ká
dìgì:Q meat which C child.DEF cook
‘Which meat did the child cook?’

c. *ká bwa ātì bí:ká dà gbáŋ ālī:
Q what C child.DEF buy book CONJ

In analyzing this data, I assume that the QP moves overtly to the Spec, of ātì. However, unlike movement of the whole QP-NP-DP complex from the base position (2), I propose that it involves movement of QP-DP followed by Late merging the NP lām ‘meat’ to the structure at the final landing site (Takahashi and Hulsey 2009, Stanton 2016). This derivation, I argue, is responsible for the lack of reconstruction effects in the language (2b). Since Ajohn foto ‘picture of John’ (2b) is merged after moving the QP and DP, the co-referential pronoun, wà‘3SG’ doesn’t c-command a copy of John in the base position, hence its ability to bleed principle C.

(2) a. [ká [lām] būnā ] ātì bí:ká dìgì ká būnā]

b. ká Ajohnfoto kūnā ātì wài à-yā:lī:
Q John picture which C 3SG IMPF-like
‘*Which picture of John does he like’

Share

Written by yadav

March 6th, 2017 at 6:05 am

Posted in Talks

Syntax Square 3/7 - Snejana Iovtcheva

Speaker: Snejana Iovtcheva (MIT)
Title: An Applicative Account of Bulgarian Double Object Constructions
Date and time: Tuesday March 7, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461
Abstract:

I will present and discuss data on Bulgarian ditransitives, in which clitic doubled Goal arguments differ systematically from their non-double counterparts. More concretely, I will demonstrate that clitic doubled ditransitive constructions, behave in par with English Double Object Constructions (DOC) of the type [I gave John the book], while non-doubled ditransitive constructions behave like Prepositional Ditransitive Constructions (PDC) of the type [I gave the book to John].

The DOC/PDC distinction is not obvious right away since the language has free word order and Goal arguments are always marked with the same preposition na. The correlation between clitic doubling in DOC and the absence of clitic doubling in PDC has already been established for Spanish (Cuervo 2003) and Romanian (Rivero & Diaconescu 2006, Diaconescu 2007). In my analysis on Bulgarian DOCs, I follow Marantz (1993), Pylkkänen (2003), Cuervo (2003) and Slavkov (2008) and I propose that na-marked clitic doubled Goals in Bulgarian are introduced by functional ‘Low’ Applicative heads. The clitic itself is treated as a spell out of the Appl0.

In addition to contrasting clitic doubled na-Goals to non-doubled na-Goals, I will discuss also na-marked arguments of transitive and unaccusative verbs and I propose that the language has also ‘high’ Applicative heads, which are introduced above the VP domain.

Share

Written by Neil

March 6th, 2017 at 6:04 am

Posted in Talks

LFRG 3/8 - Matthew Mandelkern

Speaker: Matthew Mandelkern
Title: Bounded Modality
Date and time: Wednesday, March 8, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461
Abstract:

To what degree does the meaning of an epistemic modal claim like ‘It might be raining’ resemble the meaning of an avowal of ignorance like ‘For all I know, it’s raining’? Progress on this question has been made by exploring differences in how constructions along these lines embed—-in particular by exploring their behavior as part of larger constructions like Wittgenstein (1953)’s ‘It might be raining and it’s not’ and Moore (1942)’s ‘It’s raining and I don’t know it’, respectively. A variety of approaches have been developed to account for those differences. All approaches, however, agree that the infelicity of unembedded Moore sentences and unembedded Wittgenstein sentences is to be explained in roughly the same way: such sentences are classically consistent, but commitment to both conjuncts is incoherent.

In this paper I argue against this consensus. If this consensus were right, then disjoined Moore sentences, and disjoined Wittgenstein sentences, would be felicitous. This prediction is borne out for disjoined Moore sentences, but not for Wittgenstein sentence. This creates a puzzle, since there is decisive reason to think that ‘Might p’ is consistent with ‘Not p’. I propose a new theory of epistemic modals and their interaction with embedding operators which predicts that, while ‘Might p’ is indeed consistent with ‘Not p’, when evaluating their conjunction, ‘Might p and not p’, we are forced to do so relative to an accessibility relation which makes the conjunction false. I show that this theory accounts not only for Wittgenstein sentences and their disjunctions, but also for the subtle behavior of embedded modals across the board. The upshot is that there is much in common between ‘For all we know, p’ and the meaning of ‘Might p’—-and thus much that is correct in the standard semantics for the latter—-but also a crucial difference: interpretation of the latter, but not the former, depends in a striking way on the intersentential dynamics of information.
Share

Written by mitya

March 6th, 2017 at 6:03 am

Posted in Talks

Talk 3/9 - Roni Katzir

Speaker: Roni Katzir (MIT and Tel Aviv University)
Title: Choosing between theories of UG using compression-based learning
Time: Thursday March 9, 12:30-2:30pm
Room: 32-D461
Abstract:

I will discuss an approach to learning — compression-based learning — and show how it can help us choose between competing grammatical architectures in some cases where adult judgments alone are insufficiently informative.

Compression (or the principle of Minimum Description Length; also very closely related to Bayesian approaches) considers both the size of the grammar and that of the description of the data given the grammar and attempts to minimize their sum. By doing so, compression guides the learner to hypotheses that balance between generality and the need to fit the data. Compression appears to match subjects’ generalization patterns in a variety of tasks, and it has yielded working learners for realistic linguistic theories in different domains.

I will review these properties of compression-based learning and show how we can use it to compare between competing architectures with two case studies, one in phonology and one in semantics. The phonological case study concerns constraints on underlying representations (also known as morpheme-structure constraints), which were central to early generative phonology but rejected in Optimality Theory. Evidence bearing directly on the question of whether the grammar uses constraints on URs has been scarce. I will show, however, that if the child is a compression-based learner, then they will succeed in learning patterns such as English aspiration if they can use constraints on URs but run into difficulties otherwise. In semantics, I will discuss two architectures for the representation of quantificational determiners: building blocks and semantic automata. While both choices support the representation and learning of quantificational determiners, I will show a specific domain where they predict different learning paths.

Share

Written by Neil

March 6th, 2017 at 6:02 am

Posted in Talks

Syntax Square 2/28 - Abdul-Razak Sulemana

Speaker: Abdul-Razak Sulemana (MIT)
Title: Q-particles and the nature of Covert movement: evidence from Bùlì
Date and time: Tuesday February 28, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461
Abstract:

It is a well known fact that wh-questions in many languages may contain an in-situ wh-phrase. The nature of this wh-phrase, however, has been a contentious issue in the literature. While some have argued that the in-situ wh-phrase undergoes covert movement at LF (Aoun, Hornstein, and Sportiche, 1981; Huang, 1982; Nishigauchi, 1990; Pesetsky, 2000, Richards, 1997; 2000; Nissenbaum, 2000; Cable, 2007; 2010; Kotek, 2014; 2016), others have argued against this view (Watanabe 1992; Chomsky 1995; Reinhart 1998). A well-known puzzle for proponents of covert movement are the apparent differences in island-sensitivity between overt and covert movement — leading Huang (1982), for example, to propose that island-sensitivity is a property of S-structure or PF but not LF. The goal of this paper is to show that wh-questions in Bùlì provide strong arguments for covert movement of wh-in situ that eliminate the need to posit any overt/covert differences in island-sensitivity cross-linguistically. The key to this demonstration is the distribution of an overt Q-marker in Bùlì, and Bùlì’s status as an in-situ language.

Share

Written by Neil

February 27th, 2017 at 6:06 am

Posted in Talks

LFRG 3/1 - Athulya Aravind and Ezer Rasin‏

Speakers: Athulya Aravind and Ezer Rasin‏
Title: The nature of the semantic stimulus: quantifier learning as a case study
Date and time: Wednesday March 1, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461
Abstract:

Language acquisition involves making sense of unanalyzed input: the child brings to the task a hypothesis space, each point in which represents a grammar, and she chooses a point in that space that can generate the input. If two grammars G, G’ are compatible with the input and the child ends up converging on G, we can draw interesting conclusions regarding acquisition: it could be, for example, that G’ is outside of the child’s hypothesis space, or that the child is biased towards choosing G over G’. The literature on acquisition in syntax and phonology has identified cases where the input is not rich enough to eliminate alternatives to the adult grammar, suggesting that learning in those domains is non-trivial.

Our goal is to evaluate the richness of the input in semantics, and our case study is the acquisition of quantificational determiners. We address the following question: are there logically weaker or logically stronger alternatives to quantifier meanings that are compatible with the child’s input, or is the input rich enough to eliminate competing hypotheses? We report our preliminary conclusions from a study of several English CHILDES corpora:

  • Systematic truth-conditional evidence for ruling out logically weaker meanings does not seem to be available. Obvious candidates for providing such evidence like the direct rejection of a child’s utterance and the use of quantifiers in downward-entailing environments were either absent from most corpora or consistent with weaker meanings.
  • Contextual evidence for ruling out logically weaker meanings is available. We identify contexts where a weaker meaning for a quantifier would violate some pragmatic constraint. If children can use this contextual evidence early enough, then logically weaker meanings would be incompatible with the input.
  • With respect to logically stronger alternatives, the situation is quite different. We construct classes of quantifiers with complex, logically stronger meanings designed to be consistent with any finite number of utterances. If such quantifiers are in the child’s hypothesis space, then converging on adult meanings would require non-trivial induction.
Share

Written by mitya

February 27th, 2017 at 6:05 am

Posted in Talks

Thursday, 3/2 — talk by Victoria E. Mateu

Speaker: Victoria E. Mateu (UCLA)
Title: On the Acquisition of Raising and Control: A Cross-linguistic Study
Time: March 2 (Thursday), from 12:30 – 2:30
Room: 24-121
Abstract:

This study investigates the delays observed in the acquisition of raising with seem (e.g. Mary seems to John _ to be cautious) and control with promise (e.g. Mary promises John _ to be cautious). One prominent explanation for the difficulties with these constructions holds that it is related to the presence of the intervening argument. Crucially for this type of accounts, an intervener is possible with Spanish prometer ‘promise’, but not with the modal-like verb parecer ‘seem’. The experiments presented here were designed to answer the following questions: i) are the delays observed in these constructions due to intervention effects? If so, ii) are they grammar- or processing-based? and iii) if they are grammar-based, is the grammatical machinery used to by-pass the intervener the same in raising and control?

The results obtained from the raising experiments reveal that Spanish-speaking children comprehend raising sentences with the semi-modal verb parecer by age four, while English-speaking children experience difficulties with raising seem until at least age six – even when the intervening argument is not overtly produced. This cross-linguistic asymmetry suggests that the (overt or covert) intervening argument is the root of the difficulty. Consistent with intervention accounts, the results obtained from the control experiments reveal that both English- and Spanish-speaking children show difficulties comprehending control with promise/prometer until at least age six.

Regarding our second question, an in-depth look into the raising and control data reveal two different groups of children: i) below-chance group: children who lack the grammatical means to circumvent the intervening argument and ii) chance and above-chance group: children who have an adult grammar system but still experience difficulties due to their immature processing system. We refer to this as the Dual Source Intervention hypothesis.

Importantly for our third question, our results do not show a correlation between performance on raising and control in all children –some children perform below chance with raising and above chance with control and some vice-versa, showing a grammatical dissociation between these two constructions. This has important consequences for syntactic theories that claim that raising (with seem) and control (with promise) are derived similarly (e.g. by A-movement, Hornstein 1999, Boeckx & Hornstein 2004, i.a.; or Smuggling, Belletti & Rizzi 2013).

Share

Written by Suzana

February 27th, 2017 at 6:04 am

Posted in Talks

MIT Colloquium 3/3 - Vera Gribanova (Stanford)

Speaker: Vera Gribanova (Stanford)
Title: Head movement, ellipsis, and identity
Time: Friday, March 3rd, 3:30-5:00 pm
Venue: 32-155
Abstract:

In this talk I examine paradigms of crosslinguistic variation concerning the the verbal identity condition in verb-stranding ellipsis, building on a recent proposal about the mechanisms that yield head movement configurations (Harizanov and Gribanova, 2017).

