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SPRING 2020 




Tuesday, January 14

Job Candidate Talk 

LNCO 2110 - 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM 

Aniello De Santo

Memory Usage as a Measure of Structural Complexity in Minimalist Parsing

Computational models grounded in rich grammatical formalisms can provide a transparent, interpretable linking theory between syntactic assumptions and processing behavior. Thus, they can be used to explore whether — and to which degree — the structural representations hypothesized by theoretical linguists are relevant to sentence processing. In this talk, I summarize recent studies showing that a top-down parser for Minimalist grammars can explain well-known contrasts in human sentence processing in terms of subtle structural dierences. This model is especially suited to probe the relation between syntactic and processing complexity, as it specifies: 1) a formalized theory of syntax; 2) a sound and complete parser for the grammatical formalism; 3) a linking theory in the form of metrics measuring memory usage.


Thursday, January 16

Job Candidate Talk 

LNCO 2110 - 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM 

Jordan Kodner

Language Change as a Consequence of Language Acquisition

Children have often been implicated among the primary drivers of language change. However, their famous propensity for learning the language spoken around them presents a paradox when change is viewed as an “imperfect” transmission of language to new speakers. I present one solution to this paradox over the course of two case studies, where I lay out a computational characterization of the acquisition process that views innovation of new patterns in the grammar as learners’ natural response to sparse and varied input.

First, I introduce a learning model for phonological rules which accounts for the sporadic innovation of "transparent" /aɪ/-raising in North American English in the face of mixed input from two nearly identical dialects. Second, I present a treatment based on grammaticalization and argument structure learning for the innovation and historical expansion of the Germanic to-datives and argue against the classically proposed trade-off between morphological erosion and rigid word order.




Tuesday, February 4

Job Candidate Talk

LNCO 2110 - 3:30 PM-5:00PM

Archna Bhatia

Use of linguistic knowledge in developing language and speech processing based systems

Humans are good at language use and language understanding and may also be able to make certain determinations based on the language produced, e.g., whether a person is sick or if (s)he is being deceptive based on the language used by the person, but human abilities are limited when it comes to processing large scale data quickly. On the other hand, even though computers are fast and efficient at performing complex computations, at identifying patterns in data and extracting information from them, language use and natural language understanding are challenging for them. Incorporating knowledge obtained through linguistic investigations of relevant phenomena, however, can be used to help computers in performing better in such tasks. In this talk, I illustrate use of linguistic knowledge and methodology for using it for building language- and speech- processing based applications to solve three problems efficiently: (a) improving semantic parsing of utterances by enabling computational systems to interpret verbal multiword expressions, (b) developing cybersecurity applications to automatically detect social engineering attacks and counter them by generating safe messages to hold conversations with the adversaries using linguistic analysis and natural language processing, and (c) using speech analysis for clinical applications, such as detection of a neurodegenerative condition like Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis based on the acoustic and durational features as well as clinical characteristics such as hyper-nasalization, distorted vowels, mono-pitch etc. in the produced speech. The approaches taken to solve these problems involve creating annotated (/unannotated) corpora, characterizing linguistic phenomena involved, and automating detection of a phenomenon or interpretation of an expression using machine learning, symbolic approaches based on the characterizations or their combination. The talk concludes with a vision for multi-disciplinary and multilingual research.


Wednesday, February 5

Research Opportunities for Undergraduates

Location: Tanner Humanities Center, Jewel Box - 10:30 AM - 11:30 AM

Faculty in the Department of Linguistics will present opportunities for undergraduate students to become involved with their research.  Students will have an opportunity to ask questions and get to know faculty research initiatives.


Thursday, February 13

Student Activity 

LNCO 2110 - 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM 

Come have fun socializing with linguistics students.  We will have snacks and some fun.


Thursday, February 27

Linguistics Colloquium Talk - Dr. Ed Rubin, University of Utah Linguistics Professor 

LNCO 2110 - 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM 

If, on a winter’s night, a traveler...

