Spell-Out Blog

Week of April 21, 2014

Thesis Defense

Laura Grestenberger
Feature Mismatch: Deponency in Indo-European Languages
Wednesday, April 23 | 3pm-6pm | Boylston 303

GSAS Indo-European and Historical Linguistics Workshop:

Alan Nussbaum (Cornell University)
Greek νῶκαρ ‘lethargy’ and Other Weighty Matters
Friday, April 25 | 5:15pm | Boylston 303

Harvard at ECO5

Three student presenters represented Harvard at this year's Maryland-MIT-Harvard-UMass-UConn Workshop in Formal Linguistics (ECO5) that took place at the University of Maryland on April 19:

  • Dorothy Ahn: 'Additive either as a disjunctive NPI counterpart of too'
  • Laurence B-Violette: 'Object-subject obviation: evidence from French'
  • Lena Borise: 'The Syntax of Answers to Negative Polarity Questions in English and Russian'

Undergraduate Linguistics Colloquium

The 11th Annual Undergraduate Linguistics Colloquium at Harvard that took place this past weekend was a great success. Twenty-one undergraduates representing 13 different schools presented the results of their hard work and shared novel ideas or approaches to a broad range of issues in linguistics. The organizers of the event would especially like to thank Helen Lewis for all her help with organizing the event; Edwin Tsai for his constant reminders and advice; Professor Masha Polinsky for speaking at the opening ceremony; Professor Jacobsen for a great keynote talk; and to the linguistics department as a whole for the support, both in terms of funding and encouragement.


Left to right: Kenneth Mai, Carl Rogers, Priyanka Sen (Organizers)

[Photos by Carl Rogers]

MIT Colloquium 

Richard Kayne (NYU)
Friday, April 25| 3:30-5pm | 32-141

IX Whatmough Lecture

Barbara Partee (UMass-Amherst)
Monday, April 28, 2014 | 4:00pm to 6:00pm | Sever Hall 113

This year's Annual Joshua and Verona Whatmough will feature Barbara Partee, Distinguished University Professor Emerita of Linguistics and Philosophy at UMass-Amherst. She is one of the founders of contemporary formal semantics. 

Week of April 14, 2014

GSAS Indo-European and Historical Linguistics Workshop:

Gašper Beguš (Harvard University)
Vedic Metrics and the Restoration of the Lost *v
Monday, April 14 | 5:15pm | Boylston 303

Language Universals/Polinsky Lab Meeting 

Bronwyn Bjorkman (University of Toronto)
Ergative as Perfective Oblique
Wednesday, April 16 | 5:15pm | 2 Arrow Street (4th floor conference room)

Linguistics Circle Workshop 

Alec Marantz (New York University)
Competition and Prediction in Word Processing: MEG Studies of Visual and Auditory Word Recognition
Friday, April 18 | 4:30pm | Boylston 103

Undergraduate Linguistics Colloquium

The 11th Annual Undergraduate Linguistics Colloquium at Harvard, hosted by the Harvard College Linguistics Group and the Harvard Linguistics Department, will take place this Saturday, April 19. The event will feature a keynote speech by Professor Wesley Jacobsen, as well as presentations of original research by over 20 undergraduates from universities across the country. More information including the schedule can be found in the program.

Harvard at CLS 50

Jenny Lee presented her work "Root allomorphy in Ranmo (Papuan)" at the 50th annual meeting of the Chicago Linguistics Society, which took place at the University of Chicago, April 10-12.

Congratulations, Dr. Liu!

Congratulations to Chi-Ming (Louis) Liu who has successfully defended his dissertation, "A Modular Theory of Radical Pro Drop."


Left to right: Maria Polinsky, Louis Liu, C.-T. James Huang.

Congratulations, Louis!
[Photos by Edwin Tsai]

IX Whatmough Lecture

Barbara Partee (UMass-Amherst)

"The History of Formal Semantics: Changing Notions of Semantic Competence"
Monday, April 28, 2014 | 4:00pm to 6:00pm | Sever Hall 113

This year's Annual Joshua and Verona Whatmough will feature Barbara Partee, Distinguished University Professor Emerita of Linguistics and Philosophy at UMass-Amherst. She is one of the founders of contemporary formal semantics. 

