28 April 2012

Kamiya talks at LARC/Acquisition Lab on Monday

On Monday  April 30, 2012 at 5:20 in the Partee Room (South College 301), Masaaki Kamiya (Hamilton College) will give the following talk.

"Semantic/Pragmatic notion of contrastiveness and learnability issues in
Japanese-speaking children"

Everyone is welcome!

2012 ESSLLI student grants extended to Monday

Reminder and Grants Info 

Held during
The 24th European Summer School
in Logic, Language and Information

Opole, Poland, August 6-17, 2012


This is a reminder of the final, extended deadline for submission to the ESSLLI 2012 Student Session and a notification that the ESSLLI 2012 OC are offering grants in form of waived fees to selected students. Preferences will be given to students actively participating in the Student Session.

The deadline for submitting to the ESSLLI 2012 StuS is **APRIL 30**

For more information of grant application, instructions for authors and important dates, please refer to the Student Session website: http://loriweb.org/ESSLLI2012StuS/

Mini-conference on Thursday, May 3

The second year students will give short presentations of their generals papers in the annual mini-conference, this Thursday (May 3). It will be held in 22 Arnold House, from 1-4, with refreshments served.

Cable gets HFA Project funds award

Seth Cable has been awarded monies to support his work over the summer on Tlingit from the Humanities and Fine Arts Project funds.

Congratulations Seth!

Linguistics Majors present at the Undergraduate Research Conference

On Friday, April 27, there were three presentations at the Massachusetts' Undergraduate Research Conference by UMass linguists. They were:

Katherine Devane Brown, Learning to understand foreign-accented speech, 11:35-12:20, Room 911

Kayly Tillman, Perception of Intrusive /r/ in Bostonian English, 11:35-12:20, Room 911

Chris Garry, An Algorithm for Tracking Vertical Larynx Movement, 3:30-4:15 in the Auditorium, Board 38A

For more information, go to:



22 April 2012

Ayesha Kidwai gives talk on Wednesday

Ayesha Kidwai, Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India, will give a talk entitled "Extraposition, Scrambling and Wh-construal in Hindi and Bangla Finite Complements" on Wednesday, April 25, at 2:30 in Herter 204 (abstract follows).

Professor Kidwai  has worked on scrambling, binding, topic and focus, intonation, and information structure in a number of languages, with a focus on Hindi-Urdu and Meiteilon. She is the author of the OUP book `XP-Adjunction in Universal Grammar: Scrambling and Binding in Hindi-Urdu'. Most recently she translated `In Freedom's Shade', a memoir by Anis Kidwai that documents the first twenty years of independent India.


In this talk, I will revisit the familiar question of finite clause extraposition and argue that the Hindi and Bangla facts from rightward and leftward scrambling, WH-construal  and bound anaphora in embedded clauses suggest that the non-canonical rightward positioning of finite complements is effected by a generalised, and revised, version of TH/EX (Chomsky 1999/2001). I will argue that while this 'displacement' is driven by interface conditions holding primarily at the PHON interface, it also serves to facilitate the observance of SEM interface conditions. Along the way to this analysis, I will propose that the distribution of expletive pronominals that frequently occur in construction with such finite clauses is fundamentally unrelated to the extraposition operation per se, and that the differences between Hindi and Bangla reduce to a single lexical item -- the nature of the embedded C0.

Gaja Jarosz speaks on Friday, April 27

Gaja Jarosz, from Yale University, will give the department colloquium talk this Friday, April 27, at 3:30PM in Machmer E-37. You can learn more about Professor Jarosz at http://pantheon.yale.edu/~gjs42/.

