Linguistics Department News (Calques)

Recent Stories

Linguistics events this week (Jan 22-29, 2020)

January 22, 2021

In and around the linguistics department in the next week:

Linguistics events this week (Jan 15-22, 2020)

January 15, 2021

In and around the linguistics department in the next week:

  • Linguistics Department Colloquium - Friday Jan 22 - Zoom - 8-10am [note special time and day]
    Martin Haspelmath (MPI-EVA Leipzig): Variable argument marking and the difference between general and particular linguistics.
  • Fieldwork Forum - Wednesday Jan 20 - Zoom - 3:10-4pm
    Andrew Garrett (UC Berkeley): Roundtable discussion: Legacies of colonialism in fieldwork.

Haspelmath colloquium [note special time and day]

January 14, 2021

The 2020-2021 colloquium series continues on Friday, Jan 22, with a talk by Martin Haspelmath (MPI-EVA Leipzig), held via Zoom from 8-10am. The talk is entitled "Variable argument marking and the difference between general and particular linguistics," and the abstract is as follows:

In this presentation, I will discuss a range of variable argument marking patterns, such as inverse marking in Ojibwe (Rhodes 1994), variable dative marking in Wolof (Becher 2005), person-based split ergativity in Nez Perce (Deal 2016), variable accusative case marking in Moro (Jenks & Sande 2017), among others.

In a recent paper (Haspelmath 2021a), I have proposed that many argument-marking splits fall under the following high-level generalization:

   The role-reference association universal
   Deviations from usual associations of role rank and referential prominence tend to be coded by longer grammatical forms if the coding is asymmetric.

We will see how many of the well-known patterns of variable argument marking are instances of this, and I will summarize the explanation that I propose, in terms of the efficiency theory of asymmetric coding (Haspelmath 2021b). One of the earliest general statements of (a version of) this explanation is found in Hawkinson & Hyman (1974).

In a second step, I will highlight the importance of the distinction between g-theories and p-theories (general theories of Human Language and of particular languages, respectively), which has often been neglected (Haspelmath 2021c). I will argue that if we make this distinction, we will gain a much better understanding of some of the persistent disparities between different methodological orientations in the field of general grammar. My claims are restricted to g-theories, and I make no p-theoretical claims, so there may be less tension between my proposals and those of others than might appear initially.


Becher, Jutta. 2005. Ditransitive Verben und ihre Objekte im Wolof: Positionsregeln und Kombinierbarkeit. Hamburger afrikanistische Arbeitspapiere (HAAP) 3. 13–27.

Deal, Amy Rose. 2016. Person-based split ergativity in Nez Perce is syntactic 1. Journal of Linguistics. Cambridge University Press 52(3). 533–564. (doi:10.1017/S0022226715000031)

Haspelmath, Martin. 2021a. Role-reference associations and the explanation of argument coding splits. Linguistics (ahead of print) doi: 10.1515/ling-2020-0252 (

Haspelmath, Martin. 2021b. Explaining grammatical coding asymmetries: Form-frequency correspondences and predictability. Journal of Linguistics, to appear (

Haspelmath, Martin. 2021c. General linguistics must be based on universals (or nonconventional aspects of language). Theoretical Linguistics, to appear (

Hawkinson, Annie K. & Hyman, Larry M. 1974. Hierarchies of natural topic in Shona. Studies in African Linguistics 5(2). 147–170.

Jenks, Peter & Sande, Hannah. 2017. Dependent accusative case and caselessness in Moro. Proceedings of NELS, vol. 47.

Rhodes, Richard A. 1994. Agency, inversion, and thematic alignment in Ojibwe. Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society, vol. 20, 431–446.

O'Hagan joins Survey as postdoc

January 13, 2021

The Survey of California and Other Indian Languages is very happy to announce that Zachary O'Hagan (PhD, 2020) is joining the Survey, effective immediately, for a two-year stint as a Postdoctoral Scholar (and de facto Archive Manager) working on a project to archive language materials from the work of Leanne Hinton, Margaret Langdon, Frank Lobo, and Pamela Munro with a variety of California (and other) Indigenous communities. (The project is funded by an NEH grant through the NEH-NSF Documenting Endangered Languages program.) Congrats, Zach!

Skilton receives Klarman Fellowship at Cornell

January 12, 2021

Congratulations to Amalia Skilton (PhD, 2019), who will begin a 3-year Klarman Fellowship at Cornell University in July 2021. Klarman Fellowships "provide postdoctoral opportunities to early-career scholars of outstanding talent, initiative and promise. Among the most selective of its kind in the country, the program offers independence from constraints of particular grants, enabling the recipients to devote themselves to frontline, innovative research without being tied to specific outcomes or teaching responsibilities."

Berkeley linguists @ LSA 2021

January 8, 2021

Congratulations to all the Berkeley linguists who are presenting at this year's virtual meeting of the Linguistic Society of America! The conference is taking place now through January 10.

Hyman receives Fromkin Lifetime Service Award

January 7, 2021

Our heartfelt congratulations to Larry M. Hyman, who has received the Victoria A. Fromkin Lifetime Service Award from the Linguistic Society of America!

The award is named after linguist Victoria Fromkin and given to a member of the LSA who has performed "extraordinary service to the discipline and to the Society" throughout their career.

From the LSA citation:

"Larry M. Hyman's career is a testament to the idea that scholarly accomplishment goes hand in hand with devotion to service to the field. On LSA committees and as part of its leadership, as an organizer of scholarly meetings and a member of editorial boards around the world, as a passionate advocate for the LSA, and as a host and sommelier at innumerable linguistic events, Hyman makes us all want to belong to the community of linguists."