Week of April 7, 2014

Thesis Defense

Chi-Ming (Louis) Liu
A Modular Theory of Radical Pro Drop
Tuesday, April 8 | 3pm-5:30pm | Boylston 303

Polinsky Wins Advising Award

Professor Maria Polinsky, Linguistics Director of Undergraduate Studies, has won a faculty advising award from the Star Family Prizes for Excellence in Advising from the Advising Programs Office. Established three years ago, the award recognizes 12 advisors each year for their outstanding guidance and mentorship in their work with undergraduates. Congratulations, Masha!

Language Universals/Polinsky Lab Meeting 

Duygu Ozge (Harvard University)
Morpheme-based incremental processing in head-final child language
Wednesday, April 9 | 5:15pm | 2 Arrow Street (4th floor conference room)

GSAS Indo-European and Historical Linguistics Workshop:

Nicholas Zair (University of Cambridge)
Why the Oscans couldn't spell, and what it tells us about Oscan
Wednesday, April 9 | 5:15pm | Boylston 303

I will be talking about the spelling of Oscan inscriptions written in the Greek alphabet from the south of Italy. Contrary to previous suggestions, I'll show that there were no fixed spelling conventions for these inscriptions; this variation provides evidence for interesting things to do with the phonology and morphology of Oscan (and Proto-Italic), and also has implications for approaches to the dating of inscriptions and the sociolinguistics of Oscan in the south.

Linguistics Circle Workshop 

Mark Baker (Rutgers University)
Parameters of Structural Case
Thursday, April 10 | 5:30pm | Sever Hall 306

Clemens at University of Iowa

Lauren Eby Clemens gave a colloquium talk on her work "A Prosodic Account of Niuean Pseudo Noun Incorporation" on Thursday, April 3 at the University of Iowa.

Harvard at GLOW 37

A number of student and faculty presenters represented Harvard at the 37th Generative Linguistics in the Old World (GLOW) that took place April 2-4 in Brussels:

  • Zuzanna Fuchs, Maria Polinsky, and Gregory Scontras: ‘The Differential Representation of Number and Gender in Spanish’
  • Yimei Xiang: Focus structure and NPI-licensing
  • Laura Grestenberger: Localizing Voice in bivalent voice systems: passive and middle in Sanskrit and Greek
  • Isabelle Charnavel: The Clitic Binding Restriction revisited: evidence for antilogophoricity (joint work with Victoria Mateu, UCLA)

Week of March 31, 2014

GSAS Indo-European and Historical Linguistics Workshop:

Alexander Forte & Caley Smith (Harvard University)
The Parallel Reception of Traditional Poetry in Early Philosophy
Monday, March 31 | 5:15pm | Boylston 303

Linguistics Department Spring Open House

The Linguistics Department Spring Open House for prospective concentrators will take place on Tuesday, April 1 from 4:00 to 6:00pm in the department lounge. Refreshments will be provided. Everyone is very much welcome to attend and mingle!

Harvard at PLC 38

Jenny Lee presented her work "Constructed dual in Hopi: A cyclic insertion approach" at the 38th Penn Linguistics Colloquium (PLC) on Saturday, March 29.

MIT Colloquium 

Adamantios Gafos (Haskins Laboratories, Universität Potsdam)
Friday, April 4 | 3:30-5pm | 32-141

Thesis Defense

Chi-Ming (Louis) Liu
A Modular Theory of Radical Pro Drop
Tuesday, April 8 | 3pm-5:30pm | Boylston 303

Laura Grestenberger
Feature Mismatch: Deponency in Indo-European Languages
Wednesday, April 23 | 2pm-5pm | Sever 213

Lauren Eby Clemens
Wednesday, April 30 | 11am-2pm | Boylston 303

Week of March 24, 2014

Language Universals/Polinsky Lab Meeting 

Spanish Agreement II: A discussion of Spanish agreement in native and heritage speakers
Discussion led by Maria PolinskyGreg ScontrasZuzanna Fuchs
Wednesday, March 26 | 5:15pm | 2 Arrow Street (4th floor conference room)

Linguistics Circle Workshop 

Sharon Inkelas (UC Berkeley)
ABC+Q: segmental subdivisions in correspondence
Friday, March 28 | 4:30pm | Boylston 103

