Current Colloquium


University of Arizona

LING 495A/ 595A – Linguistics Department Colloquium

Spring 2017

Organizer:      Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini (
Schedule:      Fridays, 3:00pm – 4:30pm in Communication 311


January 13. Special Session: What do you know about departmental outreach activities?

Our Department has undertaken a variety of important outreach and community service activities for many years.  Please join the departmental outreach group to hear about the highlights of our activities, the most and least successful ones, and lessons we have learned along the way. Your suggestions, comments and ideas will help us to plan even more informative, exciting and successful activities in future.

January 20 Heidi Harley (Department of Linguistics, University of Arizona)

TITLE: Head-movement and domains of wordhood


This talk deals with the question of how morphophonological constituency (wordhood) lines up with syntactic constituency (complex heads). There are several obvious ways in which wordhood and syntactic constituency are mismatched, even in simple English cases. The wordform 'you're' is a morphophonological constituent (and even involves the selection of a special allomorph of the 2nd person pronoun) but is not a morphosyntactic constituent, for example. (Morpho)syntactic theory makes several different classes of complex-head-formation operations available, including head-movement, in the syntax proper, and at least a few different varieties of 'merger-under-adjacency', or cliticization. In this talk I exploit the difference between head-movement and merger-under-adjacency complex-head-formation operations to address puzzles in word patterns and do-support type operations in Korean, Georgian, Cupe ño and Hiaki.





February 10 Samuel Jay Keyser (Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, MIT) connecting via Skype. Commentator: Noam Chomsky

TITLE: Music, Poetry and Easter Eggs


This talk explores the notion of private formats, i.e. Easter eggs, in music and poetry, two of the so-called high arts, and what happened to them at the turn of the 20th-century. It focuses on these art forms because their instantiations (musical compositions and poems) are produced in part with two reasonably well understood systems of rules. These rules formed the basis of a natural aesthetic in that the rules of the relevant art form were shared by the artist and his or her audience in the way that the rules of one’s natural language are shared.

At the turn of the 20th century major poets and composers abandoned the natural aesthetic of their particular genres and turned instead to private formats. The natural link between artist and audience was broken. Appreciation of much of the product of the high arts came, if at all, after specialized study of the sort demanded by calculus or computer programming. This is, in part, why the 20th century has seen the extraordinary rise of exegesis in the high arts as an independent field of study.


February 17 Anna Maria Di Sciullo (UQAM University of Montreal & NYU)

TITLE: Unpronounced Morphology and Interface Asymmetries


According to the Strong Minimalist Thesis (Chomsky 1995, et seq.), language is an optimal solution to interface conditions, in that language is an optimal way to link sound and meaning. There is a significant asymmetry between the semantic interface, the system of thought, and the sensorimotor interface externalizing the system of thought, with the first having primacy. I develop the thesis that basic components of thought, not limited to propositions, are derived from the optimally constructed generative procedure. I focus on complex cardinals and time-counting expressions (Ritter 1991; Kayne 2003, 2006, 2015; Ionin & Matushansky 2005, 2006; Chierchia 2013, a.o.) and bring further support to the thesis that unpronounced morphology contributes to their compositionality, given Merge on the one hand and Externalization Conditions, viewed as Third Factor Principles in the sense on Chomsky (2005, et seq.), on the other.

 Firstly, I argue that cardinal numerals merge with additive and multiplicative morphology, e.g. one hundred (and) one. I argue further that this morphology is unpronounced in some cases, e.g. venti due (It) ‘twenty-two’, due cento (It) ‘two hundred’, as an effect of Internal Merge and Externalization Conditions (Collins 2007, a.o.). I identify the predictions of the analysis for the derivation of root compounds and dvandvas, which are additional cases of unpronounced morphology and interface asymmetries. The facts follow from the F-tree hypothesis (Di Sciullo 2005, et seq.), according to which a minimal functional structure must be part of the derivation of convergent linguistic expressions.

 Secondly, I argue that additive, multiplicative, as well as subtractive and partitive morphology is part of the derivation of time-counting expressions. These expressions include unpronounced nouns, such as HOUR and YEARS (Kayne 2003, 2006, 2015), as well as, sometimes silent prepositions, such as AT, anchoring time-counting expressions in an abstract space (Di Sciullo 2016). The prepositional structure may in some cases have delimiting properties, e.g. un quarto *(alle due) (It) ‘a quarter *(to two)’, as well as relative view properties -compare the preceding example to the following le due meno un quarto (It) (the two minus one quarter) ‘a quarter to two’. I identify the predictions of the F-tree hypothesis for the derivation of here and there, which, according to this hypothesis, include an unpronounced functional element and are yet another case of unpronounced morphology and interface asymmetries.

The derivation of cardinal numerals and time-counting expressions in terms of Merge and Externalization Conditions provides a unified analysis of these expressions and brings further support to the Strong Minimalist thesis and Third Factor Principles.






