All News

May 9, 2019

Next Friday, May 19, Emily Clem will defend her dissertation, entitled Agreement, case, and switch-reference in Amahuaca. The defense will take place from 10am-1pm in Dwinelle 1229. All members of the department are invited to attend.
This dissertation probes the nature of the syntactic operation of Agree through the lens of the morphosyntax of Amahuaca, an endangered Panoan language of the Peruvian Amazon. I explore the language's system of split ergative marking, arguing that case marking in Amahuaca is the result of agreement with multiple functional heads. This leads to a distinction between abstract and morphological ergative (and nominative) case. I also analyze the extensive system of switch-reference marking, demonstrating that the system has the typologically unusual property of tracking the reference and abstract case of all arguments of the verb, not only subject. I argue that this system arises through adjunct complementizer agreement that probes both the adjunct and matrix arguments directly. In analyzing the case and switch-reference systems of Amahuaca, I demonstrate that the empirical facts can be most straightforwardly accounted for if we assume 1) that some probes are insatiable, agreeing with all goals in their search space, and 2) that Agree is narrowly cyclic, with each instance of Merge defining a new cycle of Agree. 
The following papers and abstracts have been accepted for presentation at the 41st Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, to be held in Montreal, July 25-27, and will be published in the conference proceedings:
  1. Efficient use of ambiguity in an early writing system: Evidence from Sumerian cuneiform, by Noah Hermalin and Terry Regier.
  2. Evolution and efficiency in color naming: The case of Nafaanra, by Noga Zaslavsky, Karee Garvin, Charles Kemp, Naftali Tishby, and Terry Regier.
  3. Semantic categories of artifacts and animals reflect efficient coding, by Noga Zaslavsky, Terry Regier, Naftali Tishby, and Charles Kemp.
  4. Season naming and the local environment, by Charles Kemp, Alice Gaby, and Terry Regier.
  5. "Natural concepts" revisited in the spatial-topological domain: Universal tendencies in focal spatial relations, by Alexandra Carstensen, Noah Hermalin, Terry Regier, and George Kachergis.
A paper entitled "Communicative need in color naming", by Noga Zaslavsky, Charles Kemp, Naftali Tishby, and Terry Regier has appeared in the journal Cognitive Neuropsychology
Terry Regier visited the computational linguistics group at the University of Toronto, April 22-24, and gave a talk there.

May 7, 2019

Announcing the 2020 BLS Workshop on “Phonological Representations: At the Crossroad Between Gradience and Categoricity”!  Please mark your calendar for the workshop on Feb 7 & 8, 2020.  Call for papers to follow.

During this year's Big Give, 30 donors gave a total of $5,741 toward the audiotape digitization costs of $12,000, equalling 48% of the amount needed.  This left about $7K still to raise on our crowdfunding page.
To date, 8 donors have given a total of $475 (7% of the remaining balance) and thus 52% of our goal has been reached.  Thank you!! 

May 3, 2019

In and around the linguistics department in the next week -- it's RRR week AND

May 2, 2019

Graduate student Tessa Scott will be presenting on Case and agreement in Mam: PCC and syntactic ergativity effects at the Workshop on the Languages of Meso-America at UCSC on Friday, May 3rd.

In the next few weeks postdoc Bernat Bardagil Mas will give two talks. The first, at the Person & Perspective workshop at USC, is entitled Privative [participant] and partial agreement displacement; the second will be at the University of Potsdam, with the title Panará morphosyntax and extraction restrictions.

April 29, 2019

Help us digitize Linguistics lectures from the past!  This year's Big Give helped us raise about half of the funding needed to digitize 275 reel to reel tapes that were recently found at the BLC.  The 140 recordings were made between 1960-1985.

So far six lectures have been digitized -- you can access them at the links below:

We are hoping to raise the remainder of the funds needed by June 30. To donate, please go to our crowdfunding page at:  Thank you!

