09 November 2014

Anisa Schardl at Swarthmore tomorrow

Anisa will be giving a talk at Swarthmore tomorrow, November 10. The title of her talk is “Wh question word orders in funny languages.” To learn more, go here.

Janet Fodor gives Department Colloq

Janet Fodor will present “What parsers want from grammars” in the seminar hub at 3:30 on Friday, November 14. An abstract follows. Professor Fodor will be at UMass all of Friday. If you’d like to schedule an appointment to see her, get in touch with Stefan Keine.


From the earliest days of transformational generative grammar, there has been an uncomfortable truce between the formal study of syntactic structure and the development of models of human sentence processing. Processing models are unable to make practical use of formal derivational operations in assigning structure to incoming word strings. With the advent of Chomsky’s Minimalist Program (MP) the situation has worsened. Syntactic derivations have been revised, on theoretical grounds, so that both structure building and movement are now misaligned with parsing. MP derivations inherently operate bottom-up, which for right-branching constructions means from right to left. Taken literally, this would imply that parsing begins at the end of a sentence. After noting a flurry of reactions to this impractical conclusion (rejection of the problem by Neeleman & van de Koot; proposed solutions to the problem by Fong, Chesi, and den Dikken), I will take the viewpoint of a working psycholinguist and propose instead that an efficient parser builds MP trees left-to-right and top-to-bottom, from interlocking chunks of tree structure. Where do the chunks come from? The MP grammar generates complete sentential trees (bottom-up, right-to-left – no problem!) which are then chopped into the parser-friendly building blocks.

Cog-Sci Workshop this Thursday

Join us on Thursday, November 13th from 2:00 until 5:30 in Computer Science 150/151 to learn about and contribute to Cognitive Science efforts on the UMass Amherst campus. The Computer Science building is at the far north end of campus, and there are metered parking spots available directly across the street. A schedule of events follows.

2:00  Social 15 minutes to meet others interested in Cognitive Science and to see a short video introducing the new website

2:15  Lisa Sanders (Co-Director Cognitive Science Initiative) will outline our current plans to become an Institute of Cognitive Science and introduce John McCarthy

2:20  John McCarthy (Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Dean of the Graduate School) will talk about interdisciplinary research and graduate education

2:30  Andy Barto (Computer Science) Computational Clues to the Brain’s Reward System

2:50  Louise Antony (Philosophy) Epistemology and Psychology: Can Justification be “Naturalized”?

3:10  Caren Rotello (Cognitive Psychology) Why Cognitive Psychology is Important for Neuroscience: An Example from Research on Reasoning

3:30  Poster session and social hour

4:30  Rajesh Bhatt (Linguistics) The Importance of Treebanks in Cognitive Science

4:50  Erik Cheries (Developmental Psychology) Foundations of Mind: Infants’ Knowledge of Objects, Agents, & Identity

5:10  Dave Huber (Cognitive Neuroscience) Testing a Perceptual Habituation Model with Electrophysiology

SNEWS on Saturday

UMass is hosting the annual Southern New England Workshop in Semantics this Saturday, November 15. The conference starts with morning refreshments at 9:00, and the talks begin at 9:30. UMass is represented by Ethan Poole, Jon Ander Mendia, Megan Somerday and Deniz Ozyildiz. You can find the full program here.

PsychoLing workshop

Shayne Sloggett writes:

We'll have an evening meeting next week to prepare for Janet Fodor's colloquium. Lyn will be leading us in a discussion of a paper by Neeleman and van der Koot. This meeting will take place on Wednesday (11/12) rather than the usual Tuesday, due to the holiday. More details about location and time will be forthcoming.

Lastly, we're scheduled to hear from Amanda and John Kingston next week about about a response signal experiment for lexical decision. As the Cognitive Science workshop is also scheduled for next Thursday, we'll be canceling our meeting. However, all are encouraged to go to the Cog Sci workshop! Fortuitously, Amanda and John will also be presenting their work in that venue.

