June 28, 2015

Elan at Cambridge and Oxford

Faculty member Elan Dresher has recently returned from the UK, where he gave three talks:

"Contrastive Feature Hierarchies in Diachronic Phonology," for the Annual General Meeting of the Philological Society, Jesus College, University of Cambridge.

"Contrastive Hierarchy Theory and the Nature of Features," at a seminar for the Rethinking Comparative Syntax (ReCoS) project of the Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, University of Cambridge.

"Vowel Changes in West Germanic," for a colloquium hosted by the Faculty of Linguistics, Philology, and Phonetics of the University of Oxford.

Elan at Oxford in the local dress.

June 20, 2015

Research Groups: Week of June 22-26

Wednesday, June 24 - 10 AM to 12 PM in SS 2111
Syntax/Semantics Group
Michelle Yuan (MA 2014, now at MIT): "Case and anti-identity in Yimas."

In this talk, I investigate the case and agreement system of Yimas, a Lower Sepik language of Papua New Guinea. I show that the agreement morphemes are doubled clitics, and that only these clitics—but crucially not their associated DPs—make morphological case distinctions. Moreover, the case patterns that surface support the dependent case system of Marantz (1991), in that case is calculated postsyntactically and on the basis of case competition. I argue that Yimas exhibits these unusual properties because of the case-invariance of their doubled arguments. Since doubled clitics are essentially copies of their associates (clearly seen in Yimas), doubling multiple arguments inevitably yields a sequence of clitics that are morphosyntactically identical; this creates a 'morphosyntactic OCP effect' that must be repaired by the grammar. In Yimas, the repair may be, but is not limited to, case marking the clitics; I show that there are additionally certain clitic combinations that require other dissimilatory processes (e.g. impoverishment) to apply instead. More broadly, this talk recasts morphological case as a tool that grammars use in the postsyntax in order to ensure anti-identity.

Workshop on web-based psycholinguistic experiments

Our department currently has two outstanding Work-Study students who have been creating templates for web-based experimentation in psycholinguistics. In order to share their progress and their skills with the rest of the department, Neda and Amanjit will be leading a workshop on Friday, June 26, from 10 AM to 12 PM in the department lounge. Their work focuses on Ibex - a popular web-based experiment platform designed by Alex Drummond. If you are interested in attending the workshop, please email Meg Grant for instructions on pre-workshop preparation.

June 13, 2015

Spring Convocation 2015

Congratulations to LeAnn Brown, Derek Denis, and Liisa Duncan, who were formally awarded their Ph.D. diplomas at the convocation on June 5!

Jack Chambers, Keren Rice, Liisa Duncan, Derek Denis, Sali A. Tagliamonte, and Elizabeth Cowper.

Keren and Liisa.

June 10, 2015

Guest speaker: Francisco Torreira (Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics)

We are pleased to welcome Francisco Torreira of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. Francisco received his Ph.D. in 2011 from Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen. He is primarily interested in phonology, pragmatics, and conversation analysis: his research touches on an eclectic range of topics and methods.

His talk for our department is entitled "Unraveling the time course of language production in conversational interaction", and it will take place on Thursday, June 18 at 2:30 PM (sharp) in SS 2120.

In conversation, turn transitions between speakers often occur smoothly, most typically within a time window of 100 to 300 milliseconds. Since speech planning usually takes over half a second (ca. 600 ms for picture naming, Indefrey & Levelt, 2004; ca. 1500 ms for simple sentences, Griffin & Bock, 2000), it appears that participants in conversation often plan their utterances in overlap with their interlocutor’s turns. It is not clear, however, how they manage to launch their own turns in a timely manner (i.e., without excessive overlaps or long silent gaps). On the basis of psycholinguistic experiments (e.g., De Ruiter, Mitterer, and Enfield, 2006), and against a long tradition of observational studies, it has been argued that participants in conversation rely mainly on anticipating morphosyntactic structure when timing and producing their turns, and that they do not need to make use of prosodic information in order to achieve smooth floor transitions. In this talk, I will present a series of new psycholinguistic, phonetic, and corpus studies challenging this view (Bögels & Torreira, 2015; Levinson & Torreira, 2015; Torreira et al., 2015), and sketch an efficient turn-taking mechanism of language production involving two separate processes: a) early planning of content, based among other things on morphosyntactic prediction, and often carried out in overlap with the incoming turn, and b) late launching of articulation, mainly based on the identification of turn-final prosodic cues (e.g., phrase-final melodic patterns, final lengthening, sharp intensity drops).

June 8, 2015

In memoriam: Saila Michael (1968-2015)

We are very sorry to announce that Saila Michael has suddenly passed away. Saila was a teacher of Inuktitut, a superb language consultant, and a friend around the department for years. Her judgments and intuitions were an enormous help to our scholarly community and formed the backbone of many doctoral theses, Generals papers, and MA Forum papers. Her legacy around the department is that of considerable linguistic knowledge and abundant warm memories.

(Thanks to Alana Johns for the details.)

June 5, 2015

Congratulations, Arsalan!

Faculty member Arsalan Kahnemuyipour has received word that his tenure has been approved.

Congratulations, Arsalan; we're delighted!

(Post courtesy of Keren Rice.)

Generative Syntax in the Twenty-First Century: The Road Ahead

Ph.D. student Alex Motut has recently returned from Greece, where she attended a conference called "Generative Syntax in the Twenty-First Century: The Road Ahead", held May 28-30 at the University of Athens. It was organized by linguists from the University of Athens, CASTL (Centre for Advanced Study in Theoretical Linguistics), the University of Stuttgart, NTNU, and CUNY/HAS.

The conference featured an extensive list of invited speakers and two small poster sessions. It focused on taking stock of the achievements of generative syntax in the past few decades but also looking ahead to what crucial questions remain unanswered and how we can establish more consensus in the field in terms of our theoretical assumptions and what empirical discoveries form the core of our theory. There was also discussion of methodology and interfacing with other subdisciplines of linguistics, as well as discussion about communication with other related fields in the cognitive sciences and outreach to the public. Most of the conference was in an open discussion/panel discussion format.

Alex presented a poster ("The road ahead is 'remote': Core operations, remote dependencies in binding, control"), and after the conference had the chance to check out Athens - the Parthenon, Acropolis, Plaka district, Lycabettus hill, etc. - amidst some great weather!

(Post courtesy of Alex Motut.)

June 3, 2015

Congratulations, Yves and Diane!

Congratulations to Yves Roberge (faculty), who is the 2015 recipient of the National Achievement Award from the Canadian Linguistic Association!

Additionally, congratulations to Diane Massam (faculty) on being appointed Vice-President of the CLA. She will serve in this position for two years, then become President of the CLA for another two years.

June 2, 2015

Congratulations, Bronwyn!

Congratulations to postdoctoral fellow Bronwyn Bjorkman, who has accepted a tenure-stream position in morphosyntax at Queen's University! Bronwyn will join the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures there. She has been with our department for the past three years, first as a SSHRC postdoctoral fellow and then as a Banting postdoctoral fellow; throughout, she has been a vibrant presence in our department and will be widely missed. Congratulations, Bronwyn!

June 1, 2015

Research Groups: Week of June 1-5

Wednesday, June 3 - 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM in SS2111
Syntax/Semantics Group
Michela Ippolito: "Epistemic modals, attitudes, and the pragmatics of (some) embedded clauses."