12 October 2014

Emmanuel Chemla visits

Angelika Kratzer writes:

Emmanuel Chemla from the Institut Jean Nicod and the Laboratory of Cognitive Science and Psycholinguistics at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris will visit us from October 13 to October 31. He will give a series of three lectures and will also be available for individual appointments. Emmanuel is a philosopher, logician, semanticist, and psycholinguist all in one person. His lecture series will inaugurate what I hope to be a string of events in the next couple of years dedicated to:

The Investigation of Linguistic Meaning: From the Armchair to the Lab and Back 

Here is a summary of Emmanuel’s lectures:

"Our language ability relies on complex rules. Combinatorial semantic rules, syntactic rules, phonological rules are all complex in the following sense: if you translate these rules in a non-linguistic domain and ask a competent speaker to apply them, these speakers would suffer (and show signs of it: slow reaction times, high error rates if that's defined, etc.). Yet, we all apply these rules, hundreds of times every day, effortlessly. That's the tension I'm interested in: the complexity of language (measured from the perspective of speakers) and the easiness with which these same speakers deploy it in language. Models coming from modern linguistics offer the means to investigate these issues, by providing the right test cases and careful descriptions of the underlying rules. I will discuss specific case studies and propose different methods to investigate this tension and see what it says about the organization of our language system.”

Lecture 1: October 15, 2:30 to 4:00. Integrative Learning Center, N400. Logic in Grammar: Parallel Investigations. Joint work with Vincent Homer and Daniel Rothschild.Joint session with Vincent Homer’s seminar.

Lecture 2: October 22: 4:00 to 5:30. Integrative Learning Center, N400. Concepts in a lexicon: Learning homophony. Innateness and Bayesianism. Joint work with Isabelle Dautriche.Joint session with Alejandro Pérez-Carballo’s and Vincent Homer’s seminars. 

Lecture 3: October 27: 4:00 to 5:30. Integrative Learning Center, N400.  Priming studies to study linguistic representations and operations. Joint work with Lewis Bott, Mora Maldonado, and Benjamin Spector. Joint session with Brian Dillon & Lyn Frazier’s seminar. 

You are cordially invited to attend one, two, or all three of the lectures. There will be receptions after lectures 2 and 3, followed by special discussion sessions. We hope to inspire a lot of discussion and deep thinking about the arduous road from the armchair to the lab and back.  

Pilar Prieto gives talk in Hispanic Linguistics on Thursday

Meghan Armstrong writes:

We invite you to join us for the first of our series of talks in Hispanic Linguistics:

Pilar Prieto (ICREA/Universitat Pompeu Fabra)

Intonational and gestural meaning reflect information about spaces of commitment

October 16 - 11:30am

301 Herter Hall


It is well-known that prosody and gesture patterns across languages, among other functions, convey information about the epistemic stance of the speaker, not only in relation to the speaker’s own propositions but also in relation to the addressee’s propositions. In the first part of this talk I will present evidence from two recent experiments on the role of prosody and gesture in the expression and assessment of the epistemic stance of the speaker (Roseano et al 2014, Borràs-Comes and Prieto 2014; see also Armstrong to appear). In one of our experiments on biased questions and intonation, results showed that different tune patterns in Catalan were used to encode (a) different degrees of speaker knowledge on the content of the speakers' own proposition; and (b) different degrees of speaker acceptance of the content of the proposition of the addressee(Borràs-Comes and Prieto 2014).

The second part of the talk will be devoted to show the results from a joint project with M.T. Espinal and S. Tubau (UAB) and two members of our team (J. Borràs-Comes and S. González, UPF) on the role of prosody and gesture in the interpretation of denial in Catalan. Two specific cases will be analyzed, namely double negation and yes-answers to negative yes-no questions (Espinal & Prieto 2011, Tubau et al. in press). These two cases constitute a challenge for semantics and pragmatics because double negative and yes- responses to negative questions are ambiguous in that they can constitute either a negative answer to the proposition expressed or a denial to a presupposition (e.g., What isn’t working? Nothing ‘Everything is working’; Isn't John coming (either)? Yes). Our research supports the conclusion that specific intonation contours (in particular, the so- called contradiction contour, L+H*L!H%) and gestures associated with n-words do constrain meaning in ways that allow listeners to obtain the double negation and/or the contradiction interpretation in the two types of structures. It is our claim that in both cases prosody and gesture act as linguistic and conventionalized encoders of presupposition denial (see also Espinal et al. to appear, Prieto et al. 2013). Support for the linguistic view comes from languages classified as truth-based languages (e.g. Chinese, Japanese, or Russian [Jones 1999: 8ff.]), which contradict negative questions by answering no yes (Don’t you drink coffee? No yes (meaning you are not right, I drink coffee)), while some languages with a polarity-based system contradict the truth of the negative proposition by answering Yes and a specific prosody (i.e. the answer ‘disagrees’ with the whole contentof the negative sentence).

