March 19, 2019

This coming weekend, Andrew Cheng will be presenting ‘School’ versus ‘Home’: California-based Korean Americans’ Context-dependent Production of /u/ and /oʊ/ at the 43rd Penn Linguistics Conference

Congrats to graduating senior Hua Long, who has been chosen to receive the Undergraduate Student Civic Engagement Awarda prestigious Chancellor’s Award for Public Service! Ms. Long will receive this award from Chancellor Carol Christ in Sibley Auditorium on Monday, April 29, 2019 at 3:00pm.

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.

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

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.

March 12, 2019

Congrats to Emily Cibelli (PhD '15) who has just published an article based on her PhD dissertation in Phonetica: Training Non-Native Consonant Production with Perceptual and Articulatory Cues.

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.

March 11, 2019

A new article by Susanne Gahl and Harald Baayen on Twenty-eight years of vowels: Tracking phonetic variation through young to middle age adulthood has just appeared in Journal of Phonetics. Congrats, Susanne! 

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.
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!

In and around the linguistics department in the next week (plus weekend):

  • Syntax and Semantics Circle - Friday March 8 - Dwinelle 1303 - 3-4:30pm
    Samantha Wathugala & Virginia Dawson (UC Berkeley): In support of a choice functional analysis of Sinhala ðə
  • Phorum - Monday Mar 11 - 1303 Dwinelle - 12-1pm
    Ernesto Gutiérrez (Berkeley): The production of coronal stops by Spanish-English bilinguals: Acoustic measurements of dental and alveolar voiced stops
  • Fieldwork Forum - Wednesday Mar 13 - Dwinelle 1303 - 11-12:30PM
    Jenna Burrell (UC Berkeley): Which digital tools and design methods best enhance cultural revitalization efforts?
  • 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!

March 6, 2019

The journal Language Documentation & Conservation has recently released a special publication entitled Reflections on Language Documentation: 20 Years after Himmelmann 1998, including three papers by faculty or alumni: 

March 1, 2019

In and around the linguistics department in the next week:

February 28, 2019

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

  • Tessa Scott archived 34 file bundles related to Ndengeleko (Bantu; Tanzania), from her fieldwork in 2017 and 2018. The audio recordings consist primarily of elicitation (accompanied by scanned and typed field notes), with four short texts and discussions with speakers of consent for the project.
  • George Kamau (BA 1962) was discovered to be the language consultant for Prof. William Shipley's winter-spring 1962 field methods course on Kikuyu (Bantu; Kenya), then listed as 220B "Linguistics Laboratory." His recordings are items 002-005 here. In 1959 Mr. Kamau was part of the first cohort of 81 Kenyans brought from Nairobi to various universities in the US as part of a series of airlifts sponsored by the African American Student Foundation. The goal was to educate a generation of young Kenyans for post-British rule. Barack Obama, Sr. was part of the same cohort.
  • Last week it was reported that Prof. Wallace Chafe, at Berkeley from 1962 to 1986, passed away on February 3. Recordings from the second field methods course he taught here, on Dakota (Siouan; US) in fall-winter 1963-4, are items 012 and 013 here.

February 27, 2019

This Monday we will have a series of presentations by current graduate students in the colloquium spot -- 3:10-5pm, 370 Dwinelle: 

  • Alice Shen Pitch cues in the perception of code switching
  • Amalia Skilton: Speaker and addressee in spatial deixis: Experimental evidence from Ticuna and Dutch
  • Emily Clem: The cyclic nature of Agree: Maximal projections as probes
  • Myriam Lapierre: Two types of [NT]s in Panãra: Evidence from production and perception

Peter Jenks will be giving two talks in Germany next week. First, he will give an invited talk at Universität Potsdam on March 5, entitled Pronominal distinctions as definiteness distinctions. Then, he will be an invited speaker at the "Sorting out the concepts behind definiteness" workshop at the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Sprachwissenschaft in Bremen on Wednesday, March 6, with a talk entitled Anaphoric definites as anchored definites.

