January 22, 2021

In and around the linguistics department in the next week:

January 20, 2021

Congrats to Wendy López Márquez, whose paper 'Headless Relative Clauses in Sierra Popoluca' has appeared in the new Oxford University Press book Headless Relative Clauses in Mesoamerican Languages!

January 19, 2021

Congrats to Gašper Beguš on the publication of his chapter "Segmental Phonetics and Phonology in Caucasian Languages" in the new Oxford Handbook of Languages of the Caucasus, edited by Maria Polinsky. (A free preprint is available here.)

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.

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.

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!

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."

January 11, 2021

Here's the latest from the Survey of California and Other Indian Languages:

  • Maks Dąbkowski has archived over 65 file bundles of audio and video recordings of texts in A'ingae (isolate, Ecuador). The materials stem from his 2019 fieldwork in the community of Sinangoé, with 21 different consultants and especially the contributions of Shen Aguinda and Leidy Quenamá as interviewers, transcribers, and translators.

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.

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."

January 6, 2021

Congratulations to Amalia Skilton (PhD, 2019), who has been awarded the SSILA Archiving Award in Honor of Michael Krauss! From the official announcement:

The committee recognizes the Ticuna Archive, assembled and archived by Amalia and housed at the Survey of California and other Indian Languages. The archive stands out not only for the breadth of materials which it contains, but also for its meticulous organization and curation, which are documented in the guide to the materials, and published in Language Documentation and Conservation. In addition, the committee particularly notes the level of community-engagement exemplified by Amalia’s discussion of ethics and permissions associated with the collections and the level of accessibility of the collection. Amalia lives up to the spirit of Michael Krauss in creating high standards for documentation and archiving and at the same time as contributing to linguistic theory through her research on such topics as deixis, language acquisition, and Ticuna grammar.

The Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas (SSILA) has announced that the Mary R. Haas Book Award has been awarded to Amalia Skilton (PhD, 2019):

Dr. Amalia Skilton (University of California, Berkeley) has been awarded SSILA Mary R. Haas Book Award for her thesis Spatial and Non-Spatial Deixis in Cushillococha Ticuna. This dissertation is an exquisite piece of work in both methodology and the theoretical contributions. The replicability of the several experiments—both with other Ticuna speakers and cross-linguistically—is a highly desirable feature in the context of the study of Indigenous languages. It also makes important theoretical contributions to the area of semantics and pragmatics of demonstratives, providing evidence that demonstratives encode visibility contrasts. This finding challenges the current dominant view that demonstratives carry information regarding distance but do not encode perceptual deictic content. The study also provides evidence that demonstratives do not contrast necessarily in terms of ‘distance’ between speaker/addressee and referents, but in terms of ‘peripersonal space,’ the space within reach of the speaker.

Kelsey Neely (PhD, 2019) was selected for an honorable mention for the award:

Dr. Kelsey Neely (University of California, Berkeley) has also been selected for honourable mention for The Linguistic Expression of Affective Stance in Yaminawa (Pano, Peru). The committee praised this thesis for its comprehensive nature, consisting of both a grammar of Yaminawa with context-rich examples and a detailed study of affective stance, and for its potential broader impacts of the work, particularly with respect to language education.

Congratulations, Amalia and Kelsey!

Congratulations to Lev Michael, who has been awarded the Victor Golla Prize from the Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas (SSILA)!

The Victor Golla Prize is presented in recognition of a significant history of both linguistic scholarship and service to the scholarly community, with service that expands the quality and/or dissemination of such scholarship.

An excerpt of the full announcement was circulated in the SSILA newsletter:

Lev exemplifies Victor’s virtues of scholarship grounded in an empirical practice that encompasses ongoing language documentation and text philology, pursuing answers to big-picture questions about areality and language change, and effectively integrated with service to a broad community. He excels in the area of South Americanist language documentation, linguistic analysis, and community language support.

Among his many accomplishments, Lev started the biennial Symposium on Amazonian Languages, which meets in Berkeley. In March of last year, SAL 3 had 21 talks by scholars from Brazil, Canada, and the US. Of course there are bigger events for Latin Americanists generally, but nothing comparable in North America for Amazonianists. He created SAPhon, the South American Phonological Inventory Database. This online resource contains information about phonological inventories for 363 South American languages, allowing users to view information about individual languages and sounds, with a map browsing function.

Lev and his research partner Chris Beier are committed to capacity building in the Amazonian communities where they work. This is a critical part of Lev’s pedagogy and mentoring of North American students, and shines through in his work. He does training and involves community members in the work he and Chris do, and makes sure there are results that benefit them.

The committee found that Lev exemplify the spirit of this award through the breadth, quality, and availability of his research, his success in engagement with communities, and by the inspiration he brings to new generations of linguists.

January 5, 2021

Congratulations to Christian DiCanio (PhD, 2008) who has been awarded tenure at Buffalo!

December 17, 2020

Congrats to Line Mikkelsen, whose paper Forms and functions of backward resumption: The case of Karuk, co-authored with Karuk tribal members Charron (Sonny) Davis, Vina Smith, Nancy Super (née Jerry), Peter Super Sr., and Charlie Thom Sr., has just appeared in Language! As the paper notes in its opening paragraph:

The research on Karuk reported here is the outcome of a collaboration between Karuk master speakers and Elders Sonny Davis, Julian Lang, the late Vina Smith, Nancy Super (née Jerry), the late Peter Super, Sr., and the late Charlie Thom, Sr.; Karuk language learners, researchers, and teachers Tamara Alexander, Robert Manuel, Crystal Richardson, Susan Gehr, Arch Super, Florrine Super, and Franklin (Frankie) Thom; and UC Berkeley linguists Andrew Garrett, Erik Maier, Line Mikkelsen, Karie Moorman, Ruth Rouvier, and Clare Sandy in Yreka, California, starting in 2010 and continuing through 2020. The work includes language documentation, linguistic analysis, language learning, development of language curriculum, educational support, language teaching, working through texts, (re)transcribing legacy recordings, linguistic elicitation with verbal and visual stimuli, and the development of ararahih-'urípih (= Karuk language net;, an online dictionary and morphologically parsed text corpus.

December 10, 2020

Congrats to Eric Wilbanks, whose NSF Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement grant (with Keith Johnson) is being recommended for funding! The project, titled "On-line Integration during Speech Perception", will involve several experiments tracking the time-course of sociophonetic perception, and includes funding for an improved eye-tracking set-up for the lab.

Isaac Bleaman will be giving a talk at the Association for Jewish Studies on the topic "Attitudes toward change in a maintained language: Yiddish in New York" (Dec. 16 at 9:30am) and serving as a respondent on another panel on minority languages in Israel.
He will be giving a longer version of the talk (in Yiddish) at University College London on Jan. 12 at 10am, an event in the Ada Rapoport-Albert Seminar Series on Contemporary Hasidic Yiddish.

December 4, 2020

In and around the linguistics department in the next week:

November 27, 2020

In and around the linguistics department in the next week:

November 26, 2020

On Monday, November 30, from 3-5pm, please join us on Zoom for Qualifying Paper (QP) project presentations by graduate students Madeline Bossi, Wesley dos Santos, Emily Drummond, and Emily Grabowski.