21 October 2013

William Snyder speaks in Oiry/Johnson Seminar on Wednesday

William Snyder (UConn) will give a talk entitled "Evidence of parameter-setting in the acquisition of English particles and datives" in the seminar on Arguments and Acquisition that Magda Oiry and Kyle Johnson are conducting. His talk is on Wednesday, October 23, at 4PM in Dickinson 210. Everyone is welcome.

20 October 2013

Adam Albright gives colloq on Friday

Adam Albright (MIT) will give the department colloquium on Friday, October 25, in Machmer E-37 at 3:30. A title and abstract follow.

Modeling the acquisition of phonological alternations with learning biases
[joint work with Young Ah Do, Georgetown University]

What expectations do learners bring to the task of acquiring alternations? We provide evidence for three biases: (1) a bias against alternations, favoring uniform paradigms (McCarthy 1998); (2) a bias in favor of alternations that target broader classes of segments (Peperkamp et al. 2006); (3) a substantive bias against perceptually salient alternations (Steriade 2001). 

Learners’ biases were probed using Artificial Grammar experiments, in which adult English speakers were taught singular~plural pairs in a “Martian language”, and were then asked to produce or rate plural forms. In the artificial language, obstruent-final stems exhibited either voicing alternations (dap~dabi) or continuancy alternations (brup~brufi), for both labial-final and coronal-final stems.  By manipulating the frequency of labials vs. coronals, we were able to vary the amount of data concerning different segmental alternations. If learners are biased to expect non-alternation, then we expect fewer alternating responses for the rarer segment, and this is indeed what we observe: participants often produce non-alternating responses for the rarer segment, even though non-alternation was unattested in the training data.

By manipulating the relative proportion of voicing vs. continuancy alternations across the two places of articulation, we were able to pit frequency of segmental alternations (p~f > p~b) against feature-level frequency (voicing > continuancy). If learners expect alternations to target natural classes, rather than individual segments, then we expect subjects to prefer the alternation that is overall more frequent across both classes.  In general, this is indeed what we find: subjects prefer to generalize the featurally more frequent alternation, even if it is less frequent for particular segment pairs.  However, the effect of feature-level frequency differs significantly depending on the feature. Comparing across experiments, we find that subjects more readily extend voicing alternations across different places of articulation than continuancy alternations.  We attribute this to a learning bias against certain featural alternations.  Finally, we show how these relative preferences can be modeled using a regularized maximum entropy model of constraint weighting.

Phonology gurus arrive

Joe Pater writes:

In the first half of November we will have the great pleasure of having not only Elliott Moreton and Sharon Peperkamp visiting us as phonology gurus, but also Anne-Michelle Tessier in our midst as well. I'm writing now primarily to encourage people to get in touch with the three of them, whom I've cc'd, to set up meetings. Meeting with students is the primary function of a guru-ship, and Anne-Michelle has indicated that she'd also like to get (re-)acquainted with the current denizens of South College while she's here. Please visit their websites to find out about their research - I could never do justice to any one of them with a short blurb. 

Peperkamp - 1st week of November -  http://www.lscp.net/persons/peperkamp/
Moreton - 2nd week of November - http://www.unc.edu/~moreton/ 
Tessier - 1st 2 weeks of November - http://www.ualberta.ca/~annemich/

Sharon and Anne-Michelle will both be talking at Phonology 2013 November 9th and 10th (please register *today* if you haven't already), and Elliott will be giving a colloquium November 15th. There will also be further classes and PrG events that will be announced separately. 


Acquisition Lab/LARC on Wednesday

Magda Oiry writes:

The acquisition lab / LARC meeting this Wednesday (Partee room 12:15 to 1:15) will be a "conference round-up" where we discuss ideas from the recent conferences we have been involved in: acquisition of quantification, Multiple grammars, Rio conference on recursion.

Everyone is welcome!

Call for Papers: Experiencers in Natural Language Semantics

Modeling experiencers in natural language semantics

January 13-16, 2014, Tezpur, Assam, India

Workshop hosted by the 5th Indian School on Logic and its Applications (ISLA 2014)

Webpage of the local organisation: http://www.tezu.ernet.in/isla2014/index.htm

Invited speakers

Eric McCready (Aoyama Gakuin University)
Brendan Gillon (Mc Gill)
Carla Umbach (Zentrum für Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft)

Meeting description

There is a long-standing tradition of using logical and, more specifically, model-theoretic tools in the analysis of natural languages. Building on this tradition, our workshop aims at addressing one specific issue that has been the topic of discussion lately in the areas of formal semantics, applied logic, computational linguistics, and philosophy. The issue at stake is the notion of experiencer, across languages and across linguistic categories. For example, it is commonly assumed that in a sentence like "Deeti's performance astonished Raj", Raj occupies the role of the experiencer. One of the open questions currently under debate is whether this experiencer argument remains present in derived adjectives such as 'astonishing', as in "Deeti's performance was astonishing". Another open question is whether derived adjectives like 'astonishing' belong to the same semantic category as morpho-syntactically simple adjectives like 'nice' or 'great', which are commonly classified under the label of evaluative adjectives and have elicited a heated debate in semantics and in philosophy. Yet another question is the role of experiencers in other linguistic constructions such as, e.g., evidential markers (which do not exist in English but do e.g. In Japanese). In addressing these and other questions concerning experiencers, our workshop aims at reaching a better understanding of the nature of argument structure in natural language, which we take to be a key element in understanding the logical patterns that linguistic constructions give rise to, and in modeling the logic of natural language. Our interdisciplinary workshop will provide a platform for a fruitful exchange between those working in foundational areas in logic and those who are interested in the applications of logic to natural languages.

Call for Papers

We invite abstracts for 40-minute presentations (30 + 10) to be submitted by October 22 to both of the following addresses:


Please include your name, affiliation and the title of the abstract in the body of the e-mail. Abstracts should be anonymous and should not exceed 2 pages in length (A4 or letter-size), in 12 pt. font, with 1-inch/2,5-cm margins, including examples and references. The language of the submissions and the presentations will be English.

Important dates

October 22, 2013: Deadline for abstract submission
October 31, 2013: Notification of acceptance
January 5-17, 2014: ISLA 2014
January 13-16, 2014: Workshop dates