February 25, 2019

March 15-17 will see not one but two conferences of interest for, and organized by, department members:

  • Third biennial Symposium on Amazonian Languages (SAL3)
    March 16-17; 1229 Dwinelle Hall
    Program here!
  • The 41st California Celtic Conference
    March 15-17, 2019; 370 Dwinelle Hall
    Program here!

February 22, 2019

In and around the linguistics department in the next week:

  • Syntax and Semantics Circle - Friday Feb 22 - Dwinelle 1303 - 3-5pm
    Jorge Hankamer (Santa Cruz) & Line Mikkelsen (Berkeley): CP complements to D
  • Phorum - Monday Feb 25 - 1303 Dwinelle - 12-1pm
    Jeremy Steffman (UCLA): TBA
  • Linguistics Dept Colloquium - Monday Feb 25 - 370 Dwinelle - 3-5pm
    Jessica Coon (McGill):  Mayan Agent Focus and the Ergative Extraction Constraint: Facts and Fictions Revisited
  • SLUgS - Thursday Feb 28 - Dwinelle 1229 - 5-6pm and 6-7pm  
    Discussion with three Cal Linguistics alumni that now work at Google, followed by "Helpful SLUgS" (unofficial tutoring hour) from 6-7 pm.
  • Syntax and Semantics Circle - Friday March 1 - Dwinelle 1303 - 3-4:30pm
    Margaret Kroll (UC Santa Cruz) and Amanda Rysling (UC Santa Cruz): The search for truth: Semantic or pragmatic judgments 

February 21, 2019

This year's International Conference on Language Documentation & Conservation (ICLDC) kicks off next week in Mānoa, Hawaiʻi, and features numerous presentations by Berkeley faculty, staff, students, and alumni:  

The 2018-2019 colloquium series continues this coming Monday, February 25, with a talk by Jessica Coon (McGill). Same time as always, same place as always: 3:10-5 p.m., 370 Dwinelle Hall. The talk is entitled Mayan Agent Focus and the Ergative Extraction Constraint: Facts and Fictions Revisited, and the abstract is as follows:

Many languages of the Mayan family restrict the extraction of transitive (ergative) subjects for focus, wh-questions, and relativization (A’-extraction). We follow Aissen (2017) in labelling this restriction the ergative extraction constraint (EEC). In this talk, we offer a unified account of the EEC within Mayan languages, as well as an analysis of the special construction known as Agent Focus (AF) used to circumvent it. Specifically, we propose the generalization in (1).

(1) Mayan EEC generalization: 
When a pronounced copy of the object structurally intervenes between the subject and the A’-probe on C, the subject is restricted from undergoing A’-extraction.

Building on existing literature on syntactic ergativity, we argue that the restriction in (1) has a similar source across the subset of Mayan languages which exhibit it: locality. Evidence that locality is the source of the problem comes from a handful of exceptional contexts which permit transitive subjects to extract in languages which normally ban this extraction, and conversely, contexts which exceptionally ban ergative extraction in languages which otherwise allow it. 

We argue that the problem with A’-extracting the ergative subject across the intervening object connects to the requirements of the A’-probe on C: Mayan C is relativized to the feature [D]. This connects the Mayan patterns to recent proposals for extraction patterns in Austronesian languages (e.g. Aldridge, to appear) and elsewhere (van Urk 2015). Specifically, adapting the proposal of Coon and Keine (2018), we argue that in configurations in which a DP object intervenes between the probe on C and an A’-subject, conflicting requirements on movement lead to a derivational crash. While we propose that the EEC has a uniform source across the family, we argue that AF constructions vary Mayan-internally in how they circumvent the EEC, accounting for the variation in behavior of AF across the family. This paper both contributes to our understanding of parametric variation internal to the Mayan family, as well as to the discussion of variation in A’-extraction asymmetries and syntactic ergativity cross-linguistically.

(collaborative work with Nico Baier and Theodore Levin)