The title and abstract for her talk are:

Learning Hidden Structure in OT and HG

Computational models of learning with violable constraints have led to significant progress in understanding how learners acquire the complex system of knowledge that is phonology; however, a number of significant challenges remain. This talk addresses one of the major outstanding problems, learning in the face of hidden structure, and examines the challenges this problem poses for successful and efficient learning. The particular kind of hidden structure I focus on in this talk is structural ambiguity, which includes any kind of latent structure assigned when parsing a phonological string, such as metrical feet, (sub)syllabic constituents, and autosegmental representations. I examine Robust Interpretive Parsing (Tesar and Smolensky 1998), a well-known approach to structural ambiguity in OT, and show that its extension to probabilistic constraint-based grammars as first described by Boersma (2003) is problematic. The problem occurs because the proposed formulation fails to take advantage of the rich information contained in the learner's stochastic grammar. I propose two modifications to the learning algorithm, one trivial and another more involved, and show that both lead to improvements in the success rates of Stochastic OT and noisy HG learners. I then examine another important aspect of these algorithms' performance: their efficiency. The results of this second evaluation are complex but indicate an efficiency advantage for the proposed modifications as well. I discuss the implications for the relative merits of OT and HG as well as for the evaluation of computational models of phonological learning more generally.

Workshop on memory and long-distance dependencies

On Wednesday, May 16th, ICESL is sponsoring a one-day workshop hosted by Brian Dillon and Lyn Frazier, with the goal of discussing issues at the interface of memory retrieval and the construction of long-distance dependencies, and in particular, if and how structural notions like c-command are used during the online comprehension of binding dependencies. Invited speakers include Brian McElree (NYU), Colin Phillips (UMD), and Jeff Runner (U of R). For more information, please visit the workshop website:


If you plan on attending, please let Brian know so that we can have an accurate head-count.

Cable awarded Jacobs Research Funds

Seth Cable has been awarded a Jacobs Research Fund grant for his fieldwork on Tlingit this summer.

Congratulations Seth!

Entering class of Graduate Program announced

WHISC is pleased to welcome the following individuals, who will join the graduate program in the Fall of 2012.

Hsin-Lun Huang has a BA from National Taiwan University and is completing an MA at National Chengchi University. He is interested in classifiers, resultatives, long-distance binding, and other topics in syntax and has worked primarily on his native language, Mandarin.

Jon Ander Mendia some of us already know. He comes to us from the University of the Basque Country (in Spain), where he earned his BA and MA. He is interested in semantics, especially topics involving quantification.

Ethan Poole s completing his BA at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Ethan has been awarded an NSF Fellowship, and he serves as web master for the LSA. He is interested in syntax, having worked on various topics in Mainland Scandinavian languages.

Amanda Rysling was admitted last year but deferred so that she could accept a Fulbright Fellowship to study and do research in Poland. She completed her BA at NYU. She is interested in morphology-phonology interface, exceptionality and its roots, and syllable structure.

Megan Somerday comes to us from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Having done a second major in math, she worked for a while in a statistics firm. She is interested in OT phonology, acquisition, and AAVE.

Rajesh Bhatt gives colloquium at the University of Connecticut

Rajesh Bhatt will give the colloquium at the University of Connecticut on Friday, April 27. The title of his talk is "Differential Phrases and a Semantics for Comparatives."

Call for papers: (In)definites and weak reference


We are pleased to announce the conference (In)Definites and Weak Reference, which will be held at Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina – UFSC - in Florianopolis (Brazil), on August 20-21, 2012.
The conference is part of the activities of the CAPES-COFECUB Cooperation Project.

Invited Speakers:
Greg Carlson (University of Rochester)
Claire Beyssade (CNRS – IJN Paris)
Carmen Dobrovie-Sorin (CNRS – Paris 7)

Important Dates:
Abstract Submission: May 15
Notification of acceptance/rejection: June 15
Program: June 20

Information about the conference: http://www.barenominals.ufsc.br/

Conference on Formal Approaches to Heritage Language

Over this weekend, the Language Acquisition Research Center hosted a conference on formal approaches to Heritage Language, with invited lectures by Acrísio Pires, Ana Perez-Leroux and Maria Polinsky. More information can be found at: 


Lisa Green speaks at Stony Brook

Lisa Green will give a talk at Stony Brook on Thursday, April 26 as part of the Language Diversity Lecture series. The title of her talk is: "African American English Through the Years: From Hot Topics and Debates to Linguistic Research."

Call for Papers: Workshop on Locality and Directionality at the Morphosyntax-Phonology Interface

Stanford University is hosting a workshop on Locality and Directionality at the Morphosyntax-Phonlogy Interface on October 12-14, 2012. Talks are 45 minutes long, and there is a poster session as well. The two page abstracts are due on June 1.

More information can be found at: