Archive for the ‘visits’ Category

Talk by Wagner on May 6

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Departmental Colloquium

Information Structure Effects on Prosody: English vs. French

Michael Wagner
McGill University

Cobb 201
2:30-4pm *NOTE NEW TIME*

Germanic and Romance languages differ in how prosody is affected by information structure.  Ladd (2008), e.g., observes contrasts between English and Italian that reveal differences in how argument structure and  information structure affect prosody. These differences seem to generalize to other Romance and Germanic languages (see Swerts et al. 2002, Swerts 2007 for experimental evidence on Dutch, Italian, and Romanian). Using evidence (mainly from English and French), this talk explores the semantic, syntactic, and phonological underpinnings of the prosodic differences. The observed patterns suggest a connection between seemingly unrelated facts, e.g., the stresslessness of indefinite pronouns such as ‘something’ and contrastive focus; they reveal that both semantic and phonological givenness play a role in focus marking, as do constraints on syntactic movement; they cast doubt on claims of a universal nuclear stress (Cinque 1993); and finally, they have repercussions in sometimes unexpected ways, e.g., they influence what types of rhyme are considered artistic in poetry.

Pesetsky here next week

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

David Pesetsky (MIT) will be on campus next week on Thursday, March 4. He’ll give a talk on “Russian case morphology and the syntactic categories” (abstract below) at 10:30 a.m.

He is also giving a different talk on islands (abstract here) at the University of Illinois at Chicago the following day.

Abstract (for U. of C. talk)

Sometimes it is the oddest facts that provide the best clues to significant properties of language, because their very oddity limits the space in which we are likely to search for possible explanations. In  this talk, I argue that the strange behavior of  Russian nominal phrases with paucal numerals (‘two’, ‘three’ and ‘four’) provide clues of just this type concerning the syntactic side of morphological case.

When a nominal phrase like the Russian counterpart of ‘these last two beautiful tables’ occupies a nominative environment, the pre-numeral demonstrative and adjective (‘these last’) bear nominative plural morphology, and the numeral itself is nominative. The post-numeral adjective (‘beautfiul’), however, is often genitive plural; and the noun (‘table’) is genitive singular — a situation that the illustrious Russian grammarian Peshkovsky (1956) characterized as “a typical example of the degree to which grammatical and logical thinking may diverge”.

I suggest that the behavior of these phrases is actually entirely logical — once one adopts a particular structural analysis of the Russian DP and a particular view of the nature of case morphology. Developing ideas by Richards (2007), I propose that Russian is a covert case-stacking language in which the realization of outer case morphemes suppresses the pronunciation of inner morphemes — with this process restricted, however, by the phonological freezing effect of phase spell-out (Chomsky 1995; 2001).  The case affixes themselves — traditionally classified using case-specific sui generis terminology (nominative, genitive, etc.) — are actually instantiations of the various syntactic categories: N, P and V.  The interaction of this proposal with the theory of phases and spellout raises at least the possibility that there is no special theory of morphological case.

Kratzer on campus Friday

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

This Friday, June 5, the Workshop on Philosophy of Language and Semantics, co-sponsored by the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, will be hosting Angelika Kratzer from UMass Amherst. Her talk will be in Cobb 110 from 1-3 p.m. Please join us!

Public conversation with Lila Gleitman on May 11

Saturday, May 9th, 2009

The second in a series of public conversations entitled Lives in Linguistics

Lila Gleitman
Rutgers University
Monday, 11 May 2009
4 pm
Franke Institute for the Humanities
Regenstein Library
The University of Chicago

Nicholas Ostler lecture on May 12

Saturday, May 9th, 2009

“The Jungle is Neutral: Newcomer Languages Face New Media”
Nicholas Ostler, President, Foundation for Endangered Languages

Tuesday, May 12
4:00-5:30 pm with reception to follow at

Franke Institute for the Humanities
1100 East 57th Street, JRL S-118

Co-sponsored by the Big Problems program in the College and the Franke Institute for the Humanities

Nicholas Ostler is the author of Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World (2005) and Ad Infinitum: A Biography of Latin (2008). The first is an unparalleled account of major language expansions through colonization since antiquity, richly grounded historically in dynamics of trade, political domination, and other socio-economic interactions between different populations.