The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, May 15th, 2023


The 33rd meeting of Semantics and Linguistic Theory (SALT 33) was hosted by the linguistics department at Yale University on May 12-14, 2023. MIT was represented by several current students and alumni:

  • Johanna Alstott (first-year): Ordinal Numbers: Not Superlatives, but Modifiers of Superlatives
  • Ido Benbaji (fourth-year): Is nothing irreplaceable? A substitution theory of de re
  • Omri Doron (fourth-year): Another look at the Mapping Hypothesis: evidence from Hebrew 
  • Yash Sinha (fourth-year): Number morphology in Hindi coordinative compounds
  • Tuệ Trịnh (PhD, 2011): Contextual bias anti-licenses NPIs in polar questions
  • Deniz Özyıldız & Wataru Uegaki (PhD, 2015): Two kinds of question-embedding strategies & veridicality alternations
  • Luis Alonso-Ovalle & Aaron Hirsh (PhD, 2017): Weakening is external to ‘only’

Syntax Square 5/16 - Ksenia Ershova (MIT)

Speaker: Ksenia Ershova (MIT)
Title: Move me high, pronounce me low: Diagnosing argument asymmetries in West Circassian nominalizations
Time: Tuesday, May 16th, 1pm - 2pm
Location: 32-D461

Abstract: Nominalizations in West Circassian, a polysynthetic, high absolutive language, display a puzzling mismatch in diagnostics for argument asymmetries. On the one hand, reciprocal binding suggests that the theme of a transitive verb c-commands the external argument, analogous to finite clauses. On the other hand, the ordering of arguments in nominalizations are constrained in accordance with thematic roles, with the external argument obligatorily surfacing further from the verbal root than the internal argument, suggesting that the external argument c-commands the theme. I argue that this apparent mismatch results from constraints on licensing and spell-out in the nominal domain: while the internal argument raises to a position c-commanding the ergative agent, it must be spelled out in the lower position due to conditions on licensing by adjacency. The analysis resolves an otherwise puzzling contradiction between structural diagnostics and confirms that syntactic licensing constraints may inform PF spell-out in ways which obscure the underlying syntactic structure.