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.