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Syntax/semantics reading group scheduling

Syntax/semantics reading group will start off virtually this year. If you’re interested in joining, please fill out the scheduling poll here by September 6th. If you are not a member of the McGill linguistcs department, please also email Jonathan Palucci with your contact information.

Syntax/semantics group, 4/16 – Mathieu Paillé

This week’s syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Friday, April 16th at 2:30pm. Mathieu Paillé will present a 20-minute talk entitled “Généraliser l’unicité thématique: une alternative à base d’exhaustivité.”

The talk will be in French but following discussion can be in either French or English. The talk is meant for an audience of both syntacticians and semanticists.

Abstract: En général, les propositions simples n’admettent pas plus d’un constituant portant le même rôle thématique; c’est ce qu’on appelle l’unicité thématique (une idée bien connue par la seconde clause du critère thêta de Chomsky (1981), par exemple). On peut observer cela dans une phrase comme #Louise mange avec une fourchette avec une cuillère, où il y a deux instruments. Dans cette présentation, j’argumente que le concept d’unicité thématique est en fait un cas spécial d’un phénomène sémantique plus général. On compare donc le cas de #Certaines lettres pour Amy sont pour Simon (une violation d’unicité thématique) à d’autres effets semblables chez les prédicats simplexes, par exemple #Certaines responsabilités provinciales sont fédérales. Qu’elle soit «thématique» ou «prédicationnelle», je propose que cette unicité provient du renforcement sémantique des constituants en question, mais qu’il s’agit d’une sorte de renforcement particulière: les constituants doivent apparemment être renforcés localement (Chierchia et al. 2012), puisqu’un renforcement global ne créerait pas de contradiction interne à la phrase, et donc aucune illicéité.

Syntax/Semantics Reading Group, 4/9 — Martina Martinović

This week’s syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Friday, April 9th at 2:30pm. Martina Martinović will be presenting joint work with Dr. Ryan Bochnak (UBC).

Flavours of the future: The case of Wolof di

The auxiliary di in Wolof (Niger-Congo) is associated with several readings: an event-in-progress/progressive reading, a habitual reading, and a future reading. Interestingly, the availability of these readings depends on di’s structural position: when it is below C, all readings are available, but when it is in C, only the future reading is possible. We provide a unified analysis of the readings of di by combining and expanding on several independently motivated analyses for progressives, habituals, and modality. We propose that the behaviour of Wolof di provides new evidence for the idea that modal height correlates with modal flavour (Hacquard 2010, Kush 2011), specifically, that different modal bases are available at different syntactic heights because of the availability of different types of modal anchors. Progressives and habituals crucially involve event-relative circumstantial modality (Portner 1998, Ferreira 2016), and futures are derived from either a circumstantial or epistemic modal base (and give rise to different readings).

Syntax/Semantics Reading Group — Canceled

There will be no Syntax-Semantics reading group this week. The next meeting will take place on Friday April 9th at 2:30pm.

Syntax/Semantics Reading Group, 3/26 — Carol-Rose Little

This week’s syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Friday, March 26th at 2:30pm before the colloquium. Carol-Rose Little will be presenting some recent work on Ch’ol applicatives.

Abstract: In this talk, I will discuss the applicative morpheme as it shows up in external possession in Ch’ol. On the one hand, the possessor seems to have raised from its position from the theme DP. However, other data suggest that the external possessor and possessee are in fact a DP constituent, raising questions about its status as an external argument in certain contexts.

Syntax/semantics group, 3/19 – Zoë Belk on right-node raising

This week’s syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Friday, March 19thth at 2:30pm. Zoë Belk will be presenting some recent work on right-node raising.
Abstract: This paper argues, following Barros and Vicente (2011), for a mixed analysis of right-node raising, in which the phenomenon is derived either through ellipsis or through multidominance. It demonstrates that, while right-node raising has properties indicative of ellipsis and of multidominance, the two derivations are not in free variation: in some circumstances, only one derivation is possible. Right-node raising is therefore the result of two distinct derivations that both obey the same word order restrictions. This analysis accounts for a number of syntactic and semantic properties associated with right-node raising.

Syntax/Semantics Reading Group — Canceled

The Syntax-Semantics reading group will not be meeting this week. The next meeting will take place on Friday March 19th at 2:30pm.