When phrasal material is extracted from ellipsis sites (e.g. in sluicing), violations of lexical identity of the extracted material are permitted under focus of that material (Schuyler, 2001; Merchant, 2001). This is usually attributed to the licensing condition on ellipsis (Rooth 1992, Heim 1997, Merchant 2001), which takes distinct variables inside the ellipsis domain and its antecedent to be identical. I focus on analogous paradigms with head movement out of ellipsis sites (yielding verb-stranding), which appear to lead to contradictory conclusions regarding the architectural status of head movement. Languages like Russian - among them Hungarian, European Portuguese, and Swahili - permit mismatches between extracted parts of the verbal complex and their corresponding antecedent components under focus, just as with phrasal extraction in sluicing. Languages like Irish and Hebrew do not permit such mismatches under any circumstances, pointing to a postsyntactic status for head movement: there is no genuine movement out of the ellipsis site, giving rise to a total identity requirement (Schoorlemmer and Temmerman, 2012; McCloskey, 2016).

A point of leverage into understanding these patterns comes from a proposal by Harizanov and Gribanova (2017), who argue in favor of a bifurcation, both empirical and theoretical, in head movement types. One type involves displacement of fully formed words to higher syntactic positions (e.g. verb second, long head movement). The other type constructs complex morphological words (e.g. affixation, compounding). They point out that the empirical properties of the two types are quite distinct, and justify a theoretical move in which they correspond to distinct operations, in distinct modules of the grammar. They propose that the operation responsible for upward displacement of heads is genuine syntactic movement (Internal Merge); on the other hand, word formation is the result of postsyntactic amalgamation, which has properties that are not associated with narrow syntax.

With this revised view in hand, we can revisit the paradoxical verbal identity patterns: we expect that mismatches in verb-stranding ellipsis will be permitted when head movement is syntactic, but not when it is postsyntactic. I present independently motivated analyses of Irish and Russian clause structure which support exactly this conclusion. Verb movement in Irish involves postsyntactic amalgamation only, predicting a strict lexical identity requirement. By contrast, verb movement in Russian involves both the syntactic and the postsyntactic head movement types, with one of the movement steps being syntactic and giving rise to the possibly of verbal mismatches in verb-stranding ellipsis.

Share

Written by yadav

February 27th, 2017 at 6:03 am

Posted in Talks

2/21, Tuesday: talk by Alexis Wellwood

This Tuesday 2/21 at 5:30-7:30pm Alexis Wellwood from Northwestern University will give a talk on “Meaning, vision, and acquisition” in the room 32D-461.

Speaker: Alexis Wellwood (Northwestern University)
Title: Meaning, vision, and acquisition
Date and time: Tuesday, February 21, 5:30-7:30pm
Location: 32-D461

Share

Written by mitya

February 21st, 2017 at 6:07 am

Posted in Talks

LFRG 2/22 - Masha Esipova

Speaker: Masha Esipova (New York University/MIT)
Title: Focus on what’s (not) at issue: co-speech gestures, presuppositions, and supplements under Contrastive Focus
Date and time: Wednesday, February 22, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461
Abstract:

I would like to discuss some of my work in progress (or, as of very recently, in regress) on the interaction of various types of non-at-issue content with Contrastive Focus.

This project started out as a reaction to the debate on the status of the inferences triggered by co-speech gestures between Ebert & Ebert (2014), who claim that those inferences are supplemental, and Schlenker (2015, to appear), who argues that they are presuppositional. We will start from an observation that sometimes co-speech gestures seem to be making an at-issue contribution, in particular, under Contrastive Focus. We will then explore the data on how co-speech gestures, presuppositions, and supplements (in particular, non-restrictive relative clauses and appositives) interact with Contrastive Focus, and will see that while those data don’t necessarily settle the debate on the status of co-speech gestures, they shed some light on how different types of non-at-issue content come to have at-issue uses.
Share

Written by mitya

February 21st, 2017 at 6:06 am

Posted in Talks

Ling-Lunch 2/23 - Zheng Shen

Speaker: Zheng Shen (UConn)
Title: Multi-Valuation and the Agreement Hierarchy
Day: Thursday, February 23
Time: 12:45pm—1:50 [please note the different time]
Abstract:

In this talk I present arguments for treating cross-linguistic agreement patterns of multi-valuation (Shen to appear) as an instantiation of the Agreement Hierarchy (Corbett 1979).

The nominal right node raising construction in (1) has been argued to involve a single probe that is valued by multiple goals; that is, it involves multi-valuation. In contrast to the multi-valued N in (1), a T node that’s valued by two singular features can be spelled out as plural in summative agreement in (2) (Grosz 2015). Thus there is an asymmetry between multi-valued N and multi-valued T which remains unaccounted for.

(1) This tall and that short student(*s) are a couple.

(2) [Sue’s proud that Bill __ ] and [Mary’s glad that John __ ] have/has traveled to Cameroon.

I argue that this asymmetry is an instantiation of the Agreement Hierarchy (Corbett 1979 et sq, Smith 2015). Cross-linguistically, three out of the four logically possible patterns of multi-valued Ns and Ts are attested (3), parallel to the original Agreement Hierarchy observed for collective nouns. I will discuss other positive consequences of this proposal, in particular regarding the agreement patterns of multi-valued adjectives and determiners reported in King and Dalrymple 2004.

(3)
Multi-valued NMulti-valued T
Croatiansingular
singular
Englishsingularplural
Russianpluralplural
unattestedpluralsingular
Share

Written by Suzana

February 21st, 2017 at 6:05 am

Posted in Talks

MIT Colloquium 2/24 - Rachel Walker (USC)

Speaker: Rachel Walker (USC)
Title: Temporal Structure in Phonology
Time: Friday, February 24th, 3:30-5:00 pm
Venue: 32-155
Abstract:

In phonological structure, the segment root node is classically the locus of temporal organization for sub-segmental units, such as features, governing their sequencing and overlap (e.g. Clements 1985, Sagey 1986). Segment root nodes also classically mediate hierarchically between moras and sub-segmental elements, and by structurally identifying segments, roots figure in the calculation of weight-by-position, where coda consonants are assigned a mora (Hayes 1989). In this talk, I discuss evidence from phonotactic patterns that motivate an enriched representation of temporal relations, where coordination is represented directly among sub-segmental elements. Weight-by-position is also calculated over this sub-segmental temporal structure. In light of these representations, I consider implications for segment roots and suggest that root nodes be eliminated in favor of a set-based understanding of segments, extending set-based notions of feature classes (Padgett 2002).
Share

Written by yadav

February 21st, 2017 at 6:04 am

Posted in Talks

Rachel Walker at MIT (2/22-2/24)

Rachel Walker will be here for an extended visit from 2/22-2/24. In addition to her colloquium on Friday, she will also be teaching a mini-course on Wednesday and Thursday. Details are below.

Speaker: Rachel Walker
Title: Sub-segmental Representation
Time/Location:

  • Wednesday 2/22: 1-2:30pm in 36-112
  • Thursday 2/23: 4-5:30pm in 36-155

Description:

In this course, we will examine the representation of sub-segmental elements in light of patterns involving the neutralization of vowel quantity contrasts in the context of coda consonants. A case study of patterns of vocalic neutralization in General American English, supported by a real-time MRI study of speech articulation, will motivate a phonological representation of sub-segments as gestures (Browman & Goldstein 1986 et seq.). Key advantages that gestures offer are the representation of temporal coordination among sub-segments and encoding of goal articulatory states that may be blended under conditions of overlap. A phonological approach will be developed that governs sub-segmental temporal relations, formalized in terms of optimality theoretic constraints, building on proposals of Davidson (2003) and Smith (2016). Cross-linguistic predictions for patterns of vowel quantity neutralization in other languages and dialects will be considered.
Share

Written by yadav

February 21st, 2017 at 6:03 am

Posted in Talks

Syntax Square 2/14 - Colin Davis

Speaker: Colin Davis (MIT)
Title: English Possessor Extraction and Linearization
Date and time: Tuesday February 14, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461
Abstract:
Received wisdom tells us that in English, wh-movement of a possessor requires pied-piping of the whole DP containing that wh-possessor, as in (1). This falls under the Left Branch Condition of Ross (1967), describing a ban on moving the leftmost element of a nominal phrase in languages like English. Unexpected in light of this generalization is the fact that for some English speakers, wh-movement of just the possessor, stranding the DP it originated in, is also possible. This is possessor extraction (PE), as in (2):

  1. [Whose fat cat] do they think [t is cute]? (Pied-piping)
  2. Who do they think [[t’s fat cat] is cute]? (Possessor extraction)

A classic example of a PE language is Hungarian (Szabolcsi 1984), some others are Chamorro, Tzotzil, and much of Slavic. However, English has never been recognized as a PE language as far as I know, though in the course of a study of child English Gavruseva & Thornton (2001) get some adult English PE data, and take it to be a production error. I show that to the contrary, English PE is a productive and interestingly constrained phenomenon. An example of such a constraint is the fact that PE out of an in-situ object is impossible, as in (3). PE out of the embedded object in (3) can be rescued, however, if the residue of the DP where the possessor was born is pied-piped/moved to the edge of the embedded clause, as in (4):

  1. * Who do you think [John likes [t’s cake]]? (No PE from object in-situ)
  2. Who do you think[[t’s cake] John likes t]? (PE from pied-piped object)

In the context of a Cyclic Linearization framework (Fox & Pesetsky 2005), I argue that some movements independently necessary for coherent linearization in PE contexts are in conflict with a PF constraint which, roughly speaking, requires adjacency between a (moving) possessor and the saxon genitive ‘s at the phase level. My ambition is to show that the quirks of English PE are an automatic consequence of this tension and the methods of its resolution. I argue that the unique pied-piping in (4) and a family of similar examples is one way of resolving this tension, while in some structures there is no possible repair, ruling out PE in those contexts.

Share

Written by Neil

February 13th, 2017 at 6:03 am

Posted in Talks

LRFG 2/15 - Roni Katzir

Speaker: Roni Katzir (Tel-Aviv University & MIT)
Title: Structure and learning of quantificational determiners
Date and time: Wednesday, February 15, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461
Abstract:
Acquiring semantic denotations — even the entry for a single, well-exemplified, low-type element — presents the child with a difficult inductive challenge. I start by illustrating this challenge using the notion of learning known as identification in the limit, before switching to a less complete notion of learning, compression-based learning, which offers a more constructive way to approach the inductive challenge. Focusing on the representation and learning of quantificational determiners, I show how compression-based learning maps representational choices — e.g., basic determiners and their combinations, in an intensional variant of Keenan & Stavi 1986 (following last week’s discussion), or semantic automata, as in van Benthem 1986 — onto learners. This mapping, in turn, makes empirical predictions that can help us choose between competing architectures.

Share

Written by mitya

February 13th, 2017 at 6:02 am

Posted in Talks

LFRG 2/8 - Ezer Rasin

Speaker: Ezer Rasin (MIT)
Title: Keenan, E. L., & Stavi, J. (1986). A semantic characterization of natural language determiners. Linguistics and Philosophy, 9, 253–326 (link)
Time/date: Wednesday, Feb. 8, 1-2pm
Location: 32D-461

Share

Written by mitya

February 6th, 2017 at 6:03 am

Posted in Talks

Ling-Lunch 2/9 — Stuart Davis

Speaker: Stuart Davis (Indiana University)
Title: On Explaining English Schwa Syncope
Time: Thursday, February 9, 12:30pm-1:50pm
Location: 32-D461
Abstract:

English schwa syncope (Zwicky 1972, Hooper 1978, Kenstowicz 1994, Polgardi 2015) deletes schwa between word-internal consonants.  The structural observation is that schwa syncope is likely to occur if the resulting consonant cluster has rising sonority (1) but not if the resulting cluster has falling (or level) sonority (2) (where the target schwa is underlined).

