Language and Cognition

Linguistics events this week (Nov 30-Dec 7, 2018)

November 29, 2018

In and around the linguistics department in the next week:

  • Syntax and Semantics Circle - Friday Nov 30 - Dwinelle 1303 - 3-5pm 
    Zach O'Hagan: Two sorts of contrastive topic in Caquinte
  • SLUgS Linguistics Symposium - Saturday Dec 1 - Dwinelle 370 - 8:30am-5pm
  • Linguistics Holiday Potluck - Monday Dec 3 - Dwinelle 1229 - 12 noon
  • Linguistics Department colloquium - Monday Dec 3 - Dwinelle 370 - 3-5pm
    Carlos Gussenhoven (Radboud University Nijmegen): Between phonetics and phonology: Of the beast and the untamed savage
  • Fieldwork Forum - Thursday Dec 6 - Dwinelle 1229 - 4-5:30PM 
    Quirina Geary (UC Davis): TBA
  • Syntax and Semantics Circle - Friday Dec 7 - Dwinelle 1303 - 3-5pm 
    Noga Zaslavsky (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Karee Garvin (UC Berkeley), Charles Kemp (University of Melbourne), Naftali Tishby (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), & Terry Regier (UC Berkeley): Color-naming evolution and efficiency: The case of Nafaanra 

In memoriam Sue Ervin-Tripp

November 28, 2018

Psycholinguist and professor emerita Sue Ervin-Tripp passed away earlier this month. Dan Slobin writes, "We have lost a major founder of both psycho- and sociolinguistics, a distinguished researcher, and a splendid human being.  She will be much missed." The campus news obituary can be read here.  

QP fest 2018!

November 22, 2018

QP Fest will be held on Monday, November 26, in Dwinelle 370, from 3-5pm. (Note the rescheduled date!)

The schedule is as follows: 

    • Introduction (3:10-3:15)
    • Tessa Scott: "Conjoint/disjoint in Ndengeleko: A head movement alternation" (3:15-3:35) 
    • Karee Garvin: "Positional effects on timing and coordination of segments within the syllable" (3:35-3:55) 
    • Yevgeniy Melguy: "Talker ethnicity and listener expectation in the perception of foreign-accented speech" (3:55-4:15) 
    • Mini-break (4:15-4:20)
    • Noah Hermalin: "Ambiguity and efficiency trade-offs in Sumerian cuneiform" (4:20-4:40) 
    • Myriam Lapierre: "A phonological analysis of Panãra" (4:40-5:00) 

BLS workshop announced

November 1, 2018

In place of the general meeting of BLS this February, there will be a workshop on the topic of countability distinctions. Here is the call for papers:

BLS Workshop: Countability Distinctions

08-Feb-2019 - 09-Feb-2019 

Countability distinctions and mass nouns are a topic of long-standing interest in semantics, grammar, and the philosophy and psychology of language. Recent work on this topic has pushed our understanding forward in three separate but related directions: 

  1. There is more than one type of countability distinction relevant to natural language: nouns like furniture are different from nouns like sand both in how quantity judgments are carried out (Barner and Snedeker 2005) and in which types of adjectival modification are possible (Rothstein 2010, Schwarzschild 2011). 
  2. A semantics for mass nouns can be given that captures the many grammatical parallels between water and furniture without ascribing the same status to the minimal elements in their denotations (Chierchia 2010, Landman 2011). 
  3. The crosslinguistic picture on countability distinctions is more nuanced than originally thought: there are languages where all nouns combine with numerals in apparently similar ways (Lima 2014, Deal 2017), and in languages where classifiers are necessary to mediate noun-numeral combinations, there nevertheless exist countability-related distinctions among nouns diagnosable by quantity judgments and adjective distribution (Cheung, Li, and Barner 2010, Rothstein 2010). 

For this workshop, held in place of the general meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society, we invite submissions for talks on all aspects of countability distinctions in natural language. Submissions may address questions including, though not limited to, the following: 

- What are the ways in which countability distinctions are manifested in particular languages? 
- Are morphosyntactic differences in the distribution of count versus mass nouns traceable directly to their semantics, or to their syntax, or to both? 
- What do countability distinctions show us about nominal semantics? What do they teach us about nominal syntax? 
- How should we choose among theories of mass noun semantics (or syntax) currently on the market? 
- Are countability distinctions a language universal? Which distinctions are subject to variation (if any), and which (if any) are not? 
- How are countability distinctions represented psychologically, and acquired by children? 

Invited speakers (confirmed): 
David Barner (UC San Diego) 
Suzi Lima (University of Toronto) 

Conference website: 

Organizing Committee: 
Emily Clem, Virginia Dawson, Amy Rose Deal, Paula Floro, Peter Jenks, Tyler Lemon, Line Mikkelsen, Tessa Scott, Yi-Chi Wu

Call for Papers: 

Submission deadline: November 30, 2018 

Abstracts should be submitted in PDF format via EasyChair: 

Abstracts should not exceed two pages in length (12-point type, Times New Roman, single line spacing, 1 inch margins) including examples and references. 

Submissions must be anonymous and are limited to a maximum of one individual and one joint abstract per author or two joint abstracts per author. 

Reviews and notifications of acceptance will be returned to authors by mid-December. 

Sweetser, Regier on the Origins & Nature of Language

November 1, 2018

On-going this semester is a Learning in Retirement course, offered through the Berkeley Retirement Center, entitled The Origins and Nature of Language. The course lecture this week was delivered by Eve Sweetser, and next week's lecture will be given by Terry Regier: 

  • Eve Sweetser: Why are Languages so different?    Slides   Audio Link with Slides
  • Terry Regier: What are the consequences of linguistic diversity for perception and thought?
    Tuesday, November 6, 2018, 2-4 pm, Sibley Auditorium, Bechtel Engineering Building

Congrats, Eve and Terry!

Berkeley linguists @ LSA 2019

October 3, 2018

The program for this year's LSA annual meeting has been released, and Berkeley linguistics will be represented in 14 talks and posters (plus an organized session) by students, faculty, and very recent alumni: 

Congrats all!

Gahl named Mercator Fellow

October 4, 2018

Congrats to Susanne Gahl, who has just been named a Mercator Fellow by the DFG (German Research Foundation)! The fellowship lasts for three years and will support a collaboration with Ingo Plag and others at Heinrich-Heine Universität Düsseldorf.  

Encoding of Articulatory Kinematic Trajectories in Human Speech Sensorimotor Cortex

Josh Chartier
Gopala K. Anumanchipalli
Keith Johnson
Edward F. Chang

When speaking, we dynamically coordinate movements of our jaw, tongue, lips, and larynx. To investigate the neural mechanisms underlying articulation, we used direct cortical recordings from human sensorimotor cortex while participants spoke natural sentences that included sounds spanning the entire English phonetic inventory. We used deep neural networks to infer speakers’ articulator movements from produced speech acoustics.

Color naming reflects both perceptual structure and communicative need

Noga Zaslavsky
Charles Kemp
Naftali Tishby
Terry Regier

Gibson et al. (2017) argued that color naming is shaped by patterns of communicative need. In support of this claim, they showed that color naming systems across languages support more precise communication about warm colors than cool colors, and that the objects we talk about tend to be warm-colored rather than cool-colored. Here, we present new analyses that alter this picture. We show that greater communicative precision for warm than for cool colors, and greater communicative need, may both be explained by perceptual structure.