The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, October 28th, 2019

LF Reading Group 10/30 - Filipe Hisao Kobayashi (MIT) & Vincent Rouillard (MIT)

Speaker: Filipe Hisao Kobayashi (MIT) & Vincent Rouillard (MIT)
Title: Tying Free Choice in Questions to Distributivity
Time: Wednesday, October 30th, 1pm - 2pm
Location: 32-D461

Abstract:Disjunctive answers to universally modalized wh-interrogatives have been noted to lead to free choice inferences.

(1) Q: Which books are we required to read?
A: The French books or the Russian books.
Implies: You are allowed to read the French books and you are allowed to read the Russian books.

The presence of such inferences has lead many to propose that wh-items can quantify over generalized quantifiers (Spector 2007,2008; a.o.). However, this move does not capture the lack of such inference when the restrictor of the wh-item is singular.

(1) Q: Which book are we required to read?
A: The French book or the Russian book.
Does not imply: You are allowed to read the French book and you are allowed to read the Russian book.

We propose to account for this contrast by capturing the free choice inference using a covert existential distributivity operator (Bar-Lev 2017). We show that this moves derives many restrictions that the generalized quantifier theory must stipulate.

MorPhun 10/30 - Patrick Niedzielski (MIT)

Speaker: Patrick Niedzielski (MIT)
Title: Aksenova, Graf & Moradi (2016): Morphotactics as tier-based strictly local dependencies
Time: Wednesday, October 30th, 5pm - 6:30pm
Location: 32-D831

Abstract: It is commonly accepted that morphological dependencies are finite-state in nature. Aksenova, Graf & Moradi (2016) argue that the upper bound on morphological expressivity is much lower. Drawing on technical results from computational phonology, they show that a variety of morphotactic phenomena are tier-based strictly local and do not fall into weaker subclasses such as the strictly local or strictly piecewise languages. Since the tier-based strictly local languages are learnable in the limit from positive texts, this marks a first important step towards general machine learning algorithms for morphology. Furthermore, the limitation to tier-based strictly local languages explains typological gaps that are puzzling from a purely linguistic perspective.

Special Lunch Talk 10/31 - Anne H. Charity Hudley (UCSB)

Speaker: Anne Charity Hudley (UCSB)
Title: Talking College: A Community Based Language and Racial Identity Development Model for Black College Student Justice
Time: Thursday, October 31st, 12:30pm - 1:50pm
Location: 32-D461

Abstract: “Critical knowledge about language and culture is an integral part of the quest for educational equity and empowerment, not only in PreK-12 but also in higher education. As Black students transition from high school to college, they seek to add their voices and perspectives to academic discourse and to the scholarly community in a way that is both advantageous and authentic.

The Talking College Project is a Black student and Black studies centered way of learning more about the particular linguistic choices of Black students while empowering them to be proud of their cultural and linguistic heritage. The Talking College Project is funded by the University of California-Historically Black College and University (UC-HBCU) Initiative and the National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program. Students take introductory linguistics courses that examine the role of language in the Black college experience and collect information from college students through interviews and ethnography. We value the perspectives of undergraduates from a range of disciplinary backgrounds as researchers and we have a special focus on students at institutions that do not offer linguistics as a major.

One key question of The Talking College Project is: how does the acquisition of different varieties of Black language and culture overlap with identity development, particularly intersectional racial identity development? To answer this question, we conducted over 50 interviews with Black students at several Minority-Serving Institutions, Historically Black College, and Predominantly White Universities. Based on information collected from the interviews, it is evident that Black students often face linguistic bias and may need additional support and guidance as they navigate the linguistic terrain of higher education. We present themes and examples from the interviews that illustrate the linguistic pathways that students choose, largely without sociolinguistic knowledge that could help guide their decisions.

To address the greater need to share information about Black language with students, we also highlight our findings from interviews with Black students who have taken courses in linguistics to demonstrate the impact of education about Black language and culture on Black students’ academic opportunities and social lives. These findings serve to help us create a model of assessment for what linguistic information Black students need in order to be successful in higher education and how faculty can help to establish opportunities for students to access content about language, culture, and education within the college curriculum. We address the work we need to do as educators and linguists to provide more Black college students with information that both empowers them raciolinguistically AND respects their developing identity choices.”