March 3 Samuel Epstein (Department of Linguistics, U. Michigan)

TITLE:  The Nature of Nurture and Non-Linguistic Language Variation


Section 1 of this talk discusses "The nature of nurture" (to appear, Biolinguistics (2016)) and possible unclarities regarding: (i) the sources of cross-linguistic variation, (i) Principles and Parameters theory,  and the (iii) the meaning(s)  of the  term "nurture".  Section 2 reviews two different aspects of Nature (UG and 3RD Factor) relevant to Linguistic theory. Section 3 explores the hypothesis that (at least?) some Syntactic variation may be deducible from underspecification in the independently formulated (Chomskyan) concept of "computationally efficient satisfaction of the interface conditions" --allowing more than one kind of optimal derivation (see Obata Epstein Baptista (2014), Obata Epstein (2016), Obata, Epstein and Seely (forthcoming)  Epstein, Kitahara and Seely 2016, and  also Chomsky 1991, 2008, Boeckx 2010, Richards 2010, Epstein, Groat, Kawashima and Kitahara 1998 and Huang 1982). If feasible, and generalizable, such variation would be captured not by stipulated parameters of UG, but from what is NOT stated in the (underspecified, independently motivated “computationally efficient satisfaction of the interface conditions” ).  The hypothesis is implemented with respect to Cape Verdean and Haitian Creole overt complementizer distribution, Kilega Tense agreement, English Tough constructions, and aspects of agreement manifested in a Boston, Massachusetts dialect analyzed in Kimball and Aissen 1971. Section 4 explores what an I-language and a construction might be, given the theory proposed (which seeks to try to eliminate binary, stipulated parameters of UG.) Section 5 concludes with a discussion regarding the possible explanation of certain morphological variation in terms of syntactic Merge (specifically external pair Merge of heads) applied to generate "words"--again, with underspecification yielding cross linguistic and intra-linguistic (morphological) variation  (see Marantz 1997, and e.g. Epstein, Kitahara and Seely  2016, Nobrega  2015).




March 24 Diana Archangeli (Department of Linguistics, University of Hong Kong and Department of Linguistics, UofA – on leave)

TITLE: Abstractness & Opacity in Emergent Phonology


Abstractness and opacity refer to phonological patterns where the underlying and surface forms (input and output forms) are different from each other in ways that are not readily apparent from the surface. In the Emergent Phonology model (Archangeli & Pulleyblank 2015, 2016, in press), we argue for concrete lexical representations, directly representing surface forms. Such a model eliminates abstractness and opacity as a formal problem, yet raises the question of how to analyze such cases. I present Emergent analyses of two classic cases, Tonkawa verb roots for abstractness and of Polish yers for opacity, and show how the Emergent Phonology model addresses such patterns. 


March 31 Howard Lasnik (Department of Linguistics, University of Maryland)

TITLE: Locality and Quasi-Locality: New Approaches to Old Paradigms / Old Approaches to New Paradigms


Locality has long been a major concern, first implicitly then explicitly, in syntactic theorizing. For instance, Chomsky (1955) had a sort of subject raising to object rule, motivated by the assumption that rules like reflexivization and passivization could only relate two positions X and Y when X and Y were clause-mates, an apparently unanimously accepted view until Chomsky (1973). There, Chomsky relaxed the clause-mate requirement by breaking it into two conditions

and thereby providing loopholes. His Tensed Sentence Condition allowed access from without to the subject of a non-finite clause. And his Specified Subject Condition made access even to a non-subject Y by an outside X possible when the clause was non-finite and when the intervening subject was controlled by X. Various approaches to that 2nd kind of loophole have appeared over the decades, including the tree pruning of Ross (1967), the ‘quasi-clauses’ of Postal (1974), and the restructuring of Rizzi (1978), among many others. I will be looking at a variety of phenomena involving clause-mate type locality, and the loopholes involved, including one occasionally mentioned but seldom explored: bound pronoun subjects of finite clauses. In part, I will report on some joint work with Tom Grano (Grano and Lasnik (2016)). Among the relevant phenomena are ‘family of questions’ readings; scope interactions; multiple questions; tough-movement and its kin; multiple Sluicing; and wh-islands.




{Note: This talk has been reschedule for a future colloquium series} Gabi Abramac (NYU, Center for Cognition and Multilingualism)

