16 October 2011

Semantics guru speaks in semantics seminar on Tuesday

Roger Schwarzschild, our resident guru, will give a talk entitled "Nouns as eventuality predicates and the mass/count distinction" in Angelika Kratzer's seminar this Tuesday, October 18th, at 2:30pm in Bartlett 206.

All are welcome!

Seth Cable awarded LSA's "Early Career Award"

The Linguistic Society of America gives, every year, its Early Career Award to "a new scholar who has made an outstanding contribution to the field of Linguistics." This year, our own Seth Cable has won this coveted award. WHISC has not determined whether Dr. Cable plans on being present at the gala awards ceremony at this year's LSA meeting in Portland, Oregon this January to receive the award.

We at WHISC join Sally Thomason, Chair of the Awards Committee, who offers "congratulations on the super-impressive record of scholarship and teaching that earned you this award!"

Roger Schwarzschild gives department colloq on Friday

Roger Schwarzschild of Rutgers University will present the department colloquium this Friday at 3:30 in Machmer E-37.  A title and abstract follow.

Quantifier Domain Adverbials, Semantic Change and the Comparative

The sentence “Jack is more anxious than Jill” is a comparative.  We know that because of the presence of “more” as well as the presence of “than”.   Across the world’s languages, there are expressions of the comparative that lack a morpheme comparable to “more”  (comparative marker) and there are some that lack a morpheme comparable to “than” (standard marker).   From this perspective, the comparative seems to be redundantly marked in the English example. 

Where is the meaning of the comparative localized, in the more-word?  in the than-word?  in both? Is there a dependency between the grammar of the than-word in a given language and its use of a more-word (Stassen 1985)?

What is the process by which languages acquire a more-word over time?

In this talk, I will be looking at expressions of the comparative in Modern Hebrew.  I’ll propose an analysis that makes use of Quantifier Domain Adverbialization.  In this analysis, both the more-word and the than-word are meaningful. The phrase headed by the than-word can function as a Quantifier-Domain Adverbial whereby it comments on the domain of the degree quantifier more. I’ll address the questions raised above through the lens of the proposed analysis.

NELS 42 schedule published; registration deadline soon!

NELS 42 is being hosted by the University of Toronto this year on the weekend of November 11-13. The theme of the conference is: "The role of Typology and Linguistic Universals in Linguistic Theory." In addition to plenary talks by former UMass faculty David Pesetsky and Lisa Matthewson, other UMass notables presenting include:

Claire Moore-Cantwell "Over- and under-generalization in Learning derivational morphology."

Michael Becker (with Clemens and Nevins) "A richer model is not always more accurate: The case of French and Portuguese plurals."

Maria Gouskova and Michael Becker "Russian 'yer' alternations are governed by the grammar."

Gillian Gallagher "Speaker knowledge of laryngeal phonotactics in Cochabamba Quechua."

Stefan Keine "Long-distance agreement and movement: Evidence from Hindi"

Keir Moulton "What covaries in backward variable binding."

The deadline for early bird registration is this Tuesday: October 18. It looks like a smashing conference (NB: the party is to be held in the Bata Shoe Museum). More information at: NELS 42

LSA Fellows include yet more of UMass

In the October 9th issue of WHISC, it was reported that two UMass faculty (Lisa Selkirk and Angelika Kratzer) and one UMass alumnus (Irene Heim) were inducted into the list of Linguistic Society of America Fellows. Word has since reached WHISC that two other UMass faculty members -- John McCarthy and Alice Harris -- have joined those august ranks this year. Emmon Bach and Barbara Partee were among the inaugural Fellows in 2006 and, with the addition of Professors McCarthy, Harris, Selkirk and Kratzer UMass now has more LSA Fellows than any other University east (or west) of California.

Bhatt at Berkeley

Rajesh Bhatt presented an invited talk at UC, Berkeley on October 10. A title, and abstract, follow.

Amounts versus Cardinalities

Semantic treatments of differentials in comparatives treat measure
phrases (`one pound' in `Jules is one pound heavier than Jim') and
numerals (`one' in `Jules has one more book than Jim') alike. This
seems justified based on the syntax of English but an examination of a
wider variety of languages reveals a peculiar restriction. In Hebrew,
Hindi-Urdu, or German, one cannot say `one more book'; instead the
form `one book more' must be used. I'll explore the consequences of
this peculiar restriction for the semantics of comparatives and the
distinctions between cardinalities and amounts.

RESEARCH and TEACHING POSITIONS for 2011-2012 in Paris

The LabEx EFL is a 10 year project funded by the French Ministry of Higher
Education and Research and relies on a cluster of 13 research teams from 5 Parisian Universities (Sorbonne Nouvelle University, Paris Diderot University, Paris Descartes University, Paris 13 University and INALCO ), in partnership with CNRS, INRIA, EPHE,  and IRD.

The project’s aim is to promote interdisciplinary innovative research between different fields of theoretical and applied linguistics, with a special focus on empirical
foundations and experimental methods.

For the academic year 2011-2012, we are offering the following positions :

-    International chair of quantitative and experimental linguistics (invited professorship)
-    9 Postdoctoral positions in the following fields: prosody, experimental syntax, experimental semantics, text data mining, language typology, history of  computational linguistics
-    2 Engineers in the following fields: language resources, psycholinguistics
-    1 three year PhD stipend  in experimental semantics (laboratory linguistique formelle, University Paris Diderot)
-    2 Research assistants in psycholinguistics (laboratory psychologie de la perception, University Paris Descartes)

Application deadline November 10th 2011

http:// www.labex-efl.org

Another call will be issued for positions to be filled in 2012.

