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Friday, April 24, 2015
The Paradox of Mass Plurals
ILC N400 3:30 pm[+]more
Abstract: The nouns used in (1) below are 'lexical plurals'. (1) He keeps the *books* He gave me bad *directions*. They contrast with the plurals in (2) below: (2) He bought two books. They went in two different directions. Other examples of lexical plurals are *coffee-grounds, proceeds, measles,canned-goods, remains, special effects, dregs, fumes* I adopt the split analysis of plurality (Acquaviva 2008, Lowenstamm 2008, Alexiadou 2011, Kramer 2012) according to which the plural [*s*] in (1) is the realization of n[+PL], a morpheme that nominalizes category-neutral roots. The [*s*] in (2) is the realization of Num[+PL]. The plurals in (1) and (2) do not block one another, since they are formed from different pieces (compare: irregular *men* which blocks **mans*). The meanings of lexical plurals are idiosyncratic -- a common feature of words formed from roots, noted by the above cited references. But problems remain. Lexical plurals are always mass nouns. Assuming there is some semantic basis to the mass/count distinction, the meanings of lexical plurals are predictable *to some extent* and that needs to be explained. Moreover, this feature of lexical plurals is not a peculiarity of English. Ojeda (2005), from whom the title of this talk was borrowed unchanged, provides examples of 'mass plurals' in Zuni and in Lingala (Bantu). He further records that "according to Welmers (1973, 159), there is a semantic correlation in the large Bantu family between being a noun that denotes masses or liquids and being a noun that belongs to the plural Class 6.” (see also Taraldsen 2010:fn8 on Nguni). These then are the questions I'll address: Q1 Why does the combination of a root and n[+PL] produce a mass noun? Q2 What, if anything, is plural about the meanings of these nouns? Q3 Assuming that the idiosyncratic meanings of lexical plurals are encoded in the root, how do we guarantee that this meaning *only*surfaces in the presence of n[+PL] (rather than in any syntactic context that requires a mass meaning)? - Following Schwarzschild (2011), I'll argue that simple nouns are predicates of states. This will allow for two kinds of pluralization, within a state and among states, corresponding to inner, n[+PL] and outer Num[+PL] plurals. - Next, I'll argue that a state is in the extension of a count noun only if it is a state with a single participant. It follows, that n[+PL] are non-count. And, given certain mereotopological assumptions about liquids (Grimm 2012), it will follow that liquid nouns must denote multi-participant states -- hence are candidates for n[+PL] marking. - Finally Q3 has to do with a correlation between word meaning and morpho-syntactic context. I'll propose a way to tie these two together using ideas from Artstein (2004) about focus below the word level.
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Embedded imperatives: venturing into the cross-linguistic picture
ILC N400 3:30 pm[+]more
Many languages are taken to have grammatical marking of imperative clauses (verbal morphology, clause type particles). For a long time, the standard assumption had been that such markers cannot occur in embedded sentences ("Imperatives cannot be embedded"). More recent research has discovered a series of counter-examples to this generalization. At the same time, it remains to be acknowledged that embedding is severely restricted cross-linguistically. Building on, and extending, what I discussed in Kaufmann (2012, ch. 6.1), I investigate patterns in the exceptions to the putative ban on embedded imperatives. I focus on data from English, German, Japanese, Korean, and Slovenian (specifically, the interpretation of the imperative subject), and I suggest an account in terms of clashes between shiftable (in the sense of Schlenker 2003) and unshiftable indexicality. While the talk will focus mostly on imperatives in reported speech, I will discuss some connections to imperative marking in relative clauses and in matrix wh-sentences.