Following Krifka's proposal on the interpretation of speech acts as "spaces of commitments", we propose that intonation and gesture patterns associated both to biased questions and to n-words and particles can be interpreted as epistemic operators encoding REJECT, ASSERT and REQUEST operations (see also Portes et al. 2014 for a related proposal). For example, the contradicting answer to a negative question yes is composed of REJECT (encoded by prosody and gesture) plus ASSERT(φ) (encoded through the positive word, where φ is the propositional discourse referent). All in all, these results are challenging for the design that has been traditionally assumed in the theory of grammar, since they suggest that prosody and gesture constrain meaning representations. Inparticular, the inferencing of denial.

Lisa Davidson gives department colloq on Friday

Lisa Davidson (NYU) will give the linguistics department colloquium on Friday, October 20,  at 3:30 in the seminar hub. A title and abstract of the talk follows.

Stabilizing the production of non-native sequences with acoustic variability

In the processing of non-native consonant clusters, speakers’ systematic errors have often been attributed to the influence of universal factors or native-language phonotactics (e.g., Dupoux et al. 1999; Moreton 2002; Berent et al. 2007). There has been less focus, however, on whether speakers are also sensitive to fine acoustic details in non-native sequences. In this talk, I focus on two questions: (1) Do speakers use fine phonetic detail to determine what phonotactic structures are present in a non-native speech signal, and (2) Is sensitivity to non-contrastive phonetic detail attenuated when sufficient acoustic variability is contained in the input? 

These questions were examined by presenting English speakers with ill-formed clusters (e.g. /bdafa/, /zgade/) containing systematically manipulated sub-phonemic acoustic properties, including duration and amplitude of stop bursts, and the onset and amplitude of voicing before voiced obstruents. These stimuli were presented to participants in two conditions. In the low-variability condition, participants heard the stimuli with the acoustic modifications produced by only one talker. In the high-variability condition, the stimuli were produced by three different talkers within one trial. Results show that in the low variability condition, the acoustic manipulations had strong effects both on the rate of modifications that English speakers produced, and on the type of modifications (e.g. prothesis, epenthesis, C1 change, C1 deletion). For the high-variability condition, the effects of the acoustic manipulations were either eliminated or considerably attenuated.

The results for the low-variability condition demonstrate that under such circumstances, speakers may ‘over-interpret’ non-contrastive acoustic details in determining what structure to produce. These findings are discussed in terms of both the language-specific phonetics and general acoustic characteristics that contribute to the production findings. The attenuation of the sensitivity to phonetic detail in the high-variability condition suggests that listeners generalize over highly variable acoustic information, and that more stable production targets in the high-variability condition result in blending of the information in the multiple talker stimuli.

Rebecca Woods at LARC on Friday

Jeremy Hartman writes:

Rebecca Woods will present at this week's LARC meeting at 11:15AM on Friday in N451 -- note the slightly earlier time.

The title of her talk is:
"Extraction from Embedded Inverted Questions in Adult and Child English."

All are welcome!

Psycholing Workshop

Shayne Sloggett writes:

Next week is a busy one for the psycholing workshop. On Tuesday we'll be meeting at 7:00(pm) in Northampton (hosting TBD) to prepare for Lisa Davidson's colloquium on Friday. John Kingston will be leading a discussion of the JPhon paper, and interested parties are encouraged to follow up by reading the supplemental paper in Lingua. Both papers can be found in this google drive.

In addition, next Thursday we'll be hearing from Jon Sprouse about acceptability judgments. He'll be coming prepared with a menu of topics for us to select from in a choose-your-own-adventure-style talk.  (see posting below.)