Clitics, non-front vowels, (non-)agreement, expletives and PCC, and other foggy issues in Bolognese

You are about to observe Ed Rubin's recent thinking about Bolognese, a Gallo-Italic grammar found in and around Bologna, Italy. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. You will observe, and perhaps comment on, several interesting and interwoven satellite issues that orbit an understanding of the special Bolognese clitic (a(i)=X) associated with post-verbal subjects in certain focus constructions and with so-called type 3 psych-predicates (e.g. ‘be pleasing’). Your consideration of these satellite issues will reveal how they illuminate what exactly this special clitic is, and where it occurs in the syntactic and morphological structures of Bolognese data that contains it. One of the issues you will contemplate is the radically different forms of the second person plural subject clitics in declarative proclitic and interrogative enclitic positions (a=X. / X=v?), as well as the other subject clitics that instead use (a=X. / X=a?). “Are these the same (in nature or origin) as the special clitic?”, you will ask. You will turn to additional issues, including the variation in the epenthetic vowels used in clitic clusters, overall clitic-inversion patterns, when and how subject-verb agreement is blocked, and types of expletives. You will marvel that so-called Person Case Constraint effects, normally apparent only in very different data types, are manifest also with the the clitic a(i). You will conclude that it is indeed special, and different from all other (more widely discussed) clitic types.




Thursday, March 5

Career Paths - (available in person or online)

LNCO 2110 - 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM 

Jodi Bigler (recent graduate working for Lingotek) and Caiti Hunting (soon to graduate with a job as a technical solutions engineer) will talk about their experiences of getting fulltime work after graduation and how their linguistics background qualified them for their jobs.


Thursday, March 19

Research Opportunities for Undergraduate Students 





Tuesday, April 7 

Olpin Union Building Undergraduate Research Syposium 


The in-person URS scheduled for April 7, 2020 is cancelled. However, we are making arrangements for online URS participation for graduating students, in addition to a postponed on-site Symposium opportunity in the future. Students and poster evaluatiors should continue to register for URS, and students should continue to prepare their posters, oral presentaitons, and performances. Infromation about online URS participation will be announced later in March. 


Friday, April 10

Student Conference UUSCIL

Students in the Department of Linguistics have been organizing a student conference in linguistics since 2001. The conference is intended to celebrate the wide breadth of issues taken up in theoretical and applied linguistics, including interdisciplinary approaches.

Info will be updated on UUSCIL webpage as it becomes available.


Friday, April 17

Forum on Language and the Law




If you would like to receive announcements about our events, please email and ask to be added to the ling-announcements listserve.

Past Events

Fall 2019

September 19th, 2019

Linguistics Colloquium Talk - Dr. Adrienne Lehrer, Professor Emerita University of Arizona

LNCO 2110 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM 

Lexical Blends and other Trendy Neologisms

"Although blends like ‘brunch’ have been around for a long time, they have been becoming increasingly popular, so much so that they should be considered a fully productive part of word formation in English. Besides illustrating blends and similar neologism, I will discuss some of my experimental work on processing these words."


September 26th, 2019 

Linguistics Colloquium Talk - Seung Kyun Kim - PhD in phonetics & Speech Perception from Stanford University

LNCO 2110 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM

"Effects of social information on speech perception

The focus of work on speech perception has been mostly on the mapping of the variable phonetic signal to stable sounds and words, with much less focus on the role of rich social information available to listeners during that process. In this talk, I will discuss two types of social information that crucially modulate speech perception. First, there is rich speech-internal social information such as the speaker’s age, gender, emotional state that listeners infer from the speaker’s voice. I will present several cross-modal priming studies that show how speech-internal emotional information (i.e., emotional prosody) influences the spoken word recognition process in systematic but complex ways. Second, there is equally rich speech-external social information including all the visual cues about the speaker and the surroundings that listeners receive during speech processing. I will present a perceptual learning study and show that phonetic recalibration is influenced by facial expressions of the picture presented with the speech signal. Throughout the talk I will argue for the crucial and essential role of social information in spoken language processing. I will also suggest one of the most important roles of social information is to allocate different degrees of attention to the speech signal, which has consequences for reevaluating models of speech perception that do not embrace the social nature of human language."


