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Colloquium Series

Fall 2013

  • Speaker: Richard Compton (McGill)
    Date & Time: Friday, September 20, 3:30 pm
    Place: Education Building Rm. 433
    Title: Evidence for phrasal words in Inuit

    Abstract: In this talk I argue that data from noun incorporation, conjunction, ellipsis, and a VP pro-form in Inuit provide evidence for word-internal XPs inside polysynthetic words. Such data provide a potential counter-example to Piggott & Travis’s (2012) proposal (following Baker 1996) that phonological words cross-linguistically correspond to syntactic heads—simplex or complex—with morphologically complex words being derived via head movement, head-adjunction, or PF movement.
  • Speaker: Emily Elfner (McGill)
    Date & Time: Friday, October 4, 3:30 pm
    Place: Education Building Rm. 433
    Title: Recursion in prosodic phrasing: Evidence from Connemara Irish

    Abstract: One function of prosodic phrasing is its role in aiding the recoverability of syntactic structure. In recent years, a growing body of work suggests it is possible to find concrete phonetic and phonological evidence that recursion in syntactic structure is preserved in the prosodic organization of utterances (Ladd 1986, 1988; Kubozono 1989, 1992; Féry & Truckenbrodt 2005; Wagner 2005, 2010). In this talk, I argue that the distribution of phrase-level tonal accents in Connemara Irish provides a new type of evidence in favour of this hypothesis: that, under ideal conditions, syntactic constituents are mapped onto prosodic constituents in a one-to-one fashion, such that information about the nested relationships between syntactic constituents is preserved through the recursion of prosodic domains. Through an empirical investigation of both clausal and nominal constructions, I argue that the distribution of phrase accents in Connemara Irish can be used to identify recursive bracketing in prosodic structure.
  • Speaker: Alan Yu (University of Chicago)
    Date & Time: Friday, November 15, 3:30 pm
    Place: Education Building Rm. 433
    Title: Individual differences in speech perception and production

    Abstract: Linguists often discuss language in terms of groups of speakers, even though it is also acknowledged that no two individuals speak alike. The focus on language as a group-level phenomenon can obscure important insights that are only apparent when systematic individual variation is taken into account. In this talk, I offer cross-linguistic experimental evidence, showing that speakers vary significantly and systematically along certain individual-difference dimensions, including autistic-like traits, in their responses to the effects of the lexicon and coarticulation in speech perception and production. I will argue that understanding the nature of such individual linguistic differences is crucial for the understanding the inception (and possibly the propagation) of sound change, the primary source of sound patterns in language.
  • Speaker: Laurent Dekydtspotter (Indiana University)
    Date & Time: Friday, November 22, 3:30 pm
    Place: Education Building Rm. 216
    Title: Parsing second languages: Anaphora in real time cycles of computations        

    Abstract: A body of research proposes that second language (L2) sentence processing is strongly semantically guided as a result of shallow structures lacking syntactic details in real time (Clahsen & Felser, 2006a, b; Felser & Roberts, 2007; Felser, Cunnings, Batterham, & Clahsen, 2012; Felser, Roberts, Gross, & Marinis, 2003; Felser, Sato, & Bertenshaw, 2009; Marinis, Roberts, Felser, & Clahsen, 2005; Papadopoulou & Clahsen, 2003). A second body of research argues for a strong structural reflex (Dekydtspotter & Miller, 2012; Juffs, 2005; Juffs & Harrington, 1995; Hopp, 2006; Williams, Möbius & Kim, 2001; Williams, 2006; inter alia). In this case, working memory capacity, proficiency, lexical access, etc. qualify the manner in which such information is acted upon in the conceptual-intentional and in sensory-motor systems in a L2 (Dekydtspotter & Miller, 2012; Dekydtspotter & Renaud, 2009; Dekydtspotter, Schwartz, & Sprouse, 2006; Hopp, 2012; Miller, 2011; Williams, 2006).

    The talk addresses the etiology of L2 sentence processing in a modular system consisting of autonomous components in view of new experimental evidence. The empirical focus is on anaphora under reconstruction as in (1) for instance.

    (1) Which story about him(self) did Ben say that Anna told?

    New evidence from reading experiments strongly suggests that L2 sentence processing includes an incremental syntactic analysis according to cycles of computations. Specifically, I argue that such L2 parsing follows default structural computations that select specified information and guide aspects of the deployment of semantic processes in real time. Hence, to the extent that minimality, locality and chains supporting binding constitute good-design signatures of language architecture given limited processing resources (Chomsky, 2005; Reuland, 2001, 2011; Rizzi 2013), these design features seem available in L2 sentence processing. A path of research in view of these findings will be charted.

Winter 2014

  • Speaker: Julie Legate (University of Pennsylvania)
    Date & Time: Friday, January 10, 3:30 pm
    Place: Education Building Rm. 433
    Title: Acehnese causatives and the structure of the verb phrase

    Abstract: In this talk, I provide evidence from Acehnese (Malayo-Chamic: Aceh Province, Indonesia) for a distinction between VoiceP, which introduces the external argument and assigns accusative case, and causative vP, which introduces causative semantics (Alexiadou, Anagnostopoulou, & Shafer 2006; Pylkkanen 2008; inter alia). In Acehnese, VoiceP and causative vP are morphologically overt and occur both independently and simultaneously. Focussing on causativization of roots that are normally used as unergative or transitive verbs, I argue that the causative head does not embed an active, passive, or object voice VoiceP, but instead embeds an applicative VoiceP. Thus, the causee is introduced as an applicative object, not as an agent. Implications for the general theory of causatives and the structure of the verb phrase are considered.
  • Speaker: Marc Brunelle (University of Ottawa)
    Date & Time: Friday, February 21, 3:30 pm
    Place: Education Building Rm. 433
    Title: An incipient tone sandhi in Northern Vietnamese?

    Abstract: Synchronic tone sandhis are well attested and described, but their development is largely a matter of speculation. In this study, we look at an instance of apparent tone sandhi in progress and examine the interplay between coarticulation, reduction and perception in its formation.

    In Northern Vietnamese (NVN), the low rising tone (sắc) often loses its rise in non-final position, making it perceptually very similar to the low falling tone (huyền). This gradient change does not normally result in contrast neutralization, as the rise is recoverable from a strong progressive coarticulation on the following tone. However, over the past decade, the authors have noticed that many speakers neutralize the rising tone and the low falling tone before the high level tone (ngang), an observation confirmed by native speaking linguists. This is characteristic of young female Hanoians, but seems more and more common among other gender and age groups, as well as outside Hanoi.

    We conducted an acoustic investigation of this incipient sandhi in six young female NVN speakers. They were recorded while completing a map task designed to obtain targets words controlled for tone and microprosody in semi-spontaneous speech. Our results show that although none of our speakers exhibits full neutralization, they all show some degree of tone change. Based on these results and those of previous studies, we infer phonetic scenarios that could account for the initial development of the tone change. We then highlight similarities between this incipient sandhi and more established cases in Chinese and Hmong.
  • Speaker: Norvin Richards (MIT)
    Date & Time: Friday, February 28, 3:30 pm
    Place: Education Building Rm. 433
    Title: Pied-piping and Selectional Contiguity

    Abstract: Cable (2007, 2010) argues, on the basis of data from Tlingit, that wh-questions involve three participants: an interrogative C, a wh-word, and a head Q, which is visible in Tlingit but invisible in English. In Cable's account, QP standardly dominates the wh-word, and wh-movement is always of QP. The question of how much material pied-pipes under wh-movement, on Cable's account, is essentially a question about the distribution of QP. Cable offers several conditions and parameters governing the distribution of QP.

    I will try to derive Cable's conditions on the distribution of QP from Contiguity Theory, a series of proposals about the interaction of syntax with phonology that I have been developing in recent work.
  • Speaker: Thomas Ede Zimmerman (University of Frankfurt)
    Date & Time: Friday, March 14, 3:30 pm
    Place: Education Building Rm. 433
    Title: On the ontological status of semantic values

    The following three theses will be defended, and connections between them will be established:
    1. Model-theoretic natural language semantics is not a theory of meaning.
    2. Extensions ("generalized“ quantifiers, truth values,…) must be distinguished from referents.
    3. Intension must be distinguished from content.
  • Speaker: Amy Rose Deal (UC Santa Cruz)
    Date & Time: Friday, March 28, 3:30 pm
    Place: Education Building Rm. 433
    Title: Cyclicity and connectivity in Nez Perce relative clauses

    This talk centers on two aspects of movement in relative clauses, focusing on evidence from Nez Perce.

    First, I argue that relativization involves _cyclic_ A’ movement, even in monoclausal relatives. Rather than moving directly to Spec,CP, the relative element moves there via an intermediate position in an A’ outer specifier of the TP immediately subjacent to relative C. Cyclicity of this type suggests that the TP sister of relative C constitutes a phase – a result whose implications extend to an ill-understood corner of the English that-trace effect.

    Second, I argue that Nez Perce relativization provides new evidence for an ambiguity thesis for relative clauses, according to which some but not all relatives are derived by a head-raising analysis. The argument comes from connectivity and anticonnectivity in morphological case. These new data complement the range of standard arguments for head-raising, which draw primarily on connectivity effects at the syntax-semantics interface. .