14 May 2011

WHISC janitor takes over

With the WHISC staff prematurely on holiday, the duty of publishing this, the last issue of the 2010-11 academic year, has fallen to the WHISC janitor. You may notice a slight dip in production values.

FASL at MIT this weekend

The twentieth meeting of Formal Approaches to Slavic Linguistics is occurring at MIT this weekend.

Michael Key's dissertation

Mike Key will defend his dissertation, "Phonological and phonetic biases in speech perception," on Monday, June 13 at 2:00PM in Herter 116.

Congratulations Mike!


Meg Grant and Jesse Harris write:

The editors of UMOP 38: Processing Structure would like to announce the final call for papers. This volume would be an ideal place to publish experimental GPs or pilot studies on any aspect of sentence processing. Publishing a project in the working papers series does not preclude publishing it elsewhere.

The deadline for submission is September 15th 2011. The volume will be published in mid October. Please contact the editors for more information or with your intention to submit. 


MIT organized a series of colloquia this spring which they describe as focussing "...on large, synthetic questions, crosses multiple schools and departments, and undertakes to be a significant, watershed moment in the intellectual history of its subject." One of these, led by UMass alumna Irene Heim in collaboration with faculty outside of Linguistics, was entitled "Brains, Minds and Machines. This symposium took place from May 3 through May 5 and included talks from UMass alumnus Gennaro Chierchia as well as Barbara Partee. The photo shows Barbara with one of MIT's indigenous linguists.

Call for papers: Islands in Contemporary Linguistic Theory

In November 16-18, 2011, the University of the Basque Country in Vitoria-Gasteiz is hosting a conference on Islands. Two page abstracts are due June 27. A description of the conference follows.

Meeting description: Islands in Contemporary Linguistic Theory (ISLANDS 2011)

Displacements have occupied a central role in the development of syntactic theorizing since the outset of Generative Grammar. They are taken as clear exponents of context-sensitive operations that take place in local domains. However, it is well established that some of these operations cannot take place in certain environments which are usually termed 'islands' after Ross (1967) (e.g Complex NP Constraint, Wh-islands, Negative islands, Adjunct islands, Coordinate Structure Constraints). Over the years, there have been a wide range of accounts for the nature and source of the various island effects (for an overview cf. Goodluck & Rochmont 1992, Szabolcsi 2006, Boeckx 2007), with explanations in terms of syntactic locality constraints (e.g. Chomsky 1986, Rizzi 1990, Starke 2001), information structure (e.g. Erteshik-Shir 1973), language processing (e.g. Kluender 1998, Phillips 2006) or semantic well-formedness (e.g. Szabolcsi & Zwarts 1993, Abrusan 2007). Although there is no consensus emerging from these studies, it has become clear that the classical 'bounding node'/'barrier' type of explanation has to be revised and reanalyzed taking into account the latest trends in generative grammar (specially, phase-based computations, multidominance structures, etc.). Thus, some of the questions that we would like to address in this workshop are the following ones:

- What makes islands opaque domains? Do island effects reflect structural ill-formedness, semantic contradiction or language processing difficulties?
- Are some domains inherently islands or is islandhood always derivative?
- What do islands do? What are the different consequences of derivational and representational approaches to islands? (cf., i.a., Boeckx (2003), Gallego (2010) and Abe & Hornstein (2011) for discussion).
- What is the reality and nature of the 'island repair' strategies like the ones proposed in works like Merchant (2001), Fox & Pesetsky (2004), Lasnik (2009)?

We would like this workshop to provide a meeting point and a forum for open discussion for all researchers working on new trends to explain the nature and effects of islands.

Invited speakers

Marta Abrusan (University of Oxford)
Cedric Boeckx (ICREA-Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)
Howard Lasnik (University of Maryland)

Karen Jesney defends

Karen Jesney's dissertation, "Cumulative constraint interaction in phonological acquisition and typology," will be defended at 10AM on Thursday, June 9 in Herter 116.

Congratulations Karen!

Lisa Green at UConn

On April 1, Lisa Green gave a talk at UConn under the auspices of the Cognitive Science Program. Her talk was entitled "Syntactic and Morphosyntactic Variation in Child African American English."

Roeper at Greifswald

Tom writes:

At the end of April, I traveled to Greifswald University in Northeastern Germany to give a talk on "Cognitive Wissenschaft und Reformpädagogik" which was a rough translation of a talk that I gave at the Roeper School in Michigan on "Cognitive Science and Progressive Education".  I mention it in hopes that others will put a little thought into the wider implications of what we do.

Wendell Kimper's dissertation defense

Wendell Kimper will defend "Competing Triggers: Transparency and Opacity in Vowel Harmony" on Friday, June 10 at 9:30AM in Herter 201.