Sytax/Semantics group, 2/26 – Masashi Harada presenting Viola Schmitt

This week’s syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Friday, February 26th at 2:30pm. Masashi Harada will be presenting a recent paper by Viola Schmitt titled “Cumulation Across Attitudes and Plural Projection”. The presentation will be related to the colloquium talk that Viola Schmitt will be giving directly after the reading group. Below is an abstract for the paper.
Abstract: This paper investigates cumulative readings of sentences in which some, but not all of the plural expressions have a de dicto reading, i.e. sentences where the lower plural is interpreted in the scope of an attitude verb like believe. I argue that such cases represent a problem for existing accounts of cumulativity, because the required cumulative relation cannot be formed. I then motivate and propose an alternative analysis where all plural expressions are interpreted in situ: I expand the ‘plural projection’ framework put forth by Haslinger & Schmitt (2018, 2019), Schmitt (2019), where embedded pluralities ‘project’ to the denotations of higher nodes in the sense that the latter reflect the part-structure of the former and where cumulativity is derived via a compositional rule in a step-by-step fashion. I show that if the denotations of the plurals with the de dicto construal are analyzed as pluralities of individual concepts, which project in the afore-mentioned sense to pluralities of propositions, the data can be explained straightforwardly. This proposal differs from treatments in terms of collective belief that don’t appeal to pluralities of propositions (Pasternak 2018a,b), in that it (i) arguably generalizes to a larger number of examples and (ii) links grammatical plurality in the embedded clause to the availability of cumulative readings.

Syntax/semantics group, 2/19 – Hermann Keupdjio on resumptive pronouns in Bamikele (rescheduled)

This week’s syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Friday, February 19th at 2:30pm. Hermann Keupdjio––rescheduled from last week due to Montreal-wide internet problems––will be presenting his work on the syntax and semantics of resumptive pronouns in Bamileke entiled “Economy of derivation vs economy of interpretation: Resumption in Medumba”. An abstract is here: abstract

Syntax/semantics group, 2/12 – Hermann Keupdjio on resumptive pronouns in Bamikele

This week’s syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Friday, February 12th at 2:30pm. Hermann Keupdjio will be presenting his work on the syntax and semantics of resumptive pronouns in Bamileke entiled “Economy of derivation vs economy of interpretation: Resumption in Medumba”. An abstract is here: abstract

Syntax/semantics group, 2/5 – Bernhard Schwarz

This week’s syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Friday, February 5th at 2:30pm. Bernhard Schwarz will be presenting his recent work with Alan Bale (Concordia) and David Shanks (McGill), ‘Measurement monotonicity and comparisons of concentration’. A precursor of this work can be found at: https://archive.illc.uva.nl/AC/AC2019/uploaded_files/inlineitem/Bale_Schwarz_and_Shanks_Monotonicity_restored_more_.pdf
Abstract: Grammar does not fully determine a measure function for much to invoke when combining with a mass noun, as in more watermore string, or more travel. But certain measure functions are invariably excluded. Schwarzschild (2006) argued that permissible measure functions must be monotonic—they must track the relevant parthood relation between entities in the mass noun’s extension. We draw attention to potential counterexamples to this constraint: comparisons of concentration, comparatives about the concentration of substances in substances that contain them. Such comparatives seemingly reference measure functions that are non-monotonic, as they seem to output degrees of purity or density (Bale and Barner 2009). Extending Bale and Schwarz (2020), however, we argue that they must not in fact be so analyzed. What such cases actually teach us, we propose, is that much can reference Skolemized measure functions—functions that map any individual, their Skolem argument, to a measure function.  Comparisons of concentration can arise when different values serve as Skolem arguments in the main clause and in the comparative clause. Schwarzschild’s constraint, now extended to also apply to the outputs of Skolemized measure functions, can and must be upheld.

Syntax/Semantics group, 1/29 – Mathieu Paillé on homogeneity and plural semanticas

This week’s syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Friday,  January 29th at 2:30pm. Mathieu Paillé will be reviewing some of the literature on homogeneity and plural semantics. Stay tuned for more information closer to the meeting!
Please register for the meetings beforehand at the following link (you will only have to register once, not every week): https://mcgill.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZckfu2urDorGNLIitibwaKV8aF5bholSave
Also, please keep in mind that we will not be meeting every week even though the zoom link says so (in particular February 26th, March 26th, April 16th and April 23rd are all colloquium weeks so we will not meet those days). If you have any problems with registration, please contact Jonny or Justin.

Syntax-semantics meetings – Winter semester scheduling

If you plan on attending syntax-semantics meetings this winter, please fill the following poll by Friday Jan 15th: http://whenisgood.net/xcmtdzz

All are welcome!

Syntax/semantics group, 12/10 – Connie Ting

In this week’s syntax/semantics group meeting on Thursday December 10th at 1:30, Connie Ting will present her current Eval 1 work on Malagasy. All are welcome!

