MIT Working Papers in Linguistics #65

Proceedings of IATL 2011

Evan Cohen, 2012

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This volume contains the proceedings of IATL 2011. It contains the following papers:

Russian gerundive gaps as topic drop - Ibnbari Lena 1

In this paper I propose a novel analysis of adjunct gaps in Russian. Whereas such gaps have previously been analyzed as parasitic gaps, I argue that they result from ellipsis of an object triggered solely by its topichood. Topic drop is independently registered in Russian and is widely used as a topic marking strategy in the language. Focusing on gaps in gerundive phrases, I show that the properties they display are identical to those of non-adverbial topic drop and cannot be accounted for under either a topic operator analysis or a V-stranding VP- ellipsis analysis. Finally, I show the superiority of the topic drop analysis of Russian adjunct gaps over the Chain Composition analysis.

Superlative quantifiers as speech act modifiers: Evidence from Hebrew - Aviya Hacohen, Dana Kozlowski, and Ariel Cohen 27

The role of consonant harmony in child language - Chen Gafni 39

This paper presents a developmental study on two children acquiring Hebrew. The findings indicate that CH is driven mainly by prosodic rather than segmental factors. However, it seems that CH has a marginal role (at least for the participants of this study) compared to other strategies such as deletion and non-assimilatory substitutions. Crucially, I argue that the study of CH is severely limited by the fact that the motivation behind a given phonological process is hidden. This opacity prevents a certain identification of the status of many harmonized utterances, as they can be attributed to common non-assimilatory substitutions.

Doubling in RSL and NGT: Towards a unified explanation - Vadim Kimmelman 57

In this paper, I discuss doubling in RSL and Sign Language of the Netherlands (further NGT, for Nederlandse Gebarentaal). In both sign languages different constituents (including verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and whole clauses) can be doubled. I will show that doubling in both languages has common functions and exhibits similar structure, although there are differences with respect to what kinds of constituents can be doubled. On this basis, a unified explanation for many doubling phenomena on both discourse and clause-internal levels is provided, and it is claimed that the main function of doubling both in RSL and NGT is foregrounding of the doubled information. I will also discuss a possible diachronic relation between discourse doubling and clause-internal doubling in terms of grammaticalization.

On the syntax of spatial adpositions in sign languages - Roland Pfau and Enoch Aboh 83

In investigations of sign language grammar - phonology, morphology, and syntax - the impact of language modality on grammar is a recurrent issue. The term 'modality,' as used in this context, refers to the distinction between languages that are expressed and perceived in the oral-auditive modality (i.e. spoken languages) and those that are expressed and perceived in the gestural-visual modality (i.e. sign languages). Since the 1960s, an impressive body of research on various sign languages has demonstrated that many aspects of sign language grammar are in fact modality-independent and that theoretical models that were developed on the basis of spoken language can thus also account for sign language structures (see Sandler & Lillo-Martin (2006) for an overview). In this paper, we will claim modality-independence, at least from a structural point of view, for an area of sign language grammar that appears to be clearly shaped by the visual-gestural modality: the use of space in locative constructions. In the remainder of the introduction, we will address the use of signing space and sketch what a 'canonical' locative construction in sign language looks like.

Hebrew definiteness marking as post-syntactic local dislocation - Yaron McNabb 105

Hebrew attributive adjectives agree in definiteness with the nouns they modify in addition to their agreement in gender and number. Previous studies consisted of two types of accounts for the definiteness agreement. The first type of account analyzes the definite marker ha- as a D head selecting the adjective it marks for definiteness (similarly to nouns) (e.g. Sichel 2002); the second type of account analyzes the definite marker as a a syntactic definiteness feature inherent to the noun or determiner that spreads to other elements in the DP (e.g. Borer 1996).

In this paper, I present novel data from degree modification of coordinated adjectives. I show that the scope ambiguities and definiteness marking patterns in various structures provide evidence for an analysis whereby definiteness is a syntactic feature that surfaces as the phrasal clitic ha- ‘the’. In addition, I show that the structure-sensitive, though post-syntactic, morphological operation of Local Dislocation generates the correct distribution of the Hebrew definite marker, namely it being a phrasal proclitic occurring at the left-edge of phrases, as well as the intricate pattern of definiteness agreement in Hebrew attributive adjectives.

The Hebrew be-sax ha-kol: An exclusive account of an approximative reading - Dina Orenstein 121

This paper proposes a unified analysis of apparently two unrelated readings of the Hebrew be-sax ha-kol ("all in all"), which I label the 'exclusive' and the 'approximative' readings. My main claim is that be-sax ha-kol is an exclusive operator, under a modified scalar definition of exclusives that I propose, and its various readings follow from the types of scales it operates on. Crucially, unlike only, be-sax ha-kol can operate both on the classical Roothian scale of alternatives to its prejacent p, and on a scale of alternatives that refer to the degree to which the adjective holds.

The Hebrew bixlal: A general strengthening operator - Yael Greenberg and Keren Khrizman 139

The present study deals with the semantics of the Hebrew adverb bixlal. As originally noted by Migron (2003), even though bixlal is the most natural interpretation of the English negative polarity item at all, its distribution is not restricted to negated constructions. Moreover, unlike at all, bixlal may induce a variety of interpretations. Thus, the challenge and the central goal of the study is to provide a unified analysis of the semantics of the particle, which would account sufficiently for its varied interpretational and distributional characteristics.

Developing and refining a proposal in Migron (2003), we argue that bixlal is a flexible strengthening operator, whose function is to indicate that its prejacent is stronger than a contextually salient alternative. We show how the mechanisms via which the strengthening effect is achieved are determined by the interaction of three major factors: polarity of the construction in which it appears, placement of intonational stress and the specific semantic-pragmatic properties of the predicate which the particle combines with.

A slightly modified economy principle: Stable properties have non-stable standards - Galit Sassoon 163

Collective nouns without groups - Giorgio Magri 183

Nouns such as deck, pile or group are traditionally called collective nouns, to distinguish them from nouns such as card, dish or boy that are instead called individual nouns. Intuitively, the individual terms those cards and those dishes denote the members of the pile and the deck denoted by the collective terms that deck of cards and that pile of dishes. Thus, let me say that the former individual terms correspond to the latter collective terms. This paper addresses the following question: is it the case that a collective term and the corresponding individual term denote the same individual? In other words, is coreference a proper account of the intuitive relationship between a collective term and its corresponding individual term? or is there linguistic evidence that points towards a more tenuous, indirect relationship?

Manner modification in event semantics - Sascha Alexeyenko 203

The aim of this paper is to provide a semantic and syntactic analysis of manner modification within the framework of event semantics, particularly considering the issues discussed above. In a programmatic fashion, they can be summarized in the following way:
1. What do manner adverbs denote: properties of events or properties of manners?
2. What is the semantic relation between manner adverbs and their base adjectives?