Invited talks

Friday, October 16

Head movement, phrasal movement, and clitic doubling: towards a principled typology
Omer Preminger (UMD) [Handout]

This talk addresses the different locality conditions that apply to head movement, phrasal movement, and clitic doubling. Building on recent theories of head movement and clitic doubling (Matushansky 2006 and Harizanov 2014, respectively), I propose that there are overlapping domains for head movement and phrasal movement after all (contra Pesetsky & Torrego 2001, for example), and that clitic doubling realizes this overlap. The locality domains for the two types of movement diverge, however, when locality is maximal (i.e., when the probe is the sister of the goal’s maximal projection). In this configuration, anti-locality rules out phrasal movement, but (c-)selection allows head movement to proceed.

Re re-representing phonology: consequences of Q theory
Sharon Inkelas (UC Berkeley)

The last two decades of research in phonological theory have focused almost exclusively on grammar (e.g., Optimality Theory, Harmonic Grammar). In the previous decades, however, the focus was almost exclusively on representations (e.g., autosegmental theory, feature geometry), exploding the traditional segment both vertically (into features and feature hierarchies), and horizontally, through many-to-one and one-to-many mappings between features and segments. Throughout all these changes, the notion of segment has remained largely intact, captured in the notation of an IPA symbol, or (in autosegmental terms) the concept of a autosegmental timing unit.

In this talk, based in part on work with Stephanie Shih, I explore the possibility of exploding the segment into a series of three temporally ordered subsegments, corresponding roughly to the informal concepts of onset, target, and offset of a vowel or consonant. This quantalization of the internal temporal structure of a segment is called Q-theory; it builds both on Steriade’s Aperture Theory and on insights from Articulatory Phonology, but goes beyond both.

Q theory has three main consequences. One is the ability of the theory to model complex segments, including segments (‘Q’) that contrast in the timing of their internal ‘q’ components. A second is that the components of the traditional unit of segment can be referenced independently of one another by the grammar, permitting more insightful descriptions of local and long-distance ‘segmental’ interactions. And a third, which is the primary focus of this talk, is that the notion ‘segment’ becomes emergent rather than preconceived. While Q Theory allows references to Q, or ‘segment’, as a unit of representation, it also permits the analyst to challenge the utility of this concept. A segment can be reconceptualized as a string of q’s which are more similar to one another, more tightly interrelated with one another, than to other adjoining q’s. This insight permits us to entertain the possibility of q-strings both larger and smaller than the traditional segment.

Saturday, October 16

Number and Natural Language
David Barner (UCSD)

Over cultural history humans have developed rich symbolic representations that encode number, culminating in formal mathematics. In this talk I will discuss the cognitive origins of this human capacity for symbolic number representation by taking a developmental approach. In particular, I will focus on the role of natural language in the acquisition of the positive integers. I will argue that children’s first number words, “one”, “two”, and “three” are acquired much like grammatical markers of number, akin to singular, dual, and trial. In support of this, I will present evidence that singular and dual marking selectively speed the acquisition of the numbers “one” and “two” cross-linguistically. Following on this, I will argue that the real domain-specific cultural innovation that led to the development of mathematics was not representing number per se, but instead the creation of the verbal count list, which grew out of ancient one-to-one tally systems.

PPIs and Movement in Hindi-Urdu
Rajesh Bhatt (UMass), joint work with Vincent Homer

Typically, Positive Polarity Items (PPIs), e.g. ‘would rather’, cannot be interpreted in the scope of a clausemate negation (barring rescuing or shielding) (Baker 1970, van der Wouden 1997, Szabolcsi 2004 a.o.):

    1a. John would rather leave.
    1b. *John wouldn’t rather leave.

The scope of most of them is uniquely determined by their surface position. But PPI indefinites are special: they can surface under negation and yet yield a grammatical sentence under a wide scope interpretation:

    2. John didn’t understand something. ok: SOME > NEG; *NEG > SOME

Here we address the question of the mechanism through which a PPI of the ‘some’ type takes wide scope out of an anti-licensing configuration. One possibility is (covert) movement, another is mechanisms that allow indefinites to take (island-violating) ultra-wide scope such as choice functions (Reinhart 1997). The relevant configurations that have motivated choice functions for other languages can be set up for Hindi-Urdu too.

We can therefore assume that a device that generates wide-scope for indefinites without movement is available in Hindi-Urdu too. We show that in Hindi-Urdu at least, this device is unable to salvage PPIs in the relevant configuration. Only good old fashioned overt movement does the needful. If we think of overt movement in Hindi-Urdu as being the analogue of covert movement elsewhere, then the Hindi-Urdu facts are an argument that it is movement, albeit covert, that salvages PPIs in English too, not alternative scope-shifting devices. We explore whether the conclusion from Hindi-Urdu does in fact extend to English.

Sunday, October 18

Theme and variations in the expression of modality
Valentine Hacquard (UMD), joint work with Ailis Cournane

This talk explores the connections between semantic variation, language change and language acquisition, in the domain of modality. Semantic theories aim to explain the convergence and variation that we find in the kinds of meanings languages express, and how analogous meanings can vary in grammatical form. Language acquisition and historical linguistics can help us probe the limits on variation even further: are there meanings, or form-to-meaning mappings, that children never entertain? Are there patterns of meaning change, or form-to-meaning changes, that never occur?
There are clear constraints in how modals pattern cross-linguistically, notably in their interactions with tense and aspect. These constraints are further complicated by the grammatical status of the modal words: modal auxiliaries with epistemic or root meanings interact with tense and aspect differently than verbs or adjectives that express similar meanings. We will discuss how this web of constraints can offer new perspectives on the observed patterns in both diachrony and acquisition, and how, in turn, the innovations we find in children, and the changes these might occasion, can help us shape our semantic theories of modality.