The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, September 30th, 2019

Phonology Circle 9/30 - Nabila Louriz (Hassan-II, Casablanca)​ & Michael Kenstowicz (MIT)

Speaker: Nabila Louriz (Hassan-II, Casablanca)​ & Michael Kenstowicz (MIT)

Title: From input to output in the Moroccan Arabic adaptation of French loanwords​

Time: Monday, September 30th, 5pm - 6:30pm

Location: 32-D831

Abstract: In this presentation we discuss three adaptation strategies that are evident in our corpus of c. 1,800 French loans to Moroccan Arabic. First, as documented in Kenstowicz & Louriz (2009) based in part on Heath (1989), French words with [ɛ,ɔ,ɑ] are often adapted into MA through the insertion of pharyngealization on an adjacent consonant: style > [stil], coude > [kud], but > [bit] vs. tête > [TeT], code > [koD], stage > [STɑʒ]. We explore some of the factors that underlie the variable nature of this phenomenon. Second, French /y/ varies between MA [i] or [u] as a function of its neighboring vowel: e.g. bureau ‘desk’ /byro/ > [biru] vs. cellule ‘cell’ /selyl/ > [silun]. Third, French loans beginning with a vowel sometimes drop that vowel and at other times insert an onset consonant: autobus ‘bus’ > [Tobis] vs. hors d’oeuvre > [LoRDof]. ​

Syntax Square 10/1 - Tanya Bondarenko

Speaker: Tanya Bondarenko

Title: Coon & Keine (2019), “Feature Gluttony”

Time: Tuesday October 1st, 2019, 1pm - 2pm

Location: 32-D461

Abstract: Coon & Keine (2019) develop a new approach to a family of hierarchy effect–inducing configurations, with a focus on Person Case Constraint (PCC) effects, dative-nominative configurations, and copula constructions. The main line of approach in the recent literature is to attribute these hierarchy effects to failures of phi-Agree or, more specifically, failures of nominal licensing or case checking. Coon & Keine (2019) propose instead that the problem in these configurations is unrelated to nominal licensing, but is instead the result of a probe participating in more than one Agree dependency. Building on Béjar & Rezac (2009), according to which an articulated probe continues probing if at least some features are left unvalued after an Agree relation, Coon & Keine propose that what characterizes hierarchy configurations is that a probe agrees with multiple DPs, a configuration that they refer to as feature gluttony. Feature gluttony does not in and of itself lead to ungrammaticality, but rather can create conflicting requirements for subsequent operations. In the case of clitic configurations, a probe which agrees with more than one DP creates an intervention problem for clitic-doubling. In violations involving morphological agreement, gluttony in features may result in a configuration with no available morphological output. Important empirical motivation for this account includes (i) the different rescue strategies available, and (ii) the fact that hierarchy effects commonly disappear in the absence of an agreeing probe, as predicted under an account which attributes the problem to the probe.

MorPhun 10/2 - Colin Davis (MIT)

Speaker: Colin Davis

Title: Case and containment in Balkar

Time: Wednesday 10/2 5pm - 6:30pm

Location: 32-D831

Abstract: In this presentation I’ll describe some properties of case marking in Balkar (Turkic) based on some recent fieldwork. In particular, my goal is to relate some interesting properties of the case morphology to the claim that cases exist in a containment relationship (Caha 2009, Smith et al 2018, a.o.). Most relevant is the concept that oblique cases contain accusative features as a sub-part, which Balkar may support, if certain complications can be understood.

LF Reading Group 10/2 - Filipe Kobayashi (MIT)

Speaker: Filipe Kobayashi (MIT)

Title: Scattered Reciprocals

Time: Wednesday, October 2nd, 1pm - 2pm

Location: 32-D461

Abstract: In this talk, I analyze an understudied reciprocal construction which I call Scattered Reciprocals (SRs). SRs are built from two syntactically distinct phrases, one in an adverbial position and another in an argumental position, as illustrated by the Brazilian Portuguese example in (1):

Os alunos vão um falar com a orientadora d-o outro.
the students will one speak with the supervisor of-the other
'The students will speak with each other's supervisor.'

This talk is concerned with the question of how the pieces of SRs compose to give rise to reciprocity. After discussing the main semantic and syntactic properties of SRs, I present evidence that, despite initial appearances, these constructions must involve a single quantifier over pairs, in the spirit of Dalrymple et al (1998). I then propose a compositional analysis of these constructions that is able to account for the properties shared across reciprocal constructions as well as those that are particular to SRs.

Mini-course 10/3 - Matthew Gordon (University of California, Santa Barbara)

Speaker: Matthew Gordon (UCSB)

Title: Prosodic domains and prominence in languages with long morphological words

Time: Thursday, October 3, 12:30pm-2:00 and 5:00pm-6:30

Location: 32-D461

Metrical stress theory has advanced considerably through the study of languages with highly agglutinative and polysynthetic morphological profiles since they contain the long words necessary to maximally differentiate stress systems. Properties for which languages with exceptionally long morphological words have provided crucial insight include, among others, iambic-trochaic asymmetries, ternary foot structure, the taxonomy of prominence, and the acquisition and computational modeling of metrical systems. Morphological complexity, however, also brings challenges to the analysis of prosody since long morphological words increase the likelihood of ambiguities in the source of prominence as a word- or phrase-level property and the possibility for otherwise rare or unattested mappings between prosodic and morphological domains, including single morphological words comprised of multiple prosodic words or even prosodic phrases.

