05 June 2016

WHISC closes shop

WHISC ends for the Summer with this issue. We’ll return at the end of August, when things begin to ramp up for the Fall.

UMass at Speech Prosody 2016

Speech Prosody 2016 was hosted by Boston University from Tuesday, May 31 through Friday 3 in Boston. UMass was represented by 

alumna Emily Elfner, who gave the tale “Subject/Object complexity and prosody boundary strength in Irish"

alumnus Jesse Harris, with Sun-Ah Jun and Adam Joyer, who gave the talk “Implicit prosody pulls its weight: Recovery from garden path sentences.”

Mara Breen, with Sarah Weidman and Katherine Haydon, gave the talk “Prosodic speech entrainment in romantic relationships."

Covadonga Sánchez-Alvarado and Meghan E. Armstrong gave the talk “Pitch scaling and the perception of contrastive focus in L1 and L2 Spanish."

Alumna Amy Schafer, with Múria Esteve-Gibert, Cristel Portes, Barbara Hemforth and Mariapaola D’Imperio, gave the paper “Intonation in the processing of contrast meaning in French: An eye-tracking study."

Meghan Armstrong organized a special session on Rising intonation in English and beyond, and gave a talk, with Maria Del Mar Vanrell, at that session entitled “Intonational polar question markers and implicature in American English and Majorcan Catalan.” She also, with Page Piccinini and Amanda Ritchart, gave the poster “Non-Question rises in narratives produced by mothers and daughters."

Roeper in Delhi

Tom Roeper gave a virtual talk at the colloquium series at IIT in Delhi on June 1. The title of his talk was “Minimalism and Acquisition."

Call for papers: LSA

The 2017 annual meeting of the Linguistic Society of America will be January5-8 in Austin, Texas. Abstracts will be accepted for 20 minute papers and for posters until July 31, 2016. Abstracts are to be submitted through the LSA website. For more information, go here.

Call for papers: Towards an Ontology of Modal Flavors

Our understanding of modal meanings is crucially based on the notion of various modal flavors, which distinguish, for example, between epistemic and deontic readings. However, neither within nor across linguistic subfields is there any consensus about the exact ontology of those modal flavors. Thus, a common assumption in formal semantics is that there is a hierarchical distinction between modal meanings: there is a fundamental difference between epistemic and non-epistemic meanings, and the non-epistemic meanings can be split further into flavors such as deontic, bouletic, etc. (e.g., Hacquard, 2011). But the seminal typological study by Bybee et al. (1994) and subsequent work suggest that the distinction between participant-internal and participant-external flavors may be just as significant as the distinction between epistemic and non-epistemic ones. Moreover, current formal semantic approaches do not predict any interesting correlation between the dimensions of modal flavor and modal force, though Rubinstein (2012) has recently argued for some non-trivial correlations between force and varieties of non-epistemic modality. Meanwhile, typological research shows that the distinction between necessity and possibility may not apply to participant-internal flavors (Nauze, 2008). Insights from related disciplines likewise fail to converge. Thus, experimental research indicates that the distinction between moral and physical laws may not be as salient on a psychological level as one might expect from traditional approaches to modal flavors (Phillips, 2015). 

This workshop aims to provide a forum for researchers in formal semantics, typology, syntax, language description, psycholinguistics and language acquisition to address these issues in the analysis of linguistic modality, in order to gain a better understanding of the role of modal flavors in grammar and cognition. 

Invited speaker: 
alumna Aynat Rubinstein (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) 

Kilu von Prince (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin) 
Ryan Bochnak (University of Manchester) 
Anne Mucha (Universität Potsdam) 

Bybee, J. L, Perkins, Revere, & Pagliuca, W. 1994. The evolution of grammar: Tense, aspect, and modality in the languages of the world. The University of Chicago Press. 
Cinque, Guglielmo. 1999. Adverbs and functional heads: a cross-linguistic perspective. Oxford University Press. 
Hacquard, Valentine. 2011. Modality. Pages 1484–1515 of: von Heusinger, Klaus, Maienborn, Claudia, & Portner, Paul (eds), Semantics: An international handbook of contemporary research. de Gruyter. 
Nauze, Fabrice. 2008. Modality in typological perspective. Amsterdam: Institute for Logic, Language and Communication. 
Phillips, Jonathan Scott. 2015. The psychological representation of modality. Ph.D. thesis, Yale University. 
Rubinstein, Aynat. 2012. The roots of modality. Ph.D. thesis, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Call for Papers: 

We invite abstracts for talks (20 minutes presentation + 10 minutes for questions) for the workshop “Towards an ontology of modal flavors” to take place during the 39th Annual Meeting of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Sprachwissenschaft, taking place March 8-10, 2017 at the Universität des Saarlandes in Saarbrücken, Germany (Homepage: http://dgfs2017.uni-saarland.de/wordpress/ , LinguistList: http://linguistlist.org/callconf/browse-conf-action.cfm?ConfID=246576). 

We invite contributions from a variety of fields including modal logic and formal semantics, typology, syntax, language description, psycholinguistics and language acquisition to discuss the nature of modal flavors and address, for example, one of the following questions: 

- What are possible candidates for modal flavors? 

- How strict are the boundaries between modal flavors? Are some distinctions more fundamental than others? 

- Are some of the distinctions between modal flavors based on a difference in syntactic positions, resulting in different interactions with negation and tense/aspect (as proposed by Cinque 1999, Hacquard 2011 and others)? 

- Are the dimensions of force and flavor independent from one another? 

- Are the dimensions of force and flavor sufficient to account for all the distinctions we find in natural languages? 

Abstracts should be a maximum of two pages (references may be on a third page), using a 12-point font and 2.5cm/1 inch margins on all four sides. Please submit anonymous abstracts in pdf format to modalflavorsaggmail.com by August 15, 2016. Please include your name, affiliation, and title of the abstract in the body of your email. 

Important dates: 

Call deadline: August 15, 2016 
Notification of acceptance: September 10, 2016 
Workshop dates: March 8-10, 2017

Roeper in Frankfurt

Tom Roeper will be giving a talk entitled “Abstract Triggers and Acquisition” at the University of Frankfurt on June 28th.

29 May 2016

Slogget at Santa Cruz

Shayne Slogget will give a talk at the University of California at Santa Cruz this Wednesday, June 1. The title of his talk is “Do comprehenders violate Binding Theory? Depends on your point of view."

Call for papers: Conditionals at the Crossroads

Full Title: Conditionals at the Crossroads of Semantics and Pragmatics 

Date: 10-Nov-2016 - 11-Nov-2016 

Location: Konstanz, Germany 

Web Site: https://sites.google.com/site/conditionalsatthecrossroads/ 

Linguistic Field(s): Pragmatics; Psycholinguistics; Semantics

Call Deadline: 24-Jul-2016 

Meeting Description:

Invited speakers: 
Itamar Francez (University of Chicago) 

Daniel Lassiter (Stanford University) 

Karen Lewis (Columbia University) 

UMass alumnus Kyle Rawlins (Johns Hopkins University) 

The workshop aims to bring together scholars working on linguistic issues both at the sentential and discourse level as well as scholars working at the junction of linguistics and philosophy. 

Particular topics of interest are but are not limited to: 

- Epistemic modals in probabilistic and non-probabilistic epistemic models 

- Tense, aspect and mood in the semantic composition of conditionals 

- Sobel sequences and related patterns 

- Licensing of Negative Polarity Items in conditionals and related constructions 

- Discourse particles and their occurrence in conditionals 

- Conditional perfection and other inferences derived from the interaction between conditionals and discourse 

- Semantics and pragmatics of quirky conditionals such as biscuit conditionals, chimeric conditionals, optative conditionals etc. 

Organizers: UMass alumna María Biezma and Maribel Romero 

Contact: conditionalsatthecrossroadsgmail.com 

Meeting website: https://sites.google.com/site/conditionalsatthecrossroads/

Call for Abstracts: 

We invite papers on the semantics and pragmatics of conditionals both from a theoretical and an experimental perspective. 
We invite submission of abstracts for 30-minute oral presentations (with additional 15 minutes for discussion). Abstracts must be anonymous and should be at most 2 pages (A4 or US Letter) in length, including examples and references, using a 12pt font with 1 inch (2.5 cm) margins on all four sides. The abstract must be submitted as a single PDF. Submissions are limited to two per author, with at most one paper being single-authored. 

Deadline for Submission: 24 July 2016 

Submit your abstract via EasyAbs: http://linguistlist.org/easyabs/condcrossroads 

(Abstract Submission opens on 1 June 2016)

22 May 2016

Jack Duff interns at Hellenic Studies

UMass linguistics and classics major Jack Duff will be a summer inter at Harvard University’s Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington D.C. this summer. You can learn more here. Congratulations Jack!

Call for papers: CGSW

The 31st edition of the Comparative Germanic Syntax Workshop will be a historic one as this will be the first CGSW to be held in Africa.

Stellenbosch University in South Africa’s beautiful Western Cape Province will be hosting this meeting, which will take place on 2-3 December 2016.

Invited Speakers
Roland Hinterhölzl (Venice)
Jason Merchant (Chicago)
Tarald Taraldsen (Tromsø)

Call for papers
We invite abstracts for thirty-minute talks (followed by ten minutes of discussion) on any aspect of comparative Germanic syntax, including diachronic syntax. Given the location of the conference, we are also very interested in research focusing on lesser studied Germanic varieties, particularly those that have developed and/or been used in contact situations, including “extraterritorial” varieties of continental Germanic. Papers focusing on formal aspects of “non-standard” varieties and on phenomena like code-switching are also very welcome, as are papers considering how aspects of the structure of non-Germanic languages spoken in southern Africa (may) have impacted on the structure of Germanic languages spoken in this part of the world.

Abstract Guidelines
Abstracts should not exceed two pages, with 2.5cm margins on all sides and a font size of 12pt. This includes data, references and diagrams.

Each author may submit no more than one single-authored and one co-authored abstract, or two co-authored ones.

Abstracts must be anonymous and prospective presenters should submit their abstract in pdf to:


The deadline for submission is 31 May 2016.
Notification of acceptance by 1 July 2016.

Further information
Please feel free to visit the conference website at the following address:


Here, you will (in due course) find information regarding CGSW31 itself, a pre-CGSW31 workshop involving international researchers (see below), visa applications, travel, and accommodation.

For local (Stellenbosch-related) information, please contact Erin Pretorius: erink@sun.ac.za

For directly CGSW-related information, please contact Theresa Biberauer: mtb23@cam.ac.uk

Additional workshop
This year, CGSW will be accompanied by a pre-workshop taught by Theresa Biberauer, Mara Frascarelli, Roland Hinterhölzl and Ian Roberts.

We look forward to receiving your abstracts! And then to welcoming you in Stellenbosch at a wonderful time of year!

UMass at Manchester Phonology meeting

The University of Manchester is hosting the the Twenty-Fourth Manchester Phonology Meeting May 26-28th. UMass is represented by 

alumna Nancy Hall who is giving the talk “A phonetic study of closed syllable shortening in Palestinian Arabic."

Coral Hughto who is giving the talk “Typological prediction of an interactive learning model"

Leland Kusmer and Ivy Hauser who are giving the talk “Wrong side reduplication in Koasat"

For more information, go here.

Summer Writing Camps

The Office ofProfessional Development and the Writing Center are pleased to offer aSummer Writing Series to help graduate students set goals and stay ontrack in a quiet and supportive environment. Optionally, writingconsultants will be available to meet with writers to discuss any typeof writing.

This Summer Writing Series will take place on Tuesdays (through July26th) from 9am - 1pm in the Writing Center (Du Bois Library lowerlevel). Coffee and snacks will be provided. Come late or leave early;come one week or attend them all.

Series pre-registration (once) is required:


A limited number of consultations are available for advance registration here.

Additional consultations are available for on-site sign-ups on afirst-come, first-served basis.

Summer School in Göttingen

Summer School on Complex Clauses/Germany

Host Institution:University of Göttingen, Germany
Coordinating Institution:University of Göttingen, Germany

Dates:8-Aug-2016 to 12-Aug-2016
Location:Göttingen , Germany

Focus:Linguistics in Göttingen (LinG) proudly announces a five-day summer school on Complex Clauses, held in Göttingen. During this summer school, four tutorials (1,5 hour per day each) will be held, featuring well-known teachers. In addition, there will be a poster session, where students can present and discuss their work, as well as evening lectures.

Minimum Education Level:BA
Additional Qualifications:The school is intended for 20 graduate students, PhD students or postdocs, working on, or interested in, the topic.

Full Summer School Description:
Four courses (1,5 hours/day for 5 days):

Jaklin Kornfilt (Syracuse University): Complex Clauses in some head-final languages (with particular attention to Turkish and Turkic)
UMass alumnus Keir Moulton (Simon Fraser University): Ingredient of Embedding
Hans-Martin Gärtner (Hungarian Academy of Sciences): Issues in Special and Minor Sentence Type
Magdalena and Stefan Kaufmann (UConn): Current topics in the semantics and pragmatics of conditionals

Evening lectures:
Beáta Gyuris (Hungarian Academy of Sciences): The semantics and pragmatics of embedded interrogatives in Hungarian
Uwe Junghans and Hagen Pitsch (University of Göttingen): Complex sentence structures in Slavic

Tuition:100 (EUR)
Tuition Explanation:Tuition includes coffee breaks and free lunch on all 5 days.
Registration Dates:1-Apr-2016 to 23-May-2016
Contact person information:Edgar Onea
Apply by mail:julia.steinmetz@zentr.uni-goettingen.de
Apply by email:julia.steinmetz@zentr.uni-goettingen.de
Registration Instructions:Interested? Send an email to julia.steinmetz@zentr.uni-goettingen.de by May 23 with a short description of your research interests and a short motivation why you would want to attend the school. Together this should be no more than 500 words. Please consult the website https://www.uni-goettingen.de/de/535725.html on accommodation information and financial aid. Notification of acceptance by the June, 1 the latest.

Roeper at University of Toronto

Tom Roeper will be giving a talk entitled “Recursion and Interfaces” at a workshop on Complexity in Learnability and Development that the University of Toronto is hosting this Wednesday, May 25. Tom’s paper reports on his work with Petra Schulz. The Workshop is organized by UMass alumna Ana-Teresa Pérez-Leroux, who will also be giving talks at the workshop. For more information, go here.

15 May 2016

Ellipsis and Andrew Weir make Slate

Katy Waldman, Slate’s “words correspondent” riffs on ellipsis.

Graduate Commencement

Presley Pizzo, Claire Moore-Cantwell and Brian Smith took delivery of their well-earned PhD diplomas at the Graduate Commencement on Friday, May 6th. 



Johnson in California

Kyle Johnson gives a talk at the University of California-Santa Cruz on Friday, May 20, entitled “Building a Trace."

UMass at WAFL 12

Central Connecticut College is hosting the 12th Workshop on Altaic Formal Linguistics this weekend, May 13-15. UMass is represented by:

Deniz Özyildiz, who is giving the poster “*Say what? A Turkish word order restriction explained by prosody."


alumnus Satoshi Tomioka, who is giving the invited talk “Purposeful Questions: A New Embedding Strategy."

For more information, go here.

Linguists at HFA Senior Recognition Ceremony

Some pictures of freshly graduated linguists at the Humanities and Fine Arts Senior Recognition Ceremony last Saturday, May 7.





08 May 2016

Astrid A Esquilín Nieves

Astrid talks about studying at UMass.

Call for papers: BCGL

BCGL 9: Phase Theory
Brussels, December 13-14, 2016.

BCGL 9 will be followed by CRISSP 10, a one-day workshop celebrating the 10th anniversary of the research institute CRISSP featuring invited presentations by Luigi Rizzi, Alec Marantz, and Angelika Kratzer, among others.

BCGL 9: description

Throughout the history of generative grammar, there have been various ways of implementing locality effects, for example through Transformational Cycles (Chomsky 1965; Kayne 1969) or Barriers (Chomsky 1986). Phase Theory (Uriagereka 1999; Chomsky 2000, 2001) constitutes the most recent development in this line of thinking. It is often argued that there exist discrete structural domains in natural language that exhibit a degree of syntactic, semantic, and phonological independence from their surrounding linguistic environment. Phase Theory offers a tool for understanding such domains. However, since the inception of phases, there have been many different proposals about the specific formalization of this concept, along with much debate about the extent to which phases can be evidenced empirically (and indeed whether phases exist at all). The aim of this workshop is to discuss the empirical validity and theoretical specifics of Phase Theory. The questions and issues this workshop aims to address, include, but are not limited to the following:

  • What are the empirical diagnostics for phases and how reliable are these? Common diagnostics for phases are:
    • (related to the narrow syntax) successive-cyclic movement (islands), agreement, binding conditions, quantifier scope, and parasitic gaps (Fox 1998; Nissenbaum 1998; Legate 2003);
    • (related to the PF-interface) ellipsis (Holmberg 1999, 2001; Gengel 2007, 2008), and prosodic rule application (Sato 2009);
    • (related to the LF-interface) idiomatic expressions (Svenonius 2005; Harwood & Temmerman 2015; Kim 2015).
  • What is the definition of a phase? Do phases correspond to sub-numerations (Chomsky 2000, 2001), spell-out domains and/or workspaces (Uriagereka 1999)? Or do they need to be defined in terms of e.g. Prolific Domains (Grohmann 2003), Layered Derivations (Zwart 2009), or Cyclic Linearization (Fox & Pesetsky 2003, 2005)? Related questions are: What is the timing of spell-out and what exactly is spelled out (Chomsky 2000, 2001; Fox & Pesetsky 2003, 2005; Richards 2011; Bošković 2014)?
  • What does the inventory of phases look like: CP, vP, DP, PP, …? Is the size of a phase fixed? Are phases rigid and absolute or context-sensitive (cf. Bošković (2013, 2014), Wurmbrand (2013) and Harwood (2015) for dynamic phases, Den Dikken (2007) for phase extension, and Gallego (2010) for phase sliding)?
  • To what extent do phases at one interface (necessarily) coincide with phases at another interface (Marušič 2005; d’Alessandro & Scheer 2015)?

Abstract guidelines

Abstracts should be anonymous, and submissions are limited to 2 per author, at least one of which must be co-authored. They must not exceed two pages, including data, references and diagrams. The font should be at least 11-point, with one-inch margins. They should be submitted as pdf-documents through EasyChair: https://easychair.org/conferences/?conf=bcgl9

Important dates

First call for papers: May 3, 2016.
Second call for papers: August 1, 2016.
Abstract submission deadline: September 1, 2016.
Notification of acceptance: October 1, 2016.

Conference location

CRISSP – KU Leuven Brussels Campus
Warmoesberg 26
1000 Brussels

Conference organizers

Jeroen van Craenenbroeck
Will Harwood
Dany Jaspers
Cora Pots
Koen Roelandt
Jolijn Sonnaert
Tanja Temmerman
Guido Vanden Wyngaerd



Kratzer at UPenn

Angelika Kratzer gave a colloquium talk entitled “Evidential Moods” to UPenn’s linguistics department on Thursday, May 5.

Rethinking Comparative Syntax

The University of Cambridge hosted the conference “Rethinking Comparative Syntax” this last week. UMass was represented by David Erschler, who gave the talk “Typology of Sluicing in wh- and non-wh-questions.” For more information, go here.

UMass at FASL

Cornell University is hosting the Twenty Fifth annual meeting of Formal Approaches to Slavic Linguistics on May 13-15. Gaja Jarosz and alumnus Michael Becker are giving plenary talks. Gaja’s is entitled “Sonority sequencing in Polish: Defying the sttimulus?” and Michael’s is entitled “Inconspicuous unfaithfulness in Slovenian.” For more information, go here.

Call for papers: Workshop on Complex Predicates

Workshop on Complex Predicates in Iranian Languages

University of Tehran,

Tehran, IRAN,

10-11 September 2016


 Deadline for abstract submission: May 20, 2016   

Guidelines are available on https://sites.google.com/site/cprut2016/call

Topics of interest include but are not limited to:

- emergence of complex predicates

-complex predicates as light verb constructions

-idioms as complex predicates   

-argument structure of complex predicates  

-event structure of complex predicates  

-active/non-active distinction and argument alternation   

-phonological properties of complex predicates

Keynote speakers:

Mohammad Dabir-Moghaddam (Professor, Allameh Tabataba'i University)

Simin Karimi (Professor, University of Arizona)

Pollet Samvelian (Professor, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle & CNRS)

01 May 2016

UMass at SULA

UC, Santa Cruz is hosting the ninth meeting of Semantics of Under-Represented Languages in the Americas on May 6-8. UMass is represented by:

Alumna Amy Rose Deal, who is giving the talk “Legacy Documentation: What can we learn?"

Seth Cable, who is giving the talk “Negation and negative antonyms in Tlingit."

Alumna Suzi Lima, who is giving the talk “On the interpretation of object denoting nouns in Yudja"

For more information, go here.

Two Summer Schools

International Summer School on Language Documentation and Description/


The Leiden University Centre for Linguistics (LUCL) is proud to host the sixth 3L International Summer School on Language Documentation and Description this summer from Monday 11 July up to and including Friday 22 July 2016. The 3L Summer School is part of the annual Leiden Summer School in Languages and Linguistics. The 3L Summer School offers 2-week courses dealing with various aspects of language documentation and description for future and novice field linguists. Courses cover both practical and typological issues, including practical training in fieldwork methods, fieldwork on sign languages, recording techniques, software for documentation, language description, grammar writing, the analysis of tone, and how to make a lexicon.Minimum Education Level: BA

LOT Summer School in Utrecht

Dates: 04-Jul-2016 - 15-Jul-2016

The LOT Summer School 2016 will be hosted by Utrecht University. Minimum Education Level: BA. Special Qualifications: Master Sudents should be enrolled in a Research Master programme and have had at least two semesters of training.
Tuition: 200 EURRegistration: 15-Apr-2016 to 31-May-2016

24 April 2016

Bruna Pereira at LARC

Bruna Pereira, visiting scholar at MIT, will present her work on agreement in Brazilian Portuguese in LARC this Wednesday, April 27, at 12:20 in ILC N451. The title and abstract of her talk follow.

The DP-internal plural marking in Brazilian Portuguese

In contrast to standard BP, which has all the elements of the DP marked for plural, non-standard BP (1a, b) leaves most of them unmarked. In view of these facts, this paper investigates the syntactic conditions that determine the DP-internal distribution of the plural morpheme in non-standard BP. In order to do that, I assume that the position of the cardinal numeral divides the DP into two domains: the items in its left are marked with the plural morpheme (1a, b), whereas the items in its right are not (1c). 

(1) a. Os     (dois) outro balde  vermelho

           The-PL two   other  bucket red

           ‘The other two red buckets’.

        b. Os     outros     (dois)  balde   vermelho

             The-PL other-PL

              two      bucket red

          c. *O outro (dois) baldes       vermelhos

                The   other   two   bucket-PL red-PL

Overall, this paper is organized in three parts. Section 1 presents: firstly, current proposals (Costa; Figueiredo Silva, 2006) on a presumed ‘singleton’ morpheme, which does not account for the facts above mentioned; secondly, the theoretical basis (Chomsky, 2001; Pesetsky; Torrego, 2007) for assuming a new proposal; and thirdly cross-linguistic data for illustrating that, in several languages, the numeral works as a boundary dividing the DP with regards to the distribution of number features (Danon, 2011; Norris, 2014). Section 2 tests, with BP data, the explanation power of this analysis. Finally, section 3 describes structures with wh-determiners (Nunes, 2007; Pereira 2014, 2016) and indefinite articles in the dialect spoken in Minas Gerais that give support for the analysis carried out.

Therefore, as opposed to current proposals, the analysis assumed here shows that the DP-internal plural marking is not only dependent on syntax but also consistent with the DP-internal hierarchy. Above all, it reveals the underlying reason why some constituents of the DP must, may or cannot be marked for plural in non-standard BP.

UMass at Undergraduate Research Conference

The 22nd annual Annual Undergraduate Research Conference took place last Friday, April 22, in the Lincoln Campus Center. The Linguistics Department was represented by:

Ashley Lee, who gave the talk: “Gender Assignment in German Loan Nouns from English."

Stephanie Rich presented the poster “Why not Both? Incremental Processing of Syntactic and Semantic Ambiguities."

Anthony Yacovone presented the talk “Investigating the role of predictability during syntactic resolutions."


mini-conference on Thursday

The Second Year students present their work at a Mini-Conference this Thursday, April 28 starting at 9:30 in ILC N400. A schedule follows.

9:30  Petr Kusily: Embedded under Past:  Novel data and puzzles for Present and Future in Japanese, Russian and English

10:00 Rodica Ivan: Binding within PPs

10:30 Deniz özyildiz: Factivity Defteated

11:00 Break (with refreshments)

11:30 Georgia Simon: Getting Specific about Underspecification

12:00 Thuy Bui: The Vietnamese Perfect

Jeremy raps

Jeremy Hartman will give an Acquisition Rap at MIT on Saturday, April 30 at a conference in honor of Ken Wexler on the occasion of his retirement. Jeremy’s rap is “Building a corpus for root infinitives.” For more information about the event, and Jeremy’s rap, go here.

Gaja, Brian and Kristine are featured at Data Science Tea

Data Science Tea - Linguistics Spotlight

What: tea, refreshments, presentations and conversations about topics in data science

Where: Computer Science Building Rooms 150, 151

When: 4-5:30pm Tuesday April 26

Who: You! Especially PhD & MS students, and faculty interested in data science.

Professor Kristine Yu - The learnability of tones from the speech signal

Many of the world's languages are tone languages, meaning that a change in pitch (how high or how low the voice is) causes a change in word meaning, e.g. in Mandarin, "ma" uttered with a rising pitch like in an English question (Did you go to class today?) means "hemp", but "ma" uttered with a falling pitch like in an English declarative (Yes!) means "to scold". This talk discusses initial steps in using machine learning to find out the best way to parametrize tones in an acoustic space, in order to set up the learning problem for studying how tone categories could be learned. I look forward to your comments and suggestions!

Professor Gaja Jarosz - Computational Models of Language Development: Nature vs. Nurture

Recent work on phonological learning has utilized computational modeling to investigate the role of universal biases in language development. In this talk I review the latest findings and controversies regarding the status of a particular language universal, Sonority Sequencing Principle, traditionally argued to constrain the sound structure of all human languages. I argue that explicit computational and statistical models of the language development process, when tested across languages (English, Mandarin, Korean, and Polish) allow us to disentangle the often correlated predictions of competing hypotheses, and suggest a crucial role for this universal principle in language learning. 

Professor Brian Dillon - Serial vs. parallel structure-building in syntactic comprehension

In this talk I give a brief overview to theories of human syntactic comprehension. An important theoretical question in this area is whether the human sentence processor creates and maintains a single syntactic description of a sentence, or if instead it maintains multiple, parallel parses of the input. This question is of wide-ranging theoretical importance for theories of human syntactic processing, but the empirical data that distinguish serial from parallel parsing behavior are unclear at best (Gibson & Pearlmutter, 2000; Lewis, 2000). In this talk I reexamine this theoretical question, and present in progress work with Matt Wagers (Linguistics, UC Santa Cruz) that uses tools from mathematical psychology (Signal Detection Theory) to derive novel empirical predictions that distinguish serial vs. parallel processing, a first step on the road to reevaluating this old, but perptually important, theoretical question.

Graduating Seniors at LINGLE

The Year End Lingle happened on Thursday, April 21, in the linguistics department and about half of the graduating seniors were able to show up to be fêted. They, and Rajesh Bhatt, are pictured below.

Congratulations to them, and to all our other graduating seniors!

IMG 0570

UMass at WCCFL

The University of Utah is hosting the 34th meeting of the West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics this weekend. UMass is represented by:

Ethan Poole, who is giving the talk “The locality of dependent Case,"

Alumna Amy Rose Deal, who is giving the talk “Syntactic Egativity as Case discrimination."

Alumna Karen Jesney, who with Brian Hsu, is presenting the paper “Loanword Adaptation in Quebec French: Evidence for Weighted Scalar Constraints"

Gaja gives a talk at 5 at 4

Gaja Jarosz is one of five incoming HFA faculty who are giving a short presentation at the “5 at 4” cocktail hour that the Dean of HFA is sponsoring on April 27. Gaja’s talk is entitled “ .” the event is at 4PM in The Hadley Room, Campus Center.


Mohawk speakers Phillip Deering and Francis Bootes meet with Katia Vostrikova, Sakshi Bhatia and Leland Kusmer on April 15th. 

IMG 2248

17 April 2016

Simon Kirby speaks on Friday

Joe Pater writes:

We will meet with  Simon Kirby of the University of Edinburgh on April 22 10-11 am in Integrative Learning Center N400 to discuss his 2015 Cognition paper “Compression and communication in the cultural evolution of linguistic structure“. There will also be a prior meeting to prepare for that discussion on Wednesday April 20th from 11-12 in the same location. All are welcome to attend either one or both of these meetings. If you would like to meet with Simon at some other time during his visit, please e-mail Joe Pater.

As previously announced, his talk “The Evolution of Linguistic Structure: where learning, culture and biology meet” jointly sponsored by the Initiative in Cognitive Science  and the 5 Colleges Cognitive Science Seminar on will take place at 3:30 in ILC N101. The abstract is below.

Abstract. Language is striking in its systematic structure at all levels of description. By exhibiting combinatoriality and compositionality, each utterance in a language does not stand alone, but rather exhibits a network of dependencies on the other utterances in that language. Where does this structure come from? Why is language systematic, and where else might we expect to find this kind of systematicity in nature? In this talk, I will propose a simple hypothesis that systematic structure is the inevitable result of a suite of behaviours being transmitted by iterated learning. Iterated learning is a mechanism of cultural evolution in which behaviours persist by being learned through observation of that behaviour in another individual who acquired it in the same way. I will survey a wide range of lab studies of iterated learning, in which the cultural evolution of sets of behaviours is experimentally recreated. These studies include everything from artificial language learning tasks and sign language experiments, to more abstract behaviours like sequence learning, and have recently even been extended to other species. I will conclude by suggesting that these cultural evolution experiments provide clear predictions about where we should expect to see structure in behaviour, and what form that structure might take.

Liliana Sanchez speaks on Friday

Luiz Amaral writes:

Liliana Sanchez (Rutgers) will give a talk on Friday, April 22 at 2:30 in Herter 301. Please join us.

"Modularity and variability at the interfaces: Quechua, Shipibo and Spanish pronominal systems in contact"

"The study of bilingualism and second language acquisition from a generative perspective has been characterized in the last decades by approaches that have ranged from strong empirical support for the autonomy of syntax and the availability of universal language acquisition (Flynn 1987, Liceras 2010,  Schwartz & Sprouse 1996, White 1989, 2003) to approaches that focus on variability at the interfaces between language components (Montrul 2010, Sorace 2000, 2005, 2009). These have become increasingly acknowledged as crucially involved in the development of the grammatical representation of adult and child sequential bilinguals (Pladevall 2010, Serratrice, Sorace & Paoli 2004, Sorace & Serratrice 2009).In this talk, I will focus on some of the major findings and contributions that the study of adult bilingualism in Spanish and agglutinative languages such as Quechua and Shipibo have brought to the understanding of modularity and variability at the interfaces.Quechua is a nominative-accusative language with no gender marking. It is an agreement-based null subject language that also allows null definite objects (Cerrón-Palomino 1988, Sánchez 2010). Shipibo is an ergative language with no gender marking. It is a mixed null subject language with obligatory first and second person overt pronouns and pragmatically conditioned third person null subjects and null objects (Camacho and Elías 2010).Bilingualism in Quechua and Spanish and bilingualism in Shipibo and Spanish have resulted in partially divergent Spanish pronominal patterns. I will discuss evidence of variability in the pronominal system of Spanish among Quechua and Shipibo speakers due to crosslinguistic influence at the interfaces of syntax and morphology and syntax and pragmatics. The evidence presented includes: a)  the feature specification of direct object clitics (Camacho, Sánchez, and Paredes, 1995; Kalt 2012b; Sánchez 2003, Mayer and Sánchez in prep), b) the emergence of secondary topic interpretations for clitic doubling expressions (Sánchez 2003, Mayer 2010, Mayer and Sánchez in prep), and c) the interpretation of overt first person subjects in Shipibo Spanish (Sanchez, Camacho and Elías 2010)."

Kingston on the road

John Kingston gave a talk last Wednesday, April 13, at the Workshop on (Morpho)-phonological Processing at Oxford University. His talk presents work with Amanda Rysling, Adrian Staub, Andrew Cohen and Jeffrey Starn; the title is “When do words influence perception? Converging evidence that Ganong effect is early and variable”

And last Friday, April 15th, he presented the paper “Misperception, coarticulation, and sound change,” work with Amanda Rysling, Alexandra Jesse, and Robert Moura, at the Worshop on Articulatory Control at the Laboratories de Phonetique et Phonologie, Paris 3.

Zsofia Zvolenszky gives two talks this week

Ned Markosian writes:

I am writing to remind you of not one but two talks next week by the amazing Hungarian philosopher, Zsofia Zvolenszky. The one on Wednesday (please note: next Wednesday is a Monday schedule here at UMass) is at Mount Holyoke College, and the one on Friday is right here in Bartlett Hall. Details below.

Zsofia Zvolenszky

Authors Creating Fictional Characters, Either Intentionally or Inadvertently

Wednesday, April 20, at 4:30 pm

216 Skinner Hall

Mount Holyoke College

Zsofia Zvolenszky

A Common Problem for Possible-Worlds Analyses of Deontic and Fictional Discourse

Friday, April 22, at 3:30 pm

201 Bartlett Hall


Year End Lingle on Thursday

The year end Lingle (Linguistics Majors Mingle) will happen in the UMass Linguistics Department lobby on Thursday, April 21 at 6PM. Come celebrate the end of the year and say farewell to our graduating seniors!

Call for volunteers to work at Speech Prosody 8

CONFERENCE: Speech Prosody 8

WHEN: May 31 to June 3, 2016

WHERE: Boston University

CONFERENCE WEBSITE: http://sites.bu.edu/speechprosody2016/WHO?

Volunteers should be students (any level) who are interested inattending the conference at no cost.


By volunteering for two 4-5 hour shifts, your registration will be waived for the conference (the banquet fee is separate if interested). Volunteer jobs include registering conference goers, overseeing poster sessions, and helping with technical support.


UMass at CLS

The Chicago Linguistic Society will host its 52nd annual meeting Thursday April 21 to Saturday, April 23, 2016. UMass will be well represented:

Luis Alonso-Ovalle has a paper "Spanish siquiera in the even landscape"

David Erschler has a paper "Sluicing beyond wh-questions: Exploring and explaining cross- linguistic variation"

Thuy Bui has a paper "Number agreement in languages with two hierarchies"

Jon Ander Mendia has a paper "Conventionalizing at least some determiners"

The full program is here.

Extended Deadline: Cognitive Structures: Linguistic, Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives

Full Title: Cognitive Structures: Linguistic, Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives

Short Title: Cognitive Structures

Date: September 15–17, 2016

Location: Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf, Germany.

Meeting Email: cognitive-structures@phil.hhu.de

Web Site: http://cognitive-structures.phil.hhu.de

Field(s): General and Computational Linguistics, Philosophy, Psychology, Cognitive Science

Extended Deadline: May 1, 2016

Meeting Description

The DFG Collaborative Research Centre 991: The Structure of Representations in Language, Cognition, and Science (Düsseldorf, Germany) invites abstracts for its biannual conference that aims to cover a broad range of research on language and cognition. 

We are especially interested in theoretical, empirical and experimental work exploring the nature of mental representations that support natural language production/understanding, other manifestations of cognition as well as general reasoning about the world. One fundamental question raised in this general topic area is whether the requisite knowledge structures can be adequately modeled by means of a uniform representational format, and if so, what exactly is its nature. 

Topics addressed may include, but are not limited to, the following:

* frames, which have had a strong impact on the exploration of knowledge representations in artificial intelligence, psychology and linguistics: e.g., formal theories of frames (including their modeling by means of DAGs, AVMs), frame semantics and constructions, frame induction, linking frame semantics to truth conditional semantics

*concepts and categorization: formation/acquisition of concepts, concept types and shifts, grounding of concepts, prototypes, concept empiricism, conceptual spaces and similarity of concepts, statistical concepts;

*experimental investigation of mental representation;

*semantic interpretation and mental representation: the syntax/semantics interface, compositionality, lexical semantic decomposition, (dynamic) representation of aspect and tense, temporal sequencing in discourse.

Submissions are welcome from any area within cognitive science, including linguistics, computer science, philosophy, psychology, artificial intelligence and neuroscience. Accepted participants will be allotted 25 minutes to present and 10 minutes to answer questions. Accepted participants will be invited to submit their papers for the conference proceedings.

Invited Speakers

Lawrence Barsalou (University of Glasgow)

Verity Brown (University of St Andrews)

UMass alumnus Robin Cooper (Gothenburg University)

Igor Douven (CNRS and Paris-Sorbonne University)

Adele Goldberg (Princeton University)

Manfred Krifka (Humboldt University and ZAS Berlin)

UMass alumnus Marcin Morzycki (Michigan State University)

Francois Recanati (Institut Jean Nicod, Paris)

Guidelines for Submission

Abstracts must be anonymous, in PDF format, maximally 800 words, excluding bibliographical references. Data should be incorporated into the main text of the abstract, not on a separate page.
All abstracts will be reviewed anonymously by at least two reviewers. Abstracts should not include the authors’ names, and authors are asked to avoid self-references.

Use the EasyChair platform for the submission of abstracts: https://easychair.org/conferences/?conf=cost16

Submission Contact cognitive-structures@phil.hhu.de

Important datesExtended Deadline: May 1, 2016Notification of acceptance: May 30, 2016 Conference: September 15–17, 2016

EGG 2016 at Lagodekhi

The Eastern Generative Grammar summer has just announced that this year’s meeting will take place in Lagodekhi in Georgia. For developments, monitor this page.

10 April 2016

Kingston on the road

John Kingston will give a talk on Wednesday, April 13, at the Workshop on (Morpho)-phonological Processing at Oxford University. His talk presents work with Amanda Rysling, Adrian Staub, Andrew Cohen and Jeffrey Starn; the title is “When do words influence perception? Converging evidence that Ganong effect is early and variable”

And on Friday, April 15th, he will be presenting the paper “Misperception, coarticulation, and sound change,” work with Amanda Rysling, Alexandra Jesse, and Robert Moura, at the Worshop on Articulatory Control at the Laboratories de Phonetique et Phonologie, Paris 3.

David Pesetsky gives department colloquium

David Pesetsky (MIT) will give the department colloquium on Friday, April 15, at 3:30 in ILC N400. The title of his talk is “Exfoliation: towards a derivational theory of clause size.” An abstract follows.

We too easily become used to facts about language that should strike us as strange. One of these is the menagerie of clause-types and clause-sizes in the world's languages categorized with ill- understood labels such as finite, non-finite, full, reduced, defective, and worse. For almost a half-century, the standard approach to these distinctions has treated them as a consequence of lexical choice — a legacy of arguments by Kiparsky & Kiparsky (1970) and Bresnan (1972), who showed (1) that verbs that select a clausal complement select for the complementizer and finiteness of that complement, and (2) that finiteness and complementizer choice have semantic implications. In an early-1970s model of grammar in which selection and semantic interpretation were properties of Deep Structure, these discoveries directly entailed the lexicalist view of clause type that is still the standard view today. So compelling was this argument at the time, that its 1960s predecessor (Rosenbaum 1967) was all but forgotten — the idea that distinctions are derivationally derived as the by-product of derivational processes such as Raising. As a consequence, it has gone unnoticed that in a modern model of grammar, where structure is built by Merge (and both selection and semantic interpretation are interspersed with syntactic operations), the arguments against the derivational theory no longer go through.

In this talk, I present a series of arguments for a modernized return to a derivational theory. I argue that a reduced clause is the response to specific situation: a clause-external probe that has located a goal such as the subject in the upper phase of its CP-complement, when that goal does not occupy the edge of its CP. Since anti-locality prevents that goal from moving to the clausal edge (Erlewine 2015 and predecessors), a last-resort operation called Exfoliation deletes outer layers of the clause until the goal occupies the edge without movement. If the goal was a subject occupying a low enough position, the result is an infinitive. If the goal occupied a higher position, the result is a finite clause missing its complementizer. My starting point is the paradigm in (a)-(d). Because a standard approach assumes that every infinitive is born infinitival, the contrast between (a) and (b) is usually treated as a puzzle of case theory: why does moving the subject in (b) eliminate its case problem visible in (a)? The derivational approach invites an entirely different question: why should the embedded clause in (a) be infinitival in the first place? Since no probe targets the embedded subject in (a), Exfoliation should not have taken place, and the clause should have remained finite (I assure you that Mary is the best candidate). Only in (b), where an Ā-probe has targeted the embedded subject, is Exfoliation justified, hence the possibility of an infinitive. Example (c) also shows Exfoliation, deleting only the complementizer because the subject is higher than in (b), and (d) is impossible because no Exfoliation took place — thus explaining the that-trace effect as part of the same paradigm.

a. *I assure you Mary to be the best candidate.

b. Mary, who I assure you __ to be the best candidate. (Kayne 1983)

c. Mary, who I assure you __ is the best candidate.

d. *Mary, who I assure you that __ is the best candidate.

Similar effects with A-movement arise in the behavior of English wager-class predicates and raising in Lusaamia (Carstens & Diercks 2014), as well as with other Ā-phenomena such as anti- Agreement (Baier 2015). Finally, I provide an independent argument for the last-resort nature of Exfoliation from Zulu Hyper-Raising, based on a simplified version of a proposal by Halpert (2015).

Tracking the Human Mind in Attitude and Speech Reports

Angelika Kratzer writes:

You (and your friends, students, colleagues) are all invited to a symposium on:

Tracking the Human Mind in Attitude and Speech Reports

Saturday, April 16 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM

Integrative Learning Center, N 400 

Please spread the word! Catered reception starting at 1:00 PM. This might or might not be a substitute for lunch. 


Coffee, settling down

10:00  - 10:55

Kate Davidson, Linguistics Department, Harvard University 

Our cat went "meow" and my dog was like "feed me!": iconic attitude reports in spoken and sign languages.

Hadas Kotek, Linguistics Department, McGill University Chair & last question or comment. 

11:05 - 12:00

Jonathan Phillips, Moral Cognition Lab, Psychology Department, Harvard University

Factive Theory of Mind

Angelika Kratzer, Department of Linguistics, UMass AmherstChair & last question or comment. 

12:10 - 1:05

Shevaun Lewis, Language & Cognition Lab, Cognitive Science Department, Johns Hopkins University

The Role of Pragmatics in Language Development and Processing

Amy Rose Deal, Linguistics Department, UC BerkeleyChair & last question or comment. 

The Symposium is offered and organized by members of the 2015/2016 SIAS (Some Institutes for Advanced Study) Summer Institute. Financial support for the symposium comes from Research and Professional Development Funds provided by UMass Amherst, which are gratefully acknowledged.  More information about the 2015/2016 SIAS Summer Institute: 


Call for papers: NELS

UMass is hosting the Forty Seventh annual meeting of the North East Linguistic Society in early October, 2016. Invited speakers are Klaus Abels, Cleo Condoravdi, Roumyana Pancheva and our own Gaja Jarosz. There are two special sessions: one on linearization of syntactic structures and one on grammatical illusions at the grammar-processing interface. Deadline for abstracts is the last minute of June 15.

For more information, go here.

Brian Smith goes to Santa Cruz

WHISC is happy to announce that Brian Smith has accepted a one-year position at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Congratulations Brian!

Call for papers: XI Workshop on Formal Linguistics

We are pleased to announce the XI Workshop on Formal Linguistics, to be held on November 9, 10 and 11, 2016, at Universidade Federal do Paraná (UFPR) in Curitiba, Brazil. The Workshop welcomes papers on any topic concerning formal accounts to meaning and structure with relevance to linguistic theory, and which explores either core aspects of grammar or some interface phenomena (syntax-semantic, syntax-prosody, morpho-syntax, morpho-phonology, semantics-pragmatics, lexical semantics, language acquisition, language change).

Invited Speakers

Susan Rothstein – Bar-Ilan University
Jenny Doetjes – University of Leiden
Virgina Hill – University of New Brunswick
Suzi Lima – Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro



We invite abstract submissions for the Workshop for 20-minute talks (plus 10 minutes for discussion) and/or posters (posters should measure approx. 3ft x 4ft or 90cm x 120cm) on any aspect of the topics of the Conference.

All abstracts should be written in English and anonymous, no more than two pages in length (including examples and references), font Times New Roman, in 12-point font, 8.5x11-inch page setup (= US Letter), with 1-inch margins. Submissions are limited to one individual and one joint abstract per author.
When you submit your abstract please indicate whether you would like it to be considered (i) for a talk only; (ii) for a talk or a poster; or (iii) for a poster only.



To submit an abstract, go to:

UMass at ECO 5

MIT is hosting the Graduate Student Workshop this Saturday, April 16, from 9:15 to dinner. UMass is represented by:

Deniz Ozyildiz who is giving the talk “Factivity alternates, at least in Turkish."

Nadine Balbach, Jeremy Hartman and Tom Roeper, who are giving the talk “Everyone but me — Children Acquiring the different notions of `but’ in Quantified Sentences."

Polina Berezovskaya will present the talk “Processing Ambiguous Degree Constructions Cross-Linguistically"

For more information, including a schedule and how to register, go here.

Stefan Keine goes to USC

Congratulations to Stefan Keine who has accepted an offer from the linguistics department at the University of Southern California!

Two Talks by Zsofia Zvolensky

Zsofia Zvolensky will be giving two talks this week. The first is Wednesday, April 20, at 4:30 in 216 Skinner Hall at Mount Holyoke College. The title of that talk is “Authors Creating Fictional Characters, Either Intentionally or Inadvertently.” The second talk is at UMass on Friday, April 22, at 3:30 in Bartlett 201. The title of that talk is “A Common Problem for Possible-Worlds Analyses of Deontic and Fictional Discourse."

Linguistics Scholarship winners

Linguistics majors Megan Shelb, Abigail Williams, Valerie Higgins and Joanna Nevins were awarded scholarships this year by the college of Humanities and Fine Arts. This Saturday, April 16, there was an awards brunch honoring these, and other, students. Below is a picture of all the honorees featuring Joanna and Megan at the far left of the first row. Congratulations!

IMG 0566

Call for papers: Situations, Information, and Semantic Content

Full Title: Situations, Information, and Semantic Content 

Date: 16-Dec-2016 - 18-Dec-2016 

Location: Munich, Bavaria, Germany Contact Person: Kristina

Web Site: http://www.situatedcontent2016.philosophie.uni-muenchen.de 

Call Deadline: 29-May-2016

Backgrounds, Aim, and Scope: 

The semantic content of natural language is multiply situated: Whether an utterance receives one interpretation or another depends on the discourse situation (in which the utterance takes place), on the target situation (which is described by the utterance), and on the interpreting agents' informational situation (which also contains the agents' background knowledge). Over the past decades, work on extralinguistic context-dependence has focused on discourse situations and target situations, and has paid less attention to the dependence of interpretation on the agents' informational situation. However, this kind of information-dependence plays a crucial role in the explanation of a number of semantic phenomena, including the behavior of epistemic/deontic modals and propositional attitude-sentences. Recent research in situated cognition has suggested an even more general scope of semantic information-dependence. The latter assumes that cognition (and therefore, all linguistic understanding) is fundamentally embedded in the situational context of the cognition. 
This workshop aims to bring together linguists, philosophers, logicians, and cognitive and computer scientists to discuss the information-dependence of the semantic content of natural language. It covers all aspects of the interaction between situations, information, and semantic content -- both theoretical and experimental --, including 

- agents' information and semantic content 

- the scope of information-dependence in natural language 

- analyses of semantic phenomena featuring information-dependence 

- experiments on semantic information-dependence 

- the impact of agents' information on attitude attributions - semantic aspects of situated cognition 

- situation theory and situation semantics 

- data semantics and dynamic/update semantics 

- (partial) information and situations 

- the formal analysis of (informational) situations 

- the formal analysis of background knowledge 

- partiality of information - type-theoretic approaches to information 

Invited Speakers: 

- Robin Cooper (University of Gothenburg) 

- Nikola Kompa (Osnabrück University) 

- Roussanka Loukanova (Stockholm University) 

- Friedrike Moltmann (CNRS Paris, New York University) 

- Floris Roelofsen (University of Amsterdam/ILLC) 

- Markus Werning (Ruhr University Bochum) 

- Thomas Ede Zimmermann (Goethe University of Frankfurt) 

- more speakers to be confirmed 


The University of Connecticut is hosting the Conn-Umass-Smith Language Acquisition Workshop (UUSLAW) today, April 17, and UMass is represented by Nadine Balbach who is giving the talk “ `Everyone but me’ — Children Acquiring the Different Notions of but in Quantified Sentences” and by Tracy Conner who is giving the talk “Acquiring Ellipsis."

Bhatt at UPenn

Rajesh Bhatt is giving an invited colloquium talk on April 14 at the University of Pennsylvania. The title of his talk, which reports on joint work with Vincent Homer, is “PPIs and Movement in Hindi-Urdu.” An abstract follows.

Typically, Positive Polarity Items (PPIs), e.g. `would rather', cannot be interpreted in the scope of a clausemate negation (barring rescuing or shielding) (Baker 1970, van der Wouden 1997, Szabolcsi 2004 a.o.):

1a. John would rather leave.

1b. *John wouldn't rather leave.

The scope of most of them is uniquely determined by their surface position. But PPI indefinites are special: they can surface undernegation and yet yield a grammatical sentence under a wide scope interpretation:

2. John didn't understand something.ok: SOME > NEG;*NEG > SOME

Here we address the question of the mechanism through which a   PPI ofthe `some' type  takes wide scope out of an anti-licensingconfiguration. One possibility is (covert) movement, another is mechanisms that allow indefinites to take (island-violating) ultra-wide scope such as choice functions (Reinhart 1997). The relevant configurations that have motivated choice functions for other languages can be set up for Hindi-Urdu too.

We can therefore assume that a device that generates wide-scope for indefinites without movement is available in Hindi-Urdu too. We show that in Hindi-Urdu at least,  this device is unable to salvage PPIs in the relevant configuration. Only good old fashioned overt movement does the needful. If we think of overt movement in Hindi-Urdu as being the analogue of covert movement elsewhere, then the Hindi-Urdu facts are an argument that it is movement, albeit covert, that salvages PP Is in English too, not alternative scope-shifting devices. We explore whether the conclusion from Hindi-Urdu does in fact extend to English.

Dillon at Northwestern

Brian Dillon gave a colloquium talk at Northwestern University on Friday, April 8. A title and abstract follow.

Grammatical illusions in sentence processing: At the interface of performance and competence

One question of 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 heuristic processes (e.g. Lewis & Phillips, 2015; Patson & Ferreira, 2007; Townsend & Bever, 2001)? Much experimental work has provided evidence for the view that the human sentence processor is fairly directly constrained by grammatical knowledge even at the earliest stages of analysis, suggesting a very tight link between grammatical knowledge and the sentence processor. However, a puzzle for this view is the observation that there are many apparently simple grammatical constraints, such as subject-verb agreement, that comprehenders seem unable to accurately apply during comprehension (e.g. Wagers, Lau & Phillips, 2009). Such 'grammatical illusions' have been accounted for by appealing to independently motivated aspects of the parser, such as an interference-prone working memory architecture (Phillips, Lau & Wagers, 2011; see also Frazier, 2015).

Research on grammatical illusions has generated a wealth of psycholinguistic data that bears on when, and how, grammatical constraints guide the analysis of linguistic input. Overall the data reveal a pattern of 'selective fallibility': some linguistic dependencies fall prey to grammatical illusions quite readily, others do not (Phillips et al, 2011). This leads to an important theoretical question which is the focus of my talk: when, and why, do comprehenders violate grammatical constraints during sentence comprehension? In this talk, I will review some of the work in this area, and discuss processing models that have been proposed to account for these processor-grammar divergences. I will then discuss two case studies from our group at UMass Amherst on the processing of reflexive binding dependencies (work with Shayne Sloggett) and the licensing of negative polarity items in comprehension (work with Jon Ander Mendia and Ethan Poole) that provide new insight into the factors that create grammatical illusions in comprehension. These studies suggest that some grammatical illusions actually have grammatical bases, reflecting 'subgrammatical' linguistic constraints. This study suggests that grammaticality illusions are no mere performance errors; instead, they are regular and predictable behavior that provides a unique window into normal grammatical mechanisms and normal processing mechanisms alike.

03 April 2016

Kathryn Davidson gives department colloq

Kathryn Davidson (Harvard) will give the department colloquium on Friday, April 8 at 3:30 in ILC N400. A title and abstract of her talk follow.

Combining imagistic and discrete components in a single proposition: The case of sign language classifier predicates

Classifier predicates in sign languages (also known as "depicting verbs") have both discrete and imagistic components: they participate fully in the grammar as verbs and involve categorical handshapes that agree with the subject, but also have an obligatory "gestural" component that psycholinguistic experiments have shown are interpreted in an analog and iconic way. Understanding how to treat these verbs in a formal semantic system is therefore a challenge. In this talk I will draw parallels with work on quotation and attitude reports to introduce an analysis of classifier predicates involving the notion of an iconic "demonstration of events". I will also present corpus data from bimodal (sign/speech) bilingual blended utterances that sheds light on the syntax/semantics of classifier predicates. Finally, I will discuss extensions of this analysis of classifier predicates to formal semantic analyses of gesture.

Saskia Ottschofski speaks at LARC

Saskia Ottschofski (University of Tübingen) will give a talk presenting work she is carrying out while visiting the University of Maryland at LARC this week. Her talk is entitled “Can acquisitional data give insights into the semantics of pronouns and definites?” LARC meets in ILC N451 at 12:20 Wednesday, April 6.

UMass at GLOW

The 39th annual meeting of the Generative Linguistics in the Old World is being hosted by the University of Göttingen April 5-8. UMass is represented by:

Sakshi Bhatia, Leland Kusmer and Ekaterina Vostrikova who are presenting the paper “Indirect interaction of person and number"

Ethan Poole who is presenting the paper “The locality of dependent case."

Jeremy Pasquereau who is presenting the paper “Overt movement of comparative quantifiers in European French."

alumnus Keir Moulton, with Nino Grillo, who is presenting the paper “Clausal determiners and long distance AGREE in Italian."

Jon Ander Mendia who is presenting the paper “Conventionalizing at least some determiners."

Stefan Keine, Jon Ander Mendia and Ethan Poole who are presenting the paper “It’s tough to reconstruct"

You can learn more about GLOW here.

UMass at phoNE

NYU is hosting phoNE this Saturday, April 9. UMass is represented by Deniz Ozyildiz and Alexei Nazarov who are giving talks. A complete schedule follows.

Saturday, April 9

11:30-12      Luca Iacaponi (Rutgers): Non-stringent markednessrelations: evidence from Consonant Harmony

12-12:30      Chris Geissler (Yale): Explaining Vowel Harmony in Lhasa Tibetan

12:30-1:30   lunch

1:30-2           Deniz Ozyildiz (UMass)

2-2:30           James Whang (NYU)

2:30-2:50      break

2:50-3:20       Juliet Stanton (MIT): Trigger deletion in Gurindji

3:20-3:50       Gašper Beguš (Harvard) Unnatural phenomena and gradient phonotactics

3:50-4:10       break

4:10-4:40       Shu-hao Shih (Rutgers)

4:40-5:10       Alexei Nazarov (UMass)

5:10-5:30       break

5:30-6            Erin Olsen (MIT)

6                business meeting

The conference takes place on the first floor of the Linguistics Department, which is at 10 Washington Place in Manhattan.

LinguistList Fund Drive!

Barbara Partee writes:

The Linguist List fund drive for 2016 has begun.


Linguist List has great value for everyone, but it's easy to take it for granted, like Wikipedia (which also needs support.) The second "Linguist of the Day" this year is Gary Holton (http://funddrive.linguistlist.org/linguists/) of the University of Alaska, one of whose main specializations is language documentation. He tells on his post there how crucial Linguist List has been in getting the linguistic community together to develop best practices for fieldwork, documentation, archiving, etc, often in cooperation with NSF and other entities. There's one good reason right there.     

Linguist List also revolutionized the whole business of job postings and job searches. We used to have to submit a job description to a print journal and/or the LSA Bulletin and/or some MLA publication, I forget what, with a tight deadlines followed by a long wait before the announcement appeared, and it was all very cumbersome and awkward.     

And of course the calls for papers for conferences etc -- now they reach linguists everywhere, getting rid of the unintentional but inevitable discrimination that resulted from the fact that conference organizers were dependent on the mailing lists they had, and those often didn't reach many independent scholars or scholars at small schools or scholars abroad. Now if you have access to internet you have access to all that information, thanks to the fact that Linguist List is the recognized clearing house that everyone will send their conference information to.   

And on an on -- Linguist List is probably of value to you in more ways than you've ever realized, especially if you're of a young enough generation that it has always been there, as far as you've been aware.     

They've been through a labor-intensive transition period the last couple of years, changing leadership as Helen Aristar-Dry and Anthony Aristar retired and Damir and Malgorzata Cavar took the helm, and the whole operation moved from Eastern Michigan University to the University of Indiana. They had to skip the fund drive the first year of the transition because they had no time or staff to mount one. They did have one last year and were moderately successful. But they really really need our help this year. All the funds that are raised go to supporting graduate students who help keep Linguist List running. The goal this year is $79,000, and they really need to reach it.     

As usual, there are various challenges. Right now, with things just starting up, UMass Amherst happens to be tied for third in the university challenge -- but that could change fast, since we're third at a total of $300 with just 2 donors. (http://funddrive.linguistlist.org/university/) But if lots of us would jump in quick with whatever gift we can afford, I hope we can at least stay in a good respectable top 10% or so.     


Call for papers: DSALT

DSALT: Distributional Semantics and Linguistic Theory

ESSLLI 2016 Workshop

15-19 August 2016, Bolzano, Italy

* Two-page abstract submission deadline: April 7 2016 *

URL: http://esslli2016.unibz.it/?page_id=256


The DSALT workshop seeks to foster discussion at the intersection of distributional semantics and various subfields of theoretical linguistics, with the goal of boosting the impact of distributional semantics on linguistic research beyond lexical semantic phenomena, as well as broadening the empirical basis and theoretical tools used in linguistics. We welcome contributions regarding the theoretical interpretation  of distributional vector spaces and/or their application to theoretical morphology, syntax, semantics, discourse, dialogue, and any other subfield of linguistics. Potential topics of interest include, among others:

* distributional semantics and morphology: How do results in the distributional semantics-morphology interface impact theoretical accounts of morphology? Can distributional models account for inflectional morphology? Can they shed light on phenomena like productivity and regularity?

* distributional semantics and syntax: How can compositionality at the semantic level interact with syntactic structure? Can we go beyond the state of the art in accounting for the syntax-semantics interface when it interacts with lexical semantics? How can distributional accounts for gradable syntactic phenomena, e.g. selectional preferences or argument alternations, be integrated into theoretical linguistic accounts?

* distributional semantics and formal semantics: How can distributional representations be related to the traditional components of a semantics for natural languages, especially reference and truth? Can distributional models be integrated with discourse- or dialogue-oriented semantic theories like file change semantics or inquisitive semantics?

* distributional semantics and discourse: Distributional semantics has shown to be able to model some aspects of discourse coherence at a global level (Landauer and Dumais 1997, a.o.); can it also help with other discourse-related phenomena, such as the choice of discourse particles, nominal and verbal anaphora, or the form of referring expressions as discourse unfolds?

* distributional semantics and dialogue: Distributional semantics has traditionally been mostly static, in the sense that it creates a semantic representation for a word once and for all. Can it be made dynamic so it can help model, for example, phenomena related to Questions Under Discussion (QUDs) in dialogue? Can distributional representations help predict the relations between utterance units in dialogue?

* distributional semantics and pragmatics: Distributional semantics is based on the statistics of language use, and therefore should include information related to pragmatics of language. How do distributional models relate to such aspects of pragmatics as focus, pragmatic presupposition, or conversational implicature?


We solicit two-page (plus references) abstracts in at most 11pt font. No proceedings will be published, so workshop submissions may discuss published work (as well as unpublished work). The abstract submission deadline is April 7, 2016. Submissions are accepted by email at dsalt2016@gmail.com.


Deadline for abstract submission: April 7 2016
Author notification: May 15 2016
Workshop dates: August 15-19 2016

Alice Harris on the road

Alice Harris is giving a talk entitled “Origins of Metathesis in Batsbi, Part II: Intransitive Verbs” at the Sixteenth Spring Workshop on Theory and Method in Linguistic Reconstruction, which meets in Ann Arbor April 1-3. And on April 4th, she’ll be giving a colloquium talk at the University of California Berkeley entitled “Affix Order, Multiple Exponence, and Morphological Reconstruction."

Vernon Valiquette at Luthier's Coop

“Vernon Valiquette” will be playing a short set of Iggy and the Stooges songs with the Electric Eyes from 4:30 - 5 at the Luthier’s Co-op, Easthampton on Saturday April 9th. They are closing a panel discussion that starts at 3 in which music scholars Chris O'Leary and Steve Waksman are speaking on Iggy Pop's music and his influences. This event is part of the  Easthampton Book Fair http://www.easthamptoncityarts.com/bookfest

27 March 2016

Raffaella Zanuttini gives Freeman Lecture

Raffaella Zanuttini (Yale University) will give the Freeman Lecture this year on Friday, April 1 in room S211 of the Integrative Learning Center at 3:30. Her talk, “Discovering Grammatical Diversity in American English” is based on the research carried out by the Yale Grammatical Diversity Project which she founded. You can learn more about the Project here.

Dillon at MIT tomorrow

Brian Dillon will give a talk at MIT tomorrow, Monday March 28, at 1PM. The title of his talk is “Which noun phrases is this verb supposed to agree with... and when?” The abstract follows.

The study of agreement constraints has yielded much insight into the organization of grammatical knowledge, within and across languages. In a parallel fashion, the study of agreement production and comprehension have provided key data in the development of theories of language production and comprehension. In this talk I present work at the intersection of these two research traditions. I present the results of experimental research (joint work with Adrian Staub, Charles Clifton Jr, and Josh Levy) that suggests that the grammar of many American English speakers is variable: in certain syntactic configurations, more than one NP is permitted to control agreement (Kimball & Aissen, 1971). However, our work suggests that this variability is not random, and in particular, optional agreement processes are constrained by the nature of the parser. We propose that variable agreement choices arise in part as a function of how the parser stores syntactic material in working memory d uring the incremental production of syntactic structures.