10 April 2011

Abels gives colloq on Friday, April 15


Klaus Abels will give the colloquium on Friday, April 15, at 3:30 in Machmer E37. Professor Abels is this year's syntax guru, and can be found in Barbara Partee's office on the third floor of South College. He will be in residence until the end of the month.

The title and abstract of his talk follow.

Where does the fine structure of the left periphery come from?

Ever since Rizzi's (1997) paper on the fine structure of the left periphery it has often been taken for granted that an explanation of the order of elements in the left periphery should take the form of a fine-grained, stipulated hierarchy of dedicated functional heads. In this talk I suggest that the order of elements in the left periphery instead follows to a large extent directly from considerations of locality without the need to invoke a cartographic template for the left periphery. I claim that both empirical and explanatory gains can be made by this shift in perspective.

Mini-Workshop with Chris Kennedy and Hans Kamp

There will be a mini workshop tied to the semantics seminar this week that includes two talks: one by Hans Kamp and the other by Chris Kennedy. The mini workshop will take place on Wednesday, April 13, from 2:00-6:00 in Bartlett 205.

Chris Kennedy will present: "Possible Scales: Gradable modals vs. graded modality"


Hans Kamp will present: "'I' and 'you' as vehicles for 'de se' and 'de re'."

SNEWS on Saturday, April 16

This coming Saturday, the annual Souther New England Workshop in Semantics will be held at UConn. Jennifer Rau will present "Biscuit conditionals, factual conditionals and the nature of conditional clauses," and Andrew Weir will present "Failure of existential exportation in apparently transparent contexts in English." For more information go to the SNEWS website: SNEWS at UConn

Ellen Lau speaks at the Cognitive Psychology Brown Bag

Ellen Lau from University of Maryland and Mass General Hospital, will be giving the Brown Bag talk on Wednesday, April 13 at 12-1:20 in Tobin 521B. The title and abstract follow.

Context Effects in Comprehension: Active Prediction or Passive Priming?

Much previous work has shown that predictive contexts can facilitate processing of subsequent words, as evidenced by reductions in reaction times, reading times, and N400 amplitudes. In this talk I will discuss two candidate mechanisms that could account for many of these 'predictive' effects: 1) active prediction of upcoming material and 2) passive priming of upcoming material by concepts and scenarios activated in long-term memory. I will highlight some of the challenges of distinguishing between these mechanisms with classic sentence paradigms, and I will present new data from a study in which we use an artificial semantic priming paradigm in EEG, MEG, and fMRI to look for neural signatures that might be used to distinguish active prediction from passive priming in typical comprehension.

MIT-150 Symposium “Brains, Minds and Machines”

As part of the festivities surrounding MIT’s 150th anniversary, there will be a 3-day symposium, “Brains, Minds and Machines” May 3-5, which includes linguistics and cognitive science as well as neuroscience and AI. The co-organizers are Irene Heim, Tomaso Poggio, and Josh Tenenbaum. Events begin at 4PM on Tuesday May 3, and the opening panel which starts at 5pm is as follows:

Keynote Panel

The Golden Age—A Look at the Original Roots of Artificial Intelligence, Cognitive Science and Neuroscience

  • Emilio Bizzi, Institute Professor, Eugene McDermott Professor in the Brain Sciences and Human Behavior, MIT
  • Sydney Brenner, Senior Distinguished Fellow of the Crick-Jacobs Center, Salk Institute
  • Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor & Professor of Linguistics, Emeritus, MIT
  • Marvin Minsky, Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, Emeritus, MIT
  • Barbara Partee, Distinguished University Professor Emerita of Linguistics and Philosophy, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
  • Patrick H. Winston, Ford Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Computer Science, MIT

Moderator: Steven Pinker, Harvard College Professor and Johnstone Family Professor, Deptartment of Psychology, Harvard University


Also of interest, a panel on Wednesday the 4th:

11 am-12:30 pm

Language and Thought

  • Susan Carey, Professor of Psychology, Harvard University
  • Gennaro Chierchia, Haas Foundations Professor of Linguistics and Chair, Deptartment of Linguistics, Harvard University
  • Steven Pinker, Harvard College Professor and Johnstone Family Professor, Deptartment of Psychology, Harvard University
  • Patrick H. Winston, Ford Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Computer Science, MIT

Moderator: Irene Heim, Professor of Linguistics and Department Head, MIT

Alice Harris gives talk at University of Chicago

Alice Harris gave an invited lecture at the the Graduate Workshop on Language Variation and Change at the University of Chicago on April 1. The title of her talk was "Origins of Metathesis in Batsbi." An abstract follows:

Blevins and Garrett (1998) investigate in detail the origins of CV/VC metathesis in a number of languages and identify two types of metathesis and a “pseudometathesis”.  For them, “pseudometathesis” is a synchronic process that does not originate through the historical process of metathesis.  They analyze languages in which “pseudometathesis” originates through epenthesis and deletion (1998) or through reinterpretation and generalization of other processes in the language (Garrett and Blevins 2009).  I argue here that metathesis in Batsbi originates as a result of grammaticalization, together with regular phonological processes.  When a function word, such as an auxiliary, grammaticalizes as an affix on a base, affixes trapped between the base and new affix are often lost (Harris and Faarlund 2006).  However, in Batsbi some trapped affixes were not immediately lost, and I argue that this is the source of the variable position of the present tense marker, and that its variable position was reanalyzed as metathesis.   I argue further that the reanalyzed process is true metathesis synchronically, inasmuch as it spreads beyond the environment in which it originally occurred.

McCarthy/Pater grant group meets on Tuesday

On Tuesday April 12th, the McCarthy/Pater grant group will meet at 4 pm to hear Karen Jesney talk about necessary and sufficient conditions for OT/HG differences.

Peggy Speas makes the Hampshire Gazette

Peggy Speas was featured in an article in the Hampshire Gazette for her work with the Navajo Language Academy. Her work is described in the SAIVUS Blog: SAIVUS Blog » Navajo Gets Help from UMASS Professor

Semantics and Linguistic Theory program out

The SALT 21 program has just appeared. SALT 21 occurs on May 20-22 at Rutgers University. Our own Angelika Kratzer is one of the invited speakers. She will be presenting "What can *can* mean." Recent UMass visiting professor, Floris Roelofsen will be giving a talk (with Maria Aloni) entitled "Indefinites as comparatives." And Danial Altshuler, of Hampshire College, will be presenting: "Towards a More Fine-Grained Theory of Temporal Adverbials."

The schedule is loaded with past and present UMass students as well. Ilaria Frana and Kyle Rawlins are postering: "Unconditional concealed questions and the nature of Heim's ambiguity."  Maria Biezma is postering "Conditional inversion and givenness." And Louis Alonso-Ovalle and Paula Menendez-Benito are postering: "Two Types of Epistemic Indefinites: Private Ignorance vs. Public Indifference."

More information can be found at:  SALT 2011 at Rutgers - Home

Noah Constant talks at Harvard

Noah Constant gave a talk on March 31 at the colloquium series on Language Universals and Linguistic Fieldwork at Harvard University. His talk was entitled "Appositives After All: Reevaluating Mandarin Relative Clauses."

On the Acquisition Sequence

Prospies 2032?:


(thanks Peggy!)

Barbara and Volodja on the road

Barbara and Volodja were in St. Petersburg March 25-27 for the second “Constructional & Lexical Semantic Approaches to Russian” conference, where Barbara gave a talk on behalf of the team of Borschev, Paducheva, Partee, Testelets, and Yanovich: “Where lexicon, syntax, semantics and pragmatic implicatures meet: the genitive of negation and the genitive of intentionality in Russian.”