The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, December 8th, 2008

BCS Cog lunch 12/9 - Mike Frank

Speaker: Michael C. Frank (Graduate Student, Gibson Lab)
Title: Numerical cognition in the absence (or temporary unavailability) of language for number
Time: Tues 12/9 Noon, 46-3310

Phonology circle 12/10 - Giorgio Magri

Come join us for the last Phonology Circle of the semester, featuring a talk by Giorgio Magri.

Title: The Ranking Problem in Optimality Theory
Time: Wed 12/10, 5pm, 32-D831

Every learning problem can be formulated as an optimization problem: within a given typology, pick the grammar that is best given the data. Very little work has been done within Generative Grammar on how to actually solve the optimization problem itself. Recently, a small but growing body of literature within the framework of Optimality Theory (OT) has started to study the optimization problem itself. I will introduce the main ideas of this enterprise and I will illustrate it by focusing on a problem currently open in computational OT, namely that of devising incremental ranking algorithms that perform both promotion and demotion. I will explain why the problem is interesting. I will review one such algorithm, namely Boersma’s (1994) GLA. I will discuss why the algorithm does not work, by explaining in detail what goes wrong in the case of a counterexample discovered by Pater (2007). I will then note that the ranking problem within OT can be described as a linear feasibility problem. This very simple observation has far reaching consquences. In particular, it offers a straightforward way do device the desired incremental algorithm.

30 Years of “Assertion”

This Friday (12/12) and Saturday (12/13), the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy will be hosting a small conference to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the publication of Bob Stalnaker’s “Assertion”. The aim is to showcase some recent work that builds on the picture of context and communication originally developed in “Assertion”, and to have linguists and philosophers discuss recent developments and implementations of that framework. All will be welcome.

The conference will include an introduction by Kai von Fintel, talks by Philippe Schlenker and Jason Stanley, and a roundtable discussion with Bob Stalnaker, Alex Byrne, and Gennaro Chierchia. Dinner (on Friday) and breakfast and lunch (on Saturday) will be provided for everyone.

There is a website with more detailed information (including location and schedule).