The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, December 10th, 2012

Phonology Circle 12/10 - Suyeon Yun

Speaker: Suyeon Yun
Title: Optionality and Gradience in Compensatory Lengthening: Case Studies and Theoretical Implications
Date/Time: Monday, Dec 10, 5pm
Location: 32-D831

This study investigates the scalar nature of compensatory lengthening, which has traditionally been treated as a categorical phenomenon (Hayes 1989, Kavitskaya 2002, Yun 2010, among others). Based on case studies from Farsi and Turkish, I show that compensatory lengthening can take place in a systematically gradient fashion, and argue that this gradient occurrence of compensatory lengthening serves as evidence that speakers’ knowledge of duration preservation is active in synchronic grammar (cf. Hayes and Steriade 2004), not originating from “innocent misapprehension” (Ohala 1981, Blevins 2004). The gradient compensatory lengthening will be formulated within a weighted-constraint model (Flemming 2001). Also, I seek to account for the categorical and obligatory occurrence of compensatory lengthening as well as gradient and optional ones in a unified way based on phonetic characteristics of the consonants involved.

Syntax Square 12/11 - Ermenegildo Bidese

Speaker: Ermenegildo Bidese (MIT)
Title: CP-Erosion in semi-speakers’ Cimbrian: A tentative study about syntax contraction
Date/Time: Tuesday, Dec. 11, 1-2p
Location: 32-D461

‘Semi-speakerness’ is a phenomenon quite wide-spread in language islands, especially when (i) in small communities a stronger standard comes to exert a huge pressure on the minority language (ML), and (ii) the process of language death takes place very slowly (Dorian 1981). It manifests itself through a partly (or even severely) eroded competence in the production of the ML displaying deviant morphological forms (deficient paradigms and the tendency to eliminate irregularities and marked forms by the process of analogical leveling) and a skewed syntax. In my talk I will present data from semi-speakers’ Cimbrian that seem to support the idea that intheir language competence some subparts of the CP layer are ‘inactivated’ or inaccessible (focalization and d-linking or familiarity topics) whereas other parts of the CP layer (wh-movement) show a higher capacity to survive. An analogy would be to an urban landscape after an earthquake, where some infrastructures are put down, whereas others remain intact. The challenge will be to find out whether we can predict which structures are more likely to ‘break down’.