The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, December 11th, 2017

LingPhil Reading Group 12/11 - Matt Mandelkern (Oxford)

Speaker: Matt Mandelkern (Oxford)
Title: Constructing the conditional
Date and time: Monday, December 11, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D769

I argue, contra the dominant line in the linguistics literature, that conditionals validate Conditional Excluded Middle in full generality, and invalidate Duality:

Conditional Excluded Middle: ‘If p, q, or if p, not q’ is always true

Duality: ‘If p, q iff Not: if p, might not q’

I argue that we can, however, give a semantics for conditionals which makes these predictions, without abandoning the insights of Kratzer’s restrictor analysis.


LF Reading Group 12/13 - Sarah Zobel (University of Tuebingen/MIT)

Speaker: Sarah Zobel (University of Tuebingen/MIT)
Title: Do weak adjunct ‘as’-phrases restrict individual quantifiers?
Date and time: Wednesday December 13, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461

The central observation in the literature on free adjuncts is that weak adjuncts can be understood as restricting temporal and modal quantifiers (see Stump 1985): weak adjuncts co-occurring with these types of quantifiers are ambiguous between a restricting and a non-restricting, causal-adverbial-clause like meaning, as in (1-a). Strong adjuncts, in contrast, can only have a non-restricting interpretation, as in (1-b).

(1) a. As a 10-year-old, Peter liked gingerbread. (weak)
(Possible: When Peter was 10 years old, he liked gingerbread. [interaction with [PAST])
(Possible: Since Peter is 10 years old, he liked gingerbread.)

b. Being 10 years old, Peter liked gingerbread. (strong)
(Not possible: When Peter was 10 years old, he liked gingerbread. [interaction with [PAST])
(Possible: Since Peter is 10 years old, he liked gingerbread.)

In this talk, I address the question whether weak adjuncts (using `as’-phrases), as in (2), can be understood as restricting nominal quantifiers, and, if not, how the intuitive interpretations found with these examples can be accounted for.

(2) a. As a child, every guest likes gingerbread.
b. As tourists, most visitors own cameras.

I show that the intuitive interpretation of the examples in (2) are not compatible with these `as’-phrases restricting the quantifiers `every guest’ and `most visitors’ in the same manner as observed for temporal and modal quantifiers. I propose that the intuitive interpretation found in these cases is the result of two properties of the ‘as’-phrases: (i) they associate with the individual quantifiers via Non-Obligatory Control, which I analyze similar to discourse anaphora, and (ii) they are not interpreted in the scope of their associated individual quantifiers.


MIT @ Going Romance 31

Going Romance 31 took place over the weekend at the University of Bucharest. Donca Steriade (faculty) was a keynote speaker, presenting on Cyclic and pseudo-cyclic evaluations: evidence from Romanian. Kenyon Branan (5th-year) also gave a talk on Determining what gets in the way.


Simplicity Workshop videos

Videos of talks from the MIT Workshop on Simplicity in Grammar Learning are now available online! If you would like to see the talks, visit the workshop website.


Whamit! Winter Hiatus

Whamit! will be on its Winter (semi-)hiatus from now until the start of the Spring semester. Weekly posts will resume on February 5th, 2018. In the mean time, we will have rolling posts, publishing breaking MIT Linguistics news as it happens. Thanks to all our contributors, editors, and you dear readers!

See you next year!