February 28, 2014

Jackman Lecture Series: Andrea Moro

The second talk of the Jackman Lecture Series "Beyond Babel: Meanings in the Minds of Speakers" takes place this Friday, Feb 28, starting at 3pm (sharp) in the Jackman Humanities Building at 170 St. George Street (Room 100).

Speaker: Andrea Moro, Institute for Advanced Study, University of Pavia

Title: “The Boundaries of Babel: Notes Between the Brain and Syntax”


One of the major discoveries of modern linguistics is that languages cannot vary unboundedly: every grammar must meet some universal principles which generate an enormous but not infinite number of combinations in a modular way. The system is so complex that this underlying uniformity has escaped the attention of scholars for centuries. Only formal grammars have been able to arrive at this discovery in the last fifty years of research. A crucial question that naturally arises from this state of affairs is whether the limit of variation among grammars is accidental or biologically driven. Recent methodologies that allow us to explore the functioning of the brain in vivo have allowed us to approach this question in a new way. By testing the acquisition of artificial languages which violate the universal principles of grammar it has been possible to provide strong evidence in favour of a biological perspective to the mystery of the absence of entire classes of conceivable

Fieldwork Group Meeting (Feb 28)

There will be a fieldwork group meeting this Friday in SS560A, from 1-2:30pm. This meeting will start off with a short demo/tutorial about Toolbox (by SIL; info and download here: http://www.sil.org/resources/software_fonts/toolbox). Following the demo, the general discussion topic for the week is "Finding/meeting new consultants".  If you're working on a project, you're also welcome to bring issues or difficulties you're having to the discussion.

Syntax-Semantics Project (Feb 28)

The syntax-semantics project is meeting this Friday, February 28th, 11-12:30 pm, in SS560A. 

There will be two talks this week. Danielle Moed will giving a dry run of her WCCFL talk "What eye-movements tell us about NP movement: Investigating the English middle construction." 

Iryna Osadcha will be giving a talk entitled "Semantics of Optative Mood in Classical Greek Double-Optative Conditionals."

February 12, 2014

Phonetics-Phonology Group (Feb 14)

This week the Phon group will be meeting on Feb 14 at the new time of 11am, in SS560A.

On the schedule this week is a presentation by Joanna Chociej, titled "Making sense of nonsense":

"Making sense of nonsense: Some preliminary results of a nonsense word study on Polish vowel-zero alternations"
The vowel-zero alternation in Slavic languages describes a phenomenon found in some lexemes where a vowel found between two word-final consonants (CeC#) is not there when those consonants are followed by a suffixed vowel (CCV#). Whether or not a lexeme exhibits vowel-zero is often argued to be unpredictable, and thus something that a speaker must memorize. Last year, I performed some statistical analyses on a corpus of Polish nouns to determine if there are any phonological patterns to the words that do exhibit vowel-zero, versus those that do not. Phonological patterns were indeed found, pointing to an effect of factors such as sonority, word-length, and grammatical gender.

A subsequent nonce-word study aimed to test (1) whether speakers would make use of vowel-zero in unfamiliar words, and (2) whether they would do so only in contexts that commonly exhibit vowel-zero in the lexicon. I will be presenting some preliminary analyses based on data from 14 speakers, which show that speakers performance in the nonce-word study does indeed reflect patterns found in the lexicon. I hope that in the discussion we can talk about what these similarities actually mean when it comes to understanding the grammar behind these types of phenomena.

LVC Group (Feb 14)

The LVC Group meets this Friday (Feb 14) from 9:30-11:00 in SS 560A. This week's speaker will be Derek Denis (PhD). Note that as the result of the U of T reading week, this will be the last regular LVC meeting before March. In the meantime, though, a reminder that the LVC group is co-hosting a talk by Dennis Preston, February 24th at 3pm, in Innis College room 204.

February 5, 2014

Jackman Lecture Series: Ianthi Tsimpli

The first talk of the Jackman Lecture Series "Beyond Babel: Meanings in the Minds of Speakers" takes place this Friday, Feb 7, starting at 3pm (sharp) in the Jackman Humanities Building at 170 St. George Street (Room 100).

Ianthi Tsimpli (University of Reading, UK & Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece)

"Aspects of meaning in the bilingual mind"

Abstract: There has been a long-standing debate on whether the two languages of a bilingual speaker interact or are autonomous in the mind/brain. The evidence available so far indicates that for some domains of language, interaction is extensive while for others autonomy is preserved. Meaning is one of the domains where interaction between the two languages is found both at the word level (lexical meaning) and at the sentence level, especially where more demanding processing is required: the level of connected discourse and pragmatics. I will review evidence from child and adult bilinguals as well as from the case of an exceptional multilingual individual with autism (a polyglot-savant) to address the question of meaning interaction in bilingual minds.

Note: Ianthi's initial work was with Neil Smith, and Christopher, the best known language savant case. The LSA youtube channel has several fascinating documentary pieces on Christopher. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cEol-oboyg

John Esling in the Speech Research Forum (Thursday, Feb 6)

John Esling from the University of Victoria (http://web.uvic.ca/ling/faculty/esling.htm) is giving a talk entitled "The Articulatory Function of the Larynx and How Infants Acquire Speech."

The talk will take place on Thursday (Feb 6) at 4pm, Sid Smith 1087 (first floor).

Fieldwork Group (Feb 7)

Fieldwork group will be meeting this Friday, February 7th, from 1-2:30pm in SS 560A. Note the time change from last time. This will be the regular start time for the rest of the term.

Jess Mathie is presenting a short "how it works, what it's good for" tutorial of SIL Toolbox (http://www-01.sil.org/computIng/toolbox/ for information and download). The rest of the session will be devoted to the general topic of inconsistencies in speaker judgements. Bring thoughts, questions, anecdotes, or any problems/issues you are having in your own work right now (related or not).

Psycholinguistics Group (Feb 7)

There will be  a psycholinguistics group meeting this Friday, February 7th, with a special guest: Ianthi Tsimpli, from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, will talk about "Individual differences in anaphora resolution"*. The meeting will be in the regular room (Sid Smith 560A), but at a new time: 9:30-11. Please note that the next psycholinguistics group meeting is not until March 7th (due to March break + shuffling of dates).

Syntax-Semantics Project (Feb 7)

Syntax project will be running this Friday, February 7th, in SS 560A at the new time, 11 am-12:30 pm. Jessica Mathie will be presenting "Markedness in number features: Evidence from Yukulta.