October 17th, 2019

 Linguistics Colloquium Talk - Chisato Kojima, Assistant Professor, University of Utah

 LNCO 2110 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM

Lexical encoding of length contrasts in learners of Japanese as a second language

"Some contrasts in the second language (L2) impose difficulty in processing for learners, especially when these contrasts are not used phonemically in a learner’s first language (L1). This talk is to examine how American English speakers learning Japanese discriminate and store information regarding the L2 contrasts as a part of their lexicon (i.e. lexical encoding).

The central discussion is on how length contrasts, both consonantal and vocalic (e.g. shita “under”, shitta “came to know” and shiita “theta”) are perceived and processed by learners. In addition, a relationship between geminate and long vowel were examined (e.g. shitta “came to know” and shiita “theta”). Three experiments were conducted to test the learner’s ability to discriminate and lexically encode (a) singleton vs. geminate consonant, (b) short vs. long vowel, and (c) geminate and long vowel.

The first experiment was a discrimination task (ABX) to see whether learners can discriminate between these contrasts. The other two tasks were lexical decision and forced lexical choice (FLeC). These tasks implicitly require full lexical processing. The FLeC task is an innovative experimental paradigm that was introduced in Kojima (2019) in order to supplement the lexical decision task. The results from the ABX and lexical decision tasks indicated that there is a distinction between discriminating length contrasts and successfully encoding length contrasts as a part of Japanese words."



November 14th, 2019

Linguistics Colloquium Talk - Miquel Simonet, University of Arizona (

LNCO 2110 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM

The Problem with Stress, Lexical Stress

One aspect of the Spanish language that seems to present significant difficulties to second-language (L2) learners whose first language (L1) is English concerns lexical stress. In Spanish, lexical stress is the contrastive phonological feature distinguishing words such as caso [ˈkaso] ‘case’ and casó [kaˈso] ‘s/he married’ or bebe [ˈbeβe] ‘s/he drinks’ and bebé [beˈβe] ‘baby.’ Spanish and English differ in the lexical distribution patterns of stress and in the phonetic correlates of this phonological features, but stress is contrastive in both languages. Transfer from the L1 is known to be a major determinant of the phonological obstacles encountered in the L2 acquisition process, which would suggest, as a first hypothesis, that English speakers’ difficulties with Spanish lexical stress could be a result of some type of cross-linguistic influence. But, since stress is contrastive in both languages, what (exactly) is the obstacle?

The present study explores one aspect of the difficulties native English speakers face when learning Spanish lexical stress, weak phonological encoding capacities pertaining to stress. We demonstrate that one of the reasons why native English speakers find acquiring lexical stress challenging is that lexical stress is not available during phonological encoding for this population, perhaps because native English speakers do not include stress features in their L1 lexicon and must learn to do so in the L2.

In this study, we report on the results of three perceptual-processing experiments with nonwords differing in their stress configuration: an AX discrimination task, an ABX categorical discrimination task, and a sequence-recall task with four auditory stimuli per trial. Participants were approximately 100 L2 learners of Spanish with English as their native language and a small group of native Spanish speakers to serve as controls. Learners differed in their experience with Spanish and their proficiency in the language, and complementary data were obtained by means of a vocabulary-size test, a cloze-test, and a bilingual-profile questionnaire. The results of the three experiments show that learners find processing stress differences in nonwords to be very challenging, but also that some improvement is possible with increased experience with their L2.

We hypothesize that native English speakers who are learning Spanish as their L2 find Spanish lexical stress patterns difficult to acquire because, at the initial stages of their learning, they possess a phonological system with restricted phonological encoding capacities for stress. In other words, these learners lack detailed phonological representations of stress in their native language, which entails that, during phonological encoding, they are not able to access such representations. This presents an obstacle in their acquisition of Spanish because they must learn to retain stress information in their mental representation of Spanish word forms. Current theoretical frameworks proposed to explain the phonological encoding of stress categories across language experiences, such as those proposed in Altman (2006) and Peperkamp et al. (2010), cannot truly account for the data reported in the present study and must be slightly modified to do so.


Altman, H. (2006). The perception and production of second language stress: A cross-linguistic experimental study. Unpublished PhD dissertation,  University of Delaware.

Peperkamp, S., Vendelin, I., & Dupoux, E. (2010). Perception of predictable stress: A cross-linguistic investigation. Journal of Phonetics, 38, 422–430.


