News

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

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.

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

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 Mother Language Day was on Thursday Feb 21. In celebration, participants in the Designated Emphasis in Indigenous Language Revitalization organized a board where people can post positive thoughts, greetings, and messages in their mother language, along with a table where people can explore resources for learning more about the indigenous peoples whose lands we live and work on, and get information about indigenous language revitalization and the DE. 

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)

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:  

February 20, 2019

Former Cal linguistics faculty member Wally Chafe passed away earlier this month. You can read about Wally's life and work here

February 15, 2019

In and around the linguistics department in the next week:

  • Linguistics & Near Eastern Studies special lecture - Friday Feb 15 - 254 Barrows Hall - 2pm 
    Lutz Edzard (University of Erlangen-Nürnberg): The morphosyntax of compounding in Semitic
  • Syntax and Semantics Circle - Friday Feb 15 - Dwinelle 1303 - 3-4:30pm
    Peter Jenks (Berkeley): Anaphoric definites as anchored definites
  • Ling 47 ("Communication Disorders")  special event - Friday Feb 15 - Dwinelle 1229 - 4pm
    Viewing and discussion of the documentary When I Stutter
  • Fieldwork Forum - Wednesday Feb 20 - Dwinelle 1303 - 11-12:30PM 
    Practice talks for ICLDC: Julia Nee (Berkeley): Communication Based Instruction and Evaluation of Language Revitalization; Anna Berge (Alaska Native Language Center) and Edwin Ko (Berkeley): Interactive Maps, Place, and Context 
  • Philosophy Dept Work in Progress Talk - Wednesday Feb 20 - Moses 301 - noon-1
    Amy Rose Deal (Berkeley): Factivity and uncentered attitudes
  • Climate care tea/coffee hour - Friday Feb 22 - 3401 Dwinelle - 2-3pm
    Discussion of goal setting
  • Syntax and Semantics Circle - Friday Feb 22 - Dwinelle 1303 - 3-5pm
    Jorge Hankamer (Santa Cruz) & Line Mikkelsen (Berkeley): CP complements to D 

February 14, 2019

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

  • Over 60 hours of audio recordings and almost 600 pages of field notes of Romani (Indo-European), dating from 1964 to 1972 and originally produced by Guy Tyler in collaboration with 36 different consultants, were accessioned in 27 file bundles.
  • Julia Nee archived 2 file bundles of storybooks in Teotitlán del Valle Zapotec (Otomanguean; Oaxaca): Beniit con xpejigan ("Benita and Her Balloons") and images of one based on Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
  • A text in Nez Perce (Sahaptian; Idaho), "Gusty Wind and Sunshine," from the papers of Hans Jørgen Uldall, affiliated with Berkeley in the early 1930s, was scanned and made public.

Congrats to Martha Schwarz, whose first-authored paper Realization and representation of Nepali laryngeal contrasts: Voiced aspirates and laryngeal realism (with Morgan Sonderegger and Heather Goad) has just been published by Journal of Phonetics! You can read it here.

February 11, 2019

Congrats to Wesley Leonard (PhD 2007), subject of the February LSA member spotlightThe LSA Member Spotlight highlights the interests and accomplishments of a different LSA member each month.

February 8, 2019

In and around the linguistics department in the next week:

  • BLS Workshop: Countability Distinctions - Friday Feb 8 & Saturday Feb 9
    Join us for talks including keynotes by Suzi Lima (Toronto) and David Barner (UCSD)!  The complete program is available here
  • Phorum - Monday Feb 11 - 1303 Dwinelle - 12-1pm
    Georgia Zellou, Michelle Cohn, & Bruno Ferenc Segedin (UCD): Talking Tech: How does voice-AI influence human speech? 
  • Linguistics Colloquium - Monday Feb 11 - 370 Dwinelle -  3:10-5pm 
    Larry Hyman: The Fall and Rise of Vowel Length in Bantu
  • Fieldwork Forum - Wednesday Feb 13 - Dwinelle 1303 - 11-12:30PM 
    Andrew Garrett, Dmetri Hayes, and Ronald Sprouse: TBA 
  • SLUgS - Thursday Feb 14 - Dwinelle 1229 - 5-6pm  
    Viewing of Atlantis 
  • Linguistics & Near Eastern Studies special lecture - Friday Feb 15 - 254 Barrows Hall - 2pm
    Lutz Edzard (University of Erlangen-Nürnberg): The morphosyntax of compounding in Semitic
  • Syntax and Semantics Circle - Friday Feb 15 - Dwinelle 1303 - 3-4:30pm
    Peter Jenks: TBA