(1) chocolate opera family happening javelin Deborah

(2) pelican felony monitor canopy picketing melody

Hooper (1978) emphasizes the structural conditions noting that even high frequency words will disfavor schwa syncope if the structural conditions are not right. Thus, mel­ody strongly disfavors schwa syncope since the resulting cluster after syncope has falling sonority.

Typologically, the schwa syncope pattern is odd since it favors rising sonority clusters over falling ones in syllable contact.  This can be contrasted with English hypocoristic formation which favors intervocalic falling sonority clusters over rising ones as can be seen in the comparison of Barbara-Barby with Gabriella-Gabby (not Gabry).  Further, the exact location of the syllable boundary of the resulting schwa-deleted forms in (1) is not clear; Hooper (1978) maintains that the resulting cluster is always ambisyllabic.   On the other hand, if schwa syncope were to apply in (2) the resulting cluster would have a clear syllable boundary. For example, schwa syncope applied to pelican (i.e. pel.can) results in a clear syllable break between the two consonants of the resulting cluster.  Under a new conception of English schwa syncope developed in this talk, schwa syncope is viewed as a problem of foot structure reduction:  Schwa syncope reduces a dactylic foot into a preferred trochaic one.  We will maintain that a preferred trochee in English has ambiguous syllabification within the foot and that this functionally helps to enhance the foot-initial boundary.

Share

Written by Suzana

February 6th, 2017 at 6:02 am

Posted in Talks

MIT Colloquium 2/10 - Gaja Jarosz (UMass Amherst)

Speaker: Gaja Jarosz (UMass Amherst)
Title: Sonority Sequencing in Polish: Interaction of Prior Bias and Experience
Time: Friday, February 10th, 3:30-5:00 pm
Place: 32-155
Abstract:

Recent work on phonological learning has questioned the traditional view that innate principles guide and constrain language development in children and explain universal properties cross-linguistically. In this talk I focus on a particular universal, the Sonority Sequencing Principle (SSP), which governs preferences among sequences of consonants syllable-initially. Experimental evidence indicates that English, Mandarin, and Korean speakers exhibit sensitivity to the SSP even for consonant sequences that never occur syllable-initially in those languages (such as [nb] vs. [bn] in English). There is disagreement regarding the implications of this finding. Berent et al. (2007) argue that these results can only be explained with reference to an innate principle; however, Daland et. al (2011) show that computational models capable of inferring statistical generalizations over sound classes can detect evidence for these preferences based on related patterns in the language input (and therefore no reference to innate principles is required). Building on these studies, I argue that English is the wrong test case: it does not differentiate predictions of these two hypotheses. I examine learning of syllable structure phonotactics in Polish, a language with very different sonority sequencing patterns from English. Polish provides a crucial test case because the lexical statistics contradict the SSP, at least in part. I review developmental evidence indicating that children acquiring Polish are nonetheless sensitive to the SSP, producing larger sonority rises more accurately in spontaneous production (Jarosz to appear). I then present results from two experiments investigating adult Polish native speakers’ phonotactic knowledge. The findings indicate that Polish native speakers’ phonotactic preferences are sensitive to the SSP and that this SSP sensitivity is not predicted by the computational models that succeeded for languages like English, Mandarin, and Korean. This suggests a crucial role of an inherent bias or a constraint on generalization from the input. At the same time, native speakers’ sonority-sequencing preferences are not entirely expected on the basis of SSP alone, suggesting an important role for experience as well. I discuss implications of these prior bias – experience interactions for modeling of phonological learning.
Share

Written by yadav

February 6th, 2017 at 6:01 am

Posted in Talks

Syntax Square 12/12 - Kenyon Branan

Speaker: Kenyon Branan (MIT)
Title: Predicate fronting and copy pronunciation
Time/date: Monday, Dec. 12, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461
Abstract:

“Predicate doubling” has been seen as a strong argument for copy theories of movement. However, it also poses a challenge for such theories, since they must explain why two copies of a fronted predicate are pronounced, but not two copies of a fronted nominal. In this talk, I’ll try to give a simple explanation of this difference between predicates and nominals, where an independent requirement on the syntax-prosody mapping overrides the usual requirement that multiple copies. After doing that, I’ll tell you about some other outcomes when you assume such a system.
Share

Written by Michelle Yuan

December 12th, 2016 at 6:06 am

Posted in Talks

Phonology Circle 12/12 - Edward Flemming

Speaker: Edward Flemming (MIT)
Title: Boundary tones in Mandarin Chinese intonation
Time: Monday, December 12th, 5:00–6:30pm
Location: 32-D831

(Joint work with Helen Nie (MIT)

Mandarin Chinese echo questions present an interesting test case for intonational theory because they are distinguished from declaratives by intonation alone, but it is not obvious that the intonational distinction can be characterized in terms of the familiar elements of intonation. There are no obvious pitch accents or boundary tones distinguishing echo questions from corresponding declaratives because F0 movements are primarily determined by lexical tones, so final F0 is rising if the lexical tone of the final syllable is rising, and falling if the tone of the last syllable is falling. Instead echo questions are distinguished from declaratives by an optional increase in overall pitch range and modifications to the final tone that have been characterized as a further expansion of pitch range, since high targets are raised but low targets may not be.<\p>

We provide evidence that these modifications to the final tone are in fact due to the presence of a high boundary tone, but its realization differs from familiar boundary tones because it is realized simultaneously with the final lexical tone. The conflict between the simultaneous demands of lexical tone and boundary tone are resolved by compromise between their conflicting targets, an analysis formalized in terms of weighted constraints.

 

Share

Written by Sophie Moracchini

December 12th, 2016 at 6:05 am

Posted in Talks

LFRG 12/14 - Aron Hirsch

Speaker: Aron Hirsch (MIT)
Title: Constructing pseudo-clefts
Time/date: Wednesday, Dec. 14, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D831
Abstract:

In this talk, I present data with implications for the syntax and semantics of specificational pseudo-clefts: cases where the post-copular XP contains an adverbial, e.g. (1).

(1) a. What Obama approved was [this bill and, with difficulty, that bill].
b. What Obama approved was [this bill and possibly that bill].

First, I relate these data to a syntactic debate. Illustrating with the simple pseudo-cleft in (2), one approach posits just the structure apparent in the surface string, (2a) (e.g. Jacobson 1994, Sharvit 1999, Caponigro & Heller 2015), while a second approach takes the overt post-copular material to be the remnant of a full clause otherwise elided, (2b) (e.g. Ross 1972, den Dikken et al. 2000, Schlenker 1998/2003).

(2) What Obama approved was this bill.
a. [what Obama approved was [this bill]]
b. [what Obama approved was [<Obama approved> this bill]]

I argue that clausal structure is required to host certain adverbs, so data like (1) provide new evidence for ellipsis. In particular, the structure for (1a) has this bill and that bill the remnants of two separate elided clauses, conjoined by and; the PP is adjoined to the TP in the second conjunct. Other tests adapted from Hirsch (2015) further support ellipsis.

Second, I will show that the adverb data pose a challenge for current approaches to the semantics of pseudo-clefts (citations above), and explore a new compositional analysis which crucially relies on the syntactic results in the first part of the talk.
Share

Written by Michelle Yuan

December 12th, 2016 at 6:00 am

Posted in Talks

Syntax Square 12/5 - Carolyn Spadine

Speaker: Carolyn Spadine (MIT)
Title: Source-of-information applicatives in Tigrinya: A preliminary analysis of il:-u/-a
Time: Monday, December 5, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461
Abstract: here (PDF)

Share

Written by Michelle Yuan

December 5th, 2016 at 6:12 am

Posted in Talks

Phonology Circle 12/5 - Adam Albright

Speaker: Adam Albright (MIT)
Title: Why do speakers try to predict the unpredictable?
Time: Monday, December 5th, 5:00–6:30pm
Location: 32-D831

(Joint work with Michelle Fullwood (MIT) and Jongho Jun (Seoul National University))

Generative phonology traditionally distinguishes two types of feature values: (1) unpredictable, or contrastive values, and (2) contextually predictable values. Unpredictable values are listed in the lexicon as arbitrary properties of morphemes, whereas predictable values are assigned or enforced by grammar. However, statistical studies of lexicons have revealed that contrastive feature values are often surprisingly predictable. For example, Ernestus and Baayen (2003) observed that although stem-final obstruent voicing is nominally contrastive in Dutch, it is actually fairly predictable based on the obstruent’s place and continuancy, and the preceding vowel’s quality. Furthermore, speakers are aware of this predictability, and can use it to judge likely voicing values for stem-final obstruents in nonce words. Similar results have been found for contrasts in numerous other languages, including Korean stem-final continuancy and laryngeal features Jun (2010), Spanish mid vowel vs. diphthong contrasts (Albright et al. 2001), and others. These results support a model in which phonological grammars attempt to predict at least some contrastive feature values.

In this study, we ask why there is this redundancy between the grammar and the lexicon. One possibility is data compression (Rasin and Katzir 2015, and others); if the grammar can exploit statistical asymmetries to predict certain feature values, they need not be listed in the lexicon. Maximal compression is achieved if the grammar supplies all predictable feature values. An alternative possibility is that values must be predicted when there is neutralization. In Dutch, stem-final obstruents undergo final devoicing, so speakers must sometimes guess the voicing of a stem-final obstruent, based on the neutralized singular form. Under this account, the grammar must supply only those feature values that are neutralized in the singular. We test the predictions of these accounts by comparing the predictability of feature values that are subject to neutralization in different languages. We compare place, continuancy, and laryngeal contrasts in Korean, Dutch, and English. In English, all three features contrast word-finally (with numerous specific restrictions), whereas in Dutch, voicing is neutralized, and in Korean, continuancy and laryngeal features are both neutralized in this position.

In order to test predictability, we extracted the most frequent items in each language (5018 Korean nouns; 5151 Dutch nouns; 5085 English words). When trained the Minimal Generalization Learner (Albright and Hayes 2002) to predict the values of various features based on remaining features of the segment in question, and the preceding context. We then wug-tested the resulting grammars, to determine whether feature values get more predictable at lower frequencies. The reasoning is that, as with morphological regularity, low frequency words should be less able to sustain exceptionality, and should therefore reflect grammatical preferences. The results show that although overall predictability does tend to be higher for neutralizing features, neutralizing and non-neutralizing features both get more predictable at lower frequencies, as predicted by the data compression model. Neutralization may increase the likelihood that a speaker will need to use their grammar to predict an `unpredictable’ feature, but it is not a prerequisite to learning and enforcing such generalizations.

 

Share

Written by Sophie Moracchini

December 5th, 2016 at 6:11 am

Posted in Talks

LFRG 12/7 - Mitya Privoznov

Speaker: Mitya Privoznov (MIT)
Time: Wednesday, December 5th, 1-2pm
Place: 32-D831
Title: Discussion of Aloni and Port’s 2006 and 2014 papers on epistemic indefinites

English someone can give rise to the speaker’s ignorance implicature (Somebody arrived late —> the speaker doesn’t know who). Some of its analogues in other languages, e.g. German `irgendein’ or Russian `kto-to’, have conventionalized this implicature into an inference. Namely, the ignorance inference became a part of their semantics. And it is these elements that Aloni and Port call epistemic indefinites (EIs).

The ignorance inference is the main focus of Aloni and Port’s papers. They are proposing an analysis that derives this inference with the use of Aloni (2001)’s theory of concepts and conceptual covers. They argue that EI represent a special case of domain widening.

 
Share

Written by Sophie Moracchini

December 5th, 2016 at 6:10 am

Posted in Talks

Enoch Aboh at MIT

Enoch Aboh (University of Amsterdam) will be visiting our department this week and will give two talks.

