The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Ling Lunch 9/20 - Vincent Rouillard, Naomi Francis (MIT)

This week we have 2 presentations one after the other as practice talks for NELS: 
Speaker: Vincent Rouillard (MIT)
Title: Number Inflection, Spanish Bare Interrogatives, and Higher-Order Quantification
Date and time: Thursday, 9/20, 12:30-1:50pm
Location: 32-D461
In this joint work with Luis Alonso-Ovalle, we examine the behavior of simplex interrogative expressions in Spanish. Many languages including Spanish inflect who for number; Spanish has quién (who.sg) and quiénes (who.pl). Assuming Dayals’s (1996) ans operator, Maldonado (2017) argues that quién and quiénes challenge Sauerland et al.’s  (2005) theory of number, where the plural is semantically vacuous (weak plural) while the singular presupposes atomicity (strong singular). Maldonado takes quiénes to be a plural ranging over pluralities only while quién is a singular ranging over both atoms and pluralities. In other words, she assumes a vacuous singular (weak singular) and a plural presupposing plurality (strong plural). We show that this fails to capture the behavior of quién and quiénes with collective predicates and argue, extending Elliott et al. (2017), that both wh-expressions range over generalized quantifiers (GQs). We conclude, contra Elliott et al., that having quién range over GQs while being a strong singular is insufficient to account for its behavior and that the data are best described if quién is a weak singular and quiénes a strong plural, extending Maldonado.
Speaker: Naomi Francis (MIT)
Title: Imperatives under even 
Date and time: Thursday, 9/20, 12:30-1:50pm
Location: 32-D461

Imperative sentences can give rise to strong (e.g. command; □) or weak (e.g. acquiescence, indifference; ◊) readings. The acceptability of even in imperatives tracks this distinction in a surprising way: even can appear with broad focus in imperatives only if they receive a weak reading (1-2).

  1. [Prof. X is invigilating an exam and orders the students to stop writing.]

Put down your pens. [Close your exam papers]F #even!                                                           □imp

  1. [Prof. Y is telling students that they no longer have to complete the exam they had been writing and are free to do whatever they like.]

Put down your pens. [Close your exam papers]F even! (None of this matters.)                   ◊imp

There is no such contrast between sentences with even containing overt possibility and necessity modals.

  1. You have to/must put down your pens. You even have to/must [close your exam papers]F. □mod
  1. You’re allowed to put down your pens. You’re even allowed to [close your exam papers]F. ◊mod

I show that this pattern can be accounted for if we assume that i) even has an additive component (Karttunen & Peters 1979) and ii) imperatives underlyingly contain an existential modal operator (◊imp), with strong readings derived by exhaustifying the prejacent of the imperative operator(Schwager 2005, 2006/Kaufmann 2012, Oikonomou 2016). When seen in this light, the puzzling interaction between even and strong imperatives will be reduced to an incompatibility between the additive component of even and the exclusive component of exh/only.