TITLE: Code-Switching among Hasidim in New York


This study analyzes code-switching among Hasidim in New York. Code-switching includes code-switching, code-mixing, language mixing, and language alternation. The participants of the study are members of the Hasidic community whose first and primary language is Yiddish, co-territorial language is English, and language for prayers and holy texts is Loshn Koydesh. As an extension of their anti-Zionist stance, the members of the community refuse to use Modern Hebrew. This research employs virtual ethnography and observation in naturalistic settings as its methodologies. The researcher observed the interaction between 99 Hasidic Frum from Birth male members of a WhatsApp group from August 2014 to August 2015. The text and voice messaging available on WhatsApp messenger enabled a unique opportunity to study code-switching in speech and text at the same time. This study observes and analyzes how and when Hasidim alternate between languages when using the messenger and whether code-switching in real life and in the virtual setting followed the same patterns. The results show that the members’ linguistic expression in a virtual setting differed significantly from their expression in a communal sociolinguistic real-life situation. Although in the community Ivrit was only used by members who had moved to the United States from Israel, in the virtual space it was used for such purposes as discussing political events in Israel, and it was used almost exclusively for writing text messages. Not a single voice message in Modern Hebrew was noted. English, which is considered a “necessary evil” in the community and is spoken by women more than men, was more salient in the written discourse than Yiddish. Yiddish was predominantly used for voice messaging, although English was used more extensively that it would be used in real life. The conversational analysis of code-switching as a community practice demonstrates that the micro-level virtual context differs from the macro-level sociolinguistic context in the Hasidic society. Moreover, it contradicts Hasidic social, political, and linguistic ideology.


April 21 Juan Uriagereka (Department of Linguistics, University of Maryland.

TITLE: Why Phases Won't do it and What Could--or Why you Need more than Merge


This talk starts by showing how traditional Rules of Construal pose a problem for versions of the Minimalist Program in which literally all grammatical operations are phase-based (of the "all you need is Merge" sort). While long-distance binding could arguably (though not easily) be broken down into phase-based proposals, obviation phenomena that do not involve binding, but presuppose filtering conditions, cannot be so reduced. At that point one needs whatever is assumed for the phase-based phenomena, plus some extra conditions responsible for the further (construal-driven) long-range correlations.  

It is interesting to note that Lasnik & Kupin's Reduced Phrase Markers--sets of "mono-strings" of the sort assumed in Lectures on Government and Binding--in principle can help with this puzzle. This is so inasmuch as a mono-string is, by definition, literally as long as the terminal string of the entire phrase-marker it is a member of. It is not complicated to state c-command in terms of comparing any two mono-strings, and so at that point one can come up with a relevant (obviation) condition on mono-string pairs. (A deeper issue is what the ultimate nature is of obviation or other such long-distance dependencies.)

Interestingly, construal doesn't extend to all non-terminals: it is limited to those in the (extended) NP class (not VP, AP, PP, or their respective functional projections). An interesting question, therefore, is what to make of that situation, yielding a REDUCED RPM. One could blame that state of affairs on the specificities of LF (e.g. noting that primitive Montogovian types are <e> and <t>, for instance). A more interesting approach, however, is to proceed the other way around: Binding Conditions are what they are because of syntactic conditions on putative (R)RPMs. 

The talk ends with a sketch of what such conditions may be, within a theory of Non-terminals to be presented in a parallel talk, whereby the class of extended NP elements has special formal properties. 


April 28. Tom Bever & Dave Medeiros

Friday April 28.

3pm to 4:30pm in Communication 309.

Please notice the change of Classroom

TITLE: Two ways to acquire language without parameters


It is not controversial (mostly) these days to postulate some innate structures specific to language to account for its acquisition in the context of the Poverty of the Stimulus.  The dominant model in Generative theories is still “Principles and Parameters”: infants are equipped with a set of binary parameters that can be “set” to one value or the other by minimal exposure to samples of its language-to-be. First, we review numerous problems that arise in using parameters as the innate basis for language acquisition.  Then, we present two (very different) models of how language acquisition could work without parameters.

1. Language acquisition as implicit problem solving (TgB)

I start with three nativist assumptions different from parameters: humans uniquely interpret most experiences as problems to solve, either explicitly or implicitly; children can parse surface<->meaning pairs via (sometimes incorrect) multi-word constituents; they can access an innate I-Language “tool kit” to build derivations as needed to solve representational problems. A dominant problem solving model was proposed by gestalt psychologists – resolve conflicting obvious representations of a situation, by accessing a different dimension (thereby releasing the “aha” reaction). In language acquisition this occurs when a particular external scheme, eg N…V…X -> .. Agent….Predicate….X’ is violated (e.g. by a short passive): the I-Language kit constructs an inner form mediating between the surface forms and meaning, e.g., inner form + distinct derivations.  aha! This model explains many universal properties of attested languages

2. One grammar, many orders (D.P.M.)

Contemporary parameter-learning models take a highly structured input, often amounting to an analysis of grammatical functions, and map such to parameter settings, specifying order-hierarchy relations. I present a model of a universal parser-grammar system, which obviates the need for parameters. Supplied with the structure usually assumed as the input to parameter-learning (a string of formatives with identified syntactic categories), no further problem remains to be solved. An unusual feature of the model is that many orders can be handled by one grammar. A single, invariant parsing algorithm “unscrambles” a wide variety of surface orders into a universal interpretation order.  The model provides a basis for many well-established properties of grammar in a novel way, including labeled surface structure bracketing, the duality of semantics, and an important class of word order universals.