February 7, 2019

The 2018-2019 colloquium series continues this coming Monday, February 11, with a talk by our own Larry Hyman. Same time as always, same place as always: 3:10-5 p.m., 370 Dwinelle Hall. The talk is entitled "The Fall and Rise of Vowel Length in Bantu", and the abstract is as follows:

Although Proto-Bantu had a vowel length contrast on roots which survives in many daughter languages today, many other Bantu languages have modified the inherited system. In this talk I distinguish between four types of Bantu languages: (1) Those which maintain the free occurrence of the vowel length contrast inherited from the proto language; (2) Those which maintain the contrast, but have added restrictions which shorten long vowels in pre-(ante-)penultimate word position and/or on head nouns and verbs that are not final in their XP; (3) Those which have lost the contrast with or without creating new long vowels (e.g. from the loss of an intervocalic consonant flanked by identical vowels); (4) Those which have lost the contrast but have added phrase-level penultimate lengthening. I will propose that the positional restrictions fed into the ultimate loss of the contrast in types (3) and (4), with a concomitant shift from root prominence (at the word level) to penultimate prominence (at the intonational and phrase level). In the course of covering the above typology and historical developments in Bantu, I will show that there are some rather interesting Bantu vowel length systems that may or may not be duplicated elsewhere in the world.

Postdoc Bernat Bardagil Mas is currently in Brazil for fieldwork with Mỹky and Panará until mid-March. He sends the following update on his activities there: 
  • February 11-15: he will co-teach a language course for indigenous teachers with Aline da Cruz at the Federal University of Goiás (Núcleo Takikahakỹ de Formação Superior de Professores Indígenas) 
  • February 15: he will give an invited talk at the Núcleo de Tipologia Linguística at the University of Brasilia, "As línguas jê e a exponência do caso ergativo"
  • March 12: he will give an invited talk at the Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi, in Belém, "A morfologia do caso nas línguas jê"
Recently published by Bernat, in collaboration with Charlotte Lindenbergh, is a Linguistics in the Netherlands paper entitled "Realigning alignment - The completeness typology applied to case marking in Jê languages".

February 2, 2019

Some new updates from the Survey of California and other Indian Languages regarding activities for 2019 so far:

  • Chris Beier & Lev Michael archived an initial 13 file bundles related to Iquito (Zaparoan; Peru), including over 8 hours of audio recordings of 59 texts from the early years of their research (2002-2005).
  • Zach O'Hagan added 63 file bundles from 2018 fieldwork to his collection on Caquinte (Arawak; Peru), including over 39 hours of audio and video recordings of stories, interviews, elicitation, and other interactions.
  • Vivian Wauters (MA 2012), now a graduate student in horticultural science at the University of Minnesota, archived 22 file bundles related to Arabela (Zaparoan; Peru), including over 36 hours of audio recordings of elicitation and some texts, field notes, and a FLEx database.
  • Three boxes of lexical file slips (herehere, and here) of Atsugewi (Palaihnihan; California) created by Len Talmy (PhD 1972) have been digitized and are available.
  • An unpublished manuscript on historical Tucanoan linguistics, written by Alva Wheeler (PhD 1970) as a term paper for a seminar taught by Mary Haas, has been digitized and is available.
  • Jorge Rosés (Alberta) & Erin Hashimoto (Alberta) archived "Time-aligned Annotations of Makah Narratives" (Wakashan; Washington), which combines speakers Ralph LaChester and Mabel Robertson's (1965) recordings of the language made with William Jacobsen (PhD 1964) with handwritten transcriptions of them, making them more accessible to users in ELAN and SayMore.