Congratulations Wendell!

Second call for papers: Semantics and Philosophy in Europe

Second Call for Papers


26 September - 1 October, 2011
Ruhr University Bochum, Germany


Jan Broersen (Utrecht) - Philippe de Brabanter (Paris) - Manuel
Garcia-Carpintero (Barcelona) - Andreas Herzig (Toulouse) - Katarzyna
Jaszczolt (Cambridge) - Hannes Leitgeb (Munich) - Robert Matthews (Rutgers)
- Friederike Moltmann (Paris) - Stephen Neale (New York) - John Perry
(Stanford) - Paul Saka (Texas) - Mark Richard (Harvard) - Daniele van de
Velde (Lille) - Dag Westerstahl (Gothenburg)

Markus Werning and Heinrich Wansing

It is with great pleasure that we announce the upcoming Semantics and
Philosophy in Europe 4 conference. The conference will feature expert
tutorials, symposia, roundtables, and a colloquium on the following topics:

A) The Semantics and Pragmatics of Quotation
B) The Semantics of Action Sentences
C) The Semantics and Epistemology of Mental State Ascriptions

The purpose of the SPE workshops is to enhance the dialogue between
linguists and philosophers and to provide a new forum for presenting
research in the interface between linguistic semantics and the related areas
of philosophy (philosophy of language, logic, philosophy of mind,
metaphysics, philosophy of mathematics, epistemology) . SPE takes place
annually in different European cities. The previous meetings took place in
Paris (SPE1, 2008), London (SPE2, 2009), and Paris (SPE3, 2010).

Submissions of abstracts (650 words including references) are invited for 30
min talks or poster presentations on each of the three themes of the
conference or related topics. Submissions will be accepted via the
conference website until 15 June, 2011.

Prof. Dr. Markus Werning/Prof. Dr. Heinrich Wansing
Department of Philosophy II
Ruhr University Bochum
44780 Bochum, Germany

Please direct email inquiries to spe4@rub.de.

Tom Roeper in Mannheim

Tom Roeper gave two talks at the end of April in Mannheim. One, joint work with Luiz Amaral, was on Multiple Grammars and the OPC, and the other, joint work with Terue Mishayita, Suzi Lima and Barbara Pearson, was "The Acquisition of Each, Every, and Plurals and how exhaustivity, genericity, and distributivity are distinguished."

Deadline for Ninth International Tbilisi Symposium extended



26-30 September 2011
Kutaisi, Georgia
Website: http://www.illc.uva.nl/Tbilisi/Tbilisi2011/

The Ninth International Tbilisi Symposium on Language, Logic and Computation will be held on 26 - 30 September 2011 in Kutaisi, Georgia. The Programme Committee invites submissions for contributions on all aspects of language, logic and computation. Work of an interdisciplinary nature is particularly welcome. Areas of interest include, but are not limited to:

* Natural language syntax, semantics, and pragmatics
* Constructive, modal and algebraic logic
* Linguistic typology and semantic universals
* Logics for artificial intelligence
* Information retrieval, query answer systems
* Logic, games, and formal pragmatics
* Language evolution and learnability
* Computational social choice
* Historical linguistics, history of logic
* Algorithmic game theory
* Formal models of multiagent systems

Authors can submit an anonymous abstract of two pages (800 words) at the EasyChair conference system here:



The programme will at least include the following invited speakers for the lectures and tutorials.

Enzo Marra                  Logic
Ulle Endriss                Computation
Daniel Hole                 Language

Invited Lectures:
Alexandru Baltag            Logic
Agi Kurucz                  Logic
Sonja Smets Logic
Prakash Panangaden     Computation
Nikolaj Bjorner             Computation
Vangelis Paschos            Computation
Bart Geurts                 Language
Peter beim Graben Language

Two Special sessions:

A special session on Frames, chaired by Sebastian Loebner and a special session on Logic, Information, and Agency chaired by Alexandru Baltag & Sonja Smets. Full details below.


A selection of accepted submissions will be published after a second review in the LNAI series of Springer.


Submission deadline:          May 15, 2011
Notification of acceptance:   July 1, 2011
Final abstracts due:          August 1, 2011
Registration deadline:        September 1, 2011
Symposium:                    September 26-30, 2011

Programme and submission details can be found at:


08 May 2011

WHISC goes to the beach

With this issue of WHISC, the 2010-2011 volume officially closes. Our hardworking staff is already lathering on the sunscreen and blowing up the beach toys.

WHISC returns in September.

Lab Jobs for undergraduate Linguistics Students

Alexandra Jesse writes:

I direct the Language, Intersensory Perception, and Speech (short: LIPS) lab in the Psychology Department. We are currently looking for undergraduate research assistants to work in the lab in the upcoming Fall and Spring semester.