  • The role of vulnerable interfaces in language change: the case of the C-, and D-systems
    • Date: Wednesday, December 7
    • Time: 2—5pm
    • Location: TBA
    • Reading: Chapters 5-6 of Enoch (2015),  The Emergence of Hybrid Grammars: Language contact and change
  • The emergence of serial verb constructions
    • Date: Friday, December 9
    • Time: 1:30—3:15pm
    • Location: TBA
    • Reading: chapter 7 of Enoch (2015)

For more information, please contact Michel DeGraff (degraff@mit.edu).

Share

Written by Michelle Yuan

December 5th, 2016 at 6:10 am

Posted in Talks

Ling-Lunch 12/8 - Jenneke Van Der Wal

Speaker: Jenneke van der Wal (Harvard)
Title: The AWSOM and RANDOM in Bantu object marking
Time: Thursday, December 8/12:30pm-1:50pm
Location: 32-D461
Abstract:

Many Bantu languages mark objects on the verb by a prefix agreeing in noun class:

(1) N-a-va-et-eaa anca mUhUmba. [Nyaturu, Hualde 1989]
1SG.SM-PAST-2OM-bring-APPL 2.girls 1.boy

‘I brought the girls a boy.’

However, object marking (OM) shows fascinating microvariation across Bantu, along the following parameters:

1. the nature of the OM: doubling / non-doubling
(OM and DP can co-occur in the same domain in Nyaturu = doubling);
2. the behaviour in ditransitives: asymmetric / symmetric
(only benefactive and not theme can be OM-ed in Nyaturu = asymmetric);
3. the number of object markers allowed: one/two/multiple
(Nyaturu is restricted to one).

This talk maps the parameter settings of 50+ Bantu languages, revealing two gaps:

Asymmetry Wants Single Object Marking correlation (AWSOM)
→ Almost no language has multiple markers that are doubling.
Relation between Asymmetry and Non-Doubling Object Marking (RANDOM)

→ No language has non-doubling asymmetrical object marking.

I argue that these gaps are in fact not random, but can be understood as obligatory marking of salience, in the form of a [Person] feature in either the non-clausal domain (doubling) or the clausal domain (symmetry)

(The abstract can also be read here.)

Share

Written by Suzana

December 5th, 2016 at 6:04 am

Posted in Talks

Heidi Harley at MIT

Heidi Harley (University of Arizona, MIT PhD ‘95) will be visiting the department this week. In addition to her Colloquium talk on Friday, she will be offering a mini-course on head movement. Details below:

Speaker: Heidi Harley (University of Arizona)
Title: Report from the bleeding edge of the head movement debate
Time: Wednesday, December 7th and Thursday, December 8th, 2016, 5:00-6:30 pm
Place: 32-124 (Wed), 32-144 (Thurs)
Abstract:

I will review and discuss various models of head-movement and the evidence that has been brought to bear on them, including but not limited to conflation (Hale&Keyser 2002, Harley 2004), remnant movement (Zeller 2013), (phrasal mvt +) m-merger (Matushansky 2004, Harizanov 2014, Harley and Folli ms), and traditional head-adjunction (Keine and Bhatt 2016), or some combination of different mechanisms (Harley 2013, Gribanova and Harizanov 2016handout). In doing so, I’ll talk about the idea that head-movement does or does not have syntacticosemantic (LF) effects, and if it does, what they are and why, borrowing heavily on a presentation by McCloskey including some discussion of LaCara (2016), Hartman (2011), Gribanova (ms), Lechner (2007), as well as Keine and Bhatt (2016)).

A reading packet is attached for people to browse at will if they want but I’m not going to assume attendees will have read any of it. The ones I most highly recommend for the interested are the Keine and Bhatt 2016 on German verb clusters and the Zeller 2013 on Zulu relatives; Harizanov 2014 on Bulgarian clitics and Gribanova (2016ms) on Russian ellipsis & polarity-licensing are interesting too. Not to be discussed but included because it’s mind-blowingly weird are the results of Lipták 2013, 2016handout, on the (failure of) the verbal identity condition on VPE in Hungarian).



Readings:
Keine & Bhatt (2016)
Gribanova (2016)
Liptak (2016)
McCloskey (2016)
Gribanova & Harizanov (2016)
Zeller (2013)
Harley (2013)
Lacara (2016)
Hartmann (2011)
Lechner (2007)

Share

Written by Michelle Yuan

December 5th, 2016 at 6:03 am

Posted in Talks

MIT Colloquium 12/9 - Heidi Harley (University of Arizona)

Speaker: Heidi Harley (University of Arizona)
Title: We don’t need word-internal phase boundaries (for Hiaki)
Time: Friday, December 9th, 3:30-5:00 pm
Place: 32-155
Abstract:

Hiaki verbs exhibit what looks like a word-internal phase boundary, with some, more derivational affixes attaching to a ‘bound’ stem, which only appears with suffixal material attached, and other, inflectional affixes attaching to a ‘free’ stem, which can also appear unsuffixed; a classic type of stem-attaching vs word-attaching dichotomy. The mirror-principle boundary for stem-attaching suffixes located more or less at VoiceP. Only inflectional suffixes can attach outside the passive voice marker, and only derivational ones can attach inside it, and there can only be one Voice marker per verb complex. However, there are problems identifying the bound-stem/free-stem boundary with Voice, particularly having to do with the existence of embedded external arguments within the bound-stem complex in causatives and related forms.

In fact, I will argue that the correct analysis is in a sense precisely the opposite. The particular form taken by bound stems shows evidence of word-level morphophonological processes, such as a word-final fortition of the voiceless affricate, and echo vowels that appear to extend monomoraic stems to satisfy minimal word requirements (or actually probably exhaustive footing requirements). The ‘bound’ stems which appear to the left of Voice morphology behave like independent morphophonological words with respect to these constraints. The ‘free’ stems, in contrast, all have a recently-detectedmorphemic final vowel on them.

I propose that the whole complex verb word is simply a cluster of verbs lined up on the right by the head-final nature of Hiaki. This cluster of verbs is subject to very quotidian inflectional requirements: The highest (rightmost) [+V] head in the domain is attracted to Voice and T (and sometimes C). That head-movement process which creates the ‘free’ forms. That is, the ‘bound’ forms are free, and the ‘free’ forms are all inflected; the only process we need to appeal to is the usual expectation that the highest eligible head in a verbal complementation sequence is the one that moves and inflects. The entire complex is pronounced (and spelled) as a unit, perhaps due to postsyntactic Morphological Merger, perhaps due to the prosodic rules of the language.

​In short, the syntactic picture presented by the apparently complex agglutinative Hiaki verb word is actually most appropriately analyzed in the same way as auxiliary and light verb complexes in left-headed languages. No level-ordering-type of cyclicity hypothesis involving word-internal phase boundaries is motivated by this data. This is good, because the notion of a word-internal phase boundary in a structure created by syntactic head-movement is somewhat problematic, technically speaking. I’ll also exhibit cases from Cupeño and maybe Korean that seem to require analysis in similar terms.
Share

Written by Michelle Yuan

December 5th, 2016 at 6:02 am

Posted in Talks

Syntax Square 11/27 - Kenyon Branan & Abdul-Razak Sulemana (MIT)

Speakers: Kenyon Branan & Abdul-Razak Sulemana (MIT)
Title: Against strength and weakness: Contiguity in Bùlì
Time/date: Monday, November 28, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461
Abstract:

Optionality in Ā-movement has been modeled as the optional presence of a strong feature on C, requiring the wh-phrase it Agrees with to move to its specifier. Recent work [Richards (2016)] models optionality in Ā-movement as true optionality, so long as the choice of movement or not satisfies a condition on prosodic representations, called Contiguity. In this talk, I present novel data from Buli, a Gur language spoken primarily in Ghana, that provides a strong argument for the latter view of optionality. In Buli, wh-phrases may remain in-situ, so long as they are not separated from end of the sentence by a prosodic boundary of any sort. This restriction on wh-in-situ is explained straightforwardly given the Contiguity-theoretic approach, but would require the introduction of an additional constraint on prosodic representations under the “optional feature” approach.
Share

Written by Michelle Yuan

November 28th, 2016 at 6:06 am

Posted in Talks

LFRG 11/30 - Verena Hehl

Speaker: Verena Hehl (MIT)
Time: Wednesday, November 30th, 1-2pm
Place: 32-D831
Title: Discussion of: “On the meaning of some focus-sensitive particles” (Ippolito 2007).

In the paper Ippolito argues that the aspectual, marginality, and concessive uses of ‘still’ and ‘already’ in (1), (2) and (3) can be reduced to the following three classes of focus-sensitive particles: additive particles like ‘too’, scalar particles like ‘even’, exclusive particles like ‘only’.

(1) John is still/ already cooking.
(2) (a) Compact cars are still safe; subcompacts start to get dangerous.
      (b) (Compact cars are still safe.) Subcompacts are already dangerous.
(3) (Even) if the doctor tells him not to, Harry will still run the marathon.

The paper then features a (non-uniform) compositional analysis of the presuppositions triggered by ‘still/ already’ that sheds (new?) lights on the focus-sensitive particle ‘again’.

 
Share

Written by Sophie Moracchini

November 28th, 2016 at 6:04 am

Posted in Talks

Ling-Lunch 12/1 — Amy Rose Deal

Speaker: Amy Rose Deal (UC Berkeley)
Tittle: Dedicated de re attitude reports
Date/Time: Thursday, December 1/12:30pm-1:50pm
Location: 32-D461
Abstract

Indefinites occurring in attitude complements can typically be read either de dicto or de re. This choice is commonly treated as a true ambiguity, involving two separate sets of truth conditions corresponding to two distinct LFs, rather than (say) as a case of generality or underspecification based on a single LF. Is the ambiguity approach the correct one? In particular, are there LFs in which indefinites occurring in attitude complements must obligatorily be construed de re? I argue that there are indeed. My argument comes from Nez Perce attitude reports in which the attitude verb shows apparent long distance agreement with a DP inside the attitude complement. This DP must be read de re. The de re reading, I argue, derives from an LF in which the res argument moves into the matrix clause covertly; that is, Nez Perce manifests a (syntactically well-behaved) version of res-movement. Notably, there does not exist an equally syntactically distinguished variety of attitude reporting reserved for de dicto readings. Indefinites that may be read de dicto in Nez Perce may also typically be read de re, without morphosyntactic consequences, as in English. I suggest, then, that the true ambiguity at the level of LF may be between a dedicated de re LF and an LF which is general enough to support either de re or de dicto attitudes.
Share

Written by Suzana

November 28th, 2016 at 6:03 am

Posted in Talks

Enoch Aboh’s visit: December 7—9

Save the date: Enoch Aboh (University of Amsterdam) will visit our department in December and will give two talks.

  • The role of vulnerable interfaces in language change: the case of the C-, and D-systems
    • Date: Wednesday, December 7
    • Time: 2—5pm
    • Location: TBA
    • Reading: Chapters 5-6 of Enoch (2015),  The Emergence of Hybrid Grammars: Language contact and change
  • The emergence of serial verb constructions
    • Date: Friday, December 9
    • Time: 1:30—3:15pm
    • Location: TBA
    • Reading: chapter 7 of Enoch (2015)

For more information, please contact Michel DeGraff (degraff@mit.edu).

Share

Written by Suzana

November 28th, 2016 at 6:00 am

Posted in Talks

MIT Colloquium 12/02 - Maribel Romero (Universität Konstanz)

Speaker: Maribel Romero (Universität Konstanz)
Title: On the many readings of ‘many’
Time/date: Friday, December 2, 3:30-5pm
Location: 32-155
Abstract:

Partee (1989) and a long tradition thereafter distinguish two readings of many and its antonym few: the cardinal reading (1a) and the proportional reading (1b), with n and ρ as context- dependent parameters. These readings are exemplified against scenario (2). Sentence (3) is judged true in virtue of its cardinal reading and sentence (4) in virtue of its proportional reading:

(1) Many Ps are Q.
a. CARDINAL reading: |P∩Q| > n, where n is a large natural number.
b. PROPORTIONAL reading: |P∩Q| : |P| > ρ, where ρ is a large proportion.

