Archive for May, 2008

CORRECTION: Bobaljik Colloquium Next Thursday (5/29)

Monday, May 19th, 2008

Getting ‘Better': On Comparative Suppletion and Related Topics

Jonathan Bobaljik
University of Connecticut

I present and discuss four or five universals drawn from across-linguistic study of comparative and superlative morphology. Special attention is given to three generalizations regarding root suppletion in the comparative degree of adjectives (good-better, bad-worse). These generalizations, I contend, have a variety consequences for morphology, semantics and perhaps syntax, particularly in the areas of lexical decomposition (at whatever level this obtains) and the formal treatment of suppletion vs. irregularity. Although comparative suppletion is rare (though attested) outside of Indo-European, and although the data sample is small within any one language, the generalizations over the total data set are surprisingly robust. Two generalizations are given here:

The Comparative-Superlative Generalization:

If the comparative degree of an adjective is built on a suppletive root/stem, then the superlative is also suppletive. The superlative may use the same root as the comparative, or may be further suppletive, but will not use the basic adjectival root. Thus the schema in (1), where A, B, C refer to phonologically unrelated roots.

(1) A – A – A completely regular: short, short-er, short-est
A – B – B suppletive: bad, worse, worst
A – B – C doubly suppletive: Latin ‘good': bonus – melior -optimus
A – B – A *unattested* * bad – worse – baddest

I argue that this generalization favours analyses in which the superlative is not merely related to the comparative (e.g., both involve degree operators), but is rather _derived_from_ the comparative: [[[SHORT]-ER]-(ES)T]. Put somewhat more contentiously, I argue (with a qualification) that UG excludes a morpheme “-EST” (Superlative) that attaches directly to adjectival roots.

The Comparative-Change-of-State Generalization:

If the comparative degree of an adjective is built on a suppletive root, then a derived change-of-state verb (inchoative or causative) will also be suppletive. The verb may use the same root as the comparative (bad – worse – worsen; bonus -melior – meliorare), or may be further suppletive, but will not use the basic adjectival root.

By parity of reasoning to the first section, I must conclude (contra Dowty and others) that change-of-state verbs always include the comparative at some level of representation (cf. Kennnedy & Levin). I will defend this view against a variety of possible objections and examine apparent counter-examples.

Friedman awarded Guggenheim Fellowship

Monday, May 19th, 2008

Victor Friedman has received a 2008 Guggenheim fellowship to research a monograph on the similarities of one of the world’s most linguistically diverse and complex areas. For more detail of his project, see the writeup in the latest issue of the Chronicle. Congratulations, Victor!

2nd Installment of the New Talk Series on Linguistics Research

Monday, May 19th, 2008

From Consumer to Producer: Getting Started in Linguistic Research

SECOND TALK IN NEW SERIES TOMORROW Tuesday May 20th

The University of Chicago Department of Linguistics would like to extend an open invitation to anyone starting work in linguistics, or interested in the process, to the second Beginning Research talk happening tomorrow. Join the speakers and audience after the talks at a reception in the Linguistics Lounge on the third floor of Classics.

“Turning an Idea into A Research Project”
Tuesday May 20th, 3:30 – 5:00 pm, Cobb 201 A/B
Reception from 5:00 pm, Ling Lounge, 3rd Floor Classics

“What is a Linguistics Experiment?”
— Alan Yu, Department of Linguistics

“Institutional Support and Review”
— Chris Kennedy, Department of Linguistics

Please direct all questions or comments to Alice Lemieux at lemieux@uchicago.edu.

New Talk Series on Linguistics Research

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

From Consumer to Producer: Getting Started in Linguistic Research

Ever wondered what the protocol is for working with informants, or how to obtain IRB approval? Ever looked at faculty and advanced graduate students and wondered how they learned all the ins and outs of working within an academic institution to produce original research? The University of Chicago Department of Linguistics would like to extend an open invitation to anyone starting work in linguistics, or interested in the process, to a new series of talks this May. Each talk will consist of presentations by a panel of speakers followed by a thirty minute Q & A period. Come hear experienced researchers share their wisdom (and how they acquired it) and bring your burning questions. Join the speakers and audience after the talks at a reception in the Linguistics Lounge on the third floor of Classics.

“Crafting a Research Topic”
Tuesday May 13th, 3:30 – 5:00 pm, Cobb 201 A/B
Reception from 5:00 pm, Ling Lounge, 3rd Floor Classics

“10 Do’s and Don’t’s of Research in Linguistics”
Jason Merchant, Department of Linguistics

“Getting Started with Research Projects: Phonology, Computational Linguistics, and Beyond”
John Goldsmith, Departments of Linguistics and Computer Science

“Working in Speaker Communities”
Lenore Grenoble, Departments of Linguistics and Slavic Languages & Literature

“Turning an Idea into A Research Project”
Tuesday May 20th, 3:30 – 5:00 pm, Cobb 201 A/B
Reception from 5:00 pm, Ling Lounge, 3rd Floor Classics

“What is a Linguistics Experiment?”
Alan Yu, Department of Linguistics

“Institutional Support and Review”
Chris Kennedy, Department of Linguistics

Hinterwimmer Colloquium on Thursday

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

Different alternatives for topics and foci: Evidence from indefinites and multiple wh

Stefan Hinterwimmer (joint work with Sophie Repp)
Zentrum fur Allgemeine Sprachwisenschaft, Berlin

Thursday May 15, 2008
Cobb 201, 3.30- 5 pm

In gapping, topical indefinites as well as wh-phrases can contrast with surface-identical antecedents if the contrast involved is the first of the two (or more) contrast pairs in the gapping coordination. This is not possible for most other types of expressions. We argue that both topical indefinites and wh-phrases introduce a discourse referent with a fixed address, on the basis of which referents introduced by surface-identical expressions can be contrasted. For the indefinites, we argue that the first contrast pair is a pair of contrastive topics which can, at the same time, be a pair of aboutness topics. These introduce individual addresses (Reinhart 1981). For wh-phrases we follow the assumption that they introduce discourse referents by presupposition. Multiple wh-interrogatives then introduce functions by presup po sition whose domain is provided by the first wh-phrase. The function is specified by giving its extension, i.e. the respective pair-list.