Friday, April 17, 2015
Additivity and the syntax of 'even'
ILC N400 3:30 pm[+]more
Beaver & Clark (2003, 2010) observe that certain focus operators such as ‘only' and ‘even' differ in various ways from focus sensitive operators such as 'always'. This talk presents analysis that derives at least some of these differences from a difference in their syntax: ‘only' takes two syntactic arguments, a focus constituent which can be of any type, and a second argument, which has to compose with the first to form a proposition (following similar syntactic proposals in Rooth 1985, Mccawley 1995, Krifka 1996). The distribution of ‘only' is further constrained by a constraint that assures that the size of the focus constituent must minimized (potentially motivated semantically, as proposed in Wagner 2006). Adverbs like ‘always', by contrast, operate over a single argument. A challenges to this view is the syntax of ‘even', which seem to place it between the two categories of focus operators. We can get a better understanding of the syntax of ‘even' once we control for whether ‘even' is used additively or not. Whether ‘even’ carries an additive presupposition remains controversial. While Horn (1969), Karttunen and Peters (1979), Wilkinson (1996) and many others have argued that it does, Stechow (1991), Krifka (1992) and Rullmann (1997) reached the opposite conclusion. This talk identifies a new syntactic generalization about when ‘even' triggers an additive presupposition, which provides further evidence for the analysis of the syntax of focus operators advocated here. It also reconciles the contradictory findings about additivity in the earlier literature. The analysis offers a new perspective on syntactic constraints on the distribution of related focus operators in German noted in Jacobs (1983) and Büring & Hartmann (2001).
Friday, March 27, 2015
ILC N400 3:30 pm[+]more
Typically, PPIs cannot be interpreted in the scope of a clausemate negation (barring shielding and rescuing). This means that when a given PPI is such that its scope is uniquely determined by its surface position, as is the case with e.g. would rather, the effect of putting it under a clause-mate negation is plain ungrammaticality. With indefinites, such as some, things are different: they can appear in that same configuration, provided that they are interpreted with wide scope over negation, which, in their case, is an available option. In fact, indefinites are independently known to be able to take free wide scope: it is thus a priori possible that a mechanism whereby indefinite PPIs escape out of anti-licensing environments is the same that gives them wide scope out of syntactic islands, i.e. they can be interpreted by choice functions. In this talk, we address the question of the nature of the mechanism at play when, for polarity purposes, elements take wider scope than where they appear on the surface. We present arguments from Hindi-Urdu that, when a PPI surfaces in an anti-licensing environment, the wide scope mechanism that salvages it is movement (overt in Hindi-Urdu), not existential closure of a function-variable.
Friday, February 6, 2015
Restrictive Phi in a Partial Typology of Noncanonical Passives
ILC N400 - 3:30 PM[+]more
In this talk, I investigate the syntactic structure of noncanonical passives, focusing on the role played by phi-features that restrict rather than saturate the external argument position. Building on previous work by myself and others, I show that voice is encoded in a functional projection, VoiceP, which is distinct from, and higher than, vP. I demonstrate that microvariations in the properties of VoiceP and in the location of restrictive phi-features explain a wide range of noncanonical passives, including agent-agreeing passives, restricted agent passives, accusative object passives, impersonals, and object voice. The analysis draws on data from a typologically diverse set of languages.
Friday, April 10, 2015
Kreyol pale, Kreyol konprann: Power/knowledge at the crossroads of history, linguistics & education in Haiti
ILC N151 3:30 pm[+]more
Michel DeGraff is Professor of Linguistics in the Department of Linguistics & Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He specializes in syntax, morphology, language change, Creole studies, Haitian Creole, education in Haiti, and the linguistics-ideology interface. In his Freeman Lecture, he will discuss his participation in and the rationale, accomplishments and prospects of the MIT-Haiti Initiative, which is a project for the development, evaluation and dissemination of active-learning resources in Kreyòl (the national language of Haiti and one of its two official languages) to improve science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education plus leadership and management in Haiti.
