Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

P-Interest Workshop Meeting Today (10/31)

Come to the P-Interest workshop meeting today for a talk by our own Alex Djalali on Partial Order Optimality Theory! The abstract is given below:

A constructive solution to the ranking problem in Partial Order Optimality Theory

I give a solution to the ranking problem in Partial Order Optimality Theory (PoOT), which can be stated as follows: Allowing for free variation, given a finite set of input/output pairs, i.e., a dataset, that a speaker knows to be part of some language, how can learn the set of all PoOT grammars under some constraint set compatible with that dataset?

For an arbitrary dataset, we provide set-theoretic means for constructing the set of all PoOT grammars compatible with that dataset. Specifically, we determine the set of all strict orders of constraints that are compatible with the dataset. As every strict total order is in fact a strict order, our solution is applicable in both PoOT and classical optimality theory (COT), showing that the ranking problem in COT is a special instance of a more general one in PoOT.

Dissertation oral Monday, November 3: Djalali

The Department of Linguistics is pleased to announce a dissertation oral presentation by Alex Djalali:

On adjectival comparatives 

Monday, November 3, 2014, 2pm-3:15pm
Margaret Jacks Hall, Rm 126

The syntax and semantics of adjectival comparatives like (1a) are complicated matters that have concerned both syntacticians and semanticists for at least 100 years.

(1) a. Orcutt is taller than Smith (is)
(1) b. The maximal degree of height Orcutt possesses is greater than the maximal degree of height Smith possesses

It is generally agreed that (1a) is a suitable paraphrase of the meaning of (1b), which suggests, both implicitly and explicitly, that any formal syntactico-semantic analysis of adjectival comparatives should make reference to (at least) the notions of degrees, scales, and measures. The path I will pursue in this dissertation takes each of the aforementioned concepts seriously but moves away from standardly assumed degree-based analyses like Seuren (1973), von Stechow (1984), Heim (1985), Kennedy (1997) and Heim (2006) (to name just a few) to a more Cresswellilan-one (Cresswell 1976).

This might seem odd, if only because recent work like Kennedy (1997) can also be understood in a Cresswellilan-light. However, there are many aspects of Cresswell’s (1976) proposal–philosophical and formal–and in the work presented here, degrees themselves will not be understood as proper objects in my semantic ontology. If degrees exist at all, they will be understood as real numbers necessary only when considering a small sub-class of comparative constructions. I will argue that, in making such a move, one gets a better and more general treatment of the syntax and semantics of adjectival comparatives in the form of, what I take to be at least, a transparent albeit Spartan semantic representation language that makes no use of various misbehaved covert operators at the level of logical form that are traditionally present in the various semantic analysis of adjectival comparatives considered here. I will show that, even under the assumption of such minimal representations, my analysis gets the semantic facts involving adjectival comparatives right.

(The format for this open part of the oral exam is a 30-45 minute talk by the PhD candidate followed by questions from those attending, for a total of no more than 75 minutes.   Please arrive promptly!)

Oral exam committee: Cleo Condoravdi and Chris Potts (Co-advisors), Dan Lassiter, Beth Levin
University oral exam chair: Thomas Icard (Philosophy)

SMircle Workshop Meeting Monday (11/3) at 3:15 PM

Join the SMircle Workshop at 3:15 PM in the Greenberg Room Monday, as they welcome our own Sharese King, who will present on her research on the Finnish case system. Her title and abstract are given below.

Investigating Case Selection in Finnish Elative-Marked Partitives

Finnish part-whole constructions show complex alternations between partitive and elative case. While partitive or elative case typically appears on the embedded NP, this case alternation can also appear on the quantifier, independently of the NP. In the situations where case appears on both the quantifier and the NP, four patterns are expected: QPARNPELA, QELANPPAR, QPARNPPAR, *QELANPELA. The QELANPELA pattern, where the quantifier and NP both have elative case, is said to be ungrammatical (Anttila and Fong 2000). However, preliminary results from a grammaticality experiment and data from a corpus analysis suggest that Finnish speakers find this pattern acceptable.

Fieldwork Workshop Meeting Wednesday (11/5) at 2:30PM

Join the Fieldwork Workshop next Wednesday as they welcome visitor Steven Bird.

Come with questions or to meet fellow fieldworkers!

All are welcome!

Construction of Meaning Workshop Today (10/24) at 3:30PM: Scontras

Today (October 24) at 3:30 in the Greenberg Room, Greg Scontras (Stanford Psychology) will speak at the Construction of Meaning Workshop. The talk will be followed by a Friday social.

A new kind of degree

In this talk, I present a case study of the English noun amount, a word that ostensibly relies on measurement in its semantics, yet stands apart from other quantizing nouns on the basis of its EXISTENTIAL interpretation. John ate the amount of apples that Bill ate does not mean John and Bill ate the same apples, but rather that they each ate apples in the same quantity. Amount makes reference to abstract representations of measurement, that is, to degrees. Its EXISTENTIAL interpretation evidences the fact that degrees contain information about the objects that instantiate them. Outside the domain of nominal measurement, the noun kind exhibits behavior strikingly similar to that of amount; both yield an EXISTENTIAL interpretation (Carlson, 1977). This observation motivates re-conceiving of degrees as nominalized quantity-uniform properties – the same sort of entity as kinds. Thus, the semantic machinery handling kinds also handles degrees (e.g., Derived Kind Predication; Chierchia, 1998): As nominalized properties, degrees are instantiated by objects that hold the corresponding property; when instantiated by real-world objects, degrees (and kinds) deliver the EXISTENTIAL interpretation.

Fieldwork Workshop Meeting Wednesday (10/29) at 2:30PM

Join the Fieldwork Workshop in the Ivan Sag room at 2:30 next Wednesday as they welcome Terrence Kaufman, renowned American Indian fieldworker recently returned from Brazil!

All are welcome!

SMircle Workshop Meeting Monday (10/20) at 3:15PM: Lahousse

Come join the SMircle Workshop on Monday in the Greenberg Room as they welcome Karen Lahousse (KU Leuven) who will discuss her work on verb-subject inversion in French. Her title and abstract are given below.

New arguments in favor of a low analysis for verb-subject inversion in French: on the interplay between syntax and information structure


Verb-nominal subject inversion in French (VS) is subject to a range of constraints having to do with (i) the syntactic structure of the configuration, including the position of the postverbal subject and the way in which (whatever formulation of) EPP is satisfied, (ii) the type of licensing contexts of VS and (iii) the information-structural status of the postverbal subject and the whole construction. Although any account of VS should incorporate these three issues, previous formal-syntactic analyses have concentrated on (i) alone.
In this talk I will present new evidence in favor of the classical ‘low’ analysis for VS (with S being in a low vP internal position, and the V raised lefward past it), and show how the licensing contexts of VS are determined by general information-structural principles interacting with the postverbal subject’s interpretation. Surprisingly, the same licensing contexts hold for impersonal passive constructions, and, thus, seem to be related to the formulation of EPP. A consequence of my proposal is that French VS word order is not radically different from VS in Italian, a welcome conclusion in the light of recent analyses having challenged the pro-drop parameter (which involves a radical distinction between French on the one hand, and Spanish and Italian on the other hand). I will also speculate on the difference between written French, where VS typically occurs, and spoken French, where this is not the case.