13 December 2015

Graduate Program in Paris

The Cognitive Science Departement of Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris (Département d'études cognitives, DEC) aims to recruit advanced undergraduate international students in Cognitive Science and in Linguistics.

DEC and Ecole Normale Supérieure (http://www.ens.fr) offer several international fellowships, intended for advanced undergraduate students who will either directly enroll in a master's program (two-year or three-year fellowship) or first complete their last year of undergraduate studies and then enroll in a master's program (three-year fellowship). These fellowships will be attributed on the basis of a national competitive exam, known as the 'ENS international selection'. For more details (including about eligibility), please visit: http://www.ens.fr/admission/selection-internationale/?lang=en

The fellowships include:

- monthly stipend: 1000 euros;

- possibility of subsidized housing;

- access to subsidized cafeteria (about 4 euros/meal);

- minimal tuition fees (about 500 euros/year).

How to Apply

More detailed information is available on line:



Applications Deadline: 1-Feb-2016

Web Address for Applications: http://www1.ens.fr/recrutement-si/

Contact Information:

Benjamin Spector: benjamin.spector@ens.fr

Call for papers: Definiteness Across Languages

The Faculty of Philosophy and Literature of the National Autonomous University of Mexico and the Center for Linguistic and Literary Studies of El Colegio de México will host a workshop on definiteness across languages,  which will take place in June 22-24, in Mexico City. The aim of this event is to bring together linguists working on the syntactic and semantic description of languages as well as on the development of theories in order to discuss answers to two main questions: 

i. What formal strategies do natural languages use to express definiteness?

ii. What are the possible meanings of their definite noun phrases?

Invited speakers

Bert Le Bruyn (Utrecht University) 
(UMass alumnus) Florian Schwarz  (University of Pennsylvania)

Abstract submission 

We invite submissions contributing to the study of any aspect of the syntax, semantics and pragmatics of definite noun phrases in natural languages. Please submit an abstract in PDF format of no more than one page of text with an additional page for extra data, figures, and references. This file must not contain any personal information or affiliation, and must be submitted via EasyChair. If you are not familiar with EasyChair, please follow these submission instructions

The talks, which can be given either in English or in Spanish,  should be 30 minutes long followed by 10 minutes of discussion.

Important dates

Deadline for abstract submission: February 14, 2016 

Notification of acceptance: February 28, 2016 

Conference dates: June 22-24, 2016

For more information, go here.

Hartman at MIT

Jeremy Hartman will give two talks at MIT this week — one on Tuesday and the other on Wednesday. The titles and abstracts of his talks follow.

Tuesday, December 15:

What is this construction, that we should be puzzled by it?

I will discuss the construction exemplified below, where a wh- question is followed by a gapless subordinate clause:
      a.  What were you doing, that you couldn’t come help me?
            b.  Where is he from, that he talks like that?
            c.  Who are you, to make that demand?
            d.  What did she do, that everyone is so mad at her?

A puzzling fact about such sentences is that their declarative counterparts appear to be ungrammatical (*He is from Texas, that he talks like that, *I was on the phone, that I couldn't come help you).  Sentences like these have not, to my knowledge, received a detailed analysis in the syntactic literature. I will offer some preliminary observations about their syntactic properties, their meaning, and their relationship to other syntactic phenomena, including degree constructions.

Wednesday, December 16. ESSL/LacqLab 32-D461 at 5:00PM:

Building a corpus for root infinitives

I will present work in progress, on the development of a large database of children's optional infinitive utterances taken from the English CHILDES corpora, and coded for a variety of factors of interest.  I'll discuss how the database can be used to asses the effects of several syntactic and phonological factors that have been claimed to influence children's use of the root infinitive, as well as the interactions between these factors.

Call for papers: GALANA 7

The 7th biennial conference on Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition - North America (GALANA 7) will take place at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on September 8-10, 2016.

The GALANA conference features theoretically informed research on all types of language acquisition scenarios, including (but not limited to) monolingual first language acquisition, bilingual/multilingual first language acquisition, second language acquisition by children as well as adults, third language acquisition, acquisition of signed as well as spoken languages, language disorders, language acquisition in the presence of cognitive impairment and autism, and the development of pidgins and creoles. GALANA-7 will include a special session on ''Input Variation and Language Acquisition.''

The invited speakers for the main session are Cynthia Fisher (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), Roumyana Slabakova (University of Southampton), and Virginia Valian (Hunter College and CUNY Graduate Center).

The invited speakers for the special session on Input Variation and Language Acquisition are Karen Miller (Pennsylvania State University) and Janna Oetting (Louisiana State University).

Conference URL: https://publish.illinois.edu/galana2016/

Conference email: galana7.2016@gmail.com

Abstract Submission Deadline: 10-Feb-2016

GALANA-7 invites abstracts of no more than 500 words (with an optional second page for examples, figures and references) for double-blind peer review.

Guidelines and instructions about abstract submission can be found at https://publish.illinois.edu/galana2016/abstract-guidelines-and-submission/

For the general session, abstracts are invited for original, unpublished generative research in all acquisition subfields: L1 acquisition, L2 acquisition, L3 acquisition, bilingualism, multilingualism, creoles and pidgins, and language disorders.

Abstracts are also invited for a special session on Input Variation and Language Acquisition. Understanding how children use input to help form a grammar is central to an adequate theory of language acquisition. Broad differences in input based on dialect variation have been used as a fixed effect in explaining differences in children's grammars. Between-child differences within homogeneous samples of families, similar in socio-economic statuses, speaking the same dialect have also provided insight. The special session Input Variation and Language Acquisition asks how these two approaches relate to one another; specifically how language variety as a fixed effect relates to the random effects of between-child variation within a language variety. The papers presented in this special session will advance theories of grammatical acquisition and applications in the field of child language disorders.

Dillon in D.C.

Brian Dillon gave a colloquium talk at the University of Maryland on Friday, December 11. The title of his talk was "Grammatical illusions in real-time sentence processing: New findings and perspectives." An abstract follows.

One question of enduring interest for psycholinguists is the question of how closely real-time sentence processing routines align with grammatical knowledge: does the competence grammar directly constrain sentence comprehension, or does it play a secondary role, 'cleaning up' the results of a comprehension process driven by heuristics (Lewis & Phillips, 2015; Patson & Ferreira, 2007; Townsend & Bever, 2001)? Much experimental work has provided evidence for the view that the human sentence processor is directly constrained by grammatical knowledge. A challenge for this view is the observation that there are a number of apparently simple grammatical constraints that comprehenders fail to respect in comprehension, such as subject-verb agreement (e.g. Wagers, Lau & Phillips, 2009). Providing an explanation of why we see these 'grammaticality illusions,' and why only certain dependencies seem to be be susceptible to illusory grammaticality, has been a productive research project that has led to new and diverse models of linguistic dependency formation in real-time comprehension (Phillips, Wagers & Lau, 2011). In this talk, I will review this work, and present two case studies from the research group at UMass that provide some new perspectives, and new puzzles, for this project. In the first part of the talk, I will present evidence from English reflexive processing (joint work with Shayne Sloggett) that suggests that grammaticality illusion associated with English reflexives are created by assigning a logophoric interpretation to the reflexive form. In the second part, I present work with Jérémy Pasquereau on a novel grammatical illusion, French quantifier/de-phrase dependencies. This work suggests that not all intrusive licensors are created equal, and that only some quantifiers have the potential to create grammaticality illusion effects in French. Taken together, these studies suggest that grammatical illusions are conditioned by the availability of alternative structures and interpretations made available by the grammar. In a slogan, it appears that what could've been said, but wasn't, seems to play a role in creating grammaticality illusion effects in comprehension.

Hannah Green goes to Washington State University

Barbara Partee writes:

Hannah Greene was in our Ph.D. program from 2011 to 2014, with her main interests in semantics and fieldwork. She had always also loved animals, and while she was our student she did a lot of horse dressage (while helping to care for horses at that stable). In the spring of 2014 she was hard at work on a research paper when she “felt a pull to be elsewhere: a large animal parasitology workshop hosted by my vet.” And from there she realized that what she really wanted to be was a large animal vet - that that was a career that would combine intellectual stimulation with her love of animals. So during the 2014-2015 academic year she embarked on an intensive program in "pre-vet" courses here at UMass, which she just completed, and this fall she applied to a number of veterinary programs. I was one of her letter writers, and I just got the happy news that she was offered a place in Washington State University’s DVM program, a program she was really impressed with when she visited. Hannah will still be here in the area until July. I suggest having a party for Hannah sometime in the spring to give us all a chance to say farewell and best wishes, and to reaffirm that she’s part of our department ‘family’ whatever she does next. And I invite WHISC readers to help share news about other “alumni-lites” (feel free to suggest a better term!) -- and if you’re reading this and are one yourself, send in news!

Here’s a very recent selfie that Hannah took with a friendly cow.


Symposium of Cognition, Logic and Communication

The Eleventh International Symposium of Cognition, Logic and Communication was on December 10 and 11 at the University of Latvia in Riga. UMass alumna Suzi Lima, who gave the talk “Let Context Define What You Count," was an invited speaker. For more information, go here.