(2) Scenario: All the faculty children were at the 1980 picnic, but there were few faculty children back then. Almost all faculty children had a good time.
(3) There were few faculty children at the 1980 picnic.
a. Cardinal: true in (2)
b. Proportional: false in (2)

(4) Many (of the) faculty children had a good time.
a. Cardinal: false in (2)
b. Proportional: true in (2)

Additionally, Westerståhl (1985) famously noted a third interpretation of many, known in the literature as the ‘reverse’ proportional reading (see also Herburger 1997, Cohen 2001). This is exemplified in (5)-(6). Sentence (6) is judged true in scenario (5) in virtue not of its cardinal or proportional reading, but in virtue of its reverse proportional reading paraphrased in (6a) and formulated in (7):

(5) Scenario: Of a total of 81 Nobel Prize winners in literature, 14 come from Scandinavia.
(6) Many Scandinavians have won the Nobel Prize in literature.
a. Intuitive paraphrase of the reverse proportional: ‘Many of the Nobel Prize winners are Scandinavians ’

(7) Many Ps are Q.
REVERSE PROPORTIONAL reading: |P∩Q| : |Q| > ρ, where ρ is a large proportion.

This third reading is problematic for semantic theory no matter whether many is treated as a determiner or as adjectival in nature. If treated as a (parametrized) determiner (cf. Hackl 2000), the lexical entries corresponding to the three readings above will be as in (8). While the cardinal and proportional lexical entries (8a)-(8b) obey Conservativity, defined in (9), the reverse proportional reading (8c) does not, thus challenging the Conservativity Universal (Keenan & Stavi 1986, cf. Barwise & Cooper 1981:U3):

(8) Many as a parametrized determiner:
a. Cardinal:
b. Proportional:
c. Reverse proportional:

λdd. λP. λQ. |P∩Q| ≥ d
λdd. λP. λQ. |P∩Q| : |P| ≥ d λdd. λP. λQ. |P∩Q| : |Q| ≥ d

(9) A determiner denotation f is conservative iff, for any sets of individuals P and Q: f (P)(Q)=1 iff f (P)(P∩Q)=1

If treated as adjectival (cf. Hackl 2009), the lexical entries corresponding to the cardinal and proportional reading can be formulated as in (10a)-(10b). But a serious compositionality problem arises for the reverse proportional reading, since a proportion over |Q| has to be computed while having no λQ-argument in the adjectival entry (10c):

(10) Many as adjective:
a. Cardinal:
b. Proportional:
c. Reverse proportional:

λdd. λP. λxe. P(x) ∧ |x|≥d
λdd. λP. λxe. P(x) ∧ |x|:|P| ≥ d λdd. λP. λxe. P(x) ∧ |x|:|Q| ≥ d ???

Treating many as a determiner, Romero (2015) decomposes many into the determiner stem MANY plus the degree operator POS, and derives the reverse proportional reading from the conservative proportional entry (8b) and independently motivated association patterns of POS. The present talk extends Romero’s analysis in two new directions. First, POS is allowed to associate not just with overt elements in the sentence but also with a world variable. This move, necessary to account for examples like (11), allows us to derive certain difficult cases of apparent reverse proportional readings remaining in the literature. Second, Romero’s (2015) analysis is extended to attributive uses like (12). Using the adjectival entries in (10a)- (10b) and allowing the same association possibilities for POS as in non-attributive uses, different readings are predicted and shown to arise.

(11) For what I had wished for, few students came.

(12) The many demonstrators protested loudly.
Share

Written by Michelle Yuan

November 28th, 2016 at 6:00 am

Posted in Talks

LFRG 11/23 - Keny Chatain

Speaker: Keny Chatain (MIT)
Time: Wednesday, November 23th, 1-2pm
Place: 32-D831
Title: Discussioon of: “Incremental quantification and the dynamics of pair-list phenomena” (Bumford, 2015).

In this talk, I will discuss a recent paper by Bumford (No reading required but in case you prefer authencity, you might want to check this: http://semprag.org/article/view/sp.8.9/pdf_8_9). This paper attempts to provide a unified account of 3 “pair-list” phenomena: pair-list questions, internal readings of adjectives and pair-list readings of indefinites (aka “Schlenker readings)

PAIR-LIST
(1) What did each student read for the class?
=> mary checked the syntax paper, Julia the phonology paper, Joe the first line of the abstract of the semantic paper…

INTERNAL ADJECTIVES
(2) Every year, Mary wrote a more interesting book/a different book/another book.
=> more interesting than/different from/other than the books from the previous year

PAIR-LIST READING OF INDEFINITES
(3) If every player were to play a certain card in his hand right now, the game would end immediately.
=> there is a certain card in each player’s hand such that if each player use that card in his hand, the game would end immediately.

In the paper, a unified account is proposed in terms of incremental quantification: “every” is represented as a generalized dynamic conjunction. In this approach, uttering (2) is equivalent to uttering the sequence of sentences: Mary wrote a more interesting book in 2006; Mary wrote a more interesting book in 2007; Mary wrote a more interesting book in 2008; … Modulo extra assumptions about scope-taking, this move, it is claimed, successfully accounts for (1), (2) and (3). On a theoretical side, this makes “every” parallel to indefinites like “a”, which dynamic frameworks treat as generalized dynamic disjunction.

 
Share

Written by Sophie Moracchini

November 21st, 2016 at 6:05 am

Posted in Talks

Syntax Square 11/14 - Isa Bayirli

Speaker: Isa Bayirli
Title: On gender and concord
Time/date: Nov. 14, 2016, 1:00-2:00pm
Location: 32-D461
Abstract:

Suppose, for the sake of argument, that the Feature Assignment Rule (Pesetsky, 2013: 8) is defined for every grammar and that it is the only mechanism responsible for the concord phenomenon (i.e. the feature co-variance between a noun and the modifying adjectives)

(1) Feature Assignment (FA), version 1 of 6:
a.Copying: when α merges with β, forming [α β] with the label α, the grammatical features of α are immediately copied on β
b.Realization:…and are realized as morphology on all lexical head items dominated by β

Suppose, moreover, that in a language where the overt effects of the FA Rule is invisible (i.e. the non-concord languages), the NP (with all the AdjPs inside it) is a protected domain of some kind.

(2) The Absence of Concord: A language lacks concord on the adjectives only if the NP in this language is a protected domain

To support these suppositions, one would need to provide evidence of (at least) three types:

Type 1: Evidence indicating that concord is universally calculated over syntactic representations as implied by the FA Rule (with no reference to feature values)
Type 2: Evidence indicating that whenever we do not observe concord in a language, the NP in this language is, indeed, a protected domain
Type 3: Evidence indicating that whenever NP cannot be protected from the application of the FA Rule in a language we do observe concord in this language

Previously at Syntax Square, I presented evidence of Type 1 (The Concord Hierarchy) and of Type 2 (The Concord-Suspension Complementarity), both of which I will briefly summarize.

In this talk, I will present some evidence of Type 3. NPs can be protected from the features coming from the functional projections but not from the features that start on the noun head. That is, if a feature f starts out on the noun head, then the universality of the FA-rule implies that - in the usual case - it will show up on all the adjectives adjoined to the NP. Assuming the gender feature, in those languages where it is idiosyncratic, starts out on the noun head, we get:

(3) Idiosyncratic Gender Generalization (IGG): A language with an idiosyncratic gender system is a language with gender concord

I first discuss some evidence for the validity of IGG. I then report a typological survey based on World Atlas of Language Structures (WALS) in support of the IGG generalization. I finally discuss some problematic cases (Gur languages of Niger-Kongo Family). I argue that the solution I sketch for these problematic cases are motivated on independent grounds.
Share

Written by Michelle Yuan

November 14th, 2016 at 6:08 am

Posted in Talks

Phonology Circle 11/14 - Cora Lesure

Speaker: Cora Lesure (MIT)
Title: La Morfología y la Ortografía del Chuj // Morphophonology and Orthographic Development in Chuj (Mayan)
Date/Time: Monday, November 14, 5:00–6:30pm
Location: 32-D831

This is a practice talk for FAMLi 4 (Form and Analysis in Mayan Linguistics 4) where I will be giving the same talk but in Spanish. The aim of the talk is to present theoretically interesting work on Chuj morphophonology which is understudied, as well as illustrate the direct applications of this work to orthographic development. This is done through examining the disputed use of the grapheme `h’ as well as the disputed status of [h] as a phoneme. There are three prevailing ideologies:
1) [h] is not a phoneme and should not be used as a grapheme at all (Buenrostro 2013)
2) [h] is not a phoneme but is used as a grapheme word initially to indicate that glottal stop epenthesis has not occurred (Similar to its use in Q’anjob’al, Mateo Toledo 1995)
3) [h] is a phoneme and should be used as a grapheme word initially and intervocalically (Domingo Pascual 2007)

I examine the positions in which [h] has been reported, namely in word initial position as well as in the vowel initial allomorph of the second person singular ergative prefix: h-, and determine that it is minimally contrastive in specific contexts. Even when it is not present as a segment, due to interactions with the process of root initial glottal stop epenthesis, a contrast remains salient. For example:

1) tzek’i [ts’ek’i]
tz-ø-ek’-i
IMPF-3Abs-pass.by-ITV
‘He passed by’

2) tz(h)ila’ [tsilaʔ]
tz-ø-ø-il-a’
IMPF-3Abs-2Erg-see-TV
‘You saw him’

Above, though both the 3rd person absolutive marker and the 2nd person ergative marker are phonologically null, only the ergative marker prevents glottal stop epenthesis. In (1) glottal stop epenthesis results in the imperfective aspect marker [ts] being pronounced ejective [ts’].

 

Share

Written by Sophie Moracchini

November 14th, 2016 at 6:07 am

Posted in Talks

LFRG 11/16 - Milo Phillips-Brown

Speaker: Milo Phillips-Brown (MIT)
Time: Wednesday, November 16th, 1-2pm
Place: 32-D831
Title: Some-things-considered desires

Lu has a test coming up. She believes she’ll pass only if she studies. Studying is boring.

  • (1) Lu wants to pass.
  • (2) But she doesn’t want to study.
  • (1) and (2) are fine together, but standard semantics for ‘want’ predict that they are incompatible. I’ll propose a way to make them compatible. My guiding idea is that when Lu considers what it would be like to pass but ignores what it would be like to study, she prefers passing to not; when she considers what it would be like to study but ignores what it would be like to pass, she prefers not studying to studying. These are some-things-considered (other-things-ignored) desires. We can model them with coarse worlds (= propositions), in place of worlds. Where defined, every proposition, or its negation, is true at a given world. But not every proposition, or its negation, is entailed by a given coarse world. When neither a proposition nor its negation is entailed by a coarse world, it is considered; otherwise it is ignored.

    Share

    Written by Sophie Moracchini

    November 14th, 2016 at 6:05 am

    Posted in Talks

    Ling-Lunch 11/17 — Paul Crowley (MIT)

    Speaker: Paul Andrew Crowley (MIT)
    Tittle: Neg-Raising and Neg movement
    Date:Thursday, November 17
    Time: 12:30pm-1:50pm
    Location: 32-D461
    Abstract:

    This talk will be concerned with the phenomenon known as Neg-Raising. All previous analyses of Neg-Raising fall into one of two main categories: syntactic and semantic/pragmatic. The syntactic approach derives the effect from a Neg movement operation in the syntax (Fillmore 1963) while the semantic/pragmatic approach derives the effect as an inference attributed to an excluded middle presupposition associated with all Neg-Raising predicates (Bartsch 1973). In this talk, a variety of known and novel data points are argued to indicate that both a Neg movement operation as well as an excluded middle presupposition are necessary to account for the full range data. It’s proposed that the Neg-Raising phenomenon should be attributed to the excluded middle and that the Neg movement operation is dependent on the presence of this presupposition.
    Share

    Written by Suzana

    November 14th, 2016 at 6:04 am

    Posted in Talks

    Colloquium 11/18 - Greg Kobele

    Speaker: Greg Kobele
    Title: The meaning of structure
    Time/date: Friday, November 18th, 2016, 3:30-5:00 pm
    Venue: 32-155
    Abstract:

    One way of viewing syntactic structure is as a real object, something which is constructed and manipulated by the rules of grammar. I take this to be the prevailing view in the transformational tradition. An alternative perspective, found in the categorial tradition (incl Montague), is that syntactic structure is not real in this sense at all, but rather is a record, or a proof, of the way that the grammar licenses a particular sound-meaning pair. These different perspectives have lead to different analytical approaches to various phenomena, culminating for example in debates about LF-interpretation vs Direct Compositionality.