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
The memory structure of covert dependencies
ILC N400 5:30 pm[+]more
While modeling the cross-linguistic structural variation, linguistic analysis often postulates abstract "covert" representations that do not have any morpho-phonological reflexes in the surface word string. Little is known as to whether such representations are actually constructed in language comprehension and production. In this talk, I will examine the processing of Mandarin wh-in-situ questions, which share the same word order with regular declarative sentences but have a semantics identical to their English counterpart wh-questions. Drawing on data from production, eyetracking-reading, and speed-accuracy tradeoff paradigms, I will address two questions: (i) Does the parser construct a covert non-local syntactic dependency in processing? (ii) What are the parsing mechanisms that support such non-local dependencies? How similar/different are they from the processing of overt non-local dependencies?
Thursday, April 9, 2015
ILC N451 1:00 pm[+]more
UMass visitor from Tübingen, Anna Howell, will be presenting at the Semantics Workshop.
Wednesday, April 8, 2015
Verb Agreement in Hindi and its Acquisition
Benu Pareek (Jawaharlal Nehru University)
ILC N451 12:15 pm[+]more
The LARC meeting.
Thursday, April 30, 2015
Rich Agreement Hypothesis beyond Indo-European
Seid Tvica (University of Amsterdam)
ILC N451 12:20 - 1:15[+]more
It is well-established in the literature that many Germanic and Romance languages differ in the placement of adverbs, appearing either before or after the finite verb. This typological distinction is standardly accounted for via v-to-I movement, arguably triggered by the subject agreement features that are assumed to be located at I (cf. Roberts 1985; Kosmeijer 1986; Rohrbacher 1994; Vikner 1995;Bobaljik and Thráinsson 1998; Koeneman and Zeijlstra 2014, among many others). The observed correlation between the properties of agreement morphology and verb movement gave rise to the so-called “rich agreement hypothesis” (RAH) which, in its strong version, states thatin controlled environments the finite verb moves to a vP-external position if and only if the agreement morphology is rich (cf. Koenemanand Zeijlstra 2014). Building on the work done so far in this talk, I present the results of a typological investigation of RAH, showing that RAH holds across many languages, well beyond the Indo-European family. In particular, I will discuss verb movement in three unrelated non-Indo-European languages.
Friday, April 3, 2015
Multiple argument marking in Bantoid:
ILC N400 3:30 pm[+]more
Given the typological similarities between the geographically and genetically distant Atlantic, Kordofanian and (Narrow) Bantu languages, it is generally assumed that early Niger-Congo had a synthetic structure with extensive noun class marking and derivational verb extensions (causative, applicative, etc.). However, other Niger-Congo languages show varying degrees of analyticity, some coming close to the endpoint of one morpheme per word. Much of the variation is quite clearly areal. In this paper I am concerned both with the mechanisms of change that lead from syntheticity to analyticity in the Nigeria-Cameroon borderland area, as well as the different strategies that are adopted as these languages lose their verbal extensions. The Bantoid languages I report on are typologically quite diverse. I am particularly concerned with what has replaced dative (recipient, benefactive) and instrumental applicative marking on verbs which historically allowed multiple object noun phrases (send-APPL chief letter, cook-APPL child rice, cut-APPL knife meat). The languages of this area show a remarkable variation: (i) Some languages allow multiple objects (typically with restrictions), while others do not (including some which have relic verb extensions); (ii) some have replaced verb extensions with serial verbs (take knife cut meat give child), others use adpositions (cut meat with knife for child). Still others have adopted multiple strategies for marking such arguments. In this study I sort out these strategies and attempt a micro-mapping of who has developed what where—and grammaticalizing from what (nouns? verbs?)? I will show that even adpositional languages have extensive verb serialization which they exploit for other functions (aspectual, directional, comparatives etc.), thereby raising the question of why only some Bantoid languages use serial verbs for argument marking. Although information is lacking for many languages, there does appear to be a southerly band of languages which mark datives and instruments with serial verbs. Information from Nigeria suggests that a similar distinction separates much of Lower Cross-River from Upper Cross River languages as well.