April 26, 2019

In and around the linguistics department in the next week:

  • Syntax and Semantics Circle - Friday April 26 - Dwinelle 1303 - 3-4:30pm  
    Discussion of binding and variable-free semantics (Reading: Ch 15 of Jacobson 2014, Compositional Semantics)
  • Phorum - Monday April 29  - 1303 Dwinelle - 12-1pm 
    Daniel Silverman (SJSU): Evolution of the speech code: Higher order symbolism and the grammatical Big Bang
  • Honors Colloquium - Monday April 29 - 370 Dwinelle - 3-5pm  
  • Fieldwork Forum - Wednesday May 1 - 1303 Dwinelle - 11am-12:30pm 
    Bernat Bardagil-Mas (Berkeley): 
    The language of the Manoki
  • GAIL/FForum - Thursday May 2 - 5:30pm
    Eugene Buckley (UPenn): Change and contact in Pomoan stress patterns 
  • SLUgS - Thursday May 2 - 1229 Dwinelle - 5-6pm 
    End-of-semester potluck! Attendees are encouraged to bring linguistics-themed foods.
  • Syntax and Semantics Circle - Friday May 3 - Dwinelle 1303 - 3-4:30 
    Virginia Dawson (UC Berkeley): 
    Paths to exceptional wide scope: Choice functions in Tiwa

April 25, 2019

Coming up on Monday is the annual Honors Colloquium, featuring the work of undergraduates writing honors theses in linguistics. The colloquium will be held in Dwinelle 370 from 3:10-5. This year the presenters will be:

Romi Yount
Title: "Speech Patterns of Bipolar Disorder"
Advisor: Professor Keith Johnson.
Eric Chen
Title: "Phonological Reconstruction of Proto-Kampa Consonants"
Advisor:  Professor Lev Michael
Yvette Yi-Chi Wu
Title: "Plural Classifier xie and Grammatical Number in Mandarin Chinese"
Advisors:  Professors Peter Jenks and Amy Rose Deal

April 24, 2019

Congrats to Larry Hyman, who will be delivering the 14th Annual Joshua and Verona Whatmough Lecture at Harvard next week. Larry's talk is entitled The Fall and Rise of Vowel Length in Bantu.

April 23, 2019

Congrats to Ruth Rouvier, who has received a fellowship from the Linguistic Society of America to attend this summer's Linguistic Institute at UC Davis! 

April 19, 2019

In and around the linguistics department in the next week:

  • Syntax and Semantics Circle - Friday April 19 - Dwinelle 1303 - 3-4:30pm  
    Madeline Bossi (UC Berkeley) & Michael Diercks (Pomona College): V1 in Kipsigis: Head movement and discourse-based scrambling 
  • Phorum - Monday April 22  - 1303 Dwinelle - 12-1pm
    Yulia Oganian (UCSF): A temporal landmark for syllabic representations of continuous speech in human superior temporal gyrus
  • Linguistics Colloquium - Monday April 22 - 370 Dwinelle - 3-5pm  
    Lenore Grenoble (Chicago): Documenting contact and change in Siberian multilingual contexts
  • Special Anthropology lecture/workshop - Tuesday April 23 -  223 Moses Hall - 3-6pm
    Denise Arnold & Juan de Dios Yapita: De-ontologising Andean landscapes: some reflections for Qaqachaka Marka
  • Fieldwork Forum - Thursday April 25 - 3401 Dwinelle - 4-5:30PM  
    Adam Benkato (Berkeley): A new copula in an Arabic dialect & fieldwork as a heritage speaker 
  • Syntax and Semantics Circle - Friday April 26 - Dwinelle 1303 - 3-4:30pm  
    Discussion of binding and variable-free semantics (Reading: Ch 15 of Jacobson 2014, Compositional Semantics)

April 18, 2019

The 2018-2019 colloquium series continues this coming Monday, April 22, with a talk by Lenore Grenoble (Chicago). Same time as always, same place as always: 3:10-5 p.m., 370 Dwinelle Hall. The talk is entitled Documenting Contact and Change in Siberian Multilingual Contexts, and the abstract is as follows:

Multiple indigenous languages in Eurasia are undergoing change and loss as speakers shift to Russian. The language ecologies of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) provide an excellent testing ground for hypotheses about the causes and effects of contact-induced language change. The Sakha language (Turkic) is spoken by a (slim) majority of residents of the Republic, with an estimated 500,000 speakers; several minority indigenous languages are spoken as well. All are undergoing language shift, to varying degrees. Russian, although not the language of the ethnic majority in Sakha, is pervasive with its status as a national language, and as the language of higher education and media. Although we might predict that the use of Sakha supports use of areal features, but that does not appear to be the case today. In this talk I discuss a large, ongoing project that uses mixed methods to document contact and change. Here I focus on the use of experimental methods, with particular attention to word order several Altaic languages: Sakha (Turkic) and Even and Evenki (Tungusic). All three languages show changes from inherited patterns to more Russian-like morphosyntax, including a shift from SOV word order to SVO and word order driven by information structure and changes in clause-combining strategies, as well as some evidence of contact effects in the varieties of Russian used by Sakha speakers. Preliminary work suggests that these changes take place sporadically in the speech of of Even and Evenki speakers, and that language shift probably impedes them from becoming grammaticalized. This hypothesis needs more systematic testing with a combination of experimental and sociolinguistic field data. More research is also needed to see if the innovations are diffusing across speakers of Sakha and whether these changes are indicative of imperfect learning and language shift rather than contact-induced convergence.

April 15, 2019

April 12, 2019

In and around the linguistics department in the next week:

  • Environmental Engineering Seminar Series - Friday April 12 - 534 Davis Hall - 12-1pm
    Chris Beier (Berkeley): Problems, problem-solvers, and local impacts: A view from Peruvian Amazonia
  • Special lecture - Friday April 12 - 1303 Dwinelle - 2-3pm 
    Craig Cummings ( Adding Languages to Computers and Mobile Devices
  • Syntax and Semantics Circle - Friday April 12 - Dwinelle 1303 - 3-4:30pm  
    Eva Portelance (Stanford University): Verb stranding ellipsis in Lithuanian: verbal identity and head movement
  • Phorum - Monday April 15  - 1303 Dwinelle - 12-1pm 
    Meg Cychosz (UCB): The Lexical advantage: Kids learn words, not sounds
  • Linguistics Colloquium - Monday April 15 - 370 Dwinelle - 3-5pm  
    Matt Goldrick (Northwestern): Integration and Segregation in Bilingual Sound Structure Processing
  • SLUgS - Monday April 15 - 1229 Dwinelle - 5-7pm 
    David J. Peterson: TBA
  • Ling 208 Guest Lecture - Tuesday April 16 - 1303 Dwinelle - 12:30-2pm  
    Matt Goldrick (Northwestern):  TBA
  • Fieldwork Forum - Wednesday April 17 - 1303 Dwinelle - 11-12:30PM 
    Chris Beier (Berkeley): TBA
  • Syntax and Semantics Circle - Friday April 19 - Dwinelle 1303 - 3-4:30pm  
    Madeline Bossi (UC Berkeley) & Michael Diercks (Pomona College): V1 in Kipsigis: Head movement and discourse-based scrambling

April 11, 2019

Huge congratulations to first-year PhD students Emily Drummond and Emily Grabowski, who have each just been awarded a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

Congrats to the undergraduate winners of the 2019 Sawyer Scholarship for Applied Linguistics:

  • Teela Huff and Nicholas Carrick,  Creating Xavante Pedagogical Materials 
    In Summer of 2019, Teela Huff and Nicholas Carrick are traveling with Myriam Lapierre to work with a Xavante community that expressed interest in the benefits of linguistic research. While in Eastern Mato Grosso, the three hope to record stories with community consent for the purpose of creating recreational and lexical pedagogical materials. In collaboration with this Xavante community, the long-term goal of this project is to help preserve and maintain Xavante language and culture through linguistic means.
  • Karina Fong-Hirschfelder, The Influence of French Polysemous Words on English in French-English Bilingual Children 
    Karina will be using the funds from the Sawyer Scholarship to create a study/stimular and start data collection for an experiment with Mahesh Srinivasan. This experiment will be one of many in a study on French polysemous words and their influence on English speakers, both bilingual and monolingual. Karina will be elaborating on this work during the upcoming academic year as part of her Honors Thesis.