SSR on Thursday evening

Leland Kusmer writes:

SSRG will be having its last meeting of the semester this week on Thursday, November 13th. We'll be meeting in Northampton at the home of Katya, Rodica, and Alex to finish our discussion of recent issues of Syntax. As always, please RSVP.

Call for papers: Tri-college Undergraduate Linguistics Conference

Dela Scharff and Robin Banerji from Haverford College writh:

Greetings to our fellow linguists at Amherst!

We are accepting submissions for the first Tri-college Undergraduate Linguistics Conference until the deadline of Friday, November 14th (to be extended if necessary). This conference will be taking place at Haverford College on Friday, February 13th, 2015. Please pass on this invitation to all undergraduate students doing research in linguistics. See the attached flyer for more information. If you or any of your students have any questions, I hope you will not hesitate to contact us at hc-linguistics@haverford.edu

Thank you so much!

Spring courses by Caren Rotello

John Kingston writes:

Caren Rotello told me that she'll be offering an 891 (grad seminar) on signal detection theory in the spring semester.  It'll meet M and W 2:30-3:45.  (Her Bayesian class meets M and  W 4-5:15.)

She will likely  teach from Macmillan & Creelman Detection Theory: A User's Guide (2005, 2nd edition), supplemented with readings from the literature to  show applications, etc. This is a relatively rare opportunity that you shouldn't miss if detection theory is a tool/way of thinking you're likely to use/need  in your work (nor for that matter is her Bayesian statistics class!).

NELS 44 proceedings available!

The proceedings of NELS 44 (held October 2013 at Uconn) are now published and available for purchase on CreateSpace!

They can be found here:

NELS 44 Volume 1

NELS 44 Volume 2

Call for papers: ETAP 3

Experimental and Theoretical Advances in Prosody (ETAP) 3: Prosody and Variability

Where: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

When:  May 28-30, 2015

Organizers:  Duane Watson (University of Illinois), Michael Wagner (McGill University), andChigusa Kurumada (University of Rochester

The third conference on Experimental and Theoretical Advances inProsody is taking place this coming May 28-30, 2015, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. A special focus of this year’s ETAP is prosodic variability. Prosodic processing presents a challenge to researchers because of the many sources of variability in how prosodic phenomena area realized. Prosodic information consists of bundles of features (e.g., pitch, duration, loudness, intensity), but patterns of these features vary systematically across different speakers,populations, dialects, and contexts. They also vary randomly due to speech errors or noise in the environment. A long-standing, critical issue in the field is understanding the nature of such variability in prosodic information as well as understanding how listeners maintain their prosodic representations despite the variable input. This conference aims at bringing together researchers from different disciplines who work on these issues, as well as researchers working on general questions in prosody research.

Invited speakers:

Naomi Feldman - University of Maryland College Park

Tyler Kendall - University of Oregon

Chigusa Kurumada - University of Rochester

Mark Liberman - University of Pennsylvania

Morgan Sonderegger - McGill University

Alice Turk - University of Edinburgh

Jennifer Cole - University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Timothy Mahrt - University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Contact: The Organizers (etapthree@gmail.com)
Conference Website: http://dgwatson.wix.com/etap3
Call: Please visit our website

Deadline for submissions: 12/15

Notification of acceptance: 1/20

Abstract Guidelines:

Abstract for both posters and presentations must be submitted in a pdf format and must not exceed 500 words. Fifteen lines, which are not included in the word count, may be used to present examples and references. The uploaded abstract should be anonymous.

NECPhon Schedule now available

The Eighth Northeast Computational Phonology Meeting is this Saturday, Nov. 15, in the linguistics department of NYU. UMass is represented by Coral Houghto, Robert Staubs and Joe Pater who will be giving the talk “Typological consequences of agent interaction.” UMass alumna Gillian Gallagher, and NYU faculty, will also be giving a talk with Tal Linzen entitled “The time course of generalization in phonotactic learning.” The conference is free and all are welcome, but if you plan to attend it is asked that you get in touch with Frans Adriaans (frans.adriaans at nyu.edu) so that they can order enough food.

You can find the full program here.