This mini-course will examine prosodic domain and their relationship to morphological constituents in languages with the requisite morphological properties that give rise to a high density of long words. We will explore what is known about prosody in highly agglutinative and polysynthetic languages with the goals of discovering for this class of languages (at least preliminary) typological generalizations about prosodic domains and contextualizing these results within a broader prosodic theor. Material will be largely drawn from my work on a number of morphologically complex languages supplemented with published sources on other languages with similar morphological profiles.

Suggested Readings:
Baker, Brett. 2014. Word structure in Australian languages. In Koch, Harold and Rachel Nordlinger (eds.), *The languages and linguistics of Australia*, pp. 139-213. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Beck, David and David Bennett. 2007. Extending the prosodic hierarchy: Evidence from Lushootseed narrative. *Northwest Journal of Linguistics* 1, 1–34.
Bickel, B., and Zuñiga, F. (2017). The ‘word’ in polysynthetic languages: phonological and syntactic challenges. In M. Fortascue, M. Mithun, & N.  Evans (eds.), *The Oxford handbook of polysynthesis*, 158-186. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Gordon, Matthew. 2005. An autosegmental/metrical model of Chickasaw intonation. In Sun-Ah Jun (ed.), *Prosodic typology: The phonology of intonation and phrasing*, pp. 301-30. New York: Oxford University Press.
Lovick, Olga, and Siri Tuttle. 2012.  The Prosody of Dena’ina narrative discourse. *International Journal of American Linguistics* 78, 293–334.
Stanton, Juliet. 2016. Learnability shapes typology: the case of themidpoint pathology. *Language* 92, 753-791.

Experimentalist Meeting 10/4 - Adele Mortier

Speaker: Adele Mortier (MIT)

Time: Friday October 4, 2pm

Location: 32-D461

Abstract: Numerical approximation expressions are expressions of the form “around n”, “approximately n”, where n is a number. They can include an explicit unit, and the n can be decimal or a round number.

(1) Around 15 people came to the party

(2) Sue ran around 6 miles

(3) The film’s average rating is around 3.5

Numerical approximation is challenging as it is used very commonly in everyday conversations, without apparent problems. Yet these expressions seem to carry inherent vagueness: is (1) felicitous if 15 people came? What about 21 people? 22? Is 20 more probable than 22? This might suggest that people tend to enrich their interpretation using the context as well as their knowledge of the world to get more precise inferences. We make the assumption that such inferences rely on classical pragmatic processes, very much alike scalar implicatures (granularity implicatures, [Cummins et al., 2012]). We also argue that these inferences can be modeled, if not explained, by probabilistic Bayesian reasoning (some variants of the RSA, [Kennedy, 2007, Lassiter and Goodman, 2013]). To back up this theory, we present experimental data about the probabilistic inferences drawn by people facing numerical approximation expressions (round numbers, no unit). The most basic results corroborate prevalent intuitions about numerical approximation (symmetry of the distribution, granularity effects). More refined (and disputable) results seem to support the hypothesis that a vague expression like “around” differs from a more exact (but underspecified) expression like “between”, as they do not give rise to the same kind of subjective probability distribution (posterior). However, another experiment would be needed to better control for unwanted order effects between items, because they are likely to explain a huge part of the observed variability.Your feedback is of course very welcome!

MIT-Haiti Initiative Launches “Platfòm MIT-Ayiti pou yon lekòl tèt an wo”

The MIT-Haiti Initiative  under the leadership of Prof. Michel DeGraff (Linguistics) & Prof. Haynes Miller (MIT Mathematics), has just launched a “Platfòm MIT-Ayiti pou yon lekòl tèt an wo” at http://MIT-Ayiti.NET .   This online platform will function as a digital library / repository for the crowdsourcing, exchange and sharing of teaching materials in Haitian Creole (“Kreyòl”) in all disciplines at all grade levels. All materials on the platform will be openly accessible via a Creative Commons license.  This platform is in response to Haitian educators’ demands for more materials in Kreyòl for active learning. This platform will also help build communities of practice among Haitian teachers who believe in the use of Haitian Creole (“Kreyòl”) as an indispensable tool for quality education for all in Haiti.  We’re hoping that this platform will become a model for other communities that have been disenfranchised as their native languages are excluded from education — due to all-too-familiar colonial reasons.

Colloquium 10/4 - Matthew Gordon (University of California, Santa Barbara)

Speaker: Matthew Gordon (University of California, Santa Barbara)

Title: (C)overt metrical structure and prominence: typology and case studies

Time: Friday, October 4th, 3:30pm - 5pm

Location: 32-155

Abstract: Although stress is typically assumed to be the definitive diagnostic for metrical structure, there are languages in which the primary evidence for feet is based on phenomena other than stress, including syncope, tone placement, lenition or fortition. In many of these languages, it is unclear whether stress patterns are consistent with the foot structure evidenced by these other processes; in others, it is likely that they conflict. These cases of metrical incoherence and uncertain coherence raise issues for representations of metrical structure and the role of covert structure in phonological theory. This talk will explore sources of evidence for iterative metrical structure with a focus on a series of phonetic and phonological case studies from languages in which the most salient evidence for feet is gleaned not from stress but from either syncope or tone. Phonetic data from these languages suggests convergence between stress and the iterative metrical structure diagnosed by other non-stress patterns. Parallel consideration of the different metrically-driven phenomena also allows for discerning between various metrical parses consistent with a single property viewed in isolation.