October 16, 2020

We are delighted to announce that Hannah Sande will be joining Berkeley Linguistics in January 2021! Hannah will begin teaching classes in Fall 2021, and will spend spring semester advising (remotely), and doing research.

In and around the linguistics department in the next week:

October 15, 2020

Congrats to researcher Bernat Bardagil, whose article Number morphology in Panará has just appeared in Linguistic Variation 20:2!

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

October 9, 2020

In and around the linguistics department in the next week:

October 8, 2020

The program for the 51th annual meeting of the North East Linguistic Society (to be hosted virtually by the Université de Quebec à Montreal) has just been released, promising the following presentations by current department members and recent alumni:

  • Amy Rose Deal: 3-on-3 restrictions and PCC typology
  • Peter Jenks: Names as complex indices: On apparent Condition C violations in Thai
  • Laura Kalin and Nicholas Rolle (PhD '18): Deconstructing subcategorization: Conditions on insertion vs. position
  • Edwin Ko: Feeding agreement: Anti-locality in Crow applicatives of unaccusatives

Congrats all!

Congrats to Geoff Bacon, who recently filed his dissertation Evaluating linguistic knowledge in neural networks and has just taken up a position as a computational linguist at Google!

The 2020-2021 colloquium series kicks off this coming Monday, October 12, with a talk by Johanna Nichols (UC Berkeley), held via Zoom. The talk is entitled Proper measurement of linguistic complexity (and why it matters), and the abstract is as follows:

Hypotheses involving linguistic complexity generate interesting research in a variety of subfields – typology, historical linguistics, sociolinguistics, language acquisition, cognition, neurolinguistics, language processing, and others. Good measures of complexity in various linguistic domains are essential, then, but we have very few and those are mostly single-feature (chiefly size of phoneme inventory and morphemes per word in text).
In other ways as well what we have is not up to the task. The kind of complexity that is favored by certain sociolinguistic factors is not what is usually surveyed in studies invoking the sociolinguistic work. Phonological and morphological complexity are very strongly inversely correlated and form opposite worldwide frequency clines, yet surveys of just one or the other, or both lumped together, are used to support cross-linguistic generalizations about the distribution of complexity writ large. Complexity of derivation, syntax, and lexicon is largely unexplored. Measuring the complexity of polysynthetic languages in the right terms has not been seriously addressed.
This paper proposes a tripartite metric---enumerative, transparency-based, and relational---using a set of different assays across different parts of the grammar and lexicon, that addresses these problems and should help increase the grammatical sophistication of complexity-based hypotheses and choice of targets for computational extraction of complexity levels from corpora. Meeting current expectations of sustainability and replicability, the set is reusable, revealing, reasonably granular, and (at least mostly) amenable to computational implementation. I demonstrate its usefulness to typology and historical linguistics with some cross-linguistic and within-family surveys.

October 2, 2020

Updates from the Survey of California and Other Indian Languages:

