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.