The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, October 14th, 2019

Phonology Circle 10/16 - Miklós Törkenczy (Eötvös Loránd University)

Speaker: Miklós Törkenczy (Eötvös Loránd University)

Title: Hungarian vowel harmony: beyond the standard data set.

Time: Wednesday, October 16th, 5pm - 6:30pm

Location: 32-D831


Vowel harmony (especially backness harmony) is clearly the best known and most analysed aspect of Hungarian phonology. Nevertheless, even current analyses often rely on a data set that only affords a simplified view and is sometimes misleading. In the talk I will focus on variation and vowel neutrality in backness harmony and discuss phenomena that fall outside the “standard” data set typically used. I will concentrate primarily on the relationship between morphology and harmony and will show that morphology interacts with backness harmony in a way that is far richer than the usual canonical view according to which morphological complexity does not matter within the domain of harmony. If time permits I also want to briefly discuss the results of some experiments we did that extend and partially question experimental results on variation in Hungarian harmony recently published in the literature by Hayes et. al 2006, 2009. Throughout the talk my intention is to highlight problems that any analysis has to tackle in order to give a realistic account of Hungarian backness harmony.

LingLunch 10/17 - Mitya Privoznov and Justin Colley (MIT)

Speaker: Mitya Privoznov and Justin Colley (MIT)

Title: On the topic of subjects: composite Probes in Khanty

Time: Thursday, October 17th, 12:30pm - 2pm

Location: 32-D461


We examine movement to subject position (MSP) in the Kazym dialect of Khanty (Finno-Ugric, Uralic). We show that Khanty MSP is a ‘mixed’ movement, having both A-properties (case and agreement, variable binding) and A′-properties (locality, topic interpretation). We explain these properties in terms of a composite Probe on T, which searches for a Goal with both Topic and ϕ-features. We will also propose a notion of Topic based solely on the semantics of the declarative C (which we assume to be the ~ operator from Rooth 1985) and briefly discuss the typology of the relation between C and T (and topics and subjects).

Full abstract: https://nels50.mit.edu/sites/default/files/abstracts/382-ColleyPrivoznov.pdf

Experimentalist meeting 10/18 - Filipe Hisao Kobayashi and Sherry Yong Chen (MIT)

Speaker: Filipe Hisao Kobayashi and Sherry Yong Chen (MIT)

Title: Comprehending and: Development Path of English Conjunction in Child Language

Time: Friday, October 18th, 2pm - 3pm

Location: 32-D461


And presents a challenging case for language learning because of its abstract meaning and cross-categorial flexibility. Nevertheless, previous studies report that even 2-year-olds use and productively in various syntactic environments (Sentence-and, VP-and, & NP-and), leaving open the possibility that and is acquired as an intrinsically cross-categorial operator. 

In this on-going project, we exploits scope interaction with quantifiers to distinguish S-and and NP-and:

(1) Somebody has a pineapple and somebody has a donut. (adult: and > somebody)

(2) Somebody has a pineapple and a donut. (adult: somebody > and)

Building on a recent study by Koring et al, we used an act-out paradigm to test children’s comprehension of sentences like (1) and (2). We present preliminary results suggesting that (i) children as young as 3-years-old have adult-like understanding of S-and, but their performance on NP-and is less adult-like; (ii) For NP-and specifically, children’s performance differs in the adult-true vs adult-false scenarios; (iii) there is no clear improvement for both ands from 3-year-olds to 5-year-olds. The difference between our results and Koring et al’s results will be discussed.

Filipe Hisao Kobayashi @ “Cross-Linguistic Semantics of Reciprocals”

Third year student, Filipe Hisao Kobayashi, presented at the Workshop “Cross-Linguistic Semantics of Reciprocals” last week at Utrecht University. He gave a talk entitled “Scattered Reciprocals” and presented a poster entitled “Two Types of Reciprocals in Mandarin Chinese”.

This is the link to the conference website: https://rocky.sites.uu.nl/workshop-on-cross-linguistic-semantics-of-reciprocals/​. 

Cora Lesure @ CILLA

Cora Lesure, 4th year (MIT), presented Restricciones de coocurrencia entre las consonantes glotalizadas en chuj at the 9th Conference on Indigenous Languages of Latin America. CILLA IX took place at the University of Texas at Austin on October 10-12th, 2019. You can view the CILLA IX program here.