Course descriptions

Advanced Morphology
Adam Albright

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Grammatical relations between inflectionally related members of morphological paradigms have been invoked to account for a variety of phenomena, including syncretism ('via' rules), misapplication of phonology ('base faithfulness'), analogical change (paradigm leveling), and paradigm gaps. This course examines various sources of evidence for paradigmatic relations. First, we will consider the evidence for language-specific paradigm structures, comparing paradigm-based and non-paradigm-based approaches. We will then turn to the question of how language-specific paradigm structures are learned, comparing information-theoretic and grammatical models. This course presupposes basic knowledge of morphological analysis, but no specific framework is presupposed.

The Person Case Constraint and related person-sensitive phenomena: phi-agreement, clitics, and the encoding of point of view
Elena Anagnostopoulou & Roumyana Pancheva

University of Crete & University of Southern California

This course will investigate the Person Case Constraint (PCC) and related person-sensitive phenomena which have attracted a lot of attention in recent theoretical and typological literature as they occur in a wide range of genetically and geographically unrelated languages under strikingly similar, but also intriguingly varying, conditions. We will examine recent work on the syntax, morphology and semantics of these phenomena in order to understand the computational mechanisms responsible for their emergence and obviation, the cross-linguistic variation they show at a micro- and macro-parametric level, as well as their implications for the analysis of agreement, clitics, and logophoricity. The phenomena in question offer a window into the grammar of person.

The course presupposes knowledge of intermediate-level syntax. No prior familiarity with semantics is necessary.

Introduction to Semantics
Rajesh Bhatt

University of Massachusetts at Amherst

The class will cover a set of topics in semantics (and to a more limited extent, pragmatics) that will allow participants to follow the primary literature in these areas. The topics covered will include:
  1. Modelling meaning in terms of truth conditions; different kinds of meaning
  2. Definite descriptions, Modification
  3. Interpreting movement; relative clauses; free relatives
  4. Quantifiers
  5. Variable binding; strict and sloppy identity
  6. Inverse Scope and Quantifiers in object position
  7. Presuppositions and Asserted Content; only and even; Expressive Content
  8. Negative Polarity and Exhaustification
Historical Linguistics
Ashwini Deo, Paul Kiparsky & Hedde Zeijlstra

The Ohio State University, Stanford University, Universität Göttingen

This course introduces students to a perspective on linguistic theory in which diachronic facts are central to arriving at an understanding of theories of synchronic grammar and communication. Through case studies drawn primarily from syntax and semantics, we will explore four questions:
(a) Why do linguistic systems/grammars change over time?
(b) Are linguistic changes random or is there directionality imposed by intrinsic constraints?
(c) How can directional changes offer us a window into the nature of grammar?
(d) What might be the surface effects of abstract changes to the grammar?
The phenomena studied over the course will come from the Greek, Germanic, Romance, and Indo-Aryan language families. Topics will include, among others, ordering shifts from head final to head initial, changes in case marking patterns (including the emergence and loss of ergative case marking), cyclical changes in the domain of negation, and grammaticalization of tense-aspect devices. While no background is historical linguistics is required, some basic background in semantics and/or syntax is recommended.

Phonology-Syntax Interface
Caroline Féry & Michael Wagner

Goethe-Universität Frankfurt, McGill University

Sentence prosody encodes (among other things) information about the syntactic structure of an utterance (through prosodic phrasing), about focus, topic and givenness (through prosodic prominence and alignment), and about the type of speech act of the utterance and how it fits into current discourse (through intonational tunes). These three functional dimensions (constituent structure, focus structure, type of speech act) are orthogonal to each other, but to what extent their phonological/phonetic reflexes are (phrasing, prominence, tune) remains controversial. We will look at case studies for each of the three dimensions and look at empirical data that are revealing of how various syntactic and semantic factors affect sentence prosody, and that put implicit and explicit claims about interactions embodied in current theories to the test. Discontinuous nominal phrases will be a particular domain for investigating these claims and theories in a typological comparison of a large amount of languages (about 100). With this particular construction, we will test the universality and diversity of how prosody expresses syntactic and semantic variation. Students should have some knowledge in syntax and phonology.

The Linguistics of Desire
Kai von Fintel

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

In this intermediate/advanced class, we will discuss classic and current work on the semantics and, to a lesser extent, syntax of desire constructions. We will mostly focus on wanting, wishing, hoping, intending. There are plenty of parallels and connections, for example to deontic modality, teleological modality, imperatives, optatives. Among other things, the class will help students become comfortable with work in intensional semantics.

The Pragmatics of Embedding Questions
Veneeta Dayal

Rutgers University

This course, couched within the propositional theory of questions, picks up on the topic of Day 3 of Semantics of Questions and explores phenomena that challenge the standard theory of selection.

Day 1: What is quasi-subordination? We explore the conditions under which embedded questions behave pragmatically and/or syntactically like matrix questions, and articulate what that implies for a theory of selection.
Day 2: Can polar particles be embedded? We look at particles that occur optionally in polar questions, such as Hindi kyaa or Chinese -ma and ask why they are typically restricted to matrix and/or quasi-subordinated questions.
Day 3: Why can't we negate a scope marking question? We argue against a syntactic account of the phenomenon and explore an explanation in terms of the pragmatic conditions under which scope marking can be used.
Day 4: Why can't bias embed? It is well-documented that biased questions, for example, tag questions or declarative questions do not embed. We broaden the discussion to include regular negative questions which seem to lose their potential for bias in embedded positions.

In this class we will explore these phenomena through critical reading of some key papers from the classic and recent syntactic literature. Students will be encouraged to develop and test hypotheses against data from languages in which they have an interest.

