The primary aim of LFRG is to give you an opportunity to have informal discussions of your own and other people’s ideas without having to worry about saying something wrong. Thus, practice talks and presentations of works in progress (or in regress) or papers that you find interesting are especially welcome.

The range of possible topics include semantics, syntax, their interface, and what not having a connection to either syntax or semantics. The idea is that a lot of research does not fit into the straight jacket of a narrow area – though it is by no means required to have any interdisciplinary interests to attend LFRG.

Meetings this semester are:

Wednesdays, 1-2:30pm in 32-D831 unless noted

There are basically four main kinds of meetings: 1) presentations of one’s own work, including in progress and in regress; 2) a genuine reading group meeting: everyone reads, or at least browses, some interesting paper, and we discuss it; 3) a tutorial-like meeting where the persons in charge tell everyone something about not so widely known things – like cool experimental techniques, math tools, new empirical results, etc., and then optionally people say what they think about that; and 4) brainstorming sessions: the persons in charge provide a topic and the necessary background, and the point is to generate some ideas about what one can do about the topic.

Meetings and changes in the schedule are announced here and by email to interested people. If you want to receive the email announcements, want to be in charge of a meeting, or have any other comments about the Syntax-Semantics Reading Group, email either Aron HirschDaniel Margulis or Paul Marty.

Claiming an LFRG slot is not scary at all – so don’t hesitate to do that!

Spring 2017

February 8, 2017
  • LFRG -- Ezer Rasin

    February 8, 2017 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

    Discussion of Keenan, E. L., & Stavi, J. (1986). A semantic characterization of natural language determiners. Linguistics and Philosophy, 9, 253–326

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February 15, 2017
  • LFRG -- Roni Katzir

    February 15, 2017 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

    Title: Structure and learning of quantificational determiners

    Acquiring semantic denotations -- even the entry for a single, well-exemplified, low-type element -- presents the child with a difficult inductive challenge. I start by illustrating this challenge using the notion of learning known as identification in the limit, before switching to a less complete notion of learning, compression-based learning, which offers a more constructive way to approach the inductive challenge. Focusing on the representation and learning of quantificational determiners, I show how compression-based learning maps representational choices -- e.g., basic determiners and their combinations, in an intensional variant…

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February 22, 2017
  • LFRG -- Masha Esipova (NYU)

    February 22, 2017 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

    Link to the slides:

    Title: Focus on what's (not) at issue: co-speech gestures, presuppositions, and supplements under Contrastive Focus

    I would like to discuss some of my work in progress (or, as of very recently, in regress) on the interaction of various types of non-at-issue content with Contrastive Focus.
    This project started out as a reaction to the debate on the status of the inferences triggered by co-speech gestures between Ebert & Ebert (2014), who claim that those inferences are supplemental, and Schlenker (2015, to…

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March 1, 2017
  • LFRG: Athulya Aravind and Ezer Rasin‏

    March 1, 2017 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

    Title: The nature of the semantic stimulus: quantifier learning as a case study

    Language acquisition involves making sense of unanalyzed input: the child brings to the task a hypothesis space, each point in which represents a grammar, and she chooses a point in that space that can generate the input. If two grammars G, G’ are compatible with the input and the child ends up converging on G, we can draw interesting conclusions regarding acquisition: it could be, for example, that G’ is outside of the child’s hypothesis space, or that the child is biased towards…

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March 8, 2017
  • LFRG: Matthew Mandelkern

    March 8, 2017 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

    Title: Bounded Modality

    To what degree does the meaning of an epistemic modal claim like ‘It might be raining’ resemble the meaning of an avowal of ignorance like ‘For all I know, it’s raining’? Progress on this question has been made by exploring differences in how constructions along these lines embed—-in particular by exploring their behavior as part of larger constructions like Wittgenstein (1953)’s ‘It might be raining and it’s not’ and Moore (1942)’s ‘It’s raining and I don’t know it’, respectively. A variety of approaches have been developed to account for…

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March 15, 2017
March 22, 2017
  • LFRG: Itai Bassi (MIT)

    March 22, 2017 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

    Title: Phi features on focus-bound pronouns: a semantic account

    Some researchers (Kratzer 1998, Heim 2008, a.o.) have argued that phi features on bound pronouns are not (always) semantically interpreted. Their presence, it is claimed, is a PF-only phenomenon, perhaps as a reflex of an agreement relationship with the binder of their pronoun. One motivation for this conclusion comes from focus constructions like (1). The point is that under standard assumptions about binding and about the meaning of phi features, the phi features on my better not be semantically active, or else the right interpretation of (1) would not be derived.

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April 5, 2017
  • LFRG: Colin Davis

    April 5, 2017 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

    English possessor extraction and LF pied-piping

    The colloquial speech of many English speakers permits what looks like possessor extraction, which A'-moves a possessor (1) without pied-piping the rest of the DP (2).

    1. Who do they think [[_’s fat cat] is cute]? (Possessor extraction)
    2. [Whose fat cat] do they think [_ is cute]? (Standard pied-piping)

    This movement is interesting in light of the fact that English is a language that otherwise obeys the Left Branch Condition (Ross 1967), which describes a lack of extraction of the leftmost constituent of a nominal phrase. I argue that despite appearances,…

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April 12, 2017
  • LFRG: Neil Banerjee (MIT)

    April 12, 2017 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

    Title: A problem with future-shifting

    The English verbs hope and want are future-shifters in that they allow their non-future complements to be interpreted as occurring in the future.
    (1) a. Paul hopes to win the championship.
    b. Sam wants to live in Boston.

    Assuming that non-finite clauses behave like bound present tense, Abusch (2004) builds the future shift into the lexical semantics of future-shifting verbs. Work by Lekakou and Nilsen (2008), as well as Klecha (2016) suggests that the difference, while lexical, can be made to fall out from Condoravdi’s (2001) diversity condition and the modal base…

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April 26, 2017
May 3, 2017
May 10, 2017
  • LFRG

    May 10, 2017 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

    Speaker: Daniel Margulis
    Title: Quantifier float with overt restriction

    Location: 32-D461

    Example (1) demonstrates quantifier float. The quantifier each intuitively quantifies over individual parts of the subject they, but the two are not linearly adjacent. The Hebrew quantifier kol has to be overtly restricted, even when it floats: (2) is ungrammatical without exad 'one' or a full NP like student.

    (1) They have each read a different book.

    (2) hem kar'u kol *(exad) sefer axer
    they read each one book other
    "They each read a different book."


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May 17, 2017
May 24, 2017
  • LFRG

    May 24, 2017 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

    This talk explores the behaviour of the Turkish discourse particle ki. I argue that it serves to challenge presuppositions, just as Iatridou & Tatevosov (2016) propose for a use of even in questions. Pursuing a unified analysis of even and ki motivates modifications of Iatridou & Tatevosov's (2016) original account, and raises a new puzzle about possible links between even, polarity sensitivity, and presupposition-challenging discourse moves.

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