Saturday, March 31, 2007

How can this be possible?


So I was doing a little research on residential schools, and here's an article:

Here's the part that was new to me: "The last residential school closed in 1996."

1996? I was already shocked when I was under the impression that the last residential school closed in 1984, but 1996? Is this possible? How is it possible? How can something so blatantly racist still have been operating in Canada as recently as 11 years ago? I was alive then! I was already 11! You can't even try and (weakly) rationalize it with "Oh, back then no one realized it was wrong..."

So I went hunting through Wikipedia to see which school it was, but there're just a lot of schools listed as "closing date unknown."

Yeah, so I know this doesn't directly relate to language or linguistics, but as someone who thinks that First Nations' languages should really be studied if people really want to know how different languages can be (and correlatingly, what this UG thing really looks like), it is indirectly related.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Not getting what 'got' means...

So, I was wondering....what does 'got' mean? It seems to be able to substitute for a passive, but has, er, got, some strange restrictions...

(1) I got kicked.
(2) I was kicked.
(3) I just got kicked.
(4) ?I just was kicked.
(5) I was just kicked.
(6) *I got just kicked.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

On a slightly-less-intense note...

I was taking a look at adorable, hippie, webcomics shirts, and came across the following phrase:

(1) (*)It's even made by American Apparel, who believes in fair labor practices.

Now -- leaving aside the thorny issue of whether or not American Apparel is an ethical company -- to me, this is an ill-formed sentence. (Hence, the asterisk.) I much prefer one of these:

(2) It's even made by American Apparel, who believe in fair labor practices.
(3) It's even made by American Apparel, which believes in fair labor practices.

I think this is because I require "who" to refer to people. One can treat a corporation, such as American Apparel, as a group of people, in which case "who" is appropriate but, crucially, plural. (viz. sentence 2.) One can also talk about a corporation as an inanimate entity, in which case I don't permit "who" to be used.

What do you think? Native English speakers, is sentence 1 grammatical for you?

Monday, March 26, 2007

First post! Yucatec Mayan Agreement

Yay! A blog for sharing random things about language and linguistics!

So I thought I'd start this thing off with some linguistic research that I've been(was?) doing...

Last semester I was doing a group research project for my morphology class - the topic was cross-linguistic agreement, where the basic idea was to look at a whole bunch of languages and try to categorize the types of agreement we found according to the typology outlined in Elouazizi & Wiltschko 2006.

Here's a pdf of the poster that we presented as our final project. It deals with agreement in Yucatec Mayan (a super-cool language, btw) which while at first glance seems problematic for the typology, is actually predicted by the theoretical framework. I thought it was pretty cool...

(Note: when we were working on the poster, none of us were really good with the distinction between lexical aspect and grammatical aspect, so, er, please forgive those mistakes ...I know better now *hangs head in shame*)

And here's an introduction to the theoretical framework, because the poster kind of assumed familiarity with it, and thus lacks an intro.

START Introduction

1.0 Theoretical Framework and Assumptions

Elouizizi and Wiltschko 2006:

Under the assumption that agreement is pronominal (Ritter 1995), and following Déchaine & Wiltschko’s 2002 approach where there are three different types of pronouns, D-pronouns, φ-pronouns and N-pronouns, Elouazizi and Wiltschko propose that there must be three types of agreement: D-agreement, φ-agreement and N-agreement, later positing an additional level; n-agreement.

Each type of agreement corresponds to a different level of representation, D-agreement mapping on to Comp, φ-agreement mapping onto Aux/Infl, n-agreement mapping onto little v, and N-agreement mapping onto V.

Each type of agreement has different distribution, different targets, different sensitivities, and different binding-theoretic properties, falling out from the category of agreement and the corresponding level of representation.

END introduction

So, yeah, I think now that what we called, very vaguely, X-agreement on Aspect, might be Classifier-agreement on Aspect, since classifiers seem parallel to aspect in that they can be seen as distinguishing between mass/count nouns the same way that aspect distinguishes between imperfective/perfective. If it was the case that it was Classifier-agreement on Aspect, it might predict that this type of agreement could only show up in languages that have a Classifier Phrase....(Yucatec Mayan does have classifiers)...but I haven't been able to find the time to look into it more closely. And we couldn't figure out a way to account for Georgian agreement either. Too bad! It's way more interesting than the anthropology paper I am procrastinating from working on by posting this.

Comments? Questions? Scathing remarks?


Déchaine, Rose-Marie and Martina Wiltschko. 2002. “Decomposing Pronouns.” Linguistic Inquiry; Vol.3, No. 3: p. 409-442.

Elouazizi, Nouredine & Martina Wiltschko.. 2006. “The Categorical Status of Subject Verb Agreement”. Presented at the UBC Department of Linguistics Research Seminar.

McGinnis, Martha. 2001. “Semantic and Morphological restrictions in Experiencer Predicates”. In Proceedings of the 2000 CLA Annual Conference, ed. John T. Jensen & Gerard van Herk, 245-256. Cahiers Linguistiques d'Ottawa. Department of Linguistics, University of Ottawa

McGinnis, Martha. 2005. “Phi-feature Competition in Morphology and Syntax”. Submitted to the Proceedings of the McGill Workshop on Phi-Theory, ed. Daniel Harbour, David Adger, and Susana Béjar; Ms., University of Calgary.

Ritter, Elizabeth. 1995. “On the syntactic category of pronouns and agreement”. Natural Language& Linguistic Theory 13:405–443

Tonhauser, Judith. 2003. “F-constructions in Yucatec Maya”, in: Anderssen, Jan; Menéndez-Benito, Paula &Werle, Adam (eds.), The Proceedings of SULA 2. Vancouver, BC: GLSA, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Travis, L. 1991. “Inner aspect and the structure of VP”. Paper presented at NELS 22.

Wunderlich, Dieter, and Martin Krämer. 1999. “Transitivity alternations in Yucatec, and the correlation between aspect and argument roles”. Linguistics 37: 431-479