News

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

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!

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 (https://biggive.berkeley.edu/) 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 (https://corpus.linguistics.berkeley.edu/auction) 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 https://give.berkeley.edu/browse/?u=227 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!

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

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)

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.