November 21, 2019 

Linguistics Colloquium Talk - Adrian Palmer, University of Utah

Daniel Dixon, Northern Arizona University

MaryAnn Christison, University of Utah

Tülay Örücü Dixon, Northern Arizona University

LNCO 2110 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM

 Justifying the Design, Development, and Use of Research in Applied Linguistics

"Argumentation theory is the interdisciplinary study of how conclusions can be reached through logical reasoning. One of the most influential theories of argumentation in current use is the structure proposed by Toulmin (2003) consisting of six components—claims, data, warrants, backing, rebuttals, and inferential links. In Toulmin’s argument structure, these components unfold to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the argument. In our presentation, we advance this idea by presenting a fully developed research use argument (RUA) complete with claims, warrants, backing, rebuttals, and inferential links. The RUA is presented using a newly developed Python-based software application

The RUA and the software application make important contributions to furthering research in applied linguistics as the RUA supports new researchers and their mentors by providing logical and clearly defined components of the argument structure, as well as the structure of supporting documentation. In addition, the software application addresses concerns related to replication research (Ellis, 2019) by guiding users to supply specific data necessary for replication."



Spring 2019

North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad for high school students

Open Round: January 24, 2019
Time: 10:00am - 1:00pm (Please arrive early as the contest starts immediately at 10:00am)
: University of Utah Language & Communication building (LNCO) Room 2110
Address: 255 S. Central Campus Drive, Ste 2110
                 Salt Lake City, UT 84112

The University of Utah is a local host for the North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad! NACLO is a free contest in which high school students learn about linguistics and language technologies by solving puzzles. The contest helps students identify potential careers related to languages and language technologies. They also exercise problem-solving skills and have fun!


We will be hosting practice rounds on November 14th and December 4th at 3:30pm-5:00PM in room 2110 of the LNCO building (same room as the open round competition)  Please join us if you’d like to get familiar with the types of problems you may encounter during the competition rounds.

Registration is open now! To register, please follow this link and list the University of Utah as your Site:

For questions, information, and practice problems, please visit


February 21st, 2019- Colloquium: Sean Redmond

LNCO 2110, 3:30PM 

Abstract: Sean Redmond received his B.A. in Speech and Hearing Sciences from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1990, his M.A. in Speech Language Pathology from the University of Kansas in 1993, and his Ph.D. in Child Language from the University of Kansas in 1997. He teaches and conducts research in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Utah on language development, assessment and intervention and presents his work regularly at national and international conferences. Dr. Redmond has several peer-reviewed publications as well as book chapters on these topics. His scholarship has been funded by the National Institutes of Health. He has also served as associate editor for the Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, and Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools. Sean Redmond was born in Omaha, Nebraska but spent/misspent his formative years in southern California.


March 7th, 2019- Colloquium: Hyeonjeong Jeong

LNCO 2110, 3:30PM 

"In this talk, I provide three exemplary studies that combine the cognitive neuroscience with various fields such as linguistics, psychology, and education. The first example is a series of studies I conducted from a linguistics perspective (e.g., Jeong et al., 2007; Hsieh, Jeong et al., 2017). I examined how linguistic similarities and differences between first language and second language influence brain activation. The second example is a series of empirical studies conducted from a psychological perspective (e.g., Jeong et al., 2010, 2016). I investigated the extent to which cognition (i.e., memory) and affect (i.e., anxiety) determine brain mechanisms during language processing and acquisition. The third piece of research is a study I conducted with a team of educational researchers (e.g., Jeong et al., 2011). I was interested in how the mode of communication (i.e., face-to-face vs. computer-mediated) influences brain mechanisms during second language communication. Through this talk, I hope to demonstrate that interdisciplinary collaboration among neuroscientists, linguists, and psychologists can contribute to a deeper understanding of second language acquisition."


March 28th, 2019- Colloquium: Wing Yee Chow

LNCO 2110, 3:30PM

"Much research has shown that comprehenders can generate predictions about upcoming language on the fly, but less is known about (i) what cognitive processes are engaged when we encounter cues that are inconsistent with our predictions, and (ii) how the working memory demands associated with predictive processing might interact with our parsing decisions. In the first part of the talk I will present a project in Mandarin Chinese which examine whether and how comprehenders may revise their predictions on the fly. I will present convergent findings from a visual world eye-tracking study and an event-related potential (ERP) experiment which suggest that comprehenders can quickly revise their existing predictions upon encountering a cue that is inconsistent with their existing predictions. In the second part of the talk I will discuss two reading eye-tracking experiments in English that investigate when comprehenders posit a dependency between two non-adjacent elements in a sentence (e.g., between a verb and its subject/object) and how the working memory demands associated with prediction may impact their parsing decisions."


April 18th, 2019- Colloquium: Johanna Watzinger-Tharp

LNCO 2110, 3:30 PM

Johanna Watzinger-Tharp is an Associate Professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Utah. She served as Associate Dean for International Programs in the College of Humanities from 2009-2015, and directed the U’s International Studies Program from 2009-2016. Her research focuses on language pedagogy, dual language immersion and teacher education, and has been published in a variety of scholarly journals. She currently serves as co-editor for Issues in Language Program Direction. Her publications also include co-edited volumes and German language textbooks. In 2010, the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) awarded her the Anthony Papalia Award for Excellence in Teacher Education. 


North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad for high school students

Open Round: January 25, 2018
Time: 10:00am - 1:00pm
Location: University of Utah Language & Communication building (LNCO) Room 2110
Address: 255 S. Central Campus Drive, Ste 2110
                 Salt Lake City, UT 84112

The University of Utah is a local host for NACLO! NACLO is a contest in which high school students learn about linguistics and language technologies by solving puzzles. The contest helps students identify potential careers related to languages and language technologies. They also exercise problem-solving skills and have fun!

Registration is open now! To register, please follow this link and list the University of Utah as your Site:

For questions, information, and practice problems, please visit

February 8th, 2018- Colloquium: Brennan Payne, "As far as the eye can see: Event-related brain potentials reveal dynamics of visual attention allocation during sentence processing"

LNCO 2110, 3:30PM 

"As far as the eye can see: Event-related brain potentials reveal dynamics of visual attention allocation during sentence processing.”

Skilled readers obtain information not only from the currently fixated word, but also from words in parafoveal vision during sentence processing. At the same time, the majority of neurolinguistic research on visual language processing has been conducted using single-word RSVP paradigms that preclude the ability to examine the role of parafoveal influences in sentence reading. Thus, little is known about the underlying neural mechanisms of visual attention allocation across multiple words. In this talk, I present the results of a series of event-related brain potential experiments using a modified visual flanker RSVP paradigm to explore (a) electrophysiological mechanisms underlying parafoveal semantic processing, (b) age-related changes in parafoveal semantic processing, and (c) the role of attention and task influences on parafoveal-foveal integration during sentence reading.


February 20th, 2018- Dissertation Defense: Cate Showalter, "Orthographic Input Familiarity and Congruence Effects on Phono-Lexical Acquisition of Russian by Native Speakers of English"

HPER North, 4:00PM

Orthographic Input Familiarity and Congruence Effects on Phono-Lexical Acquisition of Russian by Native Speakers of English

Adult second language (L2) learners often experience difficulty with novel L2 phonological contrasts, limiting their ability to establish contrastive lexical representations of L2 words. It has been demonstrated that the availability of orthographic input (OI), and variables interacting with OI, can shape the inferences learners make about L2 words’ phonological forms. The present dissertation focuses on grapheme familiarity and congruence, in addition to L2 experience and the effect of instruction, in the case of native English speakers learning L2 Russian(-like) words presented in Cyrillic. Few studies have directly investigated effects of grapheme familiarity and congruence on phono-lexical acquisition simultaneously, systematically investigated the variables’ effects on naïve and experienced L2 learners, or investigated how explicit intervention can mediate OI effects. The present dissertation addresses these gaps in our understanding.
The two studies in this dissertation employed the artificial L2 lexicon paradigm. Taken together, the results indicate the following: (i) native language orthographic interference effects are robust in L2 word learning, especially when grapheme-phoneme correspondences are incongruent (unfamiliar and congruent stimuli did not cause difficulty); (ii) experience with the Russian language mediates this interference, with advanced learners performing near ceiling on all stimuli types and naïve learners performing least accurately; and (iii) naïve learners do not seem to benefit from textual enhancement and instruction prior to word learning in an experiment. The results of the present dissertation suggest that more research is needed to address the challenges associated with the interference effects of OI in L2 acquisition.


Febuary 22nd, 2018- Colloquium: Heidi Harley, "TBA" 

LNCO 2110, 3:30 PM


March 8th, 2018- Colloquium: Ryan Bennett, "Recursive prosodic words in Kaqchikel (Mayan)"

LNCO 2110, 3:30PM

Ryan Bennett, Assistant Professor at UC Santa Cruz in the Linguistics Department will be presenting.

Recursive prosodic words in Kaqchikel (Mayan)
Following the development of prosodic hierarchy theory (Selkirk 1984, Nespor & Vogel (1986), evidence has accumulated that prosodic categories may be recursively self-embedded (e.g. Selkirk 1995, Truckenbrodt 1999, Wagner 2010, Itô & Mester 2013, etc.). However, this conclusion is not universally accepted (e.g. Vogel 2009a), and even the need for prosodic categories has been recently disputed (e.g. Scheer 2012b).
  In this talk I argue that the prefixal phonology of Kaqchikel, a Mayan language, provides clear and convincing evidence for unbounded (iterable) recursion of the prosodic word (w). Patterns of glottal stop insertion and degemination receive a simple, elegant treatment if recursion
of the prosodic word is permitted. Theories of prosodic phonology which do without recursion are forced to resort to a series of ad hoc stipulations to account for the same facts. Both derivational (e.g. Kiparsky 1982) and transderivational (e.g. Benua 2000) analyses of these patterns fail on morphological grounds. The overall conclusion is that both abstract prosodic structure and recursion of the prosodic word
are indispensable parts of any theory of word-level phonology.


March 15th, 2018- Colloquium: TBA



April 12th, 2018- Colloquium: Ben Slade and Aniko Csirmaz, "The Fine Semantic Structure of a Class of Adverbials"

LNCO 2110, 3:30 PM

Ben Slade and Aniko Csirmaz will be presenting to the Department on April 12, 2018. The title of their presentation is, "The Fine Semantic Structure of a Class of Adverbials."

We examine the internal structure of a subclass of adverbials including several temporal adverbs, focussing on Hungarian, Hindi, and Nepali, with comparison to German and English. Connections between adverbials like "again" and "still" in Hindi, Nepali, and Hungarian suggest an underlying generalised relational adverbial, for which we present a templatic formalisation. This follows in the tradition of research which seeks to unite the different meanings of English "still" (e.g. Michaelis 1993, Beck 2016); we extend this to include "again" and "then", and also examine the role of additive particles in the creation of "concessive still".


April 20th, 2018- Language and Law Forum

CTIHB, 9:00am


October 18th, 2018

Colloquium Speaker: Professor Nick Sobin 

See calendar for more information.


November 15th, 2018

Colloquium Speaker: Professor Eve Zyzik

See calendar for more information.

North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad for high school students

Practice Round: January 12, 2017
Time: 3:30pm
Location: University of Utah Language & Communication building (LNCO) Room 2945
Address: 255 S. Central Campus Drive, Ste 2945
                 Salt Lake City, UT 84112


Open Round: January 26, 2017
Time: 10:00am - 1:00pm
Location: University of Utah Language & Communication building (LNCO) Room 2110
Address: 255 S. Central Campus Drive, Ste 2110
                 Salt Lake City, UT 84112

The University of Utah is a local host for NACLO! NACLO is a contest in which high school students learn about linguistics and language technologies by solving puzzles. The contest helps students identify potential careers related to languages and language technologies. They also exercise problem-solving skills and have fun!

Registration is open now! To register, please follow this link and list the University of Utah as your Site:

For questions, information, and practice problems, please visit

 Jan. 21 - Mykel Brinkerhoff Practice Talk

Mykel Brinkerhoff will be giving a practice talk for his upcoming UUSCIL presentation.

Jan. 28 - Miranda McCarvel & Cole Brendel

Miranda McCarvel and Cole Brendel will be giving practice talks for their upcoming conference presentations.

Mar. 3 - Allard Jongman (University of Kansas)

Phonological neutralization: Acoustics, processing, and acquisition

 Phonological neutralization, the elimination of a phonemic contrast in certain contexts, is considered a cornerstone of phonological theory. In this talk, I will provide a survey of some of our research on the acoustics and perception of neutralization across a variety of languages. Neutralization of both segmental and suprasegmental contrasts will be considered. Our results show that while some instances of phonological neutralization are phonetically complete, others are incomplete. I will also provide data examining the extent to which second language learners may acquire neutralization. Rather than interpreting incomplete neutralization as evidence against formalist theories of phonology, I will argue that incomplete neutralization in fact supports the traditional phonological analysis of neutralization and the notion of underlying representations.

Mar. 24 - Dave Kush

Using structure to guide memory access during sentence processing

Natural language allows dependencies between items at a distance. Establishing dependencies between distant items in real-time sentence processing makes use of memory: previously-seen licensors must be stored and subsequently retrieved from memory when their dependents are encountered. Antecedent-pronoun dependencies provide an illustrative example. Pronouns usually find their antecedents in the preceding linguistic context. When a parser encounters a pronoun, it must access memory to find a suitable antecedent for that pronoun from among previously-seen NPs. In this talk I investigates the memory retrieval procedures that underlie this antecedent identification process. In particular, I investigate a tension that arises between linguistic constraints on antecedent-pronoun relations and well-motivated models of memory retrieval.

Antecedent-pronoun dependencies are governed by a number of structural constraints. These constraints are typically stated in terms of syntactic relations (e.g. c-command, Reinhart, 1983) between a pronoun and a potential antecedent. Recent research in psycholinguistics has motivated a model of processing that uses a cue-based retrieval mechanism (e.g. Lewis, Vasishth, & Van Dyke, 2006) in which item-to-item syntactic relations such as c-command are difficult to use as retrieval cues. As a result, these models predict that the earliest stages of antecedent retrieval should not display sensitivity to well-known syntactic constraints. That is, antecedent retrieval should erroneously access NPs in structurally inappropriate positions as potential antecedents. I present a series of experiments that show that this prediction is not borne out: antecedent retrieval shows immediate sensitivity to structural relations across a variety of configurations. I conclude by discussing ideas for how to reconcile these findings with the cue-based framework.

April 14, 2016
Zander Nash

Bayesian Statistics for Linguists Workshop
Thursday, October 27 – Friday, October 28
Bayesian Statistics for Linguists Workshop with Prof. Noah Silbert, University of Cincinnati

Jan. 22 - Shannon Barrios-Peer Abstract Review Session

Feb. 5 - Adrian Palmer & Daniel Dixon - Language Assessment in the Real World

The state of the art in language assessment development is seen as the result of solutions to real-world problems facing the language assessment profession. In this presentation, we will trace some of the problems that language assessment developers have faced historically and how they have gone about creating solutions. We will then show how this history has led us to the current state of the art: justification-based language assessment development, an approach that begins with justifying the consequences of assessment use for stakeholders. We then show how the Test-ify® software we have developed solves some of the most recent real-world problems facing language testers. The presentation is designed to be engaging as well as informative. It will also be the first time we have demonstrated the software to non-assessment specialists.

 Feb. 12 - Aaron Kaplan- Off the Edge of the Phonological Map

Languages often restrict certain elements--high vowels, say--to strong positions like stressed syllables.  For example, in the Romance variety spoken in Central Veneto, a post-tonic high vowel triggers raising of the stressed syllable and any vowels between it and the stressed syllable: /órdeni/ --> [úrdini] 'order (2sg.)'.  This is the result of a requirement that high vowel features at least partially overlap with the stressed syllable. Positional Licensing constraints provide an account of these patterns in Optimality Theory, but I show that they make erroneous predictions in Harmonic Grammar, a relative of OT that uses constraint weights instead of OT's rankings.  In Harmonic Grammar, Positional Licensing predicts a language in which the spreading seen in Central Veneto occurs over short distances but is blocked at longer distances; in fact, it predicts that every language is like this!  Such a pattern is unattested crosslinguistically.  I argue that correcting this flaw requires a significant reