Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

SMircle Workshop Meeting Monday (10/20) at 3:15PM: Lahousse

Come join the SMircle Workshop on Monday in the Greenberg Room as they welcome Karen Lahousse (KU Leuven) who will discuss her work on verb-subject inversion in French. Her title and abstract are given below.

New arguments in favor of a low analysis for verb-subject inversion in French: on the interplay between syntax and information structure

Verb-nominal subject inversion in French (VS) is subject to a range of constraints having to do with (i) the syntactic structure of the configuration, including the position of the postverbal subject and the way in which (whatever formulation of) EPP is satisfied, (ii) the type of licensing contexts of VS and (iii) the information-structural status of the postverbal subject and the whole construction. Although any account of VS should incorporate these three issues, previous formal-syntactic analyses have concentrated on (i) alone.
In this talk I will present new evidence in favor of the classical ‘low’ analysis for VS (with S being in a low vP internal position, and the V raised lefward past it), and show how the licensing contexts of VS are determined by general information-structural principles interacting with the postverbal subject’s interpretation. Surprisingly, the same licensing contexts hold for impersonal passive constructions, and, thus, seem to be related to the formulation of EPP. A consequence of my proposal is that French VS word order is not radically different from VS in Italian, a welcome conclusion in the light of recent analyses having challenged the pro-drop parameter (which involves a radical distinction between French on the one hand, and Spanish and Italian on the other hand). I will also speculate on the difference between written French, where VS typically occurs, and spoken French, where this is not the case.

Sociolunch Wednesday (10/22), 11:45: NWAV Practice Talks

It’s time for NWAV practice talks at Sociolunch! Come by the Greenberg Room from 11:45-1 on Wednesday 10/22. All are welcome!

Cognition & Language Workshop Thursday (10/23) at 4PM: Davidson

Join the Cognition & Language Workshop next Thursday at 4 in the Greenberg Room, where Kathryn Davidson (Yale) will speak about iconicity in signed language and beyond!

CAN YOU QUOTE AN ACTION? Iconic event descriptions in signing, speech, gesture, and writing

Sometimes form-meaning mappings in language are not arbitrary, but iconic: they depict aspects of what they describe. Incorporating iconic elements of language into a compositional semantics faces a number of challenges. In this talk I will compare the iconicity found in written language quotation with another form of iconicity common in sign languages: classifier predicates. I argue that these two types of verbal iconicity can, and should, incorporate their iconic components in the same way as (neo-Davidsonian) event modification via context dependent demonstration (Clark and Gerrig 1990). This unified account of quotation and classifier predicates predicts that a language might use the same strategy for conveying both, and I argue that this is the case with role shift in American Sign Language, which can be used both to demonstrate others’ actions and language (Engberg-Pedersen 1993, Lillo-Martin 1995, Schlenker 2014). Throughout, sign languages provide a fruitful perspective for studying quotation and other iconic language due to (i) the rich existing literature on iconicity in sign language linguistics, (ii) the ability of role shift to overtly mark the scope of a demonstration and (iii) their lack of a commonly used writing system which is often mistaken as primary data instead of speech and co-speech gesture in the study of iconic language.

Construction of Meaning Workshop Next Friday (10/24) at 3:30 PM: Scontras

Next Friday (October 24) at 3:30 in the Greenberg Room, Greg Scontras (Stanford Psychology) will be present at the Construction of Meaning Workshop.

A new kind of degree

In this talk, I present a case study of the English noun amount, a word that ostensibly relies on measurement in its semantics, yet stands apart from other quantizing nouns on the basis of its EXISTENTIAL interpretation. John ate the amount of apples that Bill ate does not mean John and Bill ate the same apples, but rather that they each ate apples in the same quantity. Amount makes reference to abstract representations of measurement, that is, to degrees. Its EXISTENTIAL interpretation evidences the fact that degrees contain information about the objects that instantiate them. Outside the domain of nominal measurement, the noun kind exhibits behavior strikingly similar to that of amount; both yield an EXISTENTIAL interpretation (Carlson, 1977). This observation motivates re-conceiving of degrees as nominalized quantity-uniform properties – the same sort of entity as kinds. Thus, the semantic machinery handling kinds also handles degrees (e.g., Derived Kind Predication; Chierchia, 1998): As nominalized properties, degrees are instantiated by objects that hold the corresponding property; when instantiated by real-world objects, degrees (and kinds) deliver the EXISTENTIAL interpretation.

Alan Prince bonus talk, Thursday at 4PM

In addition to his colloquium talk on Friday, Alan Prince will speak at a Psycholinguistics Group meeting next Thursday at 4PM about OTWorkplace, a new computational framework for OT analysis.


OTWorkplace is an interactive environment for linguistic analysis using the tools of modern rigorous OT, written by A. Prince, B. Tesar, and N. Merchant. In the background lies the previous pioneering work of B. Hayes on OTSoft, and it belongs to a set of packages that includes work by A. Andrews, T. Biro, A. Hogan, W. Raymond, J. Riggle, R. Staubs et al., and M. Walther.

The basic concept is like that of Maple or Mathematica. The aim is to provide a relatively straightforward and easily manipulable user interface which produces output in a form where further calculations can be made, further ideas explored, manually or via software, which may be built-in or user-defined.The end result is an automated research notebook, which may be preserved, indexed, commented, edited, expanded, contracted, as the project flows and develops. 

OTWorkplace runs within Excel and produces Excel workbooks. The virtues of platform-independence have been set aside in favor of the virtues of usability, flexibility, and ease of further development. System requirement are Windows (32 or 64-bit) and Microsof Office (32-bit only). It has been run successfully on Macs using emulators like Parallels and VirtualBox. It is recommended that users install from the installer package on my webpage at Installation has been reported successful on operating systems ranging from XP to Windows 8.1. Updates are posted on the barebones OTWorkplace website at Current version: OTWorkplace_X_70.xlsm. The installer package installs Graphviz, the programming language Ruby (with appropriate add-ons), the Ruby scripts (‘RUBOT’) that are called for various heavy-lifting tasks not covered in the VBA core of the program (which is contained in the OTWorkplace workbook itself), putting everything in the right places and setting the appropriate environment variables. You do none of this, and are responsible only for clicking on a few filenames and responding civilly to a few questions. There’s a readme file with the installer package that guides you through these clicks.

In this meeting, I will focus on using OTWorkplace to analyze OT typologies, which by something close to a fortiori covers OT analysis of single languages. No experience with the program will be assumed, though some prior acquaintance with OT and Excel ought to smooth the way. If you have installed the program on your laptop, you should be able to follow along. Documentation is imperfect at present. The material in the OTWorkplace workbook, where the program resides, is out of date. The OTWorkplace website contains various pieces of current documentation mostly relevant to automated violation counting. The hope is to have a general quick start guide up there shortly.



SMircle Monday (10/13) at 3:15 PM: Baier

Join the SMircle workshop as they hear from Nico Baier (UC Berkeley), who will be presenting his work on adjectives in Noon (Senegal) on October 13, 3.15pm in the Greenberg Room.

Adjective Agreement in Noon: Evidence for a Split Theory of Noun-Modifier Concord

In this paper, I argue that two distinct mechanisms are needed to account for the pattern of noun-adjective agreement in Noon (Cangin, Senegal). Adjectives in Noon exhibit two types of agreement. First, they take a prefix that encodes the class and number of the noun they modify. Second, attributive adjectives must agree in definiteness with the noun they modify. Nouns and adjectives take an identical definiteness suffix that marks by a suffix on the the head noun’s class/number along with three degrees of deixis. The class/number prefix is obligatory for both attributive and predicative adjectives, while the definiteness suffix is available only for attributive adjectives. Previous work presupposes that the same mechanism derives noun-modifier agreement (concord) and argument-predicate agreement: usually a modified version of Chomsky’s (2001) Agree. However, others have argued that noun-modifier agreement is morphological in nature and should be derived post-syntactically (Norris 2014). Here, I argue for a split approach: prefixal agreement on Noon adjectives is derived by valuation of Phi-probe on a, while another is derived via a post-syntactic process of Feature Copying.

VPUE Undergraduate Intern Presentations Today (10/3) at 3:30!

Come hear from our undergraduate VPUE interns as they present their summer research projects today in the Greenberg Room. The presentations start at 3:30, with detailed schedule below.

3:30pm Yesid Castro and Som Mai Nguyen: “Effects of talker variability and reported talker traits”

3:50pm Kayland Harrison and Breanna Williams: “Post vocalic r-retention in reading by African Americans in the Moving to Opportunity Corpus”

4:10pm Jonathan Engel “Crowd Sourcing Meaning: Statements With Evaluative Adjectives”