22 March 2015

Homer and Bhatt speak in the department colloq

In connection with the department’s open house this week, Rajesh Bhatt and Vincent Homer will give the department colloquium this Friday, March 27, at 3:30 in N400. The title of their talk is “Move Something.” The abstract follows:

Typically, PPIs cannot be interpreted in the scope of a clausemate negation (barring shielding and rescuing). This means that when a given PPI is such that its scope is uniquely determined by its surface position, as is the case with e.g. would rather, the effect of putting it under a clause-mate negation is plain ungrammaticality.  With indefinites, such as some, things are different: they can appear in that same configuration, provided that they are interpreted with wide scope over negation, which, in their case, is an available option.

In fact, indefinites are independently known to be able to take free wide scope: it is thus a priori possible that a mechanism whereby indefinite PPIs escape out of anti-licensing environments is the same that gives them wide scope out of syntactic islands, i.e. they can be interpreted by choice functions. In this talk, we address the question of the nature of the mechanism at play when, for polarity purposes, elements take wider scope than where they appear on the surface. We present arguments from Hindi-Urdu that, when a PPI surfaces in an anti-licensing environment, the wide scope mechanism that salvages it is movement (overt in Hindi-Urdu), not existential closure of a function-variable.

Introducing Tim Hunter: Syntax Guru

Tim Hunter arrives Monday to take up residence as this year’s syntax guru. Tim received his PhD in 2010 from the University of Maryland, and held post-doctorates at Cornell and Yale before taking up his present post at the University of Minnesota. His dissertation, published by John Benjamins in 2011, explores a way of breaking down the movement and merge operations into more fundamental operations, and uses this to model how movement and structure building operations interact. He meshes this syntax with a neo-Davidsonian semantics to characterize the “argument/adjunct” distinction that syntacticians often use. He has worked on a variety of the classic problems in movement theory: rightward movement, parasitic gaps, relative clauses, remnant movement and the constraints on these constructions. He has also done work on the semantics of certain quantifiers, and their connection with other cognitive systems, as well as the acquisition of determiners by four-to-five year olds. He’s also done work on the formal aspects of minimalist grammars. Some of his work has made direct connections between the form of minimalist grammars and on-line processing. You can get (much) more information from his webpage.

Tim will be in Peggy Speas’s office (N402) during his stay, which ends April 17. You can reach him at timh@umm.edu. His stay is short: be sure to get guru’d early!

Tim Hunter talks in Syntax Workshop

Tim Hunter, this year’s syntax guru, will give a talk in the Syntax Workshop this Thursday,  March 26. We’ll meet in N400, instead of the regular room, and the talk will start at 9:30, rather than the usual 10:00. The title of his talk is “On Finding New Ways to test Old Theories,” and an abstract follows.

This talk will consist of two loosely-connected halves.

The point of departure for the first part is the observation of a surprising exception to the phenomenon known as "vehicle change". These observations have direct consequences for our understanding of the relationship between ellipsis and movement. The generalization that emerges can also be used to construct novel tests that bear on the island-insensitivity of constructions like sluicing, and on whether the EPP is active inside ellipsis sites.

In the second part, I will present an approach to integrating minimalist syntax with information-theoretic sentence complexity metrics, from which it follows that two grammars that are extensionally equivalent --- two grammars which produce the same structures, and differ only in what primitive derivational operations they use to build those structures --- can nonetheless give rise to distinct predictions concerning sentence comprehension difficulty. This provides a linking hypothesis that connects sentence processing observations to subtle questions about the derivational operations that comprise human grammars (merge, move, re-merge, agree, etc.).

Open House

Ivy Hauser writes:

Six admitted students will be visiting our department on Thursday and Friday March 26-27.  We encourage you to attend any activities you can during this time and help us make the students feel welcome!  Here is the schedule.

