02 September 2012

Sarah Vega-Liros accepts job

Sarah Vega-Liros, who has been the Linguistics Department's able Office Manager and Assistant to the Head for the past eight some years has accepted a new position as Research Business Manager Liaison for the schools of Humanities and Fine Arts and Social and Behavioral Sciences. It is with considerable regret that WHISC announces that this Friday, September 10th, will be her last day in the linguistics department. Ms. Vega-Liros was instrumental in upgrading WHISC to its present cutting-edge technology, and our entire editorial and reporting staff have relied heavily on her support since WHISC's inception.

Fortunately, her new office will be next door, in Machmer W34B. Our investigators have discovered, however, that this office is buried deep within a cluster, so visit her now while she is still reasonably accessible.

The entire WHISC staff wish her well in her new position.

Town Meeting on Friday

The annual first-of-the-year Town Meeting happens this week, on Friday at 3:30 in the Third Floor lounge in South College. This is *the* seen and be seen event of the year. Dress to impress (the camera).

Annual Start-of-the-Year Picnic on September 15

Barbara and Volodja will be hosting the start of the year potluck picnic at their house, 50 Hobart Lane, on Saturday, September 15. The festivities begin at 3:30. 

This is *the* event of the Fall: the one time that the extensive linguistics community in the Pioneer Valley gathers to catch up, share news, show off the kids, introduce new sweethearts, friends and wardrobes. 

Hobart Lane is a small street that goes east off North Pleasant just a short distance north of the university, opposite Puffton Village, near the Crestview /Presidential Apartments bus stop. 50 Hobart Lane is a big white house on the left, near the end. The street sign may be missing; but in that case it’s the only street around there with a pole but no sign. Hobart lane is very near the Crestview/Presidential Apartments bus stop. Bring things to eat, international foods are encouraged! The eating generally begins at 4:30 or so. There will be a charcoal grill, and a little beer --- bring drinks too.

Meg Grant defends

Meg Grant defended her dissertation "The Parsing and Interpretation of Comparatives: More than Meets the Eye" last Monday, August 27th. Her defense was more than successful.

Congratulations Meg!

Undergraduate Research Assistants sought in Psychology

Alexandra Jesse from the Department of Psychology writes:

We are currently looking for undergraduate research assistants to work in the Language, Intersensory Perception, and Speech (short: LIPS) lab in the Psychology Department. Positions are open starting this Fall semester. Ideal applicants are those who can commit to a longer time period.

The work within the LIPS lab falls within the area of Psycholinguistics. We examine how 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. We use eye-tracking and other behavioral methods to address these questions, as well as EEG. 

You can visit our website for more information:

Typical tasks of our research assistants are:
- help with finding stimuli for an experiments (e.g., selecting words, making nonwords)
- help with recording, annotating, 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 during the school year is 9hrs/week, for 3 credits. You would be enrolled in Psych 398B, but this course can count as an elective towards your linguistics degree. Please contact me if you have any questions about how these credits can be applied to your degree in Linguistics. 

So if you are interested in the position for the Fall, please contact me as soon as possible for more information and for an application form. Once you return the completed application form, we will then contact you to schedule for an interview. We will then also require a letter of recommendation. Therefore, if you are interested, please respond to this email as soon as possible.

Roeper named Fellow of the Linguistic Society of America

Tom Roeper has been elected a Fellow of the Linguistic Society of America. Tom joins six other UMass faculty (Emmon Bach, Barbara Partee, Alice Harris, Lisa Selkirk, Angelika Kratzer and John McCarthy) on this august body. His induction ceremony will take place January 4th at the LSA's annual meeting in Boston. 

Congratulations Tom!

Andrew Weir goes to NELS

Congratulations to Andrew Weir, whose paper "Why-stripping targets Voice Phrase" has been accepted to this year's NELS conference, which will take place October 19-21 at the City University of New York.

Congratulations Andrew!

Elisabeth Selkirk gets NSF Grant

Congratulations to Elisabeth Selkirk who won a $500,000 NSF grant to study the effects of syntactic constituency on phonology and tone. The grant brings together collaborators from Central Connecticut State University and the University of the Basque Country. 

Congratulations Lisa!

Maria Gouskova gets tenure

WHISC congratulates UMass alumna Maria Gouskova, who will start this month as a tenured faculty at New York University.

Speas at NAISA

Peggy Speas and Evangeline Parsons Yazzie presented at a forum on creating Mohegan, Navajo and Maliseet texts for community users at the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association conference in Boston on June 5. 

Seth Cable publishes in Natural Language Semantics

Seth Cable's paper on graded tense in Kikuyu was accepted for publication in Natural Language Semantics. Congratulations Seth!

Andrew's Summer Vacation

Fourth year graduate student Andrew Weir gave the following two presentations this summer. 

"Negation in Scots: two dinnas " at the Forum for Research on the Languages of Scotland and Ulster, University of Aberdeen, July 19.

"Some, speaker knowledge, and subkinds" at the Student Session of the European Summer School in Logic, Language and Information, University Opole, Poland, August 15.

Congratulations Andrew!

Call for papers: Workshop on Aspect across Languages



The level of complexity and importance of aspectual systems in languages, compounded by the diversity of approaches to representing aspect, make aspect an extremely interesting topic for discussion. In this workshop, we would like to engage in this discussion from a cross-linguistic perspective. Although many authors have thoroughly addressed and investigated issues surrounding aspect, there still remains a lack of uniformity in regard to the theoretical notion of aspect (Beavers, 2008, in press; Borer, 2005; Comrie, 1976; de Swart, 1998; Dowty, 1979; Filip, 2008; Klein, 1994; Krifka, 1998; Vendler, 1967, amongst others). Aspect can roughly be delimited as describing the speaker's perspective on the internal organisation of an action, event or state, which not only covers temporal perspectives, but might also include characteristics such as progressive, habitual, repetition, momentary, bounded, perfective etc. (Bybee, Perkins, & Pagliuca, 1994; Dahl, 1985; Smith, 1997; Talmy, 2000; Verkuyl, 1993).

Topics of interest in this workshop include but are not limited to:

- definitions and classifications of aspectual notions;
- diachronic perspectives on aspect;
- aspectual coding in specific languages, i.e. single-language treatments of aspect;
- comparisons of aspect across different languages.

The workshop is held as part of the Annual Conference of the Australian Linguistic Society (https://sites.google.com/site/als2012uwa/home).


We invite abstracts of up to 500 words. Please submit your abstract at


Papers will be of 30 minutes duration, consisting of a 20 minute lecture-style presentation followed by 10 minutes for questions/responses.

Abstracts should be submitted online and will be reviewed by at least two reviewers drawn from the Program Committee. Please ensure that your abstract meets the specific guidelines (cf. website).

Note that only ALS members are eligible to present at an ALS conference. Non-members presenting papers must take up membership by the beginning of the conference.

We particularly invite contributions that focus on the premise that aspectual categories reflect conceptual structures and which make these structures explicit. In addition, we welcome analytical and comparative studies of aspect across languages as well as discussions and presentations that help to clarify the current knowledge base of aspect terminology. Authors with problematic and non-standard examples as well as with work in progress are encouraged to contribute.

Call for papers: SALT

Semantics and Linguistics Theory 23 will be held at UC Santa Cruz, May
3-5, 2013. We invite submission of abstracts for 30 minute oral
presentations (with 10 minute discussion periods) or posters on any
topic in natural language semantics.

Abstracts must not exceed 3 pages (please note the new page limit) in
letter-size 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

SALT does not accept papers that by the time of submission have
appeared or have been accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed
journal. Preference will be given to presentations not duplicated at
other major conferences (including LSA, NELS, WCCFL).

Details about the submission process will be posted soon on the SALT 23 webpage:


Please direct any inquiries to:


Important Dates:
-- Submission deadline: December 2, 2012, 11:59pm PST
-- Notification of acceptance: Early February 2013
-- Conference date: May 3 - May 5, 2013

Seth Cable goes to NELS

Congratulations to Seth Cable, whose paper "Distance Distributivity and Pluractionality in Tlingit (and Beyond)" was accepted to this year's NELS, which will be held at CUNY on October 19-21.

Speas in Leiden

Peggy Speas was a keynote speaker at "The Nature of Evidentiality," a conference held in Leiden on June 14-16. An abstract of her talk, "Evidential Situations," follows.

What is “evidence”?  In many formal analyses of evidentials, the denotation of a modal or illocutionary operator simply includes a stipulation that the speaker has “direct evidence,” “indirect evidence,” etc. This is a problem, since “evidence” has no denotation independent of what it is evidence for.  I argue that an explanatory theory of evidentials must be a relational one. I will draw on the insights of Nikolaeva (1999), Chung (2007) or Lee(2008), who have analyzed evidentials in terms of temporal or spatial relations, as well as others such as deHaan (1999) who have drawn attention to the fact that evidentials involve overlap or non-overlap with the speaker’s perceptual field. However, I will argue that evidentials denote relations between situations, not times or locations. 

Tibetan distinguishes three different types of evidence, ego, direct and indirect.  However, within each category there are multiple sub-types. For example, there are three different direct evidential morphemes, (‘dug, shag and song), which are often, but not always, interchangeable.

(1) a.

kha sang khong ‘khrom la slebs ‘dug

yesterday he market (LOC) arrived  ‘DUG

‘Yesterday he arrived at the market’ (and the speaker witnessed the event’)


kha sang khong ‘khrom la slebs shag

yesterday he market (LOC) arrived  SHAG

‘Yesterday he arrived at the market’ (and the speaker witnessed the event’)


kha sang khong ‘khrom la slebs song

yesterday he market (LOC) arrived  SONG

‘Yesterday he arrived at the market’ (and the speaker witnessed the event’)


In this talk I will focus on the distinction between ’dug and shag . It is fairly well established that song incorporates past tense, while ‘dug and shag are unmarked for tense. (Agfa 1993, Tournadre and Dorje 2003 and Garrett 2001) Although shag is the most frequent evidential in spoken Tibetan, it has not been extensively studied.  Documented differences between ’dug and shag do not reveal any obvious pattern. However, a pattern emerges within a theory that treats direct evidentials as denoting a relation of inclusion between the situation being reported and the situation in which the speaker came to know this information. I will argue that ‘dug and shag differ only in the direction of this inclusion relation. This analysis receives surprising support from the behavior of direct evidentials in the antecedent of conditionals, questions and negation. I further argue that apparently idiosyncratic uses of ’dug and shag are extensions of the relevant inclusion relations to epistemic domains.

It would be premature to draw conclusions from Tibetan about the general typology of evidentials, but I conclude by sketching out a typology based on the assumption that evidentials are necessarily relational.