27 October 2013

Joshua Levy on Wednesday

Joshua Levy will give the brown bag lunch talk in Psychology on Wednesday, October 30th, in Tobin 521B from 12:00-1:15.  The title of his talk is "Resolution of Reflexive Dependencies: Is binding theory enough?” All are welcome!

Page Piccinini talks on Thursday

Page Piccinini (UCSD) will be giving the following talk at 10AM on Thursday, October 31, in Herter 301. 

Accessing Cross Language Categories in Learning a Third Language

Current theories differ greatly in explaining how bilinguals organize
their two languages, including at the sound level. The heart of the
debate is whether bilinguals have constant access to all of their
sounds across their two languages, or only access to sounds from one
of their two languages at a time. The present study examines these
theories by testing the ability of early Spanish-English bilinguals to
access phonetic distinctions within the voice onset time (VOT)
continuum that exist across their two languages (negative, short-lag,
and long-lag VOT). To this end, bilinguals were tested on a third
language that has all three contrasts phonemically: Eastern Armenian.
The effects of both language mode and language dominance were
examined. One production and two perception tasks were carried out. In
the production task participants heard words and nonce words in
Eastern Armenian and were told to repeat the words back to the best of
their abilities. Participants produced the three types of stops
significantly differently both for bilabials and velar. However this
was modulated by language dominance, with those who were more English
dominant producing less of a contrast between the negative and
short-lag categories (the phonemic categories in Spanish). There was
no effect of language mode. The first perception task was an AX
discrimination task. Participants heard two words and said if the
words were the same or different. Participants were consistently good
at negative versus long-lag VOT, but did poorly at both negative
versus short-lag VOT and short-lag versus long-lag VOT. There was no
effect of language mode or language dominance. The second experiment
was an ABX discrimination task. Participants heard three words and
said if the third word was the same as the first or second word.
Participants performed best at negative versus long-lag VOT, also
preformed well at short-lag versus long-lag VOT, but performed poorly
at negative versus short- lag VOT. However, there was an interaction
with language dominance such that those who were more balanced
bilinguals preformed better at the negative versus short-lag VOT
contrast than those were more English dominant. Language mode was not
significant. These results support a theory whereby language dominance
and not language mode is a key determining factor both in speech
production and perception. Furthermore, the results of the AX and ABX
experiments together suggest that while more balanced bilinguals can
accurately perceive the three way contrast when forced to assign
category labels (the ABX task) they do poorly when categorization is
open (the AX task). This may show a preference by participants for a
language with a two-way contrast, as would match their native
languages, even if they can produce and perceive a three-way contrast.

Nina Hyams speaks on Wednesday

Nina Hyams (UCLA) will give a talk entitled “The Acquisition of Syntactically Encoded Evidentiality: Evidence from English Copy-Raising” in the Oiry/Johnson seminar on Wednesday, October 30 at 4pm in Dickinson 210. She will be reporting on her collaboration with Lauren Winans and Jessica Rett.

Everyone is welcome!

Tim Hunter gives department Colloquium

Tim Hunter (University of Minnesota) will give the department colloquium this Friday, November 1, in Machmer E-37 at 3:30. A title and abstract follow.

Adjunction, Movement and Primitive Syntactic Operations

Many descriptive generalisations have been established concerning the characteristic properties of adjuncts: for example, (1) adjuncts are optional and iterable, (2) they are typically islands (Huang 1982), (3) they are able to avoid reconstruction (Lebeaux 1988), and (4) they can be extraposed rightwards to a strictly local degree (Baltin 1981). This talk addresses the question of why these properties should cluster together, and proposes an analysis of adjunction which unifies the various characteristic properties that have been observed.

To do so, I develop a system where movement and adjunction are not independent phenomena, but rather are related byproducts of the same underlying grammatical machinery. This relies on the interaction of two crucial ingredients that I take from previous work. The first is the observation that in neo-Davidsonian semantics adjunction generally corresponds to a simple mode of semantic composition (namely predicate conjunction) that is not mediated by grammatical roles or thematic relations, in contrast to predicate-argument relations (Hornstein and Nunes 2008). The second is the intuition that syntactic movement might usefully be thought of as "re-merging", which I implement by drawing on insights from formal computational analyses of minimalist syntax (Stabler 2006). I show how together these ingredients yield a system in which adjunction and movement are revealed to be two sides of the same coin. The system therefore makes strong predictions about how adjunction and movement should interact, and these predictions unify the distinctive properties of adjunction listed in (1)-(4) above.

Brian Dillon at Yale

Brian Dillon will be giving the linguistics colloquium at Yale tomorrow, Monday October 28. A title and abstract follow.

Colloquium to be given at Yale Linguistics, 10/28, 4pm:

Memory search in syntactic comprehension

One widely observed finding about syntactic comprehension is that the construction of syntactic dependencies is subject to locality effects: shorter syntactic dependencies are easier to process, and preferred over longer ones in cases of ambiguity (Bartek, Lewis, Vasishth & Mason, 2011; Frazier, 1978; Gibson, 1998; Grodner & Gibson, 2005; Kimball, 1973; Lewis & Vasishth, 2005; a.o.). A number of theories have proposed to capture these findings as a consequence of the memory architecture of the parser. Recently, theories in this tradition have highlighted the role for temporal decay (Gibson, 1998; Lewis & Vasishth, 2005; McElree, Foraker & Dyer, 2003) and similarity-based interference (Lewis & Vasishth, 2005; Van Dyke & McElree, 2006). In this talk I defend the hypothesis that locality effects in syntactic comprehension cannot be entirely reduced to the effects of decay and interference. I argue instead that locality effects reflect a memory search procedure that prioritizes the retrieval of dependents within a local syntactic domain. I support this hypothesis by investigating the time course of antecedent retrieval for long-distance reflexives in Mandarin Chinese. Data from a speed accuracy trade-off experiment show that local antecedents are retrieved more quickly than non-local antecedents. A computational model of these data points to a role for a local search procedure when retrieving an antecedent for a reflexive. Taken together, these findings support the view that locality effects in processing reflect a syntactically-guided memory search.

Lyn Frazier at BUCLD

Lyn Frazier is an invited participant at a symposium at the 38th meeting of the BU Conference on Language Development this Sunday, November 3. The symposium, which includes Helen Goodluck and Colin Phillips is entitled “A New Approach to Language Learning: Filtering through the Processor.” You can learn more about BUCLD here.  

John Kingston at UPenn

John Kingston will give a colloquium at the University of Pennsylvania on Thursday, 31 October 2013. The title of the talk is "You hear more than you know: Expanding the interaction-autonomy debate." Among other things, the talk will report the results of collaborations with Mara Breen, now at Mt. Holyoke, and Lisa Sanders, as well as with Adrian Staub and Josh Levy.

Rajesh Bhatt at McGill

Rajesh will give a presentation at McGill University on Friday, November 1. He’ll present his work with Stefan Keine:

Two Roots in One Phase: An Environment for Semantically Contentful Head Movement
In this presentation we develop an argument that head movement may
have semantic effects and that it can hence not be a PF phenomenon.
The argument is based on novel facts regarding scope in infinitival
complementation structures in German. We show that every element
inside the infinitival clause must take scope over the matrix verb if
the embedded clause is a VP that remains in situ. If, by contrast, the
embedded clause is either a vP or a VP that undergoes movement, no
such wide scope is possible. We propose that wide scope of embedded
elements is the result of syntactic verb cluster formation: The
infinitival verb incorporates into the higher verb. To obtain the
observed scope facts, we suggest that the verb cluster is semantically
interpreted via Function Composition. Supplemented with standard
assumptions about the interpretation of movement, this account derives
the wide scope of material inside the embedded clause.


Call for paper: TripleA 1: cross-linguistic semantics

Date: June 11-13, 2014
Call deadline: January 7, 2014
Notification of acceptance: February 2014
Location: Tübingen, Germany

::: Meeting Description :::

The Universities of Tübingen and Potsdam are proud to announce TripleA 1, a workshop focusing on the cross-linguistic formal semantics of understudied languages from Africa, Asia, Australia and Oceania.