    I show (1) how to reformulate standard practice in minimalist syntax in these montagovian terms, (2) how the standard Heim and Kratzer LF-interpretation scheme can be faithfully recast in a directly compositional manner, and (3) how an ‘almost c-command’ approximation to bindability emerges when the basic repertoire of combinatory operations is extended to include the bind operator in the continuation monad (aka Buering’s Argument Saturation operation). A number of prominent theoretical issues find herewith an immediate and straightforward resolution, and this forces us as well to clarify what others might mean.

    Formal consequences of this perspective shift, such as efficient generation, incremental interpretation during parsing, and the efficient resolution of ellipsis in discourse processing are touched upon.
    Share

    Written by Michelle Yuan

    November 14th, 2016 at 6:03 am

    Posted in Talks

    Syntax Square 11/7 - Christopher Hammerly

    Speaker: Christopher Hammerly (UMass Amherst)
    Title: Unifying agreement across clause types in Ojibwe
    Date/time: Monday, Nov. 7, 1-2pm
    Location: 32-D461

    Share

    Written by Michelle Yuan

    November 7th, 2016 at 6:08 am

    Posted in Talks

    Phonology Circle 11/07 — Gašper Beguš

    Speaker: Gašper Beguš
    Title: Unnatural Trends in the Lexicon: Diachrony and Synchrony
    Date/Time: November 7, 5pm—6:30 pm
    Location: 32-D831
    Abstract: pdf

    Share

    Written by Suzana

    November 7th, 2016 at 6:07 am

    Posted in Talks

    LFRG 11/9 — Chris Baron

    Speaker: Chris Baron
    Title: A Prospective Puzzle and a Possible Solution
    Date and time: November 9 (Wednesday), 1-2pm
    Location: 32-D831
    Abstract:

    It is generally assumed that Mayan languages are tenseless, and only grammaticalize aspect (Henderson 2015). This assumption holds for Kaqchikel, a K’ichean-branch Mayan language of Guatemala (García Matzar & Rodriguez Guaján 1997). However, there is a puzzling fact about the ‘prospective aspect’ morpheme xk-, which at first blush would seem to locate the run time of the event after the reference time: it cannot be embedded under the temporal adverbial ‘yesterday.’

    (1) Chwa’q xk-i-muxan.
    tomorrow PROSP-B1S-swim
    ‘Tomorrow, I will swim.’

    (2) *Iwïr xk-i-muxan.
    yesterday PROSP-B1S-swim
    Intended: ‘Yesterday, I was going to swim.’

    The ungrammaticality of (2) is unexpected if the prospective only locates the event time after the reference time established by iwïr ‘yesterday.’ In this talk on work in progress, I present data that suggest that this aspect not only contributes aspectual semantics, but also modal semantics, and that this is the reason for the puzzling fact.

    Share

    Written by Suzana

    November 7th, 2016 at 6:05 am

    Posted in Talks

    Ling-Lunch 11/10 — David Erschler

    Speaker: David Erschler (University of Massachusetts Amherst)
    Tittle: Predicting embedded gapping
    Date/Time: Thursday, November 10/12:30pm-1:50pm
    Location: 32-D461
    Abstract:

    I show that in a number of languages gapping can occur in embedded clauses. I argue that this provides support for a movement plus deletion analysis of gapping. The ability of gapping to be embedded in a given language depends on the height of the ellipsis-licensing feature and the availability of a landing site for moved constituents sufficiently high in the embedded clause.

    Gapping is a construction, discovered and named by Ross (1970), where the finite verb is missing from the clause, (1). It is fairly common cross-linguistically.

    (1) Some will eat beans and others will eat rice. Johnson (2009)

    Famously, English and a number of other languages disallow gapping to occur in embedded clauses, Hankamer (1979) and the subsequent literature:

    (2) *Some ate mussels, and she claims that others ate shrimp. Johnson (2009)

    However, the ban on embedding is not universal: adding to the recent work on Persian by Farudi (2013), I show that embedded gapping occurs in several languages including Russian, Georgian, and Ossetic.

    A number of accounts, starting from Jayaseelan (1990), assume that the material that survives gapping moves out of the constituent to be deleted. Some of these analyses, e.g. Aelbrecht (2007), Gengel (2013), and Farudi (2013), use the feature-based approach to ellipsis licensing.

    I use the basic insight of earlier “move and delete” proposals and argue that, in languages that allow embedded gapping, it results from movement of surviving constituents and deletion of the XP that they moved from. A necessary condition for this to occur in embedded clauses is that landing sites are available for such movement. The size of the deleted constituent may vary cross-linguistically. The feature E that triggers deletion is hosted either by some head H, which is a priori either &, i.e. the head of the conjunction phrase, or a head within the clause where the gapping occurs. To trigger deletion, the feature must agree with the head whose complement is to be deleted.

    If the licensing feature is located on &, it fails to agree with material in the embedded clause, for locality reasons. On the other hand, if the feature is located within the clause where ellipsis is to occur, gapping is predicted to be possible. I show that this analysis makes a number of correct predictions about languages with embedded gapping.

    A wider implication of the findings is that an approach that operates in terms of licensing features, their location, and the size of constituents to be deleted is superior to taxonomic approaches to ellipsis.

    Share

    Written by Suzana

    November 7th, 2016 at 6:04 am

    Posted in Talks

    Fieldwork Group Meeting — Jenneke van der Wal

    Speaker: Jenneke van der Wal (University of Cambridge; currently at Harvard)
    Date/Time: Thursday, Nov. 10, 5-6pm in Boylston 303 (Harvard—note the location!)

    At the first Harvard-MIT Fieldwork Group (FiG) meeting of the semester, Jenneke van der Wal will be talking about eliciting focus and information-structural phenomena, based on her work on Bantu languages.

    Please contact either TC (tcchen@mit.edu) or Michelle (yuanm@mit.edu) if you’d like to be added to the FiG listserv.

    Share

    Written by Michelle Yuan

    November 7th, 2016 at 6:03 am

    Posted in Talks

    Syntax Square 10/31 - Chris O’Brien

    Speaker: Chris O’Brien (MIT)
    Title: Linearization and complete dominance: Deriving the right-edge restriction on RNR
    Date/Time: Monday, Oct. 31, 1-2pm
    Location: 32-D461
    Abstract:

    This talk concerns two puzzles involving the multidominant analysis of right-node raising structures (McCawley 1982, Wilder 1999, Bachrach & Katzir 2015, a.o.). The first is how such structures can be assigned a well-formed linear ordering at PF. Following Wilder (1999), I argue that this is because linearization of multi-dominant structures is sensitive to complete dominance. That is, when one phrase A is ordered before a phrase B, everything completely dominated by A must be ordered before everything completely dominated by B.

    The second puzzle concerns the “right-edge restriction” on RNR structures (Wilder 1999, Bachrach & Katzir 2015). It turns out that, while the pivot of an RNR structure may appear in a non-rightmost position within the final conjunct, it must be merged in the rightmost position of of each non-final conjunct. My proposal depends on one crucial property of complete dominance: The notion that x completely dominates y must be defined with respect to some larger structure (or set of structures). I argue that linearization is computed compositionally at each step in the derivation. For any phrase A = Merge(B, C) , where some linear precedence rule says that B < C, then all terminal nodes which are completely dominated by B within A will be required to precede all nodes completely dominated by C within A. This turns out to derive the right-edge restriction. I end with discussion of some recalcitrant problems involving internal merge structures.
    Share

    Written by Michelle Yuan

    October 31st, 2016 at 6:07 am

    Posted in Talks

    Phonology Circle 10/31 - Ting Huang

    Speaker: Ting Huang (MIT)
    Title: Contrast and context-dependent merger: Evidence from Malaysian Mandarin sibilants
    Date/Time: Monday, October 31, 5:00–6:30pm
    Location: 32-D831

     

    This study reports an ongoing merger of Mandarin sibilants spoken in Malaysia. The contrast of dental/alveolar vs. palatal sibilants in Malaysian Mandarin (MM) is neutralized in the context of high-front vowel. Specifically, while the contrasts between [ɕa] vs. [sa] and [ɕu] vs. [su] exist, [si] is the only surface form of the coronal sibilant followed by a high-front vowel /i/ ([*ɕi] is not allowed) in MM (we ignored the retroflex sibilants here, which is irrelevant to this study). We provide evidence from palatography and linguography to show a fine-grained difference among these sibilant variants in place of articulation. The results of spectral moments analysis (Forrest et al. 1988; Jongman 2000; Lee 2014) and F2 onset values (Li 2008; Wilde 1993) also support the argument that the MM sibilants are incompletely neutralized, especially for speakers of younger generation. The phenomenon in question may be attributable to language contact-induced sound change. This also casts doubt to the feature-based account (Clements 1991; Hume 1992) in explaining why [-anterior] of [ɕ] can be retained when followed by a following vowel that is specified with [dorsal] (e.g. [u], [a]), but not by those with [coronal] (e.g. [i]). We extend the line in Flemming’s (2003) that tongue-body position should be specified under [coronal], and argue that distinctiveness of sibilant contrasts may rely as well on tongue-body position of vowels.
    Share

    Written by Sophie Moracchini

    October 31st, 2016 at 6:06 am

    Posted in Talks

    LFRG 11/2 - Peter Alrenga

    Speaker: Peter Alrenga (Boston University)
    Time: Wednesday, November 2nd, 1-2pm
    Place: 32-D831
    Title: At least and at most: Ignorance and variation in focus.

    A hallmark feature of the scalar operators “at least” and “at most” is their capacity to convey speaker uncertainty: from an utterance of (1), a listener would typically infer that the speaker does not know the exact number of points that LeBron scored.

    (1) LeBron scored at least / at most 20 points in last night’s game.

    These uncertainty implications tend to disappear in the presence of modals: under their most salient interpretations, neither (2a) nor (2b) need convey any uncertainty regarding what is necessary or required:

    (2) a. (In order to win the scoring title), LeBron needs to score at least 45 points in tonight’s game.
    b. One person can submit at most one abstract as sole author and one abstract as co-author (or two co-authored abstracts).

    Rather, the most salient interpretations for these sentences convey variation in what the speaker deems to be sufficient or permissible. Similar variation implications can also be observed in combination with nominal quantifiers:

    (3) a. Every player scored at least 10 points in last night’s game.
    b. Individuals can give to as many federal candidates as they want, so long as they give at most $2600 to any single candidate in an election cycle.

    The question of exactly how “at least” and “at most” manage to convey uncertainty and variation in (1)-(3) has attracted considerable scrutiny. Recent work has converged on the view that these implications are implicatures arising from the interaction of the basic semantic properties of at “least / at most” with general pragmatic mechanisms. A near-universal impulse of these pragmatic approaches is to draw an analogy to disjunction, which gives rise to a similar pattern of uncertainty and variation implications. But capitalizing on this analogy has proven surprisingly difficult. In its most direct form, it amounts to the view that “at least” and “at most” form n-ary disjunctions over their associated scalar terms and all higher / lower ones. While such a view correctly characterizes the truth-conditional contribution of “at least”, it appears to to mischaracterize its pragmatic behavior. And without further amendment, it fails to even adequately capture the truth-conditional contributions of “at most”.

    In the first part of this talk, I argue that a version of the simple view can indeed be maintained for “at least”, once it is recognized that (i) the scales that “at least” and “at most” operate over are fundamentally pragmatic/contextual in nature, and (ii) these scales are never ordered by entailment. While the simple n-ary disjunction view cannot be maintained for “at most”, I show how its essential insights into “at most“‘s pragmatic behavior nevertheless can be. In the second part of the talk, I apply the resulting analysis to certain unresolved problems concerning the interactions of these scalar operators with modals and other quantifiers.

    Share

    Written by Sophie Moracchini

    October 31st, 2016 at 6:05 am

    Posted in Talks

    ESSL/LacqLab Meeting 11/01 — Jie Ren

    Speaker: Jie Ren (Brown University)
    Title: Underspecification in Toddlers’ and Adults’ Lexical Representations
    Date: Tuesday, November 1st
    Time: 1—2pm
    Location: 32-D461
    Abstract:

    Theories of underspecification claim that certain unmarked features are empty/underspecified in lexical representation. This hypothesis predicts asymmetrical judgments in lexical processing. In particular, noncoronal tokens such as paan can putatively activate a coronal entry taan, but not vice versa. Studies with both younger infants and adults had found that participants are more sensitive to noncoronal-to-coronal than to coronal-to-noncoronal changes. In this talk, I will report a series of studies that examined toddlers’ and adults’ sensitivities to these two types of changes in mispronunciations of familiar words using the visual world paradigm. Unlike the prediction of underspecification, 19-month-olds and adults showed significant effects in both directions of mispronunciations, and no asymmetries were attributable to underspecification of coronal sounds. Toddlers’ lexical representations appear to be as detailed as those of adults, and there is a striking developmental continuity between early and mature lexical representations. Finally, I will report a computational model which suggests that discrepancies between the current findings and those of previous studies appear to be due to methodological differences that cast doubt on the validity of claims of psycholinguistic support for underspecification.
    Share

    Written by Suzana

    October 31st, 2016 at 6:03 am

    Posted in Talks

    Ling-Lunch 11/03 — Jon Rawski

    Speaker: Jon Rawski (Stony Brook)
    Tittle: Homeostatic Reinforcement Learning for Harmonic Grammars
    Date/Time: Thursday, November 3/12:30pm-1:50pm
    Location: 32-D461
    Abstract:

    The main idea of this talk is to bridge a particularly thorny divide between linguistics and neuroscience. Reinforcement Learning (RL), despite being one of the most widely used and neurologically robust learning algorithms, has an uneasy history with generative grammar. Specifically, the requirement of an internal, restricted hypothesis space and other learnability restraints is inadequately satisfied by externally defined “naive” reward (Chomsky 1959).

    Reparation of RL and linguistics is made urgent by the discovery that: 1) phonology is at most a regular language (Kaplan & Kay 1994, Heinz 2011), meaning it is restricted to finite-state automata, and 2) RL is perfectly computed by cortical neurons (Schultz et al 1997). One recent attempt is Charles Yang’s (2002) “Naïve Parameter Learner”, which uses RL to successfully model acquisition of overt [WH-movement] and [V2] parameters, yet fails to provide more than an ad-hoc definition for “reward”.

    In this talk I show that recent insights from computational neuroscience offer a possible strategy. A recent framework called Homeostatic Reinforcement Learning (HRL) (Keramati and Gutkin 2014) treats “reward” as an internal satisfaction of multiple, parallel constraints in a homeostatic space. This immediately suggests Harmonic Grammar. I posit that the weighted constraints in Harmonic Grammar constitute a homeostatic space, and the Harmony function is a necessary and sufficient condition for RL in constraint-based grammars. I then show that this model successfully learns final obstruent devoicing in Russian, among others. I conclude with some tentative hypotheses for homeostasis in bilinguals and in late-L2 learners. Apart from interesting models and simulations, this approach offers prospects for uniting ideas from neural and linguistic theory in order to provide a more coherent explanatory neurolinguistics.

    Share

    Written by Suzana

    October 31st, 2016 at 6:03 am

    Posted in Talks

    Colloquium 11/4 - Peter Svenonius

    Speaker: Peter Svenonius (University of Tromsø)
    Title: Emergent Extended Projections
    Time: Friday, November 4th, 2016, 3:30-5:00pm
    Venue: 32-155
    Abstract:

    The theory of extended projections (Grimshaw 2005) is built on a strongly universalist/innatist premise, especially in its cartographic implementation (Cinque 1999 inter alios). On that view, the LAD (language acquisition device) matches instantiated categories in the input to a prespecified sequence of hierarchically arranged categories in UG. In this talk, I explore the implications of a sparer UG. I suggest how extended projections might emerge from the primary data, given certain assumptions about the LAD. I suggest that these assumptions give a more satisfying understanding of mixed projections (Abney 1987) and some other phenomena than do the standard assumptions about extended projections.
    Share

    Written by Suzana

    October 31st, 2016 at 6:01 am

    Posted in Talks

    Phonology Circle 10/24 - Rafael Abramovitz

    Speaker: Rafael Abramovitz (MIT)
    Title: Opposite-edge reduplication without Anchor
    Date/Time: Monday, October 24, 5:00–6:30pm
    Location: 32-D831

     

    Reduplication in Chukotkan languages (Chukchi, Koryak, Alutor, Kerek) has attracted attention in the phonology-morphology literature due to the fact that it copies to the opposite edge that it copies from (Riggle 2003, Nelson 2003, Inkelas 2008, i.a.), which has been used to argue for the necessity of Anchor constraints to place reduplicants. Building off of previous suggestions in the literature (most notably Kenstowicz (1976), as well as McCarthy and Prince (1996) and Nelson (2003)), I will argue that no reference to anchor constraints needs to be made, as both the size and the placement of the reduplicant fall out of segmental faithfulness and independently necessary constraints on the size of the prosodic word and the syllabification of roots. As a side-effect of this, the claim in Inkelas (2014) that Chukotkan languages use reduplication to spellout a case morpheme, a pattern otherwise unattested in the world’s languages, will turn out to be false: reduplication (sometimes) appears to spell out a case morpheme as a result of a conspiracy between minimality and the morphophonology of the absolutive singular. Based on this analysis, I will then present new data showing that reduplication systematically both underapplies and overapplies, and will suggest that Output-Output correspondence constraints (Kenstowicz 1996, Benua 1997, Albright 2010) are better able to capture these facts than Stratal OT (Bermudez-Otero 1999, Kiparsky 2000).
    Share

    Written by Sophie Moracchini

    October 24th, 2016 at 6:06 am

    Posted in Talks

    LFRG 10/26 - Frank Staniszewski

    Speaker: Frank Staniszewski (MIT)
    Time: Wednesday, October 26th, 1-2pm
    Place: 32-D831
    Title: Partial Cyclicity and Restrictions on Neg-Raising

     

    Partial cyclicity refers to the observation that for some but not all combinations of neg-raising predicates, neg-raising can apply cyclically, and a negation in the matrix clause can be interpreted as if it is taking scope in the most deeply embedded clause (Fillmore 1963, Horn 1971, Gajewski 2007). For example, cyclic neg-raising is available when ‘believe’ embeds ‘want’, but not when ‘want’ embeds ‘believe’.
     
     (1)      a.   I don’t believe John wanted Harry to die until tomorrow.
                b. *I don’t want John to believe Harry died until yesterday.
                (Gajewski (2007) based on Horn (1971))
     
                In this presentation of work in progress, I will attempt to expand the empirical domain of this phenomenon. I will discuss new evidence that suggests that examples of partial cyclicity are part of a wider class of restrictions on neg-raising, and that these restrictions are the result of temporal orientation: In general, NR is blocked in an embedded clause that can be understood as future-shifted or yet unknown from the perspective of the matrix tense. I hope to explore whether or not the new data can be explained by previous accounts of partial cyclicity, and if not, what revisions or new analyses could account for the more general phenomenon.
     
    Share

    Written by Sophie Moracchini

    October 24th, 2016 at 6:05 am

    Posted in Talks

    Ling-Lunch 10/27 — Veronica Boyce (MIT)

    Speaker: Veronica Boyce, MIT (joint work with Athulya Aravind and Martin Hackl)
    Title: Lexical and syntactic effects on auxiliary selection: Evidence from Child French
    Date: Thursday, October 27
    Time: 12:30pm-1:50pm
    Location: 32-D461
    Abstract:

    Auxiliary selection in periphrastic constructions poses a challenge for the learner who must learn if her language has auxiliary selection and if so, how to draw the line between HAVE-selecting and BE-selecting verbs. We investigate children’s understanding of the various factors involved in auxiliary selection in French by conducting a large-scale corpus study of child productions of passé composé.

    In adult French, a set of unaccusative verbs and reflexive clitic constructions with SE select BE. With the class of unaccusatives, children were largely adult-like, but sometimes over-extended HAVE to BE. Crucially, over-extension errors are produced at earlier ages, suggesting a stage in development where the child has yet to converge on the right generalizations about French. Once past this stage, the child consistently selects the right auxiliary, even for newly acquired verbs.

    Reflexive clitic constructions show a different acquisition trajectory from the unaccusatives. With 3rd person reflexives (se), children are adult-like 100% of the time. However, children erroneously select the HAVE-auxiliary over half of the time with 1st person (me). The high accuracy with 3rd-person reflexives suggests that children can rapidly make an inductive inference about auxiliary selection with reflexive clitic constructions, generalizing the pattern to an abstract syntactic configuration. We suggest that at the heart of the 1st person errors is the pronominal paradigm in French, which shows syncretism between object clitics and reflexives in the 1st/2nd person, and discuss how the child errors might point us to the right way of thinking about the paradigm.

    Share

    Written by Suzana

    October 24th, 2016 at 6:04 am

    Posted in Talks

    LFRG 10/19 - Naomi Francis

    Speaker: Naomi Francis (MIT)
    Time: Wednesday, October 19 , 1-2pm
    Place: 32-D831
    Title: Discussion of: On Negative Yes/No Questions (2004)

    In this week’s LF Reading Group, Naomi Francis will be discussing Romero and Han’s 2004 paper on biased questions.
    Share

    Written by Sophie Moracchini

    October 17th, 2016 at 11:35 am

    Posted in Talks

    Syntax Square 10/17 - Nico Baier

    Speaker: Nico Baier (UC Berkeley)
    Title: Unifying Anti-Agreement and Wh-Agreement
    Date/Time: Monday, Oct. 17, 1-2pm
    Location: 32-D461
    Abstract:

    In many languages, phi-agreement is sensitive to the A’-movement of its controller. Some languages, such as Abaza, exhibit ‘wh-agreement’, an effect in which dedicated agreement morphology cross-references extracted arguments (Chung and Georgopoulos 1988). In other languages, such as Tarifit Berber, extracted arguments cannot control full agreement. This is known as ‘anti-agreement’ (Ouhalla 1993). These two effects have previously been treated as distinct. Wh-agreement is viewed as normal result of Agree with a goal bearing a wh-feature (Georgopoulos 1991, Watanabe 1996, a.o.). Anti-agreement is generally taken to reflect a disruption of agreement in the syntax proper (Schneider-Zioga 2007, Ouhalla 1993, a.o.). In this paper, I argue that this traditional wisdom is incorrect and that wh-agreement and anti-agreement are in fact two instantiations of the same phenomenon. Both effects are the result of a phi-probe copying both phi- and wh-features from a goal. Patterns of anti-agreement and wh-agreement arise when partial or total impoverishment applies to the [phi+wh] feature bundle in the morphological component, blocking insertion of an otherwise appropriate, more highly specified agreement exponent.
    Share

    Written by Michelle Yuan

    October 17th, 2016 at 6:10 am

    Posted in Talks

    Phonology Circle - 10/17 Benjamin Storme

    Speaker: Benjamin Storme (MIT)
    Title: The effect of schwa duration on pre-schwa lowering in French
    Date/Time: Monday, October 17, 5:00–6:30pm
    Location: 32-D831

