22 February 2015

Kie Zuraw visits department

Kie Zuraw (UCLA) will be visiting the department this week. She will give the department colloquium on Friday, February 27, at 3:30 in N400. A title of her abstract follows.

Polarized Variation

The normal distribution--the bell curve--is common in all kinds of data, and is often expected when the quantity being measured results from multiple independent factors. The distribution of phonologically varying words, however, is sharply non-normal in the cases examined in this talk (from English, French, Hungarian,Tagalog, and Samoan). Instead of most words' showing some medial rate of variation (say, 50% of a word's tokens are regular and 50% irregular), with smaller numbers of words having extreme behavior, words cluster at the extremes of behavior--that is, a histogram of exceptionality rates is shaped like a U (or sometimes J) rather than a bell.  The U shape cannot be accounted for by positing a binary distinction with some amount of noise over tokens, because some items (though the minority) clearly are variable, even speaker-internally. In some cases (e.g., French "aspirated" words) there is a diachronic explanation: sound change caused some words to become exceptional, so that the starting point for today's situation was already U-shaped. But in other cases, such an explanation is not available, and items seem to be attracted towards extreme behavior.

Two mechanisms for deriving U-shaped distributions will be presented, with some speculation as to why some distributions of variation are U-shaped and others bell-shaped.

Sigrid Beck still speaks tomorrow

Sigrid Beck (Tübingen University) will give a talk entitled “Readings of ‘noch’ (‘still’)” in N400 tomorrow, Monday, February 23, at 2:45.

Psycholing Evening

Shayne Sloggett writes:

The psycholing workshop will be having another evening meeting this week to hear from Caroline Andrews about the possibility of experimental work on the anaphor agreement effect in Swahili. As with last time, we'll be meeting at 8:00pm on Tuesday (February 24) in Northampton. 

As a quick reminder to those of you attending CUNY this year, our CUNY prep session is a scant two weeks away! If you're interested in participating and getting some feedback on your talk/poster before the conference, be sure to bring a (reasonably finished) draft to our meeting on March 5. I'll send out another email with more details when we get closer to the date.

SSRG on Wednesday

Leland Kusmer writes:

SSRG will meet next Wednesday, February 25th. We'll meet at 7:30 as usual, this time at the home of Jon Ander and Megan.

This meeting will be our journal overview for Natural Language Semantics. Thanks to everyone who's already signed up to present an issue! If you haven't signed up yet, there are still two issues left:


As always, if you're planning on coming, please RSVP so I know how much food to buy:


Elizabeth Bogal-Allbritten receives NSF dissertation grant

Elizabeth Bogal-Allbritten has received a doctoral dissertation research improvement grant from the National Science Foundation for “Expressing attitudes of belief and desire in Navajo.” Congratulations Elizabeth!

Deniz Ozyildiz in Syntax Workshop on Thursday

Deniz Ozyildiz will give a talk at the syntax workshop this Thursday, February 26, at 10 AM in N452. A title and abstract of his talk follows.

The syntax of the Turkish polar question particle "mI"

"The syntax of the Turkish polar question particle "mI" is currentlynot well understood. I will motivate the argument (i) that mI is asyntactic head positioned above the TP and (ii) that it attracts anassociate XP to its specifier position. This successfully derives thepolar question particle's distribution pattern, crucially therestrictions that bear upon it, in both root and embedded clauses. Itequally makes predictions about the geometry of alternative questions,predictions that appear to be borne out."

Tracy Conner and Nick LaCara in print!

The papers presented at the 2013 Deutschen Gesellschaft für Sprachwissenschaft meeting in Potsdam have appeared in a volume by de Gruyter Mouton called “Parenthesis and Ellipsis.” Tracy Conner’s “Heads must be heard: Overtness and ellipsis licensing” and Nick LaCara’s “Discourse inversion and deletion in as parenthetical” are inside. Congratulations Tracy and Nick!


Deniz Ozyildiz writes:

Our Spectrogram reading lunch last week was a success, and we have decided to meet every week - so that's Wednesdays at 1:35. We will also be meeting in N400 starting next week (LARC having been moved somewhere else).

We have a bunch of recordings and we apparently work very slowly, so there is actually no "need" for more. But of course, if you would like to share something fun, interesting etc. please feel free to do so.

Call for papers: Morphosyntactic Triggers of Tone

Morphosyntactic Triggers of Tone: New Data and Theories
13-14 June 2015

Whereas tone has played a central role in the evolution of phonological theory (Goldsmith 1976, Pulleyblank 1986, Yip 2002), the channels by which morphology and syntax trigger tonal reflexes or conversely restrict tonal alternations are still hardly understood.Firmly persuaded by Hyman's (2011) dictum that `tone can do everythingsegmental or metrical phonology can do' (and more), we think that itis absolutely essential for linguistics to develop a better understanding for the empirical richness and the theoretical implications of the morphosyntax of tone. The goal of this workshop isto provide a forum to this end which brings together descriptively and theoretically oriented linguists addressing questions such as:

• How does morphosyntactic structure interact with tonal phonology? Do syntactic constructions trigger specific tone patterns? Which types of morphosyntactic boundaries restrict (or are required by) general tonal alternations? Does opacity in tonal processes correlate with morphological and syntactic levels of derivation?

• How does tonal featural affixation work morphologically? how are tonal morphemes linearized? Where do they show systematic patterns ofsyncretism and blocking or multiple exponence? What is the distribution of tonal prefixation and suffixation? Is there a tonal equivalent to infixation, and how does tonal overwriting work in contrast to additive tonal morphology?

• What can tonal phenomena teach us about the morphology-syntaxinterface? Are tonal alternations at the phrasal level substantially different from word-level processes? Where do tonal alternations crosscut the boundaries between word-level morphology and phrasal syntax?

We invite abstracts for twenty-minute talks with a ten-minutediscussion. We especially encourage contributions which present original fieldwork (or experimental results), but also highly welcome submissions that provide new theoretical approaches, establish new descriptive generalizations, or, simply, bring to the fore relevant data that have been published, but so far ignored in a the theoretical discussion.

Invited Speakers

• Yuni Kim (University of Manchester)• Mary Paster (Pomona College)

• Gerrit Dimmendaal (University of Cologne)

Abstract Submission

Abstracts must be at most one page long. An optional second page is permitted for data and references. Abstracts must be anonymous.
Submissions are limited to one individual and one joint abstract per author, or two joint abstracts per author.

The abstract should be submitted as a PDF attachment and sent to the following e-mail address:

Please use `Abstract' as the Subject header and include the information in (1) - (4), which should constitute the body of the message. Please make sure that all fonts are embedded.

Author Information

• Name(s) of author(s)

• Title of talk

• Affiliation(s)

• E-mail address(es)

Deadline for Submission:  March 31, 2015
Notification of Acceptance:  April 15, 2015

Call for papers: BUCLD


Join us for BUCLD's 40th anniversary!


We are soliciting proposals for 90-minute symposia for the Boston University Conference on Language Development on any topic likely to be of broad interest to the conference attendees. The symposium format is open, but has frequently included 2-3 speakers presenting research from differing angles on a common theme.  

Proposals should include a list of the participants, specific topics, and a specification of the format, and should name at least one organizer who will be able to work with the BUCLD organizing committee in setting up the symposium.  Submissions can be sent by email to langconf@bu.edu with "Symposium proposal" indicated in the subject line.  Please limit symposium proposals to 1000 words or fewer.

DEADLINE: April 15, 2015

Decisions on symposia will be made by June.

NOTE: Submissions of abstracts for 20-minute talks and poster presentations are not being solicited at this time. The deadline for those will be 8:00 PM EST, May 15, 2015.


General conference information is available at: http://www.bu.edu/bucld

Questions about symposia should be sent to langconf@bu.edu.