Two job talks this week

This week, our department will be visited by two job candidates, Athulya Aravind (MIT) and Stefan Keine (USC). Below, you can find the abstracts for their talks, with details about location and time.

The next candidates will give their talks on the following dates (details to follow):

  • Suzi Lima (University of Toronto): Monday February 5
  • Keir Moulton (Simon Fraser): Monday February 12
  • Shota Momma (UCSD): Monday February 19

All talks will be at 3:30pm in Wilson Hall WP Room.


Athulya Aravind, MIT, Monday January 29, 3:30pm, Wilson Hall WP Room

Principles of presupposition: The view from child language

To presuppose something is to take that information for granted in a way that contrasts with asserting it. The proper characterization of presupposition–the way it enters into the compositional semantics and the way it fits into the exchange of information in communicative situations–has been at the center of long-standing debate. One class of theories treat presuppositions as categorically imposing restrictions on the conversational common ground: presuppositions must signal information that is already mutually known by all conversation participants. While principled and elegant, these theories are often empirically inadequate, as the common ground requirement is not always met in everyday conversation. A second class of theories, therefore, adopt weaker and less categorical approaches to the phenomenon that are a better fit to the empirical facts. In this talk, I present arguments from child language for the categorical treatment of presuppositions advocated by the common ground theories. Children initially adopt a view of presuppositions as uniformly placing restrictions on the conversational common ground, even in situations where these requirements may be bent. Moreover, children initially lack the ability to use presuppositions in ways that violate the common ground requirement. The developmental patterns, therefore, vindicate some of the theoretical idealizations, whose empirical validity is often masked in part due to the pragmatic sophistication of adult language users.

Stefan Keine, USC, Wednesday January 31, 3:30pm, Wilson Hall WP Room

The ups and downs of agreement (joint work with Bhamati Dash)

Agreement phenomena (e.g., subject-verb agreement) have been a central topic in the syntactic literature over the past twenty-five or so years. Recently, much interest has been paid to the question of what structural relationship must hold for agreement to arise, in particular whether agreement is upward-oriented, downward-oriented, or bidirectional. In this talk, I will present novel evidence from Hindi-Urdu that contributes to this debate about agreement. Verb agreement in Hindi normally exhibits a top-down preference: agreement is controlled by the structurally highest accessible DP. However, under the right circumstances, this directionality flips to a bottom-up preference: agreement is then preferentially established with a structurally lower element. I will argue that this pattern can be given a principled explanation if (i) a head can agree both downward and upward and if (ii) downward agreement takes derivational precedence. Taken together, these conclusions provide novel evidence for cyclic Agree (Rezac 2003). Furthermore, there is a striking locality difference between the two directions of agreement: Agreement with a lower goal can be long-distance, but agreement with a higher goal is confined to Spec-head. This indicates that Agree is not genuinely bidirectional, but that apparent upward agreement has some other source. We propose that the syntactic operation Agree is strictly downward looking (as originally in Chomsky 2000), but that probes may project (Rezac 2003). Descriptive instances of upward agreement can then be unified with downward agreement. One broader implication is that comparing the directionality of agreement with that of other dependencies, like negative concord, suggests that not all long-distance dependencies involve Agree. We furthermore show that the account proposed here affords a new view on well-known differences between A- and A’-movement with respect to agreement.

0 Responses to “Two job talks this week”

Comments are currently closed.
Blog authors are solely responsible for the content of the blogs listed in the directory. Neither the content of these blogs, nor the links to other web sites, are screened, approved, reviewed or endorsed by McGill University. The text and other material on these blogs are the opinion of the specific author and are not statements of advice, opinion, or information of McGill.