     

    In some European French varieties, mid vowels are realized as open-mid before schwa and in closed syllables (e.g. hôtelier [ɔtəlje], optique [ɔptik]), and as close-mid otherwise (e.g. hôtel [otɛl]). Why do syllables followed by schwa pattern with closed syllables? It is often proposed that this is related to schwa being a short vowel (e.g. Durand 1976, Selkirk 1977, Anderson 1982). In this presentation, I report the results of a production experiment with 10 French speakers which support this hypothesis. The probability of pre-schwa lowering is shown to be inversely correlated to schwa duration: as the mean schwa duration of a speaker decreases, the probability that she will lower mid vowels before schwa increases. This relationship is modeled in a stochastic OT grammar with two pairs of conflicting constraints: *LongSchwa vs. *ShortV to regulate schwa duration, and *HighMidV/{_C.C, _.CV[-long]} vs.*LowMidV to regulate mid vowel quality. Schwa duration and mid vowel quality interact because the constraint *HighMidV/{_C.C, _.CV[-long]} bans high mid vowels before short vowels. I propose that this constraint has a perceptual motivation: a consonant preceded by a high vowel and followed by a short vowel or a consonant is particularly hard to perceive, and therefore phonologically marked.
    Share

    Written by Sophie Moracchini

    October 17th, 2016 at 6:10 am

    Posted in Talks

    ESSL/LacqLab Meeting 10/18 — Teodora Mihoc

    Speaker: Teodora Mihoc (Harvard)
    Title: More evidence of heterogeneity in the class of comparative and superlative numeral modifiers
    Date/Time: Tuesday, October/18, 1—2pm
    Location: 32-D461

    Share

    Written by Suzana

    October 17th, 2016 at 6:07 am

    Posted in Talks

    Ling-Lunch 10/20 — Alëna Aksënova (Stony Brook)

    Speaker: Alëna Aksënova (Stony Brook)
    Tittle: Morphotactics and phonology as subregular languages
    Date: Thursday, October 20th
    Time: 12:30pm-1:50pm
    Location: 32-D461
    Abstract:

    The main idea of this talk is to show which formal language classes might be the best fit for phonology and morphotactics, and to show how certain typological gaps can be predicted by the characteristics of these formal languages.

    For a long time it was assumed that both phonological and morphological patterns are regular (Kaplan & Kay 1994, Beesley & Karttunen 2003). Recently, Heinz (2011, 2012, 2013) showed that this characterization is too general: although the regular class is sufficiently expressive, it is not restrictive enough. For example, typologically non-existent patterns such as First-Last Harmony (harmony happens only between the first and the last vowel in a word) and Sour Grapes Harmony (harmony applies only if it can be applied to the whole word) are regular. Weaker formal languages classes are needed to accurately capture the computational properties of phonology.

    Based on recent research (Aksënova et al. 2016) I argue that morphotactics does not require the whole power of regular languages, either. I show which subclasses of regular languages are needed to account for morphotactics, present specific typological gaps and derive them from rigorous computational complexity results. This computationally grounded approach to phonology and morphology also provides a new perspective on acquisition, and raises many new research questions.

    Share

    Written by Suzana

    October 17th, 2016 at 6:04 am

    Posted in Talks

    Ling-Lunch 10/13 - Juliet Stanton (MIT)

    Speaker: Juliet Stanton (MIT)
    Title: Segmental blocking in dissimilation: an argument for co-occurrence constraints
    Date: Thursday, October 13
    Time: 12:30pm-1:50pm
    Location: 32-D461
    Abstract:

    Most contemporary work assumes that dissimilation is motivated by featural co-occurrence (OCP) constraints (e.g. Alderete 1997, Suzuki 1998): a process that maps /X…X/ to [X…Y] (for example) would be explained by positing a ban on co-occurring [X]s.

    I first show how this approach can be extended to analyze the typology of segmental blocking effects (name due to Bennett 2015), a term used to describe cases in which a dissimilatory process is blocked by some segments, but not others. For example, dissimilation might apply across some segment Z (/X…Z…X/ > [X…Z…Y]), but not some other segment Y (/X…Y…X/ > [X…Y…X]). This pattern can be explained in the following way (following Kenstowicz 1994, Steriade 1995): if a ban on co-occurring [Y]s (violated in the unattested /X…Y…X/ > *[X…Y…Y]) takes priority over the ban on co-occurring [X]s (violated in the attested /X…Y…X/ > [X…Y…X]), then dissimilation of /X…X/ to [X…Y] will fail if some [Y] is present elsewhere in the word.

    I argue that all cases of attested segmental blocking should be analyzed as an interaction between two competing co-occurrence constraints (as above), and provide new evidence from lexical statistics in support of this conclusion. Time permitting, I will introduce an alternative correspondence-based analysis of blocking in dissimilation (Bennett 2015), and show that its predictions are less restrictive than those of the proposed analysis.

    Share

    Written by Suzana

    October 11th, 2016 at 6:03 am

    Posted in Talks

    Syntax Square 10/3 - Hisashi Morita

    Speaker: Hisashi Morita (Aichi Prefectural University, current MIT visiting scholar)
    Title: Morphology is misleading, but syntax is not: The Syntax of Coordination in
    Japanese and Korean

    Date/Time: Monday, October 3, 1-2pm
    Location: 32-D461
    Abstract:

    My talk presents a somehow unnoticed but simple analysis of coordination involving coordinating particles such as ka ‘or’, mo ‘and’, and toka ‘and/or’ in Japanese and to ‘also’ and (i)na ‘or’ in Korean. Analysis of coordinating phrases in Japanese and Korean has been controversial. For example, Johannessen (1996) proposes the following structure for a disjunction phrase such as Ken-ka Mary ‘Ken or Mary’:

    (1) [CoP [Co’ Ken [Co KA]] Mary]

    There are several problems with a structure such as (1). First, it assumes a right-branching specifier, which is either non-existent or extremely rare, if any. Secondly, if coordinators such as ka and mo represent disjunction and conjunction respectively as in or and and in English, one instance of ka and mo should be sufficient when there are two disjuncts or conjuncts, but as in (2), two (identical) particles appear when coordinating two phrases, the phenomenon of which is called conjunction (or disjunction) doubling:

    (2)a. Ken-KA Mary(-KA)-ga kita.
    -or (-or) -Nom
    ‘Ken or Mary came.’

    b. Ken-MO Mary-MO kita.
    came -and -and came
    ‘Both Ken and Mary came.’

    As far as I know, no existing accounts have successfully explained why two coordinators are necessary in Japanese and Korean.

    The third problem is concerned with difference between Japanese and Korean. It has been known that when ka, a disjunction particle, merges with a wh-element in Japanese, an existential quantifier follows, such as dare-ka (who-or) ‘someone’. However, in Korean, if the disjunction particle, (i)na, follows a wh-element, a free choice is generated. The last problem is how the same coordinator, i.e. toka, can mean conjunction or disjunction in Japanese as follow:

    (3) Ken-ga hon-o go-satu-TOKA roku-satu-TOKA yonda.
    -Nom book-Acc five-Cl-toka six-Cl-toka read
    ‘Ken read sets of books of five and six and more.’
    ‘Ken read five or six books.’

    The problems above can be straightforwardly explained once we assume that the structure of coordination consists of two projections: CoP and FocP, and the particles we hear may not be real coordinators (i.e. not carrying semantic functions), but simply agreement reflexes.
    Share

    Written by Michelle Yuan

    October 3rd, 2016 at 6:04 am

    Posted in Talks

    Phonology Circle 10/3 - Aleksei Nazarov

    Speaker: Aleksei Nazarov (Harvard)
    Title: Learning parametric stress without domain-specific mechanisms
    Date/Time: Monday, October 3, 5:00-6:30
    Location: 32-D831

    (Joint work with Gaja Jarosz (UMass))

    A parametric approach to the acquisition of stress (Dresher and Kaye 1990, Hayes 1995) is attractive for defining a small learning space. However, previous approaches (Dresher and Kaye 1990, Pearl 2007, 2011) have argued that domain-general learners, such as the Naïve Parameter Learner (NPL; Yang 2002), are not sufficient for learning stress parameters, and that UG contains domain-specific mechanisms for individual parameters: substantive “cues” as well as a parameter acquisition order. We argue that these conclusions are premature, and we instead propose to modify the non-selective way in which parameters are updated in the NPL.

    Our proposed Expectation Driven Parameter Learner (EDPL) augments the NPL with a (linear-time) Expectation Maximization component along the lines of Jarosz (2015). Without using domain-specific mechanisms, we show that the novel EDPL performs very well (96% accuracy) on a representative subset of the typology defined by Dresher and Kaye (1990), while the NPL performs very poorly (4.3% accuracy). This suggests that UG can be kept simpler (parameters only, instead of parameters + cues + order) if the learner is allowed to process individual data points more thoroughly.

    Share

    Written by Sophie Moracchini

    October 3rd, 2016 at 6:04 am

    Posted in Talks

    LFRG 10/5 - Itai Bassi

    Speaker: Itai Bassi (MIT)
    Time: Wednesday, October 5 , 1-2pm
    Place: 32-D831
    Title: Discussion of: Ellipsis, Economy and the (Non)uniformity of Traces (LI, 2016)

    Itai will be presenting a recent paper by Troy Messick and Gary Thoms Ellipsis, Economy and the (Non)uniformity of Traces (LI, 2016), which argues for the elimination of the constraint MaxElide from the theory of ellipsis.

    Also, the LFRG slot next week (Oct 12) is free for the taking. If you have anything you’d like to present, please tell Daniel Margulis or Itai Bassi soon!

    Share

    Written by Sophie Moracchini

    October 3rd, 2016 at 6:03 am

    Posted in Talks

    Ling-Lunch 10/6 — Ömer Demirok

    Speaker: Ömer Demirok (MIT)
    Title: Free Relatives and Correlatives in Wh-in-situ [practice talk]
    Date: Thursday, October 6
    Time: 12:30pm-1:50pm
    Location: 32-D461
    Abstract:

    In English (and many other languages), a wh-structure as in (1) can be construed as a free relative or as an interrogative complement. Cecchetto and Donati (2015) refer to this phenomenon as labeling ambiguity and predict that this sort of ambiguity is precluded in wh-in-situ languages, as illustrated in the hypothetical example in (2). This prediction is borne out in many wh-in-situ languages (e.g. Turkish, Laz). However, Polinsky (2015) shows that Tsez has wh-FRs with the pattern in (2).

    (1) Sue knows/ate [what John cooked]

    (2) “Sue knows/*ate [John cooked what]”

    In this talk, I propose a semantic typology for interrogative pronouns that can predict whether a given wh-in-situ language will necessarily lack wh-FRs or not (under the compositional analysis of FRs in Caponigro 2004). In particular, I make the prediction that wh-in-situ languages that compose wh-questions via Hamblin alternatives will necessarily lack wh-FRs (as the composition of a wh-question will not generate a semantic predicate) whereas wh-in-situ languages that rely on covert movement to compose their questions may have wh-FRs. Using intervention effects and island-sensitivity as diagnostics, I show that this prediction holds.

    In the second part of the talk, I address the question why some wh-in-situ languages (e.g. Turkish, Laz) have the distribution in (3). A relativization-based analysis of wh-correlatives (3b) in genuinely wh-in-situ languages would constitute a counterexample to my proposal. However, I show that there is in fact evidence in favor of a question-based semantic composition for (3b) (Rawlins, 2013, Hirsch 2015), as would be expected under the proposed typology.

    (3) a. * “Sue eats [John cooks what]” (in-situ wh-FR)

    b. OK “John cooks what, Sue eats that” (in-situ wh-correlative)

    Share

    Written by Suzana

    October 3rd, 2016 at 6:03 am

    Posted in Talks