Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Last Sesquip of The Year!

We’ll be seeing you again in the fall — thanks for reading, and don’t forget to send all your stories, jokes, and tidbits to!

To close the year out right, here’s a comic courtesy of MSU Linguistics:

Kevin McGowan to Offer Praat Script Mini-Course!

Kevin McGowan will be offering a three-day course on Praat scripting, Wednesday, June 25 – Friday, June 27. The class will meet 10-12 and 1-3.

More information to come, but get it on your calendars!

Socio talk Thursday, 5/15: Andrew Wong

Stanford linguistics alum Andrew Wong (California State University East Bay) will be visiting on Thursday, May 15  to speak to us about Perceptions of Unconventional Spelling in Brand Names.’ The talk will be in the Greenberg Room from 3:30-5:00.

Perceptions of Unconventional Spelling in Brand Names

<Starz>, <Netflix>, and <La-Z-Boy>.  These are just a few household brand names that consist of unconventional spellings of English words.  Third-wave variationists (e.g., Campbell-Kibler 2010, Eckert 2012, Podesva 2011) have recently called for a new approach to sociolinguistic variation that takes social meaning rather than linguistic change as its point of departure.  This approach has led researchers to use perceptual methodologies to study the full spectrum of linguistic resources that have the potential to take on social meaning.  The present study furthers these efforts by using perception data to examine the social meaning of unconventional spelling in brand names.

An online survey was used to collect data from 395 respondents (207 men, 185 women) on their perceptions of four spellings of poetic: <POETIC>, <POETICK>, <POETIK>, and <POETIQ>.  In this presentation, I will focus on the potential of the three unconventional spellings to convey newness and distinctiveness to people of different backgrounds.  I will argue that it is limiting to look at spelling practices through a normative lens.  Unconventional spellings do not all produce the same effects, and the standard/non-standard binary is not useful for understanding the meaning of orthographic variation.  This study also demonstrates the indeterminacy and uneven distribution of the social meanings of orthographic variation.  The <c>~<ck>~<k>~<q> alternation evokes a field of potential meanings.  Depending on various contextual factors, any of these meanings may be evoked in the situated use or interpretation of the variable, and certain meanings may be activated for some people but not others.


Campbell-Kibler, Kathryn 2010.  The sociolinguistic variant as a carrier of social meaning.  Language Variation and Change 22: 423-441.
Eckert, Penelope 2012.  Three waves of variation study: The emergence of meaning in the study of sociolinguistic variation.  Annual Review of Anthropology 41: 87-100.
Podesva, Robert 2011.  Salience and the social meaning of declarative contours: Three case studies of gay professionals.  Journal of English Linguistics 39: 233-264.

Colloquium Friday May 16: Alicia Wassink

Join us for a Colloquium given by Alicia Wassink (University of Washington) on Friday May 16 at 3:30PM in the Greenberg Room, followed by a social.

Vowel raising in Washington English: What’s the bag deal?

This paper considers the implications for sociolinguistic theory of vowel raising before velar stops in three word classes in Washington state English. (æg) bag, (ɛg) beg, and (eyg) vague are in close proximity for speakers in a three-generation sample. First, using group-level data, we ask whether by-generational differences point to a type of progression through vowel space. The patterns are investigated in terms of three theoretical types of merger. In “merger by approximation” (Labov, 1994:321) one affected vowel, e.g., (æg) gradually approaches another, e.g. (ɛg), or, both move to a spectral “middle ground”. In “merger by transfer,” affected vowels shift to a new phonemic class, word-by-word, without leaving behind intermediate forms. In “merger by expansion,” the ranges of the affected vowels are enlarged, the resulting distribution equivalent to the union of the two ranges. Group-level patterns rule out at least one of the options, allowing us to consider the mechanism of this change. Second, using individual data within generations, we ask whether speakers vary in the type of pattern they show. Can speakers in the same community appear to participate in the change in different ways (e.g., some by approximation, others by transfer, etc.?). If so, is this a problem for characterizing the change?

To test the theories of merger, we use acoustic data reflecting the locations of stable point vowels paired with vowels involved in the change, as well as data for the changing vowels relative to each other. Speakers were partitioned into groups depending on their generation and patterns of raising.  Measures included F1, F2, and duration at three temporal locations, allowing modeling of vowel trajectory. However, comparisons primarily utilize an overlap metric (Wassink 2006) that allows detection of differences between the volumes of vowel ellipsoids, providing an objective heuristic for approximation of vowel distributions. We find evidence supporting the conclusion that (eyg)-class forms are reanalyzed in a process of merger by transfer, while the phonological story for (æg) is much more complex. Here, we will see that the data force us to consider the import of vowel trajectory information for the maintenance of phonetic distinction.

Labov, W. (1994). Principles of linguistic change:  Internal factors (Blackwell, Oxford).
Wassink, A. B., (2006) “A geometric representation of spectral and temporal vowel features: Quantification of vowel overlap in three varieties,” J. Acoust. Soc. Am., 119(4), pp 2334-2350

Academic job search meeting Friday, 5/23, 3:30PM

(From Robin:)

What:  Workshop on the academic job application process

Where:  Greenberg

When:  Friday, 23 May, 3:30-4:45

Who:  Geared towards those who’ll be on the market soon, but all are welcome

Grad students:

Faculty: Complementary perspectives will be offered by Dan Lassiter (only recently on the market himself) and Beth Levin (frequent search committee member).

This session will be largely overview. Then those of us starting to work on application materials might like to get together as a smaller group a few times this summer or fall to workshop our actual work-in-progress documents (research statement, teaching statement, CV).

QP Fest April 25: Save the date!

Our annual QP Fest will be the afternoon of Friday, April 25. Stay tuned for all the details in an upcoming issue.

Reminder: Melnick at Spoken Syntax Lab meeting today at 1PM

Celebrate Valentine’s Day by coming to hear Robin Melnick talk about his dissertation project at the Spoken Syntax Lab meeting: 2/14, 1PM in Cordura 100 at CSLI. Robin’s overview:

“My thesis project looks at variation within variation, at how the principle of end weight — a factor underlying a number of different syntactic variation phenomena — itself varies by individual speaker. The project also experimentally explores competing accounts that seek to motivate the end-weight principle in individual differences of cognitive resources or experiences.”

Updated department collaboration graphs

The department collaboration graphs have been updated, and are linked at the top of this page.

A Phonetician’s Valentine

Valentine’s Day-themed linguistics jokes make for a pretty specialized genre – but we managed to find one, courtesy of Sofia Kanibolotskaia at U Toronto.

Colloquium Today (Friday, Jan. 31), 3:30 PM: Laura Kalin

Laura Kalin (UCLA) will give a colloquium today (Friday Jan. 31) at 3:30 PM in the Greenberg Room, followed by a departmental social.

Aspect and Argument-Licensing in Neo-Aramaic

Abstract: In this talk, I present two empirical puzzles that involve intriguing interactions between aspect and agreement in Neo-Aramaic languages. Verbs in Neo-Aramaic come in several different ‘base’ forms that are built with root-and-template morphology and encode tense, aspect, or mood. The two verb bases of interest here are the imperfective base, for example, qatl (from the verb root q-t-l, ‘kill’), and the perfective base, for example, qtil. Subject and object agreement appear as suffixes on these bases.

The first puzzle I address is the various aspect-based agreement splits seen across Northeastern Neo-Aramaic: the form and configuration of subject and object agreement reverses depending on the aspect of the verb base, with the subject agreement morpheme of one base looking like the object agreement morpheme of the other, and vice versa. I propose that we can make sense of these aspect splits if we allow imperfective aspect itself to license an argument, with agreement being the overt manifestation of this licensing. The second puzzle is a secondary perfective strategy employed in many of these languages, which makes use of the imperfective verb base with an added prefix (qam-, varying phonologically by language). This secondary perfective verb form takes subject and object agreement as though it were imperfective, rather than perfective. I argue that this data reveals that there are two aspectual projections in the syntax, with only the lower aspectual projection determining the form of the verb base.

Finally, I put the two proposals together: If aspect can license an argument, and there are in fact two aspectual projections in the syntax, then I predict that each aspectual projection should be able to license an argument separately. This is precisely what we find in progressives in the Neo-Aramaic language Senaya. Overall, then, my two proposals (aspect as an argument-licenser and the existence of two aspectual projections) are able to capture a range of empirical phenomena in Neo-Aramaic and add to our understanding of the syntactic options provided by Universal Grammar.

Laura Kalin seminar, Thursday 1/30 at noon

Differential Object Marking: Insight from Neo-Aramaic

Laura Kalin

Thursday, January 30, 12noon
Margaret Jacks Hall, Terrace Room (4th floor)

Differential Object Marking (DOM) is a phenomenon that splits (direct) objects into two classes: in one class are objects that get overtly marked (“prominent”/“non-canonical” objects), and in the other class are ones that do not. On an inclusive conception of DOM, marking may take the form of case, an adposition, agreement, or clitic-doubling. Common factors distinguishing objects are definiteness, specificity, and animacy, with objects ‘high’ on the relevant scale (e.g., more definite) getting marked. Strikingly, DOM tends to be a “parasitic” phenomenon – the overwhelming majority of DOM languages employ a DOM marker that lives a double life, appearing elsewhere without a DOM function (i.e., not appearing based on animacy/definiteness). The most common DOM marker is dative case or a dative adposition, as found in Hindi, Spanish, and certain Neo-Aramaic languages. In the Neo-Aramaic language Telkepe, DOM takes an unusual form: specific objects obligatorily trigger agreement on the verb and are optionally also marked with dative case.

In this talk, I review the different ways that DOM has been accounted for theoretically, and show how some of these accounts fare better (or worse) in Neo-Aramaic; I specifically address how we might account for the tendency for DOM to be parasitic on oblique case. I also propose an account of DOM in the Neo-Aramaic language Telkepe and discuss the obstacles to extending this account to other DOM languages. This is work in progress, and I welcome feedback and suggestions.