Jacqueline Vaissière
Professeur, coordinateur EFL, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris3 (Sorbonne Paris Cité), Institut Universitaire de France

Laboratoire Phonétique et Phonologie, LPP (CNRS/Paris3)

19 rue des Bernardins
75005 Paris

tel: 06 15 93 94 71 (01 43 26 57 17: gestionnaire du laboratoire)

Pages du laboratoire: http://lpp.univ-paris3.fr
Pages personnelles: 

WCCFL 30 call for papers

The Thirtieth meeting of the West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics will be held on April 13-15 at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Abstract submissions are now being taken, the deadline is October 31. For more information, go to: WCCFL 30 @ UC Santa Cruz - Call for Papers

The InterContinental for NELS

The NELS  42 organizers write:

For those of you who are attending NELS42, we would like to announce a
special hotel offer: if you book with the InterContinental hotel for Friday
11 November and Saturday 12 November, you will receive a $40 rebate on your
conference registration fee.

Together with our special reduced hotel rate ($175/night; for comparison,
regular rates start at $229), this is a great opportunity to spend a weekend
in a luxury hotel without breaking the bank! The InterContinental is located
close to campus in Toronto's Yorkville neighbourhood, the city's premier
district for fine shopping and dining.

Act fast -- this offer is available in a limited quantity for a limited time
(expires October 21).

Hotel details:
- 220 Bloor Street West, Toronto, ON M5S 1T8
- Phone: (416) 960-5200, Fax: (416) 960-8269
- Refer to "NELS - University of Toronto" when booking

As the number of registration rebates is limited, please email Will Oxford
(will.oxford@utoronto.ca) before you book to confirm that a rebate is still
available for you.

Frazier at UCLA

Lyn Frazier gave an invited colloquium talk at UCLA on October 7th, entitled "Processing ellipsis: Explorations at the edge of grammar."

SALT 22: Call for Papers

Semantics and Linguistics Theory 22 will be held at the University of Chicago, May 18-20, 2012. We invite submission of abstracts for 30 minute oral presentations (with 10 minute discussion periods) or posters on any topic in natural language semantics.

The abstract submission deadline is January 3, 2012, 11:59pm CST.  We expect to make notifications of acceptance in late February. 

Abstracts must not exceed two pages in letter-size or A4 paper, including examples and references, with 1 inch margins on all sides and 12 point font size. The abstract should have a clear title but should not identify the author(s). The abstract must be submitted electronically in PDF format. Submissions are limited to 1 individual and 1 joint abstract per author, or 2 joint abstracts per author.

We are using EasyChair for the submission and the review process; the url for abstract submission is: 


For detailed instructions about EasyChair and the submission process, please visit the conference website:


When you submit your abstract, you will be asked to indicate whether you would like it to be considered for a talk, a poster or both. 

Please direct inquiries to salt22chicago@gmail.com.

Roeper in Bucharest

Tom Roeper writes:

I gave an invited lecture last week on the topic "An Interface Question: does SLI
involve Pragmatic Excess" at the final meeting of the EU-sponsored CLAD
(Cross-linguistic Language Diagnosis) where a number of theoretical and
applied linguists have been developing evaluation materials for language
problems in LIthuanian, Romanian, Italian, German and other languages.
This project grew out of the European COST project which grew out of our own
DELV project.

Cable's paper accepted to the Amsterdam Colloquium

Seth Cable's paper, "Between Tense and Adverbs: Temporal Remoteness in Kikuyu," has been accepted to the 18th annual Amsterdam Colloquium, held on December 19-21 at the University of Amsterdam. For more information, go to Amsterdam Colloquium 2011: Homepage.

Congratulations Seth!

Jason Overfelt speaks at SRG

Jason Overfelt gave a presentation at the S Reading Group meeting last Thursday, October 13th. A title and abstract follow.

Title: Right Roof Economy

Description:  In this paper I offer new evidence from the licensing of
null-operator structures in various adjunct clauses as well as scope
shifting effects to support the existence of unbounded,
successive-cyclic rightward movement.  The current state of the
analysis provided suggests that the Right Roof Constraint (Ross 1967,
Soames and Perlmutter 1977, McCloskey 1999 i.a.), commonly thought to
limit rightward movement to strictly local applications, can be
reduced to syntactic and interface economy conditions.  This in turn
supports a model of grammar in which linearization is determined by
independent principles responsible for mapping syntactic structure to

Bhatt at Stanford

Rajesh Bhatt presented joint work with Trupti Nisar, of SNDT Women's University, Mumbai, at Stanford on October 7th. A title and abstract follow.

Shadows of Ergativity: Variable Agreement in Kutchi

Kutchi, a western Indo-Aryan language, presents a typologically unusual split ergative system which manifests ergativity at the wrong end of Silverstein's scale (1st Person is Ergative, everything else seems Nominative). Ergativity is manifested in the 1st Person in Kutchi via object agreement and hence this split is not a surface morphological split of the kind analyzed by Deo & Sharma (2006). Handling non-morphological person based splits is challenging: can the abstract case licensed by a head depend upon the person features of the DP receiving the case? We show that the Kutchi system makes sense once we extend our understanding of ergativity to cover the impoverished agreement found with 2/3 subjects in Perfective Transitive environments in Kutchi - object agreement can then be seen as a limiting case of impoverished subject agreement. We also discuss the typological oddness of Kutchi in the context of the proper location of Silverstein's Generalization (nominal versus verbal), and possible diachronic motivations.

UMass at NECPhon

The Fifth meeting of the Northeast Computational Phonology Workshop met on October 15 at Yale and included talks by Kristine Yu (The Learnability of Tones from the Speech Signal) and Robert Staubs (Learning-Based Biases in Quantity-Insensitive Stress). You can learn more at NECPHON 2011.