  • Isabel Lazo Martínez, Efraín Lazo Pérez, Trinidad Martínez Soza, Julia Nee and Celine Rezvani publish Beniit kon xpejigan: Te libr ka didxza kon dixtil le’enin te rului’in dnumbr ('Benita and Her Balloons: A Book Written in Zapotec and Spanish that Teaches Numbers'), the second in our new series Publications in Language Maintenance and Reclamation. (Interested in contributing? Write to us at
  • New materials from the winter-spring 1971 and 1979 graduate field methods classes on Cochabamba Quechua are available (here and here). The first was taught by James Matisoff, with consultant Jaime Daza; the second was taught by Leanne Hinton, with consultant Ditri Daza. (See here for a summary history of field methods instruction in our department.)
  • We've digitized two manuscripts by Joseph Davidson, Jr. (PhD 1977), his 'special field statement' (1974) and On the Genetic Relationship of Aymara and Inka, indigenous language families of the Andes. Dr. Davidson's dissertation was A Contrastive Study of the Grammatical Structures of Aymara and Cuzco Kechua.
  • Monica Macaulay (PhD 1987) has archived over 1,150 pages of original field notes and 43 cassettes of sound recordings (from 1992) of Chalcatongo and other varieties of Mixtec (Oto-Manguean, Mexico). We added most of the notes to her paper collection, where they join more than 500 pages of typed versions of some of the same notes (everything now scanned and available online), and the recordings to her audio collection, where they join earlier ones done on reel-to-reel tape (from 1982). The remainder of the field notes, which span the period 1981-1992, we added to a new collection documenting the Berkeley field methods classes on the language in 1981 and 1982, with speaker Nicolás Cortés and instructor Leanne Hinton, which were the impetus for Prof. Macaulay's fieldwork in Oaxaca in 1982, 1985, and 1992, primarily with speakers Margarita Cuevas Cortés and Crescenciano Ruiz Ramírez. Sound recordings from the 1985 field trip, done with Prof. Hinton, are in this collection. Macaulay's dissertation was titled Morphology and Cliticization in Chalcatongo Mixtec. The students in the first field methods class were Mariscela Amador-Hernández (PhD 1988), Claudia Brugman (PhD 1988), Nicholas Faraclas (PhD 1989), Gerd Fischer, and Martha Macri (PhD 1988).

October 1, 2020

In and around the linguistics department in the next week:

September 25, 2020

In and around the linguistics department in the next week:

September 18, 2020

In and around the linguistics department in the next week:

September 15, 2020

Gašper Beguš will be giving a talk at the CompLang group at MIT on Tuesday, September 22, at 5pm EDT (2pm Pacific) over Zoom (p/w "Language"). Here is the title and abstract:

Modeling Language with Generative Adversarial Networks

In this talk, I argue that speech acquisition can be modeled with deep convolutional networks within the Generative Adversarial Networks framework. A proposed technique for retrieving internal representations that are phonetically or phonologically meaningful (Beguš 2020) allows us to model several processes in speech and compare outputs of the models both behaviorally as well as in terms of representation learning. The networks not only represent phonetic units with discretized representations (resembling the phonemic level), but also learn to encode phonological processes (resembling rule-like computation). I further propose an extension of the GAN architecture in which learning of meaningful linguistic units emerges from a requirement that the networks output informative data. I briefly present five case studies (allophonic learning, lexical learning, reduplication, iterative learning, and artificial grammar experiments) and argue that correspondence between single latent variables and meaningful linguistic content emerges. The key strategy to elicit the underlying linguistic values of latent variables is to manipulate them well outside of the training range; this allows us to actively force desired features in the output and test what types of dependencies deep convolutional networks can and cannot learn.

The advantage of this proposal is that speech acquisition is modeled in an unsupervised manner from raw acoustic data and that deep convolutional networks output not replicated, but innovative data. These innovative outputs are structured, linguistically interpretable, and highly informative. Training networks on speech data thus not only informs models of language acquisition, but also provides insights into how deep convolutional networks learn internal representations. I will also make a case that higher levels of representation such as morphology, syntax and lexical semantics can be modeled from raw acoustic data with this approach and outline directions for further experiments.

September 14, 2020

We received word this week that both Susanne Gahl and Lev Michael have been promoted to Full Professor!

Congratulations on this recognition of your excellence, and of your scholarly impact!

September 13, 2020

Updates from the Survey of California and Other Indian Languages:

September 11, 2020

In and around the linguistics department in the next week:

