02 December 2012

Jonathan Bobaljik gives colloquium

Jonathan Bobaljik will give the department colloquium Frida, December 7, at  3:30 PM in Machmer E-37. A title and abstract follow.

Suppletion Beyond Superlatives

In Bobaljik (2012) [Universals in Comparative Morphology. MIT Press], I provided an extended argument, from the morphology of comparative and superlative formation, for abstract hierarchical structure in words, prior to the rules of vocabulary insertion that map this structure to phonological exponents. The key evidence is drawn from suppletion (good-better-best). I argue that in suppletion - by definition the most irregular of morphological phenomena - there are a number of (near) universal patterns that emerge across large, cross-linguistic samples. For example, (virtually) no language has a suppletive pattern of the sort: *good-better-goodest or *good-gooder-best -- if either the comparative or the superlative is suppletive (w.r.t. to the positive), then so is the other. The explanation of these patterns, I submit, requires (hidden) structure, in this case, a structure in which the superlative always properly contains (is derived from) the comparative, and is never directly attached to the adjective. Thus, forms like English tall-est must have a hidden comparative.

The results from the study of comparatives and superlatives, if correct, should extend beyond this morphological domain and provide a test for abstract structure in morphology much more generally. After summarizing the work on comparatives and superlatives, I report on the current state of efforts to go further and investigate the generalized predictions in other suppletive domains, including suppletion for verbal number and pronominal case.

Last Phonetics Lab meeting

John Kingston writes:

We'll have one more lab meeting this semester, next Monday, 3 December, 4-5:30 PM. Its purpose is to take stock of where we are for all on-going experiments. One, Yu-hoo, has reached a very interesting stage (not only a possible failure to replicate, but perhaps even a reversal of effects reported by Yu (2010)!), so Shifra, Megan, and I will discuss it in some detail. (We're still very short on male participants in this experiment, so any help pulling in those of the Y-chromosome persuasion would be appreciated!)

If anyone wants to request some other kind of sustenance than the usual bagels, cheese, and hummus, let me know. Otherwise, as usual be there or be [].

Kristine Yu gives colloq at NYU

Freshly recovered from oral surgery, Kristine Yu gave a colloquium talk at New York University on Friday, November 30th. A title and abstract follow.

The learnability of tones from the speech signal

It is an unremarkable matter of course but a remarkable miracle of human cognition that children learning tonal languages learn maps from the speech signal to the abstract phonological tone concepts of their native language, which could be any tone language of the world. This talk is on work towards a characterization of what it is that is being learned---the class of possible maps from the speech signal to tonal categories in natural language. By studying the structure of this class of tonal maps, we can assess the learnability of the class under a mathematically precise criterion for successful feasible learning. Since the structure of tonal maps is conditioned on the phonetic space in which they are defined, we present work on determining an appropriate phonetic parameterization of the speech signal for the domain of the tonal maps, using cross-linguistic experimental data from Bole, Beijing Mandarin, Cantonese, and White Hmong. We also present results from both human perception experiments and computational modeling hinting at structure in tonal maps that would make them feasibly learnable.

Call for papers: Sinn und Bedeutung

Sinn und Bedeutung 18, 11-13 September 2013, University of the Basque Country in Vitoria-Gasteiz

We invite abstract submissions for 45 (35+10) minute oral presentations or posters devoted to natural language semantics, pragmatics, the syntax-semantics interface, psycholinguistic studies related to meaning, and the philosophy of language. Abstracts should contain original research that, at the time of submission, has neither been published nor accepted for publication. One person can submit at most one abstract as sole author and one abstract as co-author. Abstracts must be submitted electronically in PDF format. Submissions should be anonymous and not reveal the identity of the author(s) in any form (e.g., references, file name or properties of the abstract). Abstracts must not exceed two pages in letter-size or A4 paper, including examples and references, with 2.5 cm (or 1 inch) margins on all sides and 12 point font size. 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.

Abstracts should be submitted via EasyChair, using the following link:


Invited Speakers:

David Barner (University of California, San Diego)
Gennaro Chierchia (Harvard University)
Luisa Martí (University of Kent)
Maribel Romero (Universität Konstanz)

Important dates:

Submission deadline: April 15, 11:59 PM, CET
Notification of Acceptance: June 10
Conference dates: September 11-13

Contact: sub18.basquecountry@gmail.com

Webpage: https://sites.google.com/site/sub18bc

Call for papers: Austronesian Formal Linguistics Society

Austronesian Formal Linguistics Association XX (AFLA XX)

Call Deadline: January 25, 2013.

Conference website: http://ling.uta.edu/~afla20
Contact Persons: Joseph Sabbagh, Nathan Eversole (aflauta20@gmail.com)

The Department of Linguistics at UT Arlington will host the 20th
annual meeting of the Austronesian Formal Linguistics Association. The conference dates are May 17-19, 2013.

AFLA is an organization which promotes the study of Austronesian
languages from a formal perspective. We will elicit talks on all
aspects of formal linguistics (e.g. language acquisition, morphology,
phonology, phonetics, semantics, syntax) of Austronesian languages. In addition to promoting the formal study of Austronesian languages, we especially encourage work by speaker-linguists and junior scholars.

Invited Speakers:
Sandra Chung (University of California, Santa Cruz)
Eric Potsdam (University of Florida)
Norvin Richards (MIT)

Abstracts are invited for 30 minute talks (20+10) or poster presentations on any aspect of formal linguistics (morphology, phonetics, phonology, syntax, semantics) of any Austronesian language(s). Abstracts on experimental or psycholinguistic research of any Austronesian language(s) are also invited. Submission limitations are one singly-authored abstract and one jointly-authored abstract, or two jointly-authored abstracts per applicant. Abstracts should be limited to a maximum of two Letter-sized (or A4) pages (for text, examples, trees, tableaux, and references), with margins of one inch and in 12 pt. type.

Abstracts should be submitted online by January 25, 2013, at the following URL:


The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) is located in Arlington,
Texas, situated between Dallas and Fort Worth. Arlington is easily
accessible by two major airports: DFW and Love Field.

Call for papers: MOT

The Department of Linguistics at the University of Ottawa will host the MOT (Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto) Phonology Workshop March 15-17, 2013. Abstracts on any topic in phonology (including interfaces with phonetics and morphosyntax) should be submitted electronically. Abstracts should not exceed 500 words, including examples and references.

Deadline for receipt of abstracts: Friday, February 1, 2013.

Send abstracts to:
Marie-Hélène Côté <mhcote@uottawa.ca>

Please circulate this call for papers among your colleagues and students. The call is reproduced in the attached pdf documents (one in English, one in French), which you are invited to print and post.

PhD Fellowships at UConn

NSF-IGERT Ph.D. Fellowships at the University of Connecticut
Website: http://igert.cogsci.uconn.edu; Brochure; Flier

We are pleased to announce a new graduate training program at the University of Connecticut, funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program. We will admit 27 IGERT Fellows over the next 4 years. IGERT Fellows receive five years of full funding, including two years of NSF IGERT stipend ($30,000 per year) and three years at normal departmental levels. Trainees enter through any of 7 Ph.D. programs: Linguistics; Speech, Language, & Hearing Sciences; Physiology & Neurobiology; and 4 programs in Psychology: Behavioral Neuroscience, Clinical, Developmental, and Language & Cognition. (Note that NSF stipends are available only to U.S. citizens and permanent residents, but others can apply to the program and can receive full funding at standard departmental levels.) Trainees complete normal home department specialist training, but also a common core of "Foundations" courses that provide them background in the fundamental ideas, methods, and terminology in each participating domain sufficient to allow them to work in collaborative, interdisciplinary teams. Course-based work is integrated with hands-on training and access to cutting edge tools for neuroscience, cognitive neuroscience, genetics, and computational modeling.

Why are we bringing together these areas in our training program? Unifying cognitive and biological approaches will allow language development, processing, and disorders (acquired and developmental) throughout the lifespan to be studied in the context of complex, dynamic interactions of genes, environment, neurobiology, cognition, and culture, affording new insights into the nature of language. Today, cognitive and biological fields are weakly linked. Cognitive domains coupled with Behavior Genetics provide correlational clues to possible genetic bases for language disorders; causality can begin to be assessed with true experiments with gene knock-out or knock-down animal models using methods of Behavioral and Molecular Neuroscience and Genetics (focusing on sensory and cognitive traits associated with language). Currently, such research focuses primarily on language disorders, and there is little transfer back from biological to cognitive domains. Our training program prepares a new generation of scientists not just to accelerate transfer between cognitive and biological domains, but to unify them, and realize the potential for biological approaches to inform not just the bases of disorders, but the bases of mechanisms supporting language plasticity and cognitive and computational theories of language development and processing more generally.

OPPORTUNITIES. In addition to NSF Fellowships, funds are available to support research costs, international internships with partners in Europe and Asia, and trainees have access to leading scientists and state-of-the-art laboratories.

DIVERSITY. We share NSF's mission to increase participation in science by underrepresented groups. UConn and our IGERT provide mentoring and support systems for all Ph.D. students, with particular attention to the concerns of underrepresented groups. Women, minorities, and Deaf individuals are especially encouraged to apply.

APPLY! To be considered for our IGERT training program, see our website (http://igert.cogsci.uconn.edu) for application details. NSF Fellowships are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents, but others may join the program as IGERT Associates, funded by normal departmental mechanisms. Departmental application deadlines vary between December 1, 2012 and January 1, 2013.

Participating Faculty

James Magnuson, PI, Perception, Action, Cognition; Haskins Labs
Holly R. Fitch, Co-PI, Behavioral Neuroscience
Ken Pugh, Co-PI, Perception, Action, Cognition; Haskins Labs
Heather Bortfeld, Developmental; Haskins Labs
Marie Coppola, Developmental; joint appointment in Linguistics
Inge-Marie Eigsti, Clinical; Haskins Labs
Deborah Fein, Clinical
Joseph LoTurco, Physiology & Neurobiology; Behavioral Neuroscience
Letitia Naigles, Developmental
Heather Read, Behavioral Neuroscience
Jay Rueckl, Perception, Action, Cognition; Haskins Labs
Whitney Tabor, Perception, Action, Cognition; Haskins Labs

William Snyder, Co-PI
Diane Lillo-Martin

Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences
Carl Coelho, Co-PI
Bernard Grela
Emily Myers; Haskins Labs; joint appointment in Perception, Action, Cognition
Pradeep Ramanathan
Tammie Spaulding

Haskins Labs / Yale Child Study Center
Elena Grigorenko

Johnson at NYU on Friday

Kyle Johnson, following earlier gigs this semester by Rajesh Bhatt and Kristine Yu, will give a colloquium talk at New York University this Friday, December 7. A title and abstract  follow.

An ellipsis without an antecedent: Andrews Amalgams

I will argue that the best analysis of Andrews Amalgams (as found, for example, in "She ate you'll never believe how many apples") involves an unorthodox outcome from the linearization procedure, as in Guimaräes's 2004 UMaryland dissertation. That outcome arises in part by virtue of the licensing condition on ellipsis that determines where sluices can be. This means that the condition which licenses ellipsis is not something that also enforces the condition that the ellipsis must have an antecedent. We must find a way of explaining why these things are normally paired which is less deterministic than Jason Merchant's well-known proposal.