Jon Sprouse at Psycholing

Brian Dillon writes:

Jon Sprouse (UConn Linguistics) will be speaking at the Psycholinguistics Workshop on Thursday 10/16, at 3pm, in the N400. Jon is a syntactician and psycholinguist with significant expertise in experimental syntax. He has worked on island effects and anaphoric dependencies from a variety of different angles, and has done ground-breaking work on the collection and interpretation of intuitive judgments in an experimental setting. He will be leading an informal discussion on acceptability judgment methodology, and will share with us some of what he's learned over the years. All are welcome. See you there!

SS Reading Group

Leland Kusmer writes:

At the end of this month, we will be trying something new: Rather than presenting and discussing our own work, we're going to live up to our name and do some reading!
The idea is this: Each of us will claim one issue of the journal Syntax from the past three years. At the upcoming meeting, each of us who have claimed an issue will give (brief, high-level, handout-free) summaries of the material therein. The idea is to get a better idea of what the current issues of interest are in the field at large.

I have set up a spreadsheet whereby you can claim an issue. We will discuss these at the meeting on Thursday, October 30th. Please only claim an issue if you are reasonably sure you'll be able to attend. Relatedly, if you think you would like to attend, please claim an issue! We would like to have as much of the last three years covered as possible. (I've provided a column to allow two people to share an issue if they so desire, but in the interest of better coverage please try to claim your own if any are available.)

The spreadsheet is here:


Thank you in advance for making this experiment a success! ;)

Future Proofing your PhD

On Friday, October 24th, the Graduate School Office of Professional Development will sponsor a “Future-Proofing Your PhD” workshop by Dr. Brenda Bethman, UMass alumna and Director of the Women’s Center at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.  In this workshop, Dr. Bethman will discuss alternate academic (‘alt-ac’) careers and provide participants with tips to secure employment in these positions. The workshop will kick off with a sit-down networking luncheon, which offers participants a valuable opportunity to connect with campus alt-ac professionals.

Space is limited and registration is required: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/AltAcOct24

Additional details are provided below.  Biosketches of the alt-ac professionals participating in the luncheon can be viewed here:  http://bit.ly/AltAcOct24 

Future-Proofing Your PhD Workshop

Friday, October 24, 2014 - Campus Center Amherst Room (10th floor)

1:00 – 2:00pm:  Optional lunch

2:00 – 5:00pm:  Workshop

Workshop Description:  2:00 – 5:00pm

This highly interactive session provides concrete and immediate assistance for graduate students in any discipline wishing to leverage skills developed during doctoral training to land a job that is both fulfilling and full­-time without leaving the academy. Dr. Bethman will stress how participants can think about their Ph.D. training in ways that prepare them for a broad range of jobs within the larger university environment.  Participants should leave this workshop with:

·         a written list of their present (and/or future) academic job skills that can help land them employment in a variety of positions in higher education;

·         a set of concrete strategies for ensuring that the completion of their graduate training will provide them with multiple career options;

·        an applied understanding of the differences between administrative and research/teaching positions;

·        a greater awareness of the broad range of employment offerings available to graduate students and alumni/ae;

·        a greater awareness of the language used in applying for non-teaching academic positions.

Networking Luncheon:  1:00 – 2:00pm

To kick off the workshop, we are sponsoring a complimentary sit-down luncheon with a network of alt-ac professionals here on campus.  These professionals enjoy rewarding careers in higher education and are happy to share their experiences with graduate students who are contemplating their own career paths.  During this luncheon, at least one professional will be seated at each table to facilitate interactive and informal discussion with participants.

Call for papers: ICPhS 2015

Kristine Yu writes:

The first call for papers for International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, the phonetics olympics! Due February 1, 2015. It's only every 4 years.  This year it's in Glasgow.  It's always a really nice conference with a great set of people attending.  There is also a decent amount of phonology and people with phonological interests who attend.  Edinburgh folks are involved, so there's definitely going to be things on sound change/modeling of it.

There's some interesting discussant sessions:

and a great plenary speaker lineup

There's also satellite workshops, including, so far, one on developing an IPA like system for prosodic transcription.


See the previous ICPhS (2011) for its program to get an idea:


Michelle McBride in The Man who Came to Dinner

Michelle McBride will be in the Wilbraham United Players production of The Man Who Came to Dinner in early November. For more information go here.

