Syntax and Semantics

Cable colloquium

October 17, 2019

The 2019-2020 colloquium series continues this coming Monday, Oct 21, with a talk by Seth Cable (UMass). Same time as always, same place as always: 3:10-5 p.m., 370 Dwinelle Hall. The talk is entitled Two Paths to Habituality: Imperfective Mode vs. Habitual Mode in Tlingit (and Simple Present in English), and the abstract is as follows:

Despite its morpho-syntactic simplicity, the English sentence in (1) expresses an especially complex and still deeply puzzling meaning, one having to do with the subject’s habits, propensities, dispositions, duties, etc.

(1) My father eats salmon.

Interestingly, in the Tlingit language (Na-Dene; Alaska, British Columbia, Yukon), there seem to be two means for expressing the general meaning of (1). The first is to use a verb in the so-called ‘Imperfective Mode’ (2a); the second is to use a verb in the so-called ‘Habitual Mode’ (2b).

(2) a. Ax̱            éeshch        tʼá                   ax̱á.
          1sgPOSS father.ERG king.salmon
My father eats king salmon (MD)

b. Ax̱            éesh    x̱áat      ux̱áaych.
    1sgPOSS father salmon
My father eats salmon. (SE)

This of course raises the following questions: (i) What exactly is the morpho-syntactic and semantic difference (if any) between the two Tlingit verbal forms in (2)? (ii) How do either of these verbal forms relate syntactically or semantically to the English simple present verb in (1)? In this talk, I will principally address the first of these questions. We will see that there are indeed some important semantic and (morpho-)syntactic differences between ‘imperfective habituals’ in Tlingit (2a) and ‘habitual-marked habituals’ (2b). In particular, I will argue that imperfective habituals have the general structure in (3a), where the ‘habituality’ in the semantics is contributed directly by the imperfective aspect (Deo 2009, Arregui et al. 2014). On the other hand, habitual-marked habituals have the structure in (3b). Under this proposal, the Habitual Mode morphology is the realization T(ense), when the T-head is bound by a temporal quantifier (e.g. tlákw ‘always’, wáa ng̱aneen sá ‘sometimes’). Furthermore, it is this temporal quantifier – which in some sentences may be implicit/covert (2b) – which contributes the understood ‘habituality’, and not the Habitual Mode morphology itself.

(3) a. Syntax of (2a): [TP T [AspP IMPRVGEN [VP my father eat salmon ] … ]

b. Syntax of (2b): [TP TempQuant [TP T [AspP ASP [VP my father eat salmon ] … ]

Finally, I will begin to outline a defense of the claim that English sentences with simple (present) verbs, like (1), are syntactically ambiguous, and can in principle receive either of the structural analyses in (3).

WSCLA 23 proceedings published

September 22, 2019

The Proceedings of WSCLA 23 (Workshop on Structure and Constituency in the Languages of the Americas) have recently been published, containing the following papers by department members and recent alumni:

Congrats all!

Berkeley @ CCILA IX

September 9, 2019

The program for the 9th Conference on Indigenous Languages of Latin America (CILLA IX) has just been released, promising the following presentations by current department members and recent alumni:

  • Zachary O'Hagan: Complex Temporal Relations in Caquinte: The Case of =ta and =ja
  • Wendy Liz Arbey López Marquez: Los aplicativos en el popoluca de la Sierra
  • Myriam Lapierre, Tessa Scott, Karee Garvin: Morphologically conditioned (sub)segmental subtraction in Mam
  • Kelsey Neely (PhD '19): Metrical phonology in the verbal domain in Yaminawa (Pano, Peru)
  • Amalia Horan Skilton (PhD '19): Demonstratives and reaching space in Ticuna

Congrats all!

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

Lemon presents at Sinn und Bedeutung

September 4, 2019

Tyler Lemon is heading to Osnabrück, Germany this week to present a poster at Sinn und Bedeutung 24 titled "Clausal comparison and degree abstraction in Vietnamese exceed comparatives." Congrats, Tyler!

Bossi, Wilbanks publish in Glossa

August 25, 2019

Congrats to Madeline Bossi and Eric Wilbanks, whose papers have each appeared this summer in Glossa!!

Bossi's paper is entitled V1 in Kipsigis: Head movement and discourse-based scrambling, co-authored with Michael Diercks.

Wilbanks' paper is entitled Sound change and coarticulatory variability involving English /ɹ/, co-authored with Bridget Smith, Jeff Mielke, and Lyra Magloughlin.

Berkeley semantics in Sinn und Bedeutung 23 proceedings

August 25, 2019

The Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 23 have now been published, containing the following papers by faculty, students, and/or alumni: 

  • Pranav Anand & Maziar Toosarvandani (PhD 2010)
        Now and then: Perspectives on positional variance in temporal demonstratives
    . pdf
  • Ruyue Agnes Bi (BA 2018) and Peter Jenks
        Pronouns, null arguments, and ellipsis in Mandarin Chinese pdf
  • Emily Clem (PhD 2019)
        Attributive adjectives in Tswefap: Vague predicates in a language with degrees. pdf
  • Virginia Dawson and Amy Rose Deal
        Third readings by semantic scope lowering: Prolepsis in Tiwa. pdf
  • Amy Rose Deal and Vera Hohaus
        Vague predicates, crisp judgments. pdf
  • Rachel Etta Rudolph (PhD 2019, philosophy)
        A closer look at the perceptual source in copy raising constructions. pdf

Congrats all!

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.
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

Advisor: Charles J. Fillmore