11 October 2015

Syntax Guru arrives

This year's syntax guru arrives on Tuesday, October 13. She is Claire Halpert, from the University of Minnesota. She received her PhD from MIT in 2012 with a dissertation on Zulu agreement and argument structure. She has worked on raising constructions, Aspect and modality, Case, movement typology and locality constraints and the syntax-prosody interface, frequently drawing on her fieldwork in Zulu. You can learn more about her work, and see a likeness, at http://www.tc.umn.edu/~halpert/.

Claire will be in residence until the end of October. Make your appointments early and often -- she can be reached at halpert@umn.edu. Claire will give a talk on Friday, October 23, in N400 at 3:30. A title and abstract follow.

Escape clause

In this talk, I investigate the syntactic properties of clausal arguments, looking in particular at whether A-movement is permitted out of finite clauses and at whether these clauses themselves may undergo movement or establish agreement relationships. In English, argument clauses show some puzzling distributional properties compared to their nominal counterparts. In particular, they appear to satisfy selectional requirements of verbs, but can also combine directly with non-nominal-taking nouns and adjectives. Stowell (1981) and many others have treated these differences as arising from how syntactic case interacts with nominals and clauses. In a recent approach, Moulton (2015) argues that the distributional properties of propositional argument clauses are due to their semantic type: these clauses are type e,st and so must combine via predicate modification, unlike nominals. In contrast to English, I show that in the Bantu language Zulu, certain non-nominalized finite CPs exhibit identical selectional properties to nominals, therefore requiring a different treatment from those proposed in the previous literature. These clauses, also like nominals, appear to control phi-agreement and trigger intervention effects in predictable ways. At the same time, these clauses differ from nominals (and nominalized clauses) in the language in certain respects. I will argue that these properties shed light on the role that phi-agreement plays in the transparency/opacity of finite clauses for A-movement and on the nature of barrier effects in the syntax more generally.

Screening of "Rising Voices" on Friday

Peggy Speas writes:

The Linguistics Department will present a special screening of the film 'Rising Voices:  Revitalizing the Lakota Language’ on Friday Oct. 16, at 3:30pm, in room S404 of the Integrated Learning Center.  We hope to have at least one of the filmmakers on hand for this special screening.  The film will also be shown on Sunday Oct. 18 at the Academy of Music in Northampton, at 4 pm.  If you miss both of these, you can still see the film when it is aired on PBS in November.

For more information about the film, go to http://risingvoicesfilm.com/

For information about the screening at the Academy of Music, go to:


Agreement Workshop @ UMass

Rajesh Bhatt, Brian Dillon and Adrian Staub write:

The Department of Linguistics at UMass Amherst are hosting a workshop on agreement in natural language, aimed at bringing together researchers investigating agreement from theoretical and experimental points of view. The goal of this workshop is to promote cross-talk between researchers investigating agreement from grammatical and psycholinguistic perspectives. This workshop will particularly focus on the ways in which linear order can affect agreement processes, as well as the question of how best to model linear order effects on agreement. Presenters include:

Rajesh Bhatt (UMass Amherst)
Jonathan Bobaljik (UConn)
Brian Dillon (UMass Amherst)
Julie Franck (Université de Genève)
Maureen Gillespie (University of New Hampshire)
Laura Kalin (UConn)
Lap-Ching Keung (UMass Amherst)
Andrew Nevins (UCL)
Adrian Staub (UMass Amherst)
Francesco Vespignani (Università di Trento)
Martin Walkow (MIT)
Jana Willer-Gold (UCL)
Ellen Woolford (UMass Amherst)

The workshop takes place on October 29th and 30th at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. We invite anyone who is interested to attend. Registration is free and all are welcome, but if you plan to attend, please visit our website and RSVP:


Please feel free to contact Brian Dillon (brian@linguist.umass.edu) if you have any questions about the workshop or about visiting Amherst during this time. Thank you, and we look forward to seeing you in Amherst!

UMass at NELS

The Forty-Sixth meeting of the North East Linguistic Society is this weekend, Oct. 16-18 at Concordia University in Montreal. Our own Rajesh Bhatt is one of the invited speakers. He will be presenting joint work with Vincent Homer in a paper entitled “PPIs and Movement in Hindi-Urdu.” UMass is well represented in the rest of the program, which can be found here, as well.

Alumnus Jason Overfelt is presenting the paper “When Variable Re-binding Bleeds ACD"

Seth Cable is presenting “The Special Implicatures of Optional Past Tense: The Tlingit Decessive and ‘Discontinuous Past'

Alumna Maribel Romero is presenting “POS and the relative proportional reading of ‘many’ "

Jon Ander Mendia is presenting “Focusing on scales: Superlatives as scalar modifiers"

Alumni Maria Biezma and Kyle Rawlins present “Or what?: Challenging the speaker"

Visitor Andrew Murphy is presenting, with Sampson Korsah, “Tonal reflexes of successive-cyclic movement in Asante Twi"

Alumnus Keir Moulton, with Nino Grillo, has the poster “Event Kinds and Pseudo Relatives"

Stefan Keine and Ethan Poole have the poster “Semantic vs. syntactic intervention in ‘tough’-constructions."

Alumni Paula Menendez Benito and Luis Alonso-Ovalle have the poster “Modal Selectivity in the Nominal Domain: Spanish “Uno Cualquiera"

Jérémy Pasquereau has the poster “Overt movement of comparative quantifiers in European French"

Alumnus Bernhard Schwarz, with Alexandra Simonenko, have the poster “Two accounts of factive islands"

Alumnus Florian Schwarz, with Jeremy Zehr, have the poster “Experimental Evidence for Entailed vs non-Entailed Presuppositions"

Call for papers: Conference on Sonority


Sponsored by the MA/PhD Program in Linguistics at the City University of New York

January 14-15, 2016, at the CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Ave., New York City

Sonority is thought to play a central role in the organization of segments into syllables, and more specifically, to determine the nature of syllable-internal consonant clusters, possible coda segments, syllabic consonants, glide-vowel alternations, epenthesis sites, tone-bearing units, and even, in some languages, sonority-based stress patterns. Investigations into sonority have focused on its role in synchronic grammar, its status as universal and innate, and whether the full sonority scale reflects a single phonetic correlate. The topic has received much attention from both theoretical and laboratory phonologists, and this forum seeks to showcase work from both approaches.

We invite papers from any subdivision of cognitive science such as formal linguistics, language acquisition, neurolinguistics, phonetics, philosophy, psychology, etc. We also encourage diversity in methods so we welcome both formal and experimental approaches to the topic of sonority.

To be announced.


We invite both oral presentations and posters. Abstracts should consist of a one-page description of the paper (12pt font) with a second page for references, data and/or illustrations; please specify if you wish to submit for a poster, an oral presentation, or are fine with either. Talks will be 20 minutes with 10 minutes for discussion.

Abstracts should be anonymous, on one A4/letter page (12 pt. font) with a second page for references, data and/or illustrations. Abstracts should be emailed as a .pdf attachment to phonoforum@gmail.com no later than 23:59 EDT on 31 October 2015.

31 October 2015 – deadline for abstract submission1 December 2015 – notification of acceptance14-15 January 2016 – Conference on Sonority




Phonology job at Rutgers

The Department of Linguistics at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey (New Brunswick) invites applicants for a tenure‐track Assistant Professor position in linguistics with a specialization in phonology, beginning September 1, 2016. We seek applicants whose research interests complement those of the current faculty and who can contribute breadth and depth to the department with respect to research, teaching, and advising at the graduate and undergraduate levels. 

 Applicants must have completed all degree requirements for a Ph.D. in linguistics or a related field by August 31, 2016. 

 Applications should include a cover letter, a curriculum vitae, a research statement, sample publications, a teaching statement, teaching evaluations if available, and three letters of reference addressed to Linguistics Search Committee (address below). The cover letter should include a list of those writing letters of reference and a list of all the materials that have been, or will be, submitted. All materials should be submitted via Interfolio (http://apply.interfolio.com/31902).

 Review of applications will begin November 1, 2015 and continue until the position is filled. For full consideration, applications should be submitted by November 15, 2015. Inquiries about the search should be sent to Ms. Marilyn Reyes (lingdept@rci.rutgers.edu).

 Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, is an Equal Opportunity / Affirmative Action Employer. Qualified applicants will be considered for employment without regard to race, creed, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, disability status, genetic information, protected veteran status, military service or any other category protected by law. As an institution, we value diversity of background and opinion, and prohibit discrimination or harassment on the basis of any legally protected class in the areas of hiring, recruitment, promotion, transfer, demotion, training, compensation, pay, fringe benefits, layoff, termination or any other terms and conditions of employment.

 Open until filled

 Application Address:      

Linguistics Search Committee

Dept. of Linguistics, Rutgers University

18 Seminary Place

New Brunswick   NJ 



Application URL:               http://apply.interfolio.com/31902

Contact Information:      Ms. Marilyn  Reyes 


Call for papers: Dealing with Bad Data

Workshop at the Meertens Institute, Amsterdam (The Netherlands), March 17-19, 2016.

Call for Papers 

In recent years, linguistic theory has significantly expanded its empirical scope. If it has indeed ever been true that theories were built exclusively on the researcher’s own armchair judgements, such is definitely no longer the case. More and more, researchers have turned their attention to databases and corpora of all kinds, to experimental results, and to many other types of data sources. This development went hand in hand with an expansion of the scope of the theories, and collaborations with e.g. historical linguistics, dialectologists, sociolinguists, and psycholinguists. 

We believe that this is a positive development; but we also believe that some issues have not been sufficiently discussed. In this workshop we aim to tackle the issue of how to deal with ‘bad data’: many data that we have to deal with has not been collected with exactly the questions in mind that we want to ask. E.g., we have to use the results of a dialect survey of a few decades ago as the money is lacking to set up a new survey; or certain data are simply lacking for a particular historical period. 

We invite papers on all these issues. Which problems do you encounter in your work, and how do you solve them? Is there any privileged type of data to answer certain questions? Do we need more methodological standards and if so what should they look like? How can we make sure that we keep an integrated theory in which the results of different kinds of empirical explorations can all be accomodated? What is the relation between our methodological choices and central hypotheses of the theory of mental grammar? 

Sketch of the issues 

We distinguish between (at least) four classes of problems: (i) Incomplete data, (ii) Noisy data, (iii) One-sided data, (iv) Conflicting data.  

Ad i), As we mentioned above, both in historical and dialectological surveys, data from some period or some region may be missing, either because (in dialectology) we do not have any data for some area at all, or because for different areas there are different gaps in the data we have. Also, in a lot of typological work, ‘typological gaps’ have been taken as significant: if a certain phenomenon does not occur in any language then the theory should be restricted accordingly. This idea has come under attack: the languages we have actually studied in detail is probably not a representative sample of all languages in the world, and those in turn stand in an unknown relationship to all possible languages.

Ad ii), generative grammar (and many related types of theorizing) has been based on the division between I-language and E-language (or competence and performance), where the research object has been reduced to I-language, among other things for reasons of manageability: E-language is influenced by too many complicated factors. Although native speaker judgements can also not be said to be ‘pure’ reflections of I-language, it seems clear that the ‘new’ kinds of data indeed show the influences of many kinds of noise. 

Ad iii), in many cases, the data that are given do not show everything we need to know. For instance, if we study a historical corpus, we can only learn that certain constructions did occur, not whether or not the constructions that we do not find were ungrammatical, or just did not occur by accident. We would need to complement them by judgment data, but this is obviously lacking. Inversely, people sometimes demand that ‘just’ judgements are not enough and need to be complemented by e.g. Google data on actual occurrences.  

Ad iv): When we combine data from different types of data resources in our research, e.g. judgement data and language use data, these may show conflicting patterns. How do we resolve such conflicts? 

Invited speakers 

The following speakers have confirmed their participation: Paul de Lacy, Paula Fikkert, Paul Kiparsky, Cecilia Poletto, Keren Rice, Christina Tortora, Jeroen Van Craenenbroeck, Charles Yang.This list will hopefully be extended by a few more names. 

Submission of abstracts 

You can submit a 2-page abstract (excluding references) for a 30 minutes talk on EasyChair before December 1, 2015. You are allowed to submit multiple abstracts, but we may decide to only accept one abstract per author, and the choice will be ours.

Deadline of submission: December 1, 2015

Notification of acceptance: December 22, 2015

Website address: http://www.meertens.knaw.nl/baddata/

Phonetics job at UC, Santa Barbara

The Linguistics Department of the University of California, Santa Barbara seeks to hire a linguist specializing in phonetics. The appointment will be a tenure-track position at the Assistant Professor level, effective July 1, 2016. The ideal candidate will use primary data collected through one or more methodological paradigms to explore the importance of phonetics for our understanding of phonology, and more generally, linguistic theory. We especially seek candidates with expertise in speech perception and/or articulation. Important criteria for this position include research on multiple languages and thorough training in linguistics. The candidate should also have the potential to link the theoretical implications of his or her research to other subdisciplines in linguistics, and to interact with colleagues and students across disciplinary boundaries at UCSB. Candidates must have demonstrated excellence in teaching and will be expected to teach a range of graduate and undergraduate courses in phonetics, phonology, and general linguistics and to contribute to the department’s undergraduate minor in Language and Speech Technologies. For more information on the department, see www.linguistics.ucsb.edu.

A Ph.D. in linguistics or a related field is expected by the time of appointment. To ensure full consideration, all application materials, including letters of reference, should be received by November 6, 2015. The position will remain open until filled. Applicants must complete the online form at https://recruit.ap.ucsb.edu/apply/JPF00566and must submit online the following in PDF format: letter of application, statement of research interests, curriculum vitae, and 2 writing samples. Applicants should request at least 3 academic letters of reference to be sent directly to https://recruit.ap.ucsb.edu/apply/JPF00566 by the November 6 deadline. Materials submitted via fax or hard copy will not be accepted. Inquiries may be addressed to the Search Committee at Phoneticssearch@linguistics.ucsb.edu.

Applicants selected for an interview will have the option of either a Skype video interview with the search committee or an in-person interview at the Linguistic Society of America annual meeting in Washington, D.C. (January 7-10, 2016); interviews in either format will be considered equivalent. Our department has a genuine commitment to diversity, and is especially interested in candidates who can contribute to the diversity and excellence of the academic community through research, teaching and service. The University of California is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability status, protected veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by law.


More information about this recruitment: http://www.linguistics.ucsb.edu

Syntax job at UC, Santa Cruz

The Department of Linguistics at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) invites applications for a position in syntax, at the (tenure track) Assistant Professor or (tenured) Associate Professor level. Applicants at the level of Associate Professor should have a demonstrated record of teaching and research in syntactic theory that will contribute significantly to this area of the Department’s research profile and teaching mission. Applicants at the level of Assistant Professor should have the teaching potential and research expertise in syntactic theory that will enable them to contribute to this area. We would welcome applicants with a secondary strength in an area that interfaces with syntactic theory.

The successful candidate must be able to work with students, faculty and staff from a wide range of social and cultural backgrounds. We are especially interested in candidates who can contribute tothe diversity and excellence of the academic community through their research, teaching, and service.This position carries a five-course equivalency workload, which normally means teaching four courses over three quarters and carrying other academic and service responsibilities.

RANK: Assistant Professor or Associate Professor

SALARY: Commensurate with qualifications and experience; academic year (9-month) basis

BASIC QUALIFICATIONS: Ph.D. or equivalent foreign degree in Linguistics or a closely related field; record of research and teaching. Degree expected to be conferred by June 30, 2016.

POSITION AVAILABLE: July 1, 2016, with academic year beginning September 2016. Degree must be conferred by June 30, 2016 for appointment July 1, 2016.

TO APPLY: Applications are accepted via the UCSC Academic Recruit online system, and must include a letter of application that indicates which level you are applying for (Assistant or Associate), curriculum vitae, research statement, teaching statement (with evaluations, if desired), 1-3 writing sample or publications, and 3-5 confidential letters of recommendation*. Applicants are invited to submit a statement addressing their contributions to diversity through research, teaching and/or service. Documents/materials must be submitted as PDF files.

Apply at https://recruit.ucsc.edu/apply/JPF00302

Refer to Position #JPF00302-16 in all correspondence.

*All letters will be treated as confidential per University of California policy and California state law. For any reference letter provided via a third party (i.e., dossier service, career center), direct the author to UCSC’s confidentiality statement at http://apo.ucsc.edu/confstm.htm

CLOSING DATE: Review of applications will begin on November 16, 2015.

To ensure full consideration, applications should be complete and letters of recommendation received by this date. The position will remain open until filled, but not later than 6/30/2016.

Barbara Pearson in Berlin

Barbara Pearson will be in Berlin October 16 to present joint work with Giang Pham at a conference on the Acquisition of Discourse Phenomena across Languages and Populations (ADILP) held at the Centre for General Linguistics, better known as ZAS,  Zentrum für Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft. Giang Pham was a member of the faculty at UMass in the department of Communication Disorders from 2013 to 2015, but as of 8/2015 is at San Diego State University in their  School of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences. Pham and Pearson's topic is "Relations across Age, Vocabulary, and Narratives in Vietnamese and English."  Giang will present a related poster for the two authors, "The Weaker First Language Still Matters: Associations between Vietnamese Vocabulary and English Narratives" at the American Speech Language and Hearing Association Annual Meeting in Denver in November 2015. 

Linguistics job at UC, Irvine

The Program in Language Science (http://linguistics.uci.edu) at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) is seeking applicants for a tenure-track assistant professor faculty position. We seek candidates who combine a strong background in theoretical linguistics and a research focus in one of its sub-areas with computational, psycholinguistic, neurolinguistic, or logical approaches.

The successful candidate will interact with a dynamic and growing community in language, speech, and hearing sciences within the Program, the Center for Language Science, the Department of Cognitive Sciences, the Department of Logic and the Philosophy of Science, the Center for the Advancement of Logic, its Philosophy, History, and Applications, the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience & Engineering, and the Center for Hearing Research. Individuals whose interests mesh with those of the current faculty and who will contribute to the university's active role in interdisciplinary research and teaching initiatives will be given preference.

Interested candidates should apply online at https://recruit.ap.uci.edu/apply/JPF03107 with a cover letter indicating primary research and teaching interests, CV, three recent publications, three letters of recommendation, and a statement on previous and/or past contributions to diversity, equity and inclusion.

Application review will commence on November 20, 2015, and continue until the position is filled.
The University of California, Irvine is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer advancing inclusive excellence. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, age, protected veteran status, or other protected categories covered by the UC nondiscrimination policy.

Phonology job at Wayne State

The Department of English at Wayne State University invites applications for a tenure-track Assistant Professor, Advanced Assistant Professor, or Associate Professor in Linguistics with a specialization in Phonology. A second specialization is highly desirable. PhD required at time of appointment. 

The interdepartmental Linguistics Program at Wayne State offers the BA and MA. Wayne State University is an urban research university with the highest Carnegie designation of RU/VH [Research University, very high research productivity]. Duties include a sustained research program, a teaching load of 2-2, and departmental/university service.

The WSU Jobs site is now open. All applications must be submitted online. To submit an application, applicants should go to the application website below and upload the following: letter of application, CV, and one writing sample (PDF of a published article or a manuscript of approximately 15-30 pages). 

Applicants should also arrange to have 3 letters of recommendation sent electronically to Ljiljana Progovac, Director of Linguistics (email below). All materials are due by November 1, 2015.

Wayne State University offers more than 370 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to nearly 28,000 students in metropolitan Detroit. Wayne State is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. Application Deadline: 01-Nov-2015 


Application Deadline: 01-Nov-2015 
Application URL: http://jobs.wayne.edu 

Contact Information: Ljiljana  Progovac, Director of Linguistics <progovac@wayne.edu>

Postdoc in Applied Cog Sci Lab at Penn State

From this ad:

We’re beginning new, NSF-funded research in the areas of linguistics and computational social science. Generally, we seek to model cognitive processes using large-scale datasets and experimentation. Our recent core contributions have been in psycholinguistic models of natural-language dialogue and in decision making. Our work in cognitive science is fueled by advances in computing. In turn, we translate progress in cognitive science to contributions in computer science, recently in cybersecurity and machine learning. We are looking for a postdoc with training in one or more of the following areas:

cognitive science (e.g., computational psycholinguistics and data-driven modeling),

deep connectionist representations, and

natural language processing and information retrieval.

While the successful applicant is likely to focus on some areas, strong practical computational skills and a research interest in cognition or linguistics are required. Duties will include contributing to a project that combines crowd-sourcing and natural language processing to curate a dataset for peace research. Beyond that, the post-doc is primarily expected to build a strong research agenda, but may also collaborate in the graduate students’ projects and teach. The initial appointment would be for one year and is renewable. Applicants should have a Ph.D. in a relevant area (or be in the final stages of obtaining one) and a strong record of publications.

Matt Wagers spoke on Wednesday

Matt Wagers (UCSC) gave an impromptu talk at the Psycholinguistics Workshop last Tuesday, Oct. 6. The title of his talk was “I see nothing! Processing phonetically-null DPs in a verb-initial language."