::: Invited Speakers :::

Miriam Butt (Universität Konstanz)
Manfred Krifka (ZAS/ Humboldt Universität zu Berlin)
Kilu von Prince (ZAS, Berlin)
Walter Bisang (Johannes-Gutenberg-

Universität Mainz) -to be confirmed-

::: Call for Papers :::

We invite submissions for 30-minute talks plus 10 minutes for discussion. Submissions should present original formal semantic or pragmatic work on any interpretive aspect of the languages under discussion, ideally originating from own fieldwork. We particularly encourage Ph.D. students to apply.

Abstracts must be anonymous, in PDF format, 2 pages (A4 or letter), in a font size no less than 12pt, and with margins of 1 inch/2.5cm. Please submit abstracts via Easy Chair (see link below) no later than January 8, 2014.

::: Abstract submission link ::::


::: Organizing Committee :::

Sigrid Beck (Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen)
Polina Berezovskaya (Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen)
Vera Hohaus (Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen)
Anna Howell (Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen)
Pritty Patel-Grosz (Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen)
Konstantin Sachs (Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen)
Mira Grubic (Universität Potsdam)
Anne Mucha (Universität Potsdam)
Malte Zimmermann (Universität Potsdam)

::: Sponsors ::

This workshop is under the patronage of GLOW (Generative Linguistics in the Old World) and is funded by the cross-linguistic semantics projects C1 and A5 of the SFB 833 at Tübingen University and the SFB 632 at Potsdam University.

Barbara Partee at MIT

Barbara Partee writes:

I gave the linguistics colloquium at MIT on Friday Oct 25, “The Starring Role of Quantifiers in the History of Formal Semantics”. While in Cambridge Oct 23-25, I also did interviews for her history project with Joyce Friedman, Kai von Fintel, Irene Heim, and Hilary Putnam. On colloquium day besides meeting with a number of advanced PhD students, I enjoyed lunchtime conversation with the first-year students and wondered whether we have such a tradition -- if not it might be nice to think about it.

David Huber's seminar on Computational Modeling

Joe Pater writes:

David Huber of Cognitive Psychology will be offering a seminar "Computational Modeling in Cognition" Tuesday 4 - 6:30. He'll be using a text by Lewandowsky and Farrell that I've started reading myself, and can already highly recommend - from my perspective, it starts at exactly the right level of math, and does a great job of explaining the role of quantitative modeling in theory construction.


You might also want to check out this paper by Huber and Cowell, which offers a perspective on the connectionist/bayesian debate that you might find congenial:

Huber, D. E. & Cowell, R. A. (2010). Theory driven modeling or model driven theorizing? Comment on McClelland et al/Griffiths et al. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 14(8), 343-344.http://people.umass.edu/dehuber/TICS_huber_cowell.pdf

Finally, this is a good opportunity to welcome David and Rosie to UMass - they are a great addition to our cognitive science community, and I'm sure many of you will look forward to meeting them if you haven't already at the Cognitive bag lunches or elsewhere.

Chronos 11 deadline for abstracts extended

Angelika Kratzer writes:

The deadline for abstracts for Chronos 11 has been extended:


The new deadline is 20 December 2013.

Again, of particular note is the variety of interesting workshops proposed:


Apple Tasting

Saturday, October 26, was the annual department tasting party. This year, continuing the smashing success of last year’s party, the theme was apples and their products. In addition to such pomological achievements as the Golden Russet, the Fuji, the famed University of Minnesota Honeycrisp, and the sensational Winter Banana (all from UMass’s Cold Spring Orchard), there was a Bhatt-curated selection of hard ciders, fine cheeses, Rysling-shaken (Apple)Jack Rose cocktails,  and apple-themed baked goods. 

And there were characters.

IMAG0748IMG 0126

IMAG0735Mail Attachment

IMG 0136

971493 10151710315483483 1432991875 n

IMG 0140IMAG0767