Research within the LIPS lab looks at how (young and older) listeners recognize speech from hearing and seeing a speaker talk. In particular, we are interested in the time-course of recognizing words, both from listening and from lip-reading, how listeners adjust to a speaker's idiosyncratic pronunciations, and what happens to these processes when people get older. 

You can also visit our website for more information:

Typical tasks of our research assistants are:
- help with finding, recording, and editing of speech materials for the experiments
- assist with recruitment, scheduling, and testing of participants
- attend & prepare for weekly lab meetings
- do administrative research-related tasks

The typical commitment of our research assistants is 9hrs/week, for 3 credits.  

If you are interested in this position, please contact me for more information and/or for an application form.

Martin Walkow defends dissertation

Martin Walkow will defend his dissertation "Goals, Big and Small" on Friday the 13th (of May). For the location and time, look for the adverts around the department.

Graduation this Weekend

The graduating class of 2011 will matriculate this Friday and Saturday. Of our linguistics majors, those seniors eligible to graduate this year are:

Pamela Angel
Daniel Benowitz
Sean Bethard
Maria Bonilla
Rachel Borden
Stephanie Clement
Jennifer Cusworth
Amilyn DeCarteret
Aurora Feeney-Kleinfeldt
Roxanne Frattaroli
Jordan Galler
Teresa Gotal
Jeffrey Haigler
Elissa Kraemer
Jessica Lee
Saul Lee
Nicholas Leoutsakos
Eliza Mandel
Thomas Mizrahi
Erica Reinholz
Aaron Schein
Eric Swotinsky
Zachary Waegell

Congratulations linguists!

Grant and Lima get University Fellowships

The prestigious University Fellowships have been announced for the 2011-12 academic year, and the linguistics department's Suzi Lima and Meg Grant are both recipients. The University Fellowships are awarded to graduate students throughout the university based on research accomplishments: there are only 18 given to continuing graduate students. Linguistics was the only department to be awarded more than one fellowship.

Congratulations Meg and Suzi!

RUMMIT meets this week

R(utgers)UM(ass)MIT, the annual area meeting of phoneticians and phonologists, meets Monday, May 16, in Rutgers. The talks this year include:

From Rutgers:

Vandana Bajaj -- Hindi Bilingual Joke Wellformedness: A Study of
Laryngeal Contrast Perceptibility

Aaron Braver -- (Im)perceptible incomplete neutralization: Two
experiments on flapping in American English

Peter Staroverov -- Sonority and the acoustics of Russian word-final
consonant clusters

from UMass:

Kevin Mullin -- The Necessity of Diacritics for Descriptive Adquacy

Claire Moore-Cantwell -- Epenthesis Typology in Harmonic Serialism

Brian Smith -- Paradigm Gaps and Spell-Out in OT and HG

From MIT

Suyeon Yun -- String-based domains of duration preservation

Coppe van Urk -- On the distribution of clashes
For more information, get in touch with John Kingston.

Cable in Moscow

Seth Cable writes:

Last weekend, I attended MOSS 2 (the second Moscow Syntax and Semantics conference). Also in attendance were the following UMass-related folks: Barbara Partee, Ana Arregui and Malte Zimmerman. Ana presented the second talk of the conference, a joint work with Maria Luisa Rivero and Andres Salanova titled "Imperfectivity: Capturing Variation Across Languages." On the next day, I presented an invited talk titled "The Optionality of Movement and EPP in Dholuo." Malte presented the third invited talk, titled "Contrastive Discourse Particles: Effects of Information Structure and Modality." Overall, it was an incredible program, and also featured fascinating talks by folks from all over Europe, Asia and North America. The program can still be found here:


SALT 21 meets on May 20-22

The 21st meeting of Semantics and Linguistics Theory will meet on May 20-22 at Rutgers. Our own Angelika Kratzer is one of the invited speakers; she will be presenting "What *can* can mean."

Daniel Altshuler, of Hampshire College, is also presenting a paper: "Towards a more fine-grained theory of temporal adverbials."

UMass grad student Maria Biezma will be presenting a poster: "Conditional Inversion and Givenness."

UMass alumni Luis Alonso-Ovalle and Paula Menendez-Benito will also be presenting a poster: "Two types of epistemic indefinites: private ignorance vs. public indifference"

And UMass alumni Ilaria Frana and Kyle Rawlins will be presenting the poster: "Unconditional concealed questions and the nature of Heim's ambiguity"

More information can be found at: http://salt.rutgers.edu/.

Johnson in the Basque Country

Kyle Johnson will present ten lectures at the Universidad del País Vasco in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain in the last two weeks of this month. The lectures are on a "Typology of Movement," but, it is rumored, actually show off difficult to draw three dimensional phrase markers.