In Malagasy, genitive DPs are bound to a preceding head via a morphological process called N-bonding (Keenan 1995). This process is reported to occur in constructions involving agents of non-active verbs, possessors, and complements of (certain) adjectives and prepositions. In the verbal domain, N-bonding has previously been argued to be tied to the presence of an overt (adjacent) agent (Pearson 2005). However, additional data shows that the N-bonding process is dependent on the presence of D-material (following Travis 2006). Given this, I propose that N-bonding can be explained under a clitic doubling approach, which both allows the analysis to be extended to the nominal domain and draws parallels to the pronominal system in the language.

Syntax/Semantics Reading Group, 12/3 — Will Johnston

This week’s syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Thursday, December 3th, at 1:30pm.Will Johnston will present work titled: “Nonspecific promises: restitutive ‘again’ and intensional transfer-of-possession verbs.”

Abstract: So-called transfer-of-possession (ToP) verbs, such as ‘give’ and ‘send’, have been argued to take small-clause complements. This proposal is supported by the availability of multiple readings for the adverb ‘again’ (Beck and Johnson 2004). I present new data showing that intensional ToP verbs (e.g. ‘promise’, ‘offer’) lack an expected reading of again. Under structural analyses of ‘again’ (such as von Stechow 1996), this data is puzzling. It suggests a lack of clausal structure in the underlying syntax, a conclusion which contradicts other diagnostics for clausal structure. I argue that this missing reading can be accounted for, and a unified treatment of intensional and extensional ToP verbs can be maintained, if we assume instead a lexical analysis of ‘again’: the path-based framework of Zwarts (2019).

Syntax/semantics group, 11/26 – Danfeng Wu

This week’s syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Thursday November 26th at 1:30pm. Danfeng Wu, a graduate student from MIT, will be presenting work titled “Syntax and prosody of either…or… sentences”.

Syntax/Semantics Reading Group, 11/19

In advance of this Friday’s colloquium, Will Johnston will be leading discussion on work by speaker Emily Elfner. The 2015 paper is titled “Recursion in prosodic phrasing: evidence from Connemara Irish” and can be downloaded at https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11049-014-9281-5.

Syntax/semantics group, 11/12 – Martina Martinović

This week’s syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Thursday November 12th at 1:30pm. Martina Martinović will be presenting work titled “Control and restructuring in Wolof”:
ABSTRACT: In this talk I discuss the phenomenon of control in the Niger-Congo language Wolof, which has the following interesting properties. First, Wolof only exhibits Exhaustive Control; Partial Control is not possible in the language. Second, all control predicates in Wolof exhibit restructuring properties, both those that cross-linguistically generally restructure, and those that have been argued to never restructure. And finally, only predicates that do not take direct objects participate in control. I will show that these properties give support to Grano’s (2012, 2015) claim that there are two strategies for establishing control: one that results in Exhaustive Control (for Grano, following Cinque (2004), this is raising), and another that results in Partial Control (involving a PRO). Wolof has only one of those strategies. While Wolof does not have direct evidence that the strategy resulting in Exhaustive Control indeed involves raising, it does offer some indirect support for this. First, all control structures restructure, suggesting a reduced complement size that would allow raising. Second, only verbs with no objects allow control, which straightforwardly follows from the Minimal Link Condition. And finally, even if raising to object exists (as argued in Postal 1974), it does appear to be cross-linguistically rare. If EC is raising, this would explain the absence of object control in Wolof. I offer additional evidence for a reduced structure of infinitival complement from cliticization.  

Syntax/semantics group, 10/29 – Jonathan Palucci and Justin Royer NELS practice talks

This week’s syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Thursday October 29th at 1:30pm. Justin Royer and Jonathan Palucci will be presenting work that they will be presenting at the upcoming NELS conference. Justin’s talk is titled “Binding and the low/high abs parameter in Mayan” and Jonathan’s is titled “Numeral any: In favour of Viability”.

Syntax-semantics reading group, 10/22 – Emily Goodwin on systematic syntactic parsing

This week’s syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Thursday October 19th at 1:30pm. Emily Goodwin will be presenting her ongoing work on systematic syntactic parsing:

ABSTRACT: Recent work in semantic parsing, including novel datasets like SCAN (Lake and Baroni, 2018) and CFQ (Keysers et al., 2020) demonstrate that semantic parsers generalize well when tested on items highly similar to those in the training set, but struggle with syntactic structures that combine components of training items in novel ways. This indicates a lack of systematicity , the principle that individual words will make similar contributions to the expressions they appear in, independently of surrounding context. Applying this principle to syntactic parsing, we show similar problems plague state of the art syntactic parsers, despite achieving human or near-human performance on randomly sampled test data. Moreover, generalization is especially poor on syntactic relations which are crucial for the compositional semantics.

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