Phonological theory has long been challenged by the behavior of contour segments and contour tones in harmony patterns. Sometimes these entities participate in phonology as whole units; at other times, their subsegmental parts act independently. This talk, based on joint work with Stephanie Shih (Stanford/Berkeley), builds on insights from Aperture Theory (Steriade 1993), Articulatory Phonology (Browman and Goldstein 1989; Gafos 2002) and Autosegmental Theory (Goldsmith 1976) to propose a novel phonological representation for segments: each segment (‘Q’) is subdivided into a maximum of three ordered subsegmental phases (‘q’) that host unitary sets of distinctive features and can participate in harmony and other processes. Embedded into Agreement by Correspondence theory (Hansson 2001, Rose and Walker 2004), Q theory makes it possible to describe the dual behavior of contours. Q-level correspondence gives rise to whole-contour assimilation and dissimilation; q-level correspondence gives rise to interactions among the parts of contours. The predictions of ABC+Q theory are illustrated with evidence from local and nonlocal interactions among consonants, vowels, and tones.

Week of March 17, 2014

Happy Spring Break!

Harvard's Spring Recess began Saturday, March 15, and ends Sunday, March 23. There will be no classes and the department will have limited hours.

Larson, Nicolae, Majer, and Stranahan Win Teaching Award

Visiting Lecturer Bradley LarsonCollege Fellow Andreea Nicolae, Marek Majer and Laine Stranahan have won Harvard University Certificate of Distinction in Teaching from the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning.

  • Brad Larson: Ling 102 "Sentence Structure" and Ling 112 "Syntactic Theory I"
  • Andreea Nicolae: Ling 116 "Semantic Theory I"
  • Marek Majer: Ling 108 "Introduction to Historical Linguistics" (TF)
  • Laine Stranahan: Ling 102 "Sentence Structure" (TF)

Congratulations!

Week of March 10, 2014

Call for Abstracts: Undergraduate Linguistics Colloquium 2014

The 11th Annual Undergraduate Linguistics Colloquium at Harvard will take place April 19-20, 2014. The conference is open to all interested students regardless of area of interest or level of training. See the call for abstracts for more information. The deadline for receipt of all submissions is Wednesday, March 19.

Harvard at WCCFL 32

Isabelle Charnavel presented "Antilogophoricity in Clitic Clusters" (joint work with Victoria Mateu) at the 32nd West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics (WCCFL 32) which took place on March 7-9 at the University of Southern California.

Language Universals/Polinsky Lab Meeting 

Spanish Agreement I: A discussion of syntax and processing in Spanish number and gender agreement
Discussion led by Maria Polinsky, Greg ScontrasZuzanna Fuchs
Wednesday, March 12 | 5:15pm | 2 Arrow Street (4th floor conference room)

Please go to the event page for the readings.

MIT Colloquium 

Marcel den Dikken (CUNY)
Friday, March 14 | 3:30-5pm | 32-141

Week of March 3, 2014

MIT Syntax Square

Laura Grestenberger (Harvard University)
Two voice mismatch puzzles in Sanskrit and Greek
Tuesday, March 4 | 1pm | 32-D461

Sanskrit and Greek both have binary voice systems in which active morphology alternatives with non-active (middle) morphology. In this talk I will present two problems in the morphosyntax of these languages, both of which concern exponence of voice morphology in unexpected syntactic environments ("voice mismatches").
The first one comes from deponent verbs, which take non-active morphology, but syntactically and semantically behave exactly like active agentive verbs. The second problem arises in contexts in which a distinct passive morpheme is available. Contrary to what is expected in standard approaches to Voice, this passive morpheme obligatorily co-occurs with middle morphology (Sanskrit) or active morphology (Greek). I propose that both puzzles can be solved by adopting an approach in which only active and middle are values of vP, while passive is a distinct functional head. In this approach, only passive is valency-changing, while active/middle are sensitive to their syntactic environment but do not operate on it.  I will show that this predicts the distribution of active and middle morphology in languages like Sanskrit and Greek, as well as where potential mismatches can occur.

