The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, November 7th, 2022

Industry recruiter meeting (11/11) - Harry Calvert

who: Harry Calvert (Speechmatics)
when: Friday, 11/11, 9am (note unusual time/date)
where: virtual talk (contact Hadas for link), there is no in-person room for this event
what: We will meet with a recruiter from the startup Speechmatics. Speechmatics is interested in establishing a relationship with MIT linguists and has interesting opportunities for internships as well as full-time employment. We will use this opportunity to ask Harry about the role of a recruiter in general, to get a recruiter’s perspective on the hiring process, including tips and common mistakes they see. Here is a short blurb from Harry:

Speechmatics is a deep learning start-up that has developed the most accurate and inclusive Speech-to-Text engine in the World. Recently raising $62mil in series B funding, Speechmatics is on a mission to ‘understand every voice, in every context’.

Harry Calvert is a Global Talent Partner at Speechmatics with over 7 years experience in Recruitment; attracting some of the smartest minds in AI to conduct cutting-edge research, whilst building relationships with external partners/universities.

Industry workshop (11/9) - Dr. Khia Johnson

who: Dr. Khia Johnson
when: Wednesday, 11/9, 2pm
where: virtual talk (contact Hadas for zoom link), or 5-231
what: Khia Johnson has a PhD in linguistics from the university of British Columbia and currently works as a UX Research Scientist on the Reality Labs Research Audio team at Meta. Her research in graduate school focused on corpus and experimental phonetics and psycholinguistics. In her current role, she conducts behavioral and attitudinal human subjects research to evaluate novel audio technology from the perspective of humans.

For more information about her team’s work, see:

LF Reading Group (11/9) - Anastasia Tsilia (MIT)

Date and time: Wednesday 11/02, 1-2pm
In-person location: 32-D461
Zoom link: https://mit.zoom.us/j/94298987190

Title:  ”Quasi-ECM” constructions in Modern Greek: Evidence for semantic lowering


MG displays certain attitudinal constructions where an attitude verb may take an accusative object (henceforth ACC DP) followed by a subjunctive CP. Kotzoglou and Papangeli (2007) dub this the “quasi-ECM” construction. The basic pattern is the following:

I Maria theli ton Yani /o Yanis [na tin aghapai].
The.nom Maria.nom want.prs the.acc Yani.acc /the.nom Yani.nom [comp her.acc love.subj].
`Maria wants John to only love her.’

Hadjivassiliou et al. (2000); Kotzoglou and Papangeli (2007); Kotzoglou (2013, 2017) provide considerable evidence that the ACC DP is base-generated in the matrix clause. We provide additional arguments that this is indeed the case, and we argue that these are proleptic constructions as opposed to object control​. Contrary to what is usually assumed in the literature, given the right context, the pro can be in object position too:

(2) Context: Yanis is a political activist and part of an organization run by me. I want to raise awareness about
the organization and I think that getting someone arrested will give us some publicity to this end. 

Thelo ton Yani [na ton silavi i astinomia].
Want.prs the.acc Yani.acc [comp him.acc arrest.subj the.nom police.nom].
`I want the police to arrest Yanis.’

Cross-linguistically, prolepsis marks a de re (e.g. German (Salzmann, 2017), Nez Perce (Deal, 2018)) or a de re and a third reading (e.g. Tiwa (Dawson and Deal, 2019)). We argue that in MG de dicto readings are also possible:

(3) Context: Little Petros is in kindergarten and he and his friends believe that green dogs exist. One day they are talking about green dogs and Petros bets that exactly three of them will show up at his party.

O Petrakis theli akrivos tris prasinus skilus [na erthun sto parti].
The Petros.dim want.prs exactly three.pl green.acc.pl dog.acc.pl [comp come.subj.pl in-the party]. 
`Little Petros wants exactly three green dogs to come to the party.’

This attitude report does not commit the speaker to the existence of green dogs; in Fodor’s terms (Fodor, 1970), the embedded subject is read opaquely. Thus, proleptic constructions are not always interpreted transparently, contrary to what has been assumed up to now. 

We provide an analysis in terms of semantic lowering, as well as argue that prolepsis in Modern Greek still has more restricted truth conditions than its non-proleptic equivalent derived from movement. Namely, there is a requirement that the DP is part of what causes the CP to happen. So, (1) with the ACC is only felicitous if Yanis takes some kind of action to m​ake the CP hold. ​This suggests that prolepsis is not simply a mechanism to exclude de dicto readings, but a way to express some marked meaning in general (which we formalise for Modern Greek). Finally, we hint at an implicational hierarchy of prolepsis, suggesting that if a language has a de dicto reading, then it also has a third and a de re one.

LingLunch (11/10) - Ido Benbaji & David Pesetsky (MIT)

Speaker: Ido Benbaji & David Pesetsky (MIT)
Title: E-Extension and the Uniformity of Silence
Time: Thursday, November 10th, 12:30pm - 1:50pm

Abstract: At the heart of this talk is the conjecture that all syntactic processes that silence an otherwise overt expression do the same thing: apply an E-feature to that expression (Uniformity of Silence):

Effect of E-feature
The feature E associated with an occurrence of node α silences every element reflexively dominated by α.

With this conjecture as background, we focus here on the silencing of syntactic heads and argue that at least some phenomena traditionally studied under the special rubric of ellipsis involve nothing more than the extension of an E-feature applied for independent reasons to a slightly higher node:

Optional: If Hº bears E, copy E to the smallest phrasal node containing H and its selected complement.

We propose that the phenomenon known as Sluicing is simply the result of the E-feature applied by an independently motivated rule (optional in some languages) to the complementizer in a “Doubly-Filled Comp” configuration, optionally extended to the minimal C′ by (2).

Furthermore, the family of phenomena usually studied under the rubric of VP-Ellipsis, including English Auxiliary Verb Phrase Ellipsis, are simple the result of the E-feature that silences the trace of verb raising optionally extended to the minimal V′ or AUX′ containing that verb by (2). This dovetails with proposals by Thoms (2010) and Harwood (2014), among others, which also posit verb movement as a necessary precursor to “VP ellipsis” (in somewhat different ways)

Both phenomena crucially target a phrase minimally larger than the silenced head, yielding the phenomenon dubbed Adjunct Exclusion in recent work (including Landau, passim). We argue that “Adjunct Exclusion” is a subcase of a more general phenomenon of non-complement exclusion observed in both of the ellipsis phenomena studied here, with evidence from English and Hebrew.

Wall Street Journal: Linguist Adèle on the linguistics of Adele

When the Wall Street Journal needed a linguist to weigh in on issues concerning the proper pronunciation of the name of the singer Adele, naturally they consulted with our very own Adèle — graduate student Adèle Mortier — who acquitted herself excellently. Perhaps the first time the word “phonologist” has even appeared in the Wall Street Journal, for one thing — though the reference to “uh-dewl” in the article should be taken with a grain of salt (there were supposed to be some phonetic symbols there, and the name does not rhyme with “duel”).  If you have not used up your four free articles for the month, you will be able to read all about it at https://www.wsj.com/articles/wait-how-do-you-say-adeles-name-even-the-expert-is-confused-11667508528

Screenshot of the important part below: