Colloquium Today (4/18) at 3:30: Mascaró

Joan Mascaró (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona) will present a colloquium today at 3:30 PM in the Greenberg Room. Abstract given below.


Abstract: There are cases in which the phonetic shape of a morpheme cannot be derived from a single lexical form by phonological processes but has nonetheless a phonological conditioning. These cases pose a problem for theories for which allomorphic choice has to take place at lexical insertion, where the expression of phonological regularities is not available. A minimal natural extension of Optimality Theory gives an immediate phonological explanation to such cases by allowing allomorph selection to take place via evaluation of candidates in the phonology. I will examine some simple illustrative examples and then I will move to more intrincate cases, in particular prenominal determiner and adjective selection in Northwestern Central Catalan which depends on morphological, phonological and syntactic factors. I will also examine alternative proposals, in particular those claiming that all allomorphy is done through subcategorization frames.

All are welcome! Dinner will be served following the colloquium.

QP Fest April 25th!

A message from your QP Fest committee:

Remember to save the date for QP Fest: April 25th, 2-5 p.m., followed by a Friday Social. Check out the QP Fest 2014 web page here for the schedule of speakers, talk titles, and abstracts. And see you next Friday, April 25th, for grad student talks, snacks, and socializing!

Phonology Workshop Meeting Today at Noon: Greenwood

Anna Greenwood (UCSC) will be giving a talk today at noon in the Greenberg Room for the phonology workshop. The abstract is given below.

Unpacking naturalness and complexity biases in stress pattern learning

Abstract: Complexity and naturalness biases are said to constrain the space of typological variation due to their effects on learnability (see Moreton and Pater 2012). Cross-experimentally, the effect of complexity is quite robust in that patterns that reference a single feature are learned more successfully than patterns that reference multiple features. The role that naturalness plays on pattern acquisition, however, is still highly contested in the literature.

The experiment adds to the complexity vs. naturalness debate by comparing subjects’ ability to acquire unattested stress patterns: one which is complex (but phonetically natural) and another which is unnatural (but simple). Participants learned one of three weight-based stress systems, where peninitial heavy syllables disrupted default initial stress. The two simple conditions defined heavy syllables on one factor: presence (I) vs. absence (II) of a coda (C). In the two natural conditions, heavy syllables were closed (I), or closed with a nonhigh (a) vowel (III).

The experiment found an effect for both complexity and naturalness biases, the latter of which is anomalous due to the lack of a naturalness effect in other experiments (e.g. Pycha et al. 2003, Kuo 2009). The paper posits that the naturalness bias may arise due to a performance error: subjects are more likely to misperceive unnatural stress patterns than natural patterns. The robust effect of complexity likely arises from competence error.

Linguistics Fieldwork Workshop Monday (4/21) at 1PM: Donlay

Chris Donlay (USCB) will be sharing on Monday (4/21) at 1 PM in the Chair’s Office about Katso (Sino-Tibetan, China) as well as his fieldwork design and experiences. Light snacks and drinks will be available, and there will be an informal discussion about fieldwork afterward as well.

SMircle Workshop Monday 4/21 at 4PM: Nadathur

Prema Nadathur will be presenting at SMircle this Monday at 4PM in the Greenberg Room about Weak Crossover. Her title and abstract are given below.

Weak Crossover and the Direct Association Hypothesis

Abstract: Weak crossover has figured prominently in the debate over the existence of traces, as it has been claimed to provide evidence for their necessity in long-distance dependencies. This paper argues against this claim by providing a treatment of weak crossover that does away with the need for empty categories. This is achieved by use of the Direct Association Hypothesis (Pickering and Barry 1991), which proposes that filler-gap dependencies are characterized by a direct link between an extracted element and its subcategorizer. I show that the new treatment not only accounts for uncontroversial crossover data, but also fares better than the preceding LFG treatments on some key examples. Finally, I outline some consequences of the new proposal, as well as directions for further inquiry, and argue that direct association may provide a robust starting point for reexamining a number of phenomena involving filler-gap dependencies.

Geoff Pullum presenting at SPLaT! April 24 at 4PM

Geoff Pullum (The University of Edinburgh) will be presenting at SPLaT! April 24 at 4PM in the Greenberg Room. Get there at 3:45 for tea and snacks! The title and abstract are given below.

The stimulus poverty story: misconduct or incompetence?

Abstract: A reconsideration of the present state of the dispute about the so-called argument from poverty of the stimulus suggests that a similar situation in a discipline maintaining scientific standards would lead to retractions of papers, and charges of scientific misconduct or at least rank incompetence. Instead what we find among generative linguists and sympathetic cognitive sciences is a complacent consensus around placidly received wisdom repeated in looser and looser forms. This talk offers a reminder that linguists should be embarrassed about the situation.

I will assume that the audience is broadly familiar with the thesis of linguistic nativism and the claim that infant learners cannot learn a first language from experience because their environments provide insufficient information. As minimal preparatory reading I would suggest comparing the appallingly incompetent Wikipedia article on the topic with the early sections of Pullum and Scholz 2002. Payne et al. 2013 is also highly relevant, and detailed exemplification will be drawn from it, but since it is already published and widely accessible I will attempt to open up discussion of it rather than present its content in full.