Jeremy Hartman will give two talks at MIT this week — one on Tuesday and the other on Wednesday. The titles and abstracts of his talks follow.
Tuesday, December 15:
What is this construction, that we should be puzzled by it?
I will discuss the construction exemplified below, where a wh- question is followed by a gapless subordinate clause:
a. What were you doing, that you couldn’t come help me?
b. Where is he from, that he talks like that?
c. Who are you, to make that demand?
d. What did she do, that everyone is so mad at her?
A puzzling fact about such sentences is that their declarative counterparts appear to be ungrammatical (*He is from Texas, that he talks like that, *I was on the phone, that I couldn't come help you). Sentences like these have not, to my knowledge, received a detailed analysis in the syntactic literature. I will offer some preliminary observations about their syntactic properties, their meaning, and their relationship to other syntactic phenomena, including degree constructions.
Wednesday, December 16. ESSL/LacqLab 32-D461 at 5:00PM:
Building a corpus for root infinitives
I will present work in progress, on the development of a large database of children's optional infinitive utterances taken from the English CHILDES corpora, and coded for a variety of factors of interest. I'll discuss how the database can be used to asses the effects of several syntactic and phonological factors that have been claimed to influence children's use of the root infinitive, as well as the interactions between these factors.