Historical and Areal Linguistics

O'Hagan and Michael publish in LIAMES

November 7, 2019

Congrats to Zach O'Hagan and Lev Michael, whose paper (with Natalia Chousou-Polydouri) entitled Phylogenetic classification supports a Northeastern Amazonian Proto-Tupí-Guaraní homeland has been published in the open-access journal LIAMES: Línguas Indígenas Americanas.

In memoriam Gary Holland

September 26, 2019

We are sad to report that emeritus professor Gary Holland passed away earlier this week. Gary earned his PhD in Linguistics from Berkeley in 1980 and spent the rest of his career here. He became an Emeritus Professor just last year. One of the world’s foremost experts on the Rig Veda, he was a remarkably interdisciplinary scholar, with connections (teaching or research) in Scandinavian Studies, Near Eastern Studies, Celtic Studies, and Classics, among others.  He was also a remarkable servant of the Department of Linguistics and of the University of California.  He served as the Head Graduate Advisor in Linguistics, and in many campus-wide positions in the Academic Senate.  In fact, just this semester he was recalled to work in the Division of Undergraduate Studies.  He won the College of Letters and Sciences “Distinguished Service Award” in 2014.  He shared his love of music and good cheer with many friends in the department and the wider Berkeley community, and will be missed by all.

Graduate Field Methods Course History

This page summarizes the history of graduate instruction in linguistic field methods at Berkeley, with information about academic year, language(s), consultant(s), and instructor(s), when known. The information has been reconstructed from archival course catalogs, which occasionally do not reflect the ultimate instructor of record, and in consultation with Linguistics faculty, graduate students, alumni, and records in the Survey of California and Other Indian Languages. We will continue to update it as we learn more. 

Research group meetings & talk series this semester

September 5, 2019
Calques has been made aware of the following research groups and talk series meeting this semester:
  • Experimental Phonology Working Group  --  meeting on Mondays, 10:30-11:30am, in Dwinelle 1226. The first meeting will be Monday, September 9. Contact Jesse Zymet for more information.
  • Fieldwork Forum  -- meeting on Thursdays, 3:40-5:00pm, in Dwinelle 1303. Organized by Edwin Ko, Emily Drummond and Wesley dos Santos. More info on the website: Fieldwork Forum
  • Gesture and Multimodality Group -- meeting certain Fridays, 9-11am. Contact Eve Sweetser for more information.
  • Group in American Indian Languages -- meeting dates and times TBD; contact Zach O'Hagan for more information.
  • Language Revitalization Working Group  -- meeting Thursdays 1-2pm, in Dwinelle 3401. More info on the website: Language Revitalization Working Group
  • Metaphor Group -- meeting times TBD; contact Eve Sweetser for more information.
  • Phorum  -- meeting Mondays 12-1pm, in 1229 Dwinelle. Organized by Emily Grabowski and Yevgeniy Melguy. More info on the website: Phorum
  • Society of Linguistics Undergraduates Students (SLUgS) -- meeting certain Thursdays 5pm
  • Sociolinguistics lab -- meeting on certain Tuesdays, 3:30-5pm, in Dwinelle 1229. The first meeting will be Tuesday, September 10. Contact Isaac Bleaman for more information.
  • Syntax & Semantics Circle  -- meeting on Fridays, 3-4:30pm, in Dwinelle 1303. Organized by Tessa Scott & Schuyler Laparle. More info on the website: Syntax and Semantics Circle

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.