Introduction to Syntax
Sabine Iatridou

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

In this class, we will discuss some of the main questions and some of the discoveries of the field of syntax. We will explore the hierarchical organization of language and look at a number of syntactic phenomena that are common in completely unrelated languages and try to understand them. We will also look at differences among languages and try to understand what some possible ways are in which languages can differ. The 'textbook' we will be following is the following MIT OCW course. This class is introductory and will be taught at whatever level proves appropriate for the registered participants.

Movement as Multidominance
Kyle Johnson

University of Massachusetts at Amherst

This intermediate/advanced course will investigate how to model movement operations as a relaxation of the constraints on constituency that prohibit "crossing branches". The focus will be on how such accounts can explain why movement has the following defining characteristics: (a) it sometimes, but not always, invokes a variable/binding kind of semantics, (b) it sometimes, but not always, invokes reconstruction effects, and (c) it causes one term to occupy two syntactic positions, only one of which is phonologically expressed.

Order and interpretation: How to treat fractures at the Syntax-Semantics Interface
Winfried Lechner

National and Kapodistrian University of Athens

A central property of natural language is that the translation procedure from surface syntax to semantic representations is complicated by form-meaning mismatches. The course examines a particular strategy for resolving such mismatches: multiple movement. Using the analysis of reflexives, de se readings, phrasal comparatives, same/different and quantifier scope as an empirical guide, we will investigate the impact syntactic principles exert on the formation of transparent logical forms, and evaluate which consequences different analytical choices have for modeling the relation between syntax and semantics.

This intermediate/advanced class presupposes working knowledge in syntax and semantics (lambda calculus).

Issues at the Phonology-Morphology Interface
Joan Mascaro & Doug Pulleyblank

Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona, University of British Columbia

This course examines a range of interrelated ways in which phonological systems interact with morphology. Our focus is on the phonological properties of morphemes, examining issues that are essentially phonological, such as chain shifts, saltation and phonological opacity; issues that involve the interaction of phonology with syntax, such as allomorph selection at lexical insertion and optimising and non-optimising phonologically conditioned allomorphy; and issues involving the interaction of phonology with word-formation, such as types of allomorphy, morphologically determined selection of phonological properties, and the (putative) role of underlying representations in phonological analysis, including issues of abstractness. The course assumes a basic knowledge of Optimality Theory.

Jim McCloskey & Tim Stowell

University of California, Santa Cruz, University of California, Los Angeles

This course will introduce students to current perspectives on ellipsis, with a particular (but not exclusive) focus on its syntactic aspects. Registered students should be familiar with current syntactic theory; a working knowledge of formal semantics is also helpful. Ellipsis constructions that will be covered include: Issues associated with ellipsis that will be addressed include: We will also look at specific properties that have been attributed to ellipsis constructions, and specific mechanisms that ellipsis constructions have been used to motivate, including island repair, strict and sloppy identity, vehicle change, and antecedent-contained deletion. Finally, we will consider whether new research methodologies (such as corpus work and/or experimental methodologies) might help us make further progress on understanding these issues.

Language and Animal Communication in Evolution
Shigeru Miyagawa

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

We will look at issues surrounding the timing of the emergence of human language, both "I-language" and its externalization. Evidence points to around 130,000 years ago as a crucial time when H. sapiens underwent a fundamental shift in the way they processed information. This appears to be the time when language externalization occurred. The evidence for this comes from archeological artifacts, genomic and DNA studies, and particularly properties of some languages such as that of the Khoisan. We will also consider the possibility that parts of I-language and functions needed for externalization may have existed earlier than 130,000 years ago, possibly as early as 1 million years ago. We will do this through the recent studies of Neanderthals, some striking recent findings about the early human cave paintings, and issues related to primate and bird communication systems.

Introduction to Sign Language Linguistics
Josep Quer

ICREA-Universitat Pompeu Fabra

This course aims at introducing the student into some of the core issues in Sign Language Linguistics, so that s/he is able to evaluate the results of this research field for the study of the human faculty of language. After a general introduction to sociohistorical aspects of this type of natural languages, we will tackle several central topics in the phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics of sign languages. We will analyze not only the similarities with spoken languages but also the specific differences deriving from the visual-gestural modality that can shed light on certain aspects of linguistic theorizing. No previous knowledge about sign languages is required.

The Semantics of Questions
Floris Roelofsen

University of Amsterdam

Standard semantic theories identify the meaning of a sentence with its truth-conditions. This is a fruitful notion of meaning for the analysis of declarative sentences like "Mary left", but it is not suitable for the analysis of questions, like "Did Mary leave?" or "Who left?". The meaning of a question cannot be characterised in terms of its truth-conditions, because it does not make much sense to say of a question that it is true or false. Rather, a natural way to characterise the meaning of a question is in terms of the information that is needed to resolve the question. The course will provide an overview of this approach to the semantics of questions, as pursued in recent work on so-called inquisitive semantics.

Tentative schedule Course material:
We will make use of lecture notes, which include a number of exercises, from this link.

Introduction to Phonology
Donca Steriade

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

This course introduces essential tools in phonological analysis. These include representational elements (e.g. distinctive features and prosodic units); distributional notions like contrast, neutralization and alternation; and the effect of morpho-syntactic structure on phonological processes. We compare rule-based and constraint-based analyses of a few phenomena: assimilation and dissimilation, cluster simplification, stress, and reduplication. We examine some of the typological generalizations about these processes and discuss how the analysis of individual grammars might reflect them.

Preliminary schedule