Fieldwork and Language Documentation

Clem to defend dissertation

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.
Abstract:
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. 

Topics in Northern Pomo grammar

Mary Catherine O'Connor
1987

Advisor: Charles J. Fillmore

Grenoble colloquium

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.

Berkeley linguists at SAIL

April 10, 2019

This weekend is the Symposium for American Indigenous Languages (SAIL) at the University of Arizona. Berkeley will be represented by postdoc Bernat Bardagil Mas, giving a talk entitled Language documentation as anticipated historical linguistics? and grad student Zachary O'Hagan, leading a plenary workshop called Using the Survey of California and Other Indian Languages - California Languages Archive.

Survey updates

April 2, 2019

Zach O'Hagan writes with the following news from the Survey of California and Other Indian Languages:

LSA proceedings published

March 25, 2019

The 4th volume of the Proceedings of the Linguistic Society of America has just been published, showcasing research presented in January at the 2019 Annual Meeting. In the collection are three papers by students and faculty: 

Congrats all!

Linguists keep busy

March 21, 2019

Last weekend was a busy one for Berkeley linguists, with department members at conferences in Dwinelle Hall dedicated to Celtic and Amazonian languages as well as attending conferences in other locations! 

Numerous Berkeley attendees at the Symposium on Amazonian Languages (SAL III)

Symposium on Amazonian Languages III

Virginia Dawson and Samantha Wathugala at Formal Approaches to South Asian Languages 9, Reed College, Portland (after presenting their paper, In support of a choice functional analysis of Sinhala ðə)

Dawson and Wathugala at FASAL

And to cap things off with some true linguistics in action: here's Susan Lin presenting Linguistics: making sense from noise at the East Bay Science Cafe, last Thursday (March 14). 

Susan Lin presenting