To slide or not to slide?

🕑 7 min • 👤 Thomas Graf • 📆 November 21, 2019 in Tutorials • 🏷 talks, student advice

Even though I’m slowly growing into my role as tenured professor, I still haven’t developed a taste for saying the same thing over and over again — at least not when I’m aware it’s the same thing over and over again. One thing that comes up a lot is questions by new students about their presentations, be it in class or at a conference. So I figured I might actually be able to save everybody some time by just posting my standard remarks on the Outdex, preserved for eternity. Who knows, it might even be hilarious 30 years from now to read about how we did things in the academic stone age. Just like it’s hard to talk about mimeographs nowadays without a smirk on your face.

Okay, then let’s tackle the very first issue, one that is still so contentious in some parts of the field that it might rip asunder the fabric of space and time: slides or handouts?


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More circumambience in syntax

🕑 2 min • 👤 Thomas Graf • 📆 November 14, 2019 in Discussions • 🏷 subregular, syntax, movement, complementizer agreement, relative clauses, English, French

This is a very short follow-up to my previous post on circumambient patterns in syntax. I just realized that there’s another, very robust example that makes all the cases look even more mundane: complementizer alternations in English relative clauses.


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Circumambient patterns in syntax

🕑 12 min • 👤 Thomas Graf • 📆 November 11, 2019 in Discussions • 🏷 subregular, syntax, phonology, tone plateauing, movement, complementizer agreement

Last week I gave an invited talk at UMass on the subregular program and the computational parallels it reveals between syntax and phonology. If you’re curious, the slides are on my website. The talk went over a lot better than I expected, and there were lots of great questions. UMass has a tradition of letting students ask questions first before the faculty get to chime in, and the students were relentless in a good way. I think there was only 5 minutes left for faculty questions at the end. It was a great experience, and probably the best question period I’ve ever been on the receiving end of.

Anyways, after the colloquium Brian Dillon asked a few questions about more complex movement cases, and those are very interesting because they’re yet another instance of computational parallelism between phonology and syntax: tone plateauing = movement-driven complementizer agreement.


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Shellshock

🕑 8 min • 👤 Thomas Graf • 📆 November 06, 2019 in Discussions • 🏷 syntax, Larsonian shells, constituency, CCG, Minimalist grammars

This semester I am teaching a seminar on computational syntax. It’s mostly on subregular syntax, but I started out with a discussion of CCG. CCG is noteworthy because it is a theory-rich approach that has managed to make major inroads into NLP. It would be cool if we could replicate this with MGs, but in order to do that you need a killer app. Subregular complexity might just be that because CCG doesn’t have a regular backbone, so it can’t have a subregular one either (more on that in a future post). CCG’s killer app was flexible constituency and a one-to-one mapping from syntax to semantics. You combine that with a corpus (CCGbank) and an efficient parsing algorithm (e.g. supertagging with A* parsing), and you have something that is both linguistically sophisticated and sufficiently fast and robust for practical applications. Anyways, this post collects some of my thoughts on flexible constituency and how it could be emulated in MGs. Spoiler: shells, lots and lots of shells.


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We need a framework?

🕑 7 min • 👤 Thomas Graf • 📆 October 30, 2019 in Discussions • 🏷 methodology, subregular

As you might know, Stony Brook hosted AMP, the American Meeting on Phonology, a week ago quite a while ago (yikes, almost November again). Jane Chandlee started off the conference with an invited talk on the subregular view of phonological mappings from underlying representations to surface forms. It was well received, but during the question period Bruce Hayes (no, not that Bruce Hayes) made a point that I found puzzling: “You need a framework!” Unfortunately I didn’t have time to ask Bruce afterwards what exactly he meant by that. But every conceivable interpretation I’ve come up with I vehemently disagree with, and I think Bruce’s demand for a framework stems from incorrectly applying the linguistic modus operandi to computational work.


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Locality, suppletion, and cognitive parallelism

🕑 11 min • 👤 Thomas Graf • 📆 October 23, 2019 in Tutorials • 🏷 suppletion, locality, prosody, subregular, syntax

Oh boy, this month is killing me. I know I promised you one more detailed discussion of subregular complexity before we finally get back to the topic that started it all, Omer Preminger’s post on listedness. But in the interest of time I’ll merge those two posts into one. That means some points will be a bit more hazy than I’d like, but I think it will work just fine nevertheless (and for those of you sick of this series of posts, we’ll get to something new sooner). Alright, with that out of the way, here’s the basic question: why aren’t PF and LF more alike?


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Syntax as phonology: Syntactic constraints as string constraints

🕑 12 min • 👤 Thomas Graf • 📆 September 29, 2019 in Tutorials • 🏷 subregular, syntax, locality, c-command, constraints, islands

The previous post in this series discussed the lay of the (is)land from the perspective of TSL (I’m so disappointed in myself for not making this pun last time; better late than never). I mentioned that the TSL view cannot handle all island constraints. Sometimes, we need an alternative approach. But this alternative approach doesn’t come out of nowhere. It is also what we need for all kinds of licensing constraints, and it also handles restrictions on movement that are not island constraints.


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Islands are unexpectedly expected

🕑 6 min • 👤 Thomas Graf • 📆 September 23, 2019 in Tutorials • 🏷 subregular, syntax, locality, Move, islands

In the previous post we saw Merge is SL-2 over dependency trees, and Move is TSL-2. For every movement feature f we project a separate tier that contains only lexical items that have a licensor feature f+ or a licensee feature f-. A tier is well-formed iff every lexical item with a licensee feature has a mother with a licensor feature, and every lexical item with a licensor feature has exactly one lexical item among its daughters that carries a licensee feature. It’s a pretty simple system. Despite that simplicity, it predicts a fundamental aspect of movement: island effects!


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The subregular complexity of Merge and Move

🕑 9 min • 👤 Thomas Graf • 📆 September 18, 2019 in Tutorials • 🏷 subregular, syntax, locality, strictly local, tier-based strictly local, Minimalist grammars, Merge, Move

Alright, syntax. Things are gonna get a bit more… convoluted? Nah, interesting! In principle we’ll see a lot of the same things as in phonology, and that’s kind of the point: phonology and syntax are actually very similar. But syntax isn’t quite as exhibitionist as phonology, it doesn’t show off its subregular complexity in the open for the world to see. So the first thing we’ll need is a suitable representation. Once we have that, it’s pretty much phonology all over again, but now with trees.


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A final stroll through the complexity zoo in phonology

🕑 8 min • 👤 Thomas Graf • 📆 September 09, 2019 in Tutorials • 🏷 subregular, phonology, locality, strictly piecewise, strictly local, tier-based strictly local, typology, learnability

After a brief interlude, let’s get back to locality. This post will largely act as a recap of what has come before and provide a segue from phonology to syntax. That’s also a good time to look at the bigger picture, which goes beyond putting various phenomena in various locality boxes just because we can.


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