Position at Univ. of Wisconsin


The English Department at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire seeks to hire a tenure-track faculty member in Linguistics at the rank of Assistant Professor to begin August 24, 2015 (pending budgetary approval). 


Earned doctorate in linguistics, English, or related field. Candidates who are ABD will be considered; however, all requirements for the doctoral degree must be completed by August 24, 2015. The dissertation must focus on a linguistic topic. In addition, the candidate must show evidence of strong scholarship or scholarly potential. Other strong assets include evidence of:

·      Solid foundation in multiple areas of linguistics.

·      Demonstrated excellence in teaching introductory linguistics.·      Demonstrated commitment to teaching first-year writing within an English Department;

·      Demonstrated commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusiveness. 

Additionally, we seek candidates who value liberal education and want to join us as we develop and implement an innovative outcomes-based Liberal Education Core program in fall 2016. 


The successful candidate will teach courses in linguistics and writing as assigned in the English Department. All department members teach first-year writing (the Blugold Seminar in Critical Reading and Writing http://www.uwec.edu/blugoldseminar/index.htm) every semester. The successful candidate will regularly teach Introductory English Linguistics (Engl 221) and other linguistics courses as well. The typical semester load is 3 courses, equivalent to 11-12 credits. In addition, all department members participate in research and scholarly activities; provide academic advising to students; participate in department, college, and university committee work; and engage in other kinds of service to the university and community. 


The English Department is a thriving, diverse academic community dedicated to excellence in teaching and learning. The department offers rigorous emphases in creative writing; linguistics; education; critical studies in literatures, cultures, and film; and rhetorics of science, technology, and culture to English majors and minors. There is also a small yet vital Masters program in English. Please see our website for more information: http://www.uwec.edu/english/ 


The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire promotes diversity and inclusiveness, stewardship and sustainability, leadership and innovation.  With approximately 11,500 students and 1,400 faculty and administrative/professional staff, UW-Eau Claire is consistently rated as one of the top public regional universities in the Midwest and enjoys a national reputation for excellence in liberal education, faculty-undergraduate research, and study abroad. As the UW System's only Center of Excellence for faculty and undergraduate research, faculty and students regularly work side-by-side on original research. 

Often described as Wisconsin's most beautiful campus, UW-Eau Claire's campus spans the banks of the Chippewa River in the heart of Eau Claire, western Wisconsin's largest city. Eau Claire and the surrounding countryside have many scenic rivers, lakes, parks, bike trails and wooded areas where students and community members enjoy seasonal sports, camping, canoeing, and a variety of other recreational activities. 

Eau Claire is a safe, friendly, and affordable community of 65,000 with employment opportunities for family members, outstanding schools for children, and vibrant local food and arts cultures. Eau Claire is 90 miles from Minneapolis-St. Paul, which additionally offers world class theater, symphony and chamber orchestras, opera, and major league sports.


Applications are submitted electronically: http://www.uwec.edu/Employment/EnglishLinguisticsF-724.htm   

Please submit the following in PDF format:

·      letter of application,

·      curriculum vita,

·      statement of teaching philosophy,

·      graduate school transcripts (official or unofficial),

·      writing sample (15-25 pages),

·      three letters of recommendation that you arrange to have directly sent to Ms. Vickie Schafer, lazarvr@uwec.edu. 

Your application will not be considered complete until all required documents are received and all required fields are completed.  If you have application questions, please email Dr. Erica Benson, Interim Chair of English, at bensonej@uwec.edu.

To ensure priority consideration, completed applications must be received by Friday, October 24, 2014. However, screening may continue until position is filled. The university reserves the right to contact additional references with notice given to the candidates at an appropriate time in the process. Under Wisconsin law, applicants’ names are subject to public release unless confidentiality has been requested in writing, and names of all finalists must be released. A criminal background check is required prior to employment. 

UMass at IATL 30

The Thirtieth annual meeting of the Israel Association for Theoretical Linguistics meets at Ben Gurion University of the Negev on October 20 and 21. Rajesh Bhatt is an invited speaker; he’ll be presenting a talk entitled “Polar Questions and Disjunction: clues from Hindi-Urdu `kyaa’. UMass alumna Aynat Rubinstein will also be giving a talk, with Edit Doron, entitled “Varieties of alternative unconditionals.” For more information, go here.