  • Fieldwork Forum - Wednesday Sep 16 - Zoom - 3-4pm
    Peter Jenks (UC Berkeley): Audience and authorship in the Moro Grammar project.
  • Language Variation and Change Working Group - Tuesday Sep 15 - Zoom - 3-4pm
    Discussion of Hawkey 2019. Please email Annie Helms for the Zoom link and/or to be added to the bCourses site.
  • Phonetics and Phonology Forum - Friday Sep 11 - Zoom - 3-4pm
    Nicholas Rolle (Leibniz-Zentrum Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft; PhD 2018): First-last harmony or outward-looking allomorphy in Cilungu grammatical tone.
    Please email Anna Björklund or Dakota Robinson for the Zoom link and/or to be added to the Phorum mailing list.
  • Syntax and Semantics Circle - Friday Sep 11 - Zoom - 3-4:30pm
    Bonnie Krejci (Stanford): Variable unaccusative/unergative behavior in Russian (and beyond).
    More information is provided on the SSCircle website and in an email sent out to the mailing list. Please email Tyler Lemon or Maddy Bossi to be added to the mailing list!
  • Syntax and Semantics Circle - Friday Sep 18 - Zoom - 3-4:30pm
    Round robin
  • Zoom Phonology - Thursday Sep 17 - Zoom - 9-10am
    AMP Practice Posters. For the Zoom link and/or to be added to the Zoom Phonology mailing list, contact
    Myriam Lapierre (UC Berkeley): Two types of [NT]s in Panãra: Evidence from production and perception.
    This talk provides articulatory and perceptual phonetic data on Panãra (ISO code: kre), a Northern Jê language of Central Brazil, supporting the existence of a previously undocumented phonological distinction. Maddieson & Ladefoged (1993) note that, while partially nasalized stops are sometimes described as post-oralized nasals and sometimes as pre-nasalized stops, they should have the same phonological representation. Panãra exhibits a distinction between exactly these two types of [NT] sequences, which arise from two distinct phonological processes. The data here is analyzed within the framework of Q Theory, a model of representational phonology which decomposes the segment (Q) subsegments (q q q), providing the level of granularity necessary to distinguish between post-oralized nasals and pre-nasalized stops.

    Richard Bibbs (UC Santa Cruz): Align-driven clitic movement in Chamorro.
    Prosodically dependent material, or clitics, often have limited distributional patterns subject to positional constraints, such as being unable to occur sentence-initially. Often clitic placement is accounted for syntactically. However, in several languages the position of clitics has been shown to be the result of prosodic factors. Previous work shows the interaction of Match–Theoretic mapping constraints and prosodic well-formedness constraints correctly captures rightward prosodic movement of clitics in Irish; however the use of Match–Theoretic mapping constraints is shown to be insufficient for clitic placement in Chamorro. Instead, alignment mapping constraints, alongside prosodic well-formedness constraints, are required to motivate leftward movement of clitics in Chamorro and correctly capture their linear position.

September 9, 2020

Congratulations (again!) to Larry Hyman, whose chapter "In search of prosodic domains in Lusoga" has appeared in the (open access) book Syntactic architecture and its consequences, vol. 1: Syntax inside the grammar (2020), edited by András Bárány, Theresa Biberauer, Jamie Douglas, and Sten Vikner.

September 7, 2020

Congratulations to Larry Hyman, whose chapter "Possessive tone in Tswefap (Bamileke): Paradigmatic or derivational?" has appeared in African Languages in Time and Space: A Festschrift in Honour of Professor Akinbiyi Akinlabi (2020), edited by Eno-Abasi Urua, Francis Egbokhare, Oluseye Adesola, and Harrison Adeniyi.

September 6, 2020

Updates from the Survey of California and Other Indian Languages:

  • Larry Hyman and Thera Marie Crane (PhD 2011), now at the University of Helsinki, archived a new collection of sound recordings and field notes on Nzadi (Bantu, Democratic Republic of the Congo), from the fall 2008 undergraduate field methods course and a study group the following term. Simon Nsielanga Tukumu, a Jesuit priest then working toward an MA at the Graduate Theological Union, was the consultant, and the students in the class were Christina Agoff, Ian Coffman, Chad Hegelmeyer, John Keesling, José María Lahoz, Dillon Mee, Getty Ritter, Massoud Toofan, Salgu Wissmath, and Lue Yee Tsang. They also published a grammar in 2011! The project was featured in SFGate at the time.