Thursday 3/269a-10a - Continental breakfast available in the department, meet and greet time

Mid-morning - Students go to classes and meet with faculty

Lunch - Small grad student groups take prospective students to lunch on campus

Afternoon - Students go to classes and meetings

7:00pm - Grad student RG meeting and dinner in Northampton

8:30pm - Grad student outing at the Foundry in Northampton

Friday 3/27

9a-10am - Continental breakfast available

Mid-morning - Students go to classes and meet with faculty

Lunch ~12:30pm - Grad student lunch/forum in the department 

3:30pm - Rajesh Bhatt and Vincent Homer give a colloquium talk

Evening - Department party at Kristine Yu's house in Northampton

Saturday 3/28

Casual small group brunches and outings, airport drop offs

5 Colleges Prosody Evening

Kristine Yu writes:

The inaugural get-together for the Five Colleges prosody community will be happening March 25, 5pm at the lovely abode of our colleague Heather Pon-Barry (CS, Mount Holyoke) in Northampton. This community is led by Meghan Armstrong (UMass, Hispanic Linguistics), Mara Breen (Mount Holyoke, Psychology), Heather Pon-Barry (Mount Holyoke, CS), and Kristine Yu (UMass, Linguistics).

Everyone---especially students---is welcome.  We will be chatting informally about ongoing work, including work that will be presented at ETAP 3 in May.  

Future events will be posted to the ling-prosody list by me, so please get on that (http://www.umass.edu/linguist/news/mailer.php) if you're interested.

Call for papers: AIMM3

We are pleased to announce the third meeting of the American International Morphology Meeting (AIMM3), to be held October 2-4, 2015 in the linguistics department at UMass Amherst. One of the main purposes of the AIMM is to provide a forum for young investigators to present work in morphology, and students and recent Ph.D.’s are especially encouraged to submit abstracts.

For the 2015 meeting, the theme will be morphological processing, though abstracts on any topic in morphology are welcome. We will have a small poster session in addition to regular sessions. The keynote speaker is Harald Baayen (University of Tuebingen). The title and abstract of his lecture will be available at a later date.

The deadline for abstract submission is April 10. Abstracts will be submitted electronically via Linguist List's EasyAbs system. For more information, visit the conference website at:


Formatting guidelines for abstracts are given below:

- Two pages, including examples and references (US letter size)- 11 point type (Ariel font)- One-inch margins- Anonymous- pdf format

The organizing committee:

Alice Harris

John McCarthy

Tom Roeper

Rex Wallace

Shayne Sloggett (student organizer)


Simon Fraser University is hosting WCCFL 33 this weekend, and UMass will be out in force. Current residents of the department at WCCFL are:

Stefan Keine, who will be presenting the paper “Locality domains in syntax: evidence from processing

Robert Staubs, who will be giving the paper “Computational modeling of nonfinality effects on stress typology."

Anisa Schardl, who will be giving the poster “Two kinds of partial movement: Evidence from Dholuo and German wh-questions."

Jon Ander Mendia, who will be giving the poster “Typicality Effects and Distributivity."

Alex Drummond, who will be giving the paper “Decomposing the Spanish Causative Reflexive Passive,” with Dave Kush

Kyle Johnson, who will be giving the paper “3D QR"

Members of the UMass diaspora at WCCFL are:

Elliott Moreton and Jen Smith, who will be giving the paper “Emergent faithfulness to proper nouns in novel English blends,” with Katya Pertsova and Brandon Prickett

Amy Rose Deal, who will be giving the paper “TP is a phase in relative clauses."

Andrew Mckenzie, who will be giving the paper “ ‘Almost’ as a variable-force modal,” with Lydia Newkirk

Ana Arregui, who will be giving the paper “Grammaticalizing the size of situations: the case of Bulgarian,” with Maria Luisa Rivero and Nikolay Slakov

Karen Jesney, who will be giving the paper “Positions are defined on the input: Evidence from repairs in child phonology."

Rose-Marie Déchaine, who will be giving the poster “Head-merge, adjunct-merge, and the syntax of root categorization,” with Natalie Weber

Bhatt at UTA

Rajesh Bhatt has been visiting the University of Texas in Arlington this week. He gave a lecture in Joey Sabbagh’s syntax seminar on agreement in Hindi-Urdu and Kutchi on Thursday. And he gave a colloq talk on Friday on Hindi Polar Questions.