Colloquium Series

2018-2019

 

Fall 2018

 

Speaker:  Jane Stuart-Smith (University of Glasgow)
Date & Time: October 12th at 3:30pm
Place:  Education Bldg. rm. 211
Title:  Sound perspectives? Speech and speaker dynamics over a century of Scottish English

Abstract: 

As in many disciplines, in linguistics too, perspective matters. Structured variability in language occurs at all linguistic levels and is governed by a large range of diverse factors. Viewed through a synchronic lens, such variation informs our understanding of linguistic and social-cognitive constraints on language at particular points in time; a diachronic lens expands the focus across time. And, as Weinreich et al (1968) pointed out, structured variability is integral to linguistic description and explanation as a whole, by being at once both the stuff of the present, the reflexes of the past, and the potential for changes in the future. There is a further dimension which is often not explicit, the role of analytical perspective on linguistic phenomena.

This paper considers a particular kind of structured variability, phonetic and phonological variation, within the sociolinguistic context of the recorded history of Glaswegian vernacular across the 20th century. Two aspects of perspective frame my key research questions:

1. What are the ‘things’ which we observe? How do different analytical perspectives on phonetic variation affect how we interpret that variation? Specifically, how do different kinds of observation — within segment/across a phonological contrast/even beyond segments — auditory/acoustic/articulatory phonetic — shape our interpretations?

2. How are these ‘things’ embedded in time and social space? Specifically, how is this variation linked to contextual perspective, shifts in social events and spaces over the history of the city of Glasgow? How do we know whether, or when, these ‘things’ might be sound changes (following Milroy 2003)?

I consider these questions by reviewing a series of studies (including some ongoing and still unpublished) on two segments in Glaswegian English, the first thought to be stable and not undergoing sound change (/s/), the second thought to be changing (postvocalic /r/).


Speaker:  Nico Baier (McGill University)
Date & Time: November 2nd at 3:30 pm
Place:  Education Bldg. rm. 211
Title:  Unifying Anti-Agreement and wh-Agreement

Abstract:  

In this talk, I investigate the sensitivity of φ-agreement to features typically associated with Ā-extraction, including those related towh-questioning, relativization, focus and topicalization. This phenomenon has been referred to as anti-agreement (Ouhalla 1993) orwh-agreement (Chung and Georgopoulos 1988; Georgopoulos 1991; Chung 1994) in the literature. While anti-agreement is commonly held to result from constraints on the Ā-movement of agreeing DPs, I argue that it reduces to an instance ofwh-agreement, or the appearance of particular morphological forms in the presence of Ā-features. I develop a unified account of theseĀ-sensitive φ-agreement effects in which they arise from the ability of φ-probes to copy both φ-features and Ā-features in the syntax. In the morphological component, partial or totalimpoverishmentmay apply to feature bundles containing both φ- and Ā-features, deleting some or all of the φ-features. Impoverishment blocks insertion of an otherwise appropriate, more highly specified agreement exponent. I present case studies of the effect of Ā-features on φ-agreement in three languages: the West Caucasian language Abaza (O’Herin 2002); the Berber language Tarifit (Ouhalla 1993; El Hankari 2010); and the Northern Italian dialect Fiorentino (Brandi and Cordin 1989; Suñer 1992). I show that in all three languages, the agreement exponents that appear in the context of Ā-features are systematically underspecified.

 

Winter 2018

 

Speaker:  Susi Wurmbrand (University of Connecticut)
Date & Time: March 22nd at 3:30 pm
Place:  Education Bldg. rm. 434
Title:  TBA

Abstract:  TBA

 

Speaker:  Scott Anderbois (Brown University)
Date & Time: April 12th at 3:30 pm
Place:  Education Bldg. rm. 434
Title:  TBA

Abstract:  TBA