Linguistics Department News (Calques)

Recent Stories

Skilton to defend dissertation

March 15, 2019
Next Friday, March 22, Amalia Skilton will defend her dissertation, entitled Spatial and non-spatial deixis in Cushillococha Ticuna. The defense will take place from 9:10am-12pm in Dwinelle 1229. All members of the department are invited to attend.
This dissertation is a study of the 6-term demonstrative system of Ticuna, a language isolate spoken by 60,000 people in Peru, Colombia, and Brazil.
Much linguistic work on demonstratives has claimed that they encode only the distance of the referent from the participants. By contrast, I argue that no demonstrative of Ticuna conveys any information about distance. Instead, I show that the demonstratives of Ticuna provide listeners with three kinds of information:
  • Perceptual information: Demonstratives encode whether the speaker can see the demonstrative referent.
  • Spatial information: Demonstratives encode where the referent is located relative to the peripersonal space (reaching space) of the discourse participants. Location relative to peripersonal space is crucially different from distance.
  • Attentional information: Demonstratives convey whether the referent is an object of preexisting joint attention.

Linguistics events this week (March 15-22, 2019)

March 15, 2019

In and around the linguistics department in the next week:

  • Syntax and Semantics Circle - Friday March 15 - Dwinelle 1303 - 3-4:30pm
    Adam Roth Singerman (University of Chicago): Ergativity and pronominal resumption 
  • California Celtic Conference - Friday March 15 - Sunday March 17 - Dwinelle 370
    See the full program here!
  • Third biennial Symposium on Amazonian Languages (SAL3) - Saturday March 16 - Sunday March 17 -  Dwinelle 1229 
    See the full program here!
  • Phorum - Monday Feb 25 - 1303 Dwinelle - 12-1pm 
    Kate Lindsey (Stanford): Is Ende reduplication phonological copying or morphological doubling?
  • Language Variation and Change Reading Group - Wednesday March 20 - 11AM-noon -  1229 Dwinelle Hall
    Robert Bayley (UC Davis): Frequency and syntactic variation: Subject personal pronoun variation in U.S. Spanish and Mandarin Chinese
  • Group in American Indian Languages - Thursday March 21 - 6pm
    Tasha Hauff (Berkeley): The Product of all our Hard Work: a Case Study in improving Lakota Language Education in K-12 Classrooms
  • Dissertation Defense - Friday March 22 - Dwinelle 1229 - 9:10am-12pm 
    Amalia SkiltonSpatial and non-spatial deixis in Cushillococha Ticuna
  • Syntax and Semantics Circle - Friday March 22 - Dwinelle 1303 - 3-4:30pm 
    Kenneth Baclawski Jr. (Berkeley): TBA

Survey updates

March 14, 2019

Zach O'Hagan writes with the following news from the Survey of California and Other Indian Languages:

  • Nicholas Rolle (PhD 2018) archived 28 file bundles of sound recordings and field notes in two collections related to Izon and Kalabari (Ijaw; Nigeria), based on fieldwork in Port Harcourt in July and August 2017. A focus of these elicitation sessions is tone, especially grammatical tone. Now a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Program in Linguistics at Princeton University, Dr. Rolle's recent dissertation, Grammatical Tone: Typology and Theory, can be found here. An accomplished Africanist, NikRo is also a budding Amazonianist, having collaborated with Marine Vuillermet, a postdoc in this department in 2013 and currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Laboratoire Dynamique du Langage (Lyon), on the morphologically conditioned assignment of accent in Ese Ejja (Takanan; Peru, Bolivia).
  • William Sturtevant's (BA 1949, Berkeley) 1951 recordings of Mikasuki (Muskogean; Florida) have been made unrestricted.

Dryer colloquium

March 12, 2019

The 2018-2019 colloquium series continues this coming Monday, March 18, with a talk by Matthew Dryer (Buffalo). Same time as always, same place as always: 3:10-5 p.m., 370 Dwinelle Hall. The talk is entitled Evidence for the Suffixing Preference, and the abstract is as follows:

It might be thought that there already exists overwhelming evidence for a preference for suffixes over prefixes. However, strictly speaking, most of the available evidence is evidence for an orthographic suffixing preference, i.e. a preference for suffixes over prefixes in the orthographic representations of words in grammatical descriptions. Haspelmath (2011), however, questions how reliable such orthographic representation are and therefore questions whether there is good evidence for a suffixing preference. In this paper, I provide evidence for a suffixing preference by examining the phonological properties of two types of affixes, tense-aspect affixes on verbs and pronominal possessive affixes on nouns, examining the former in 827 languages and the latter in 553 languages. It has been suggested that pronominal possessive affixes do not exhibit a suffixing preference. However, I provide evidence that under one interpretation of the suffixing preference, pronominal possessive affixes do indeed exhibit a suffixing preference.

Survey updates

March 8, 2019

Some updates from the Survey of California and other Indian Languages:

  • Martha Schwarz archived 11 file bundles of sound recordings and field notes related to Kumal (Indo-Aryan; Nepal), from a week's fieldwork in July 2018. The recordings primarily consist of grammatical elicitation, with topics including verb paradigms, dative subjects and agreement, non-finite clauses, possession, deontic modality, negation, and more! You can listen to the Frog Story here.
  • Kelsey Neely archived sound recordings of 50 traditional stories in Yaminawa (Panoan; Peru). This is the beginning of a large archival deposit that will include recordings, transcriptions, field notes, databases, photographs, and other materials associated with Kelsey's ongoing fieldwork in Sepahua from 2013 to the present. She writes descriptions of the plots of each story, which are rich in expressive content, linguistic form, and cultural and historical value. As Kelsey writes, the stories blend cosmology and moral teaching with humor -- many describe marriages between humans and ñũshĩwu (archetypal anthropomorphic animal spirits) that fail due to the inability of the animal spirits to adapt to life in human society. Trees and manufactured objects such as pots are also animated. Recurrent themes include the importance of cooperation, the danger of selfishness, the value of individual skill, and warnings, particularly to men, to be careful with what they say and how they treat women.
  • Gabriela Caballero (PhD 2008) archived over 1,300 digital files in 76 file bundles related to Choguita Rarámuri (Uto-Aztecan; Mexico). The collection consists primarily of sound recordings from 2011 to the present, most with corresponding .eaf transcription files! The recordings in file bundles 2019-01.001 through 011, and 013 are elicitation; those in 2019-01.015 through 075 are personal, historical, and procedural narratives, conversations, interviews, prayers, and oratory. As an example, check out the myth of the cave, as told by Luz Elena León Ramírez, here.
  • A preliminary (1980) dictionary of Barbareño Chumash (isolate; California), compiled by Kenneth Whistler is now available. One of Mary Haas's last students, Mr. Whistler received his PhD from this department in 1980, with a dissertation entitled Proto-Wintun Kin Classification: A Case Study of Reconstruction in a Complex Semantic System, available here.

Big Give!

March 8, 2019
Berkeley’s BigGive ( will take place next week beginning at 9pm on W 3/13, through 9pm on Th 3/14.  
In advance of that day, the Department is highlighting an archiving project ( which, thanks to the generosity of emeriti and faculty, already has pledges of over $1600!  
Participation of our entire community is encouraged and the minimum gift during the Big Give at is $10.  You can start spreading the word with your friends and family and don't forget to use our hashtags, #Cal_Lx and #CalBigGive in your posts.
Watch your inbox for specific information soon!