Friday, March 13, 2015
Sonority Sequencing Effects in Polish: Defying the Stimulus?
ILC N400 3:30 pm[+]more
The Sonority Sequencing Principle (SSP: Steriade 1982; Selkirk 1984; Clements 1988, 1992) states that syllables with a sonority rise in the transition from the onset to the nucleus are preferred cross-linguistically. Experimental evidence indicates that English speakers exhibit gradient sensitivity to the SSP for onset clusters that are not attested in English (Davidson 2006, 2007; Berent et al. 2007, 2009; Daland et al. 2011). Berent et al. (2007, 2009) show that several lexical statistics of English fail to predict these preferences and suggest that the principle may therefore be innate. However, Daland et al. (2011) show that computational models with the ability to form abstract generalizations on the basis of phonological features and phonological context can detect SSP preferences on the basis of English lexical statistics. In this talk, I explore this controversy using computational and developmental approaches in a language (Polish) with very different sonority sequencing patterns from English. Using computational modeling, I show that a) the lexical statistics of Polish contradict the SSP, b) computational models applied to input estimated from Polish child-directed speech predict reverse-SSP preferences, and c) computational models that encode the SSP straightforwardly predict earlier acquisition of clusters with higher sonority rises. Thus, Polish provides a rare example where predictions of input-based models, even phonologically sophisticated ones, diverge dramatically from predictions expected on the basis of universal principles. I test these predictions by examining the acquisition of onset clusters in Polish. The data come from the spontaneous speech of four typically-developing, monolingual, Polish children aged 1;7-2;6 in the Weist-Jarosz Corpus (Weist and Witkowska-Stadnik 1986; Weist et al. 1984; Jarosz 2010; Jarosz et al. submitted). In conflict with the input-based predictions, the acquisition analyses indicate that development is significantly and gradiently sensitive to the SSP. I discuss the implications for phonological theory.
Friday, March 6, 2015
Ensuring the proper determination of identity: a model of possible constraints
ILC N400 - 3:30 PM[+]more
Abstract: Some phonological patterns can be described as sufficient identity avoidance, where 'sufficiently identical' means 'necessarily identical with respect to all but some specific feature(s)'. The first part of the talk addresses this question: why are specific features ignored for the purposes of determining sufficient identity? In previous work (Bakovic 2005, Bakovic & Kilpatrick 2006, Pajak & Bakovic 2010, Brooks et al. 2013ab), we have found that patterns of sufficient identity avoidance where a specific feature F is ignored also involve F-assimilation in the same contexts. Direct reference to sufficient identity is thus unnecessary: sufficient identity is indirectly avoided because F-assimilation would otherwise be expected, resulting in total identity. Avoiding sufficient identity without assimilation is the better option, as predicted by the minimal violation property of Optimality Theory. This analysis predicts rather than stipulates the features that will be ignored for the purposes of determining sufficient identity. (Several corollary consequences of the analysis will also be discussed in the talk.) The explanatory value of the analysis, however, is predicated on the absolute non-existence of constraints directly penalizing all-but-F identity, which could be active independently of F-assimilation. The second part of the talk addresses this question: how can such constraints be ruled out formally? I propose a deterministic model of constraint construction and evaluation that results in just the types of constraints necessary for the analysis above. More broadly, the proposed model is intended as a contribution to our formal understanding of what a 'possible constraint' is. Papers: Bakovic (2005), "Antigemination, assimilation, and the determination of identity." Phonology 22.3, 279-315. Pajak & Bakovic (2010), "Assimilation, antigemination, and contingent optionality: the phonology of monoconsonantal proclitics in Polish." Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 28.3, 643-680.
Friday, February 27, 2015
Kie Zuraw (UCLA)
ILC N400 3:30 p.m.[+]more
The normal distribution--the bell curve--is common in all kinds of data, and is often expected when the quantity being measured results from multiple independent factors. The distribution of phonologically varying words, however, is sharply non-normal in the cases examined in this talk (from English, French, Hungarian,Tagalog, and Samoan). Instead of most words' showing some medial rate of variation (say, 50% of a word's tokens are regular and 50% irregular), with smaller numbers of words having extreme behavior, words cluster at the extremes of behavior--that is, a histogram of exceptionality rates is shaped like a U (or sometimes J) rather than a bell. The U shape cannot be accounted for by positing a binary distinction with some amount of noise over tokens, because some items (though the minority) clearly are variable, even speaker-internally. In some cases (e.g., French "aspirated" words) there is a diachronic explanation: sound change caused some words to become exceptional, so that the starting point for today's situation was already U-shaped. But in other cases, such an explanation is not available, and items seem to be attracted towards extreme behavior. Two mechanisms for deriving U-shaped distributions will be presented, with some speculation as to why some distributions of variation are U-shaped and others bell-shaped.
Friday, February 20, 2015
Natural classes in phonotactic learning
ILC N400 3:30 pm[+]more
The core representational unit in phonology is the feature, used to define contrasts between sound categories (/i/ and /e/ are distinguished by [±high]) and to pick out classes of sounds that pattern together in the phonology ([+high] vowels may be restricted from final position in some languages). Traditionally, phonological features are thought to bear a direct relation to phonetic properties (Jakobson, Fant & Halle 1952; Chomsky & Halle 1968). Under more recent proposals, though, features are labels for phonologically active classes that may bear a loose or no relation to the phonetics of the sounds in question (Mielke 2008). In this talk, I present evidence that phonetics plays a direct role in the natural classes used in the phonological grammar. The cooccurrence phonotactics of Quechua provide evidence for natural classes grouping aspirated stops with the glottal fricative [h], and grouping ejective stops with the glottal stop [?]. In addition to being phonologically active, both of these classes are phonetically definable based on articulatory properties of the glottis: [spread glottis] picks out aspirates and [h], [constricted glottis] picks out ejectives and [?]. Despite the phonological and phonetic support, two nonce word tasks fail to find evidence for these natural classes in speakers' grammars. Instead, aspirate and ejective stops seem to be targeted by the phonotactics to the exclusion of their glottal counterparts. It is proposed that the preference for these smaller classes of laryngeally marked stops is phonetically based, deriving from the salience of the acoustic properties unique to stops.
Wednesday, February 4, 2015
Talk on Prosody, Phonological Phrasing, and Focus in Chimiini
ILC N458 - 12:15pm[+]more
Pioneering phonologist and pioneer in the study of the syntactic conditioning of tonal and segmental phenomena in the sentence in Bantu languages, Chuck Kisseberth will give a talk on Prosody, Phonological Phrasing, and Focus in Chimiini, in Kristine Yu's Phonological Theory class. In order to provide a normal length time slot for a talk of this sort,it will get an early start at 12:15 (instead of 12:20). The main presentation will last roughly an hour, until 1:15, and there will be a half an hour for discussion, ending at roughly 1:45. Given the constraints of normal class schedules and the unusual time slot, it's understandable that people may have to leave during the discussion session after the talk. Feel free to bring your lunch to the talk.
Friday, April 17, 2015
Alice Harris (UMass Amherst), John Kingston (UMass Amherst), Tom Roeper (UMass Amherst)
Room-TBA 10:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m.[+]more
This seminar is intended for any graduate student in the second year and beyond. It will address the treatment of human subjects, the various kinds of ethical dilemmas that arise between collaborators,advisors and advisees,teachers and students,the appropriate uses of data,and other ethical issues.
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Talks/Posters Professional Development Workshop for Grad students
Kristine Yu (UMass Amherst)
Ivy, Jyoti & Sakshi's house 5:30 p.m.-7:00 p[+]more
This is targeted to and obligatory for 2nd years, but anyone else is welcome. I will send out a note after the workshop with a link pointing to where I put up all the materials used in the workshop.