GSAS Indo-European and Historical Linguistics Workshop:

Tyler Lau (Harvard University)
Microvariation in Ryukyuan Verbal Morphology
Wednesday, March 5 | 5:15pm | Boylston 303

The Ryukyuan languages show remarkable diversity in verbal morphology. One area in which differences are of note are in what are traditionally called by Classical Japanese grammarians the "irrealis" forms (comprising of the negative, passive, and causative verb forms). I explore differences, especially in the vowel-final verb classes in the Ryukyuan languages vis-à-vis Japanese and discuss implications for past discussions of Proto-Japono-Ryukyuan morphology.

Language Universals/Polinsky Lab Meeting 

Reading: Jarosz 2010
Discussion led by Kevin Ryan
Wednesday, March 5 | 5:15pm | 2 Arrow Street (4th floor conference room)

Language Universals and Linguistic Diversity Colloquium 

Gaja Jarosz (Yale University)
Modeling the Acquisition of Phonological Structure
Friday, March 7 | 4:30pm | Boylston 103

Please go to the event page for the abstract.

Week of February 24, 2014

Language Universals/Polinsky Lab Meeting 

Boris Harizanov (University of California, Santa Cruz)
Syntactically decomposing denominal adjectives in Bulgarian
Wednesday, February 26 | 5:15pm | 2 Arrow Street (4th floor conference room)

Please go to the Universals Workshop page for the abstract.

Linguistics Circle Workshop 

Mark Hale (Concordia University, Montréal, QC)
What is Diachronic Syntax a Theory of? Transcending ‘the physical body of the sentence’
Friday, February 28 | 4:30pm | Boylston 103

Please go to the Circles Workshop page for the abstract.

Week of February 17, 2014

Polinsky Lab Meeting:

Jeffrey T. Runner (University of Rochester)
Binding constraints in action: implications for processing
Wednesday, February 19 | 5:30pm | 2 Arrow Street (4th floor conference room)

In this talk I will present the results of two visual world eye-tracking experiments. The first, done in collaboration with Kellan Head, was designed to test two claims in the literature: (a) that the binding theory is a set of "linked" constraints as in the classic binding theory (Chomsky 1981) and HPSG's binding theory (Sag, Wasow & Bender 2003); and (b) that the binding theory applies as an initial filter on processing (Nicol & Swinney 1989, Sturt 2003). Experiment 1 results instead support two different claims: (a) that the constraint(s) on pronouns and the constraint(s) on reflexives are separate constraints that apply differently and with different timelines, in line with "primitives of binding" theory, Reuland (2001, 2011); and (b) that neither constraint applies as an initial filter on processing, as in Badecker & Straub (2001). Experiment 2, done in collaboration with Kim Morse, further explores the relationship between pronouns and reflexives, showing even more clearly that the resolution of the appropriate antecedent for pronouns is delayed compared to that of reflexives. This project started as an examination of the on-line effects of the constraints of the binding theory, developing an approach based on Nicol & Swinney 1989, Badecker & Straub 2001, and Sturt 2003. Recent work, however, implicates the critical role of memory access in reflexive interpretation (Dillon et al. 2013). Thus, I will also try to relate the current results to current models of memory access.

Language Universals and Linguistic Diversity Colloquium 

Benjamin Bruening (University of Delaware)
Subject-Verb Inversion as Generalized Alignment
Friday, February 21 | 4:30pm | Boylston 103

This talk explores the idea that what is behind subject-verb inversion in many languages, including subject-auxiliary inversion in English, is phonological alignment, as in the theory of Generalized Alignment (McCarthy and Prince 1993).  Specifically, a projection of C needs to be aligned with an edge of the tensed verb.  I show that this explains many facts about subject-auxiliary inversion in English, including facts that are puzzling for traditional views of that phenomenon.  I also explore cross-linguistic variation in how the Align constraint can be stated, and show that differences between English and Stylistic Inversion in French fall out from the way Align constraints can vary.

Fieldwork Updates

Jenny Lee spent the semester in Papua New Guinea, collecting data on a previously unstudied language, Ranmo (a dialect of Blafe), spoken by around 300 in Western Province. The language has a very complex inflectional morphology, with many implications for the syntax/morphology interface to be spelled out. She enjoyed working with consultants, planting yams, and bathing in the rain/creek with children, but will not miss the 40-km bike ride through the jungle.