Historical and Areal Linguistics

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

Amazonianist and Celtic conferences

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!

Coon colloquium

February 21, 2019

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)

Linguistics events this week (Feb 8-15, 2019)

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

Hyman colloquium

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.

Bardagil Mas in Brazil

February 7, 2019
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".

Survey updates for January 2019

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.

McLaughlin talks, travels

November 21, 2018

Mairi McLaughlin (affiliated faculty of the Linguistics Department, and Associate Professor of French) writes to share news of recent talks and travels. McLaughlin is currently an Oliver Smithies Visiting Lecturer at Balliol College, Oxford, in which capacity she has recently presented talks entitled Historical Newspapers and Language Change and Historical French News Discourse. She also recently spoke at Oxford on Anglicisms in Romance: A New Perspective (given as the Clara Florio Cooper Memorial Lecture), and at Cambridge on The Historical French Press and Language Change. The photo below is from a lecture given at Oxford.

Mairi McLaughlin lecture, Oxford

Michael in Brazil and Mexico

November 28, 2018

This coming week Lev Michael will be in Florianópolis, Brazil, where he will be giving a plenary talk entitled Captive-taking and language contact in Amazonia at the 10th meeting of Associação Brasileira de Estudos Crioulos e Similares. Before the December 5 talk, he'll be giving a mini-course (Dec 3-4) at the same conference, entitled ''El contacto lingüístico en la Amazonía: Áreas, procesos y metodologías" (Language contact in Amazonia: Areas, processes, and methodologies).


In previous travel, talk and class news, on November 8 Lev gave a 'conferencia magistral' at the Centro de Estudios Antropológicos of UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) entitled La gramaticalización impulsada por la cultura: el caso de las evidenciales reportativas en el idioma nanti (Culture-driven grammaticalization: The case of Nanti reportative evidentials), and on November 9 he gave a class for faculty members at UNAM and other affiliated universities entitled "Temas y metodologías en la lingüística antropológica" (Topics and methodologies in Anthropological Linguistics).