09 March 2013

PsychoSyntax meeting

Brian Dillon writes:

We'll be meeting again this Monday, 3/11, at 3pm in the Partee Room,  like usual! This week, Shayne and I will present Mauner and Koenig's  (2000) article, "Linguistic vs. Conceptual Sources of Implicit Agents in
Sentence Comprehension" (You may find the paper here:).

After discussing the findings in that paper, Shayne will present some pilot data he's collected and thoughts on follow-up experiments... it'd be great if you could come and give feedback on the topic!

03 March 2013

Laura Benua passes

We have learned recently that Laura Benua died of a heart attack on February 21. Laura received her PhD from UMass in 1997 with an influential dissertation on Phonology and Morphology. She had a position at the University of Maryland for a number of years, but left that job in order to devote herself to teaching in New York City public school system. She was a lovely person and a dear friend to many of us. For those who knew her, this is a devastating loss.

There is a service for her today at Nyack, New York, where her home is. A memorial page has been established here, and you can read more about Laura's linguistic career on Eric Bakovic's blog, here.

Paula Menendez-Benito gives department colloq on Monday

Paula Menedez-Benito (University of Goettingen) will give the department colloquium tomorrow, Monday, March 4th at 4:00PM in Machmer W-27. The title of her talk is "Epistemic Indefinites," and an abstract follows.

Epistemic Indefinites: The Case of Spanish

(joint work with Luis Alonso-Ovalle (McGill))

Across languages, we find epistemic indefinites, existential determiners that signal ignorance on the part of the speaker (see Haspelmath (1997)). Over the last fifteen years, a substantial body of work on the semantics of epistemic indefinites has appeared (see references in Alonso-Ovalle and Mene ́ndez-Benito (to appear)). Taken together, these studies outline a research program that aims to provide an explanatory semantic typology of epistemic indefinites by determining across which parameters epistemic indefinites can vary, how these parameters interact, and why. The work presented in this talk contributes to this enterprise by analyzing the epistemic effect of Spanish "algu ́n," and investigating the interaction of this effect with number morphology.

In its singular form, Spanish algu ́n conveys speaker’s ignorance. By using "alga ́n" in (1a), the speaker signals that she does not know which student María married. Hence, it would be odd for her to add a namely continuation that explicitly identifies the student in question, as in (1b). Surprisingly, the plural version of "algu ́n," "algunos," does not trigger an ignorance effect, as shown by (2). This talk provides an account of the contrast between (1) and (2). We will argue (i) that the epistemic effect of "algún" comes about because this item imposes an anti-singleton constraint on its domain of quantification, and (ii) that the interaction of this constraint with plural morphology blocks the epistemic effect. The talk also reports on work in progress that extends this account to the complex determiner "algu ́n que otto," which conveys an ‘I don’t know how many’ effect (witness (3)). The picture that emerges from this investigation is that epistemic effects triggered by indefinites are linked to properties of the domain of quantification, such as the size of the domain, its internal structure, and the type of entities quantified over.

(1) a. María se casó con algún estudiante.

           María married with ALGUN student

           (Maria married some student or other.)

      b. María se casó con algún estudiante # en concreto con Juan.

           María married with ALGUN student namely Juan

         (Maria married some student or other, namely John.)

(2) María vive con algunos estudiantes, en concreto con Pedro y con Juan.

      María lives with ALGUNOS student, namely Pedro and Juan

     (Maria lives with some student, namely Pedro and Juan.)

(3) María vive con algún que otro estudiante.

      María lives with ALGUN QUE OTRO student

      (Maria lives with students --- I don't know how many.)

Acquisition Lab/LARC meeting tomorrow

Magda Oiry writes:

This coming Monday, we will meet for a new acquisition lab / LARC meeting in the Partee Room at 12:05 to hear two presentations:

Andie Faber: "Experimental considerations for Gender Constraints in L2 Acquisition"


Rama Novogrodsky, Seth Cable and Tom Roeper: "Acquisition of Each/every and Event Separation"

Paula Menendez-Benito gives talk on Tuesday

Paula Menendez-Benito will give a semantics talk on Tuesday, March 5, at 4:00PM in Machmer W-27. A title and abstract follow.

On Choosing Randomly

(joint work with Luis Alonso-Ovalle (McGill))

Many languages have indefinites that trigger modal inferences in the absence of an overt modal. Some of these items signal speaker’s ignorance. Others indicate that an agent made a random choice. While the former type has received a lot of attention in recent years (see Alonso-Ovalle and Mene ́ndez-Benito (to appear) for references), random choice indefinites are comparatively less studied (but see Choi (2007); Choi and Romero (2008); Alonso-Ovalle and Mene ́ndez-Benito (2011)). This talk paves the way towards a better understanding of random choice indefinites by analyzing the interpretation and distribution of Spanish "uno cualquiera."

The sentence in (1) illustrates the random choice reading of "uno cualquiera": (1) can be understood as saying that Juan took a card and that his choice was indiscriminate. This reading has a restricted distribution. Cases like (1), where "uno cualquiera" is in object position, are ambiguous between the random choice reading and an evaluative reading that conveys that Juan took an unremarkable card (and is compatible with him having chosen the card carefully.) In subject position, only the evaluative reading is available: (2) can only mean that an unremarkable student spoke.

(1) Juan cogio ́ una carta cualquiera. 

       John took a card CUALQUIERA.

(2) Hablo ́ un estudiante cualquiera.

      Spoke a student CUALQUIERA

We argue that "uno cualquiera" introduces a modal component that is anchored to the event described by the sentence. This component derives the random choice reading of sentences like (1) (roughly, that the agent’s decision is compatible with any of a number of actions under consideration), and blocks the random choice reading of (2) by deriving a contradiction. Our proposal is in line with some recent work on verbal modality where modal domains are projected from small particulars (events or individuals), rather than from whole worlds (see Hacquard (2006, 2009); Kratzer (2012)).

Nazarov at PRG on Thursday

This Thursday, March 7, Alex Nazarov will be presenting a paper to PRG, which meets at Packards in Northampton at 6:30. 

Nick LaCara at SRG on Thursday

Jason Overfelt writes:

Please join us this Thursday (March 7th) at 6:30p for a meeting of the Syntax Reading Group.  This week we will be hearing a practice talk by Nick LaCara titled `Inversion, deletion, and focus in as-parentheticals'.  The meeting will be at Elizabeth's place at 50 Phillips Place in Northampton.  Bring $5 for pizza or your own dinner.

LaTeX for Linguistics Workshop on Wednesday

Jeremy Cahill of the Linguistic Club writes:

Linguistics Club invites you to join us next Wednesday for an interactive LaTeX workshop!

WHEN: Wednesday, March 6, 5:30 - 7:30 PM
WHERE: Machmer W-15

Presenters Felix Lehmann, Steffen Hildebrandt, and Ilia Kurenkov will cover LaTeX basics as well as tools for linguistic typesetting. To get the most out of the workshop, make sure to bring a laptop (no installation required -- just internet access). Check out the attached flyer to see a bit of LaTeX in action.

{ What is LaTeX? A (free) document preparation system widely used by professional linguists, mathematicians, and others with unusual typesetting needs or who just want their documents to be of very high quality. }

Space is limited!

Sign up here: http://bit.ly/UMassLaTeX

or RSVP at: jccahill@student.umass.edu

Call for Papers: Tbilisi Symposium on Language, Logic and Compuatation


23-27 September 2013
Gudauri, Georgia


The Tenth International Tbilisi Symposium on Language, Logic and
Computation will be held on 23-27 September 2013 in Gudauri,
Georgia. The Programme Committee invites submissions for contributions
on all aspects of language, logic and computation. Work of an
interdisciplinary nature is particularly welcome. Areas of interest
include, but are not limited to:

* Algorithmic game theory
* Computational social choice
* Constructive, modal and algebraic logic
* Formal models of multiagent systems
* Historical linguistics, history of logic
* Information retrieval, query answer systems
* Language evolution and learnability
* Linguistic typology and semantic universals
* Logic, games, and formal pragmatics
* Logics for artificial intelligence
* Natural language syntax, semantics, and pragmatics

Authors can submit an abstract of four pages (including references) at
the EasyChair conference system here:



The programme will include the following invited lectures and


Logic: Rosalie Iemhoff (Utrecht)
Language: Daniel Altshuler (Duesseldorf)
Computation: Samson Abramsky (Oxford)

Invited Lectures:

Balder ten Cate (Santa Cruz)
Agata Ciabattoni (Vienna)
Thomas Colcombet (Paris)
Galit Sassoon (Jerusalem)
Alexandra Silva (Nijmegen)
Sergei Tatevosov (Moscow)


There will also be a workshop on Algebraic Proof Theory organized by
A. Ciabattoni and R. Iemhoff and a workshop on Aspect organized by
D. Altshuler, D. Hole and S. Tatevosov. More information can be found
on the TbiLLC website.


Post-proceedings of the symposium will be published in the LNCS series
of Springer.


Submission deadline: May 1, 2013
Notification: July 1, 2013
Final abstracts due: August 1, 2013
Registration deadline: September 1, 2013
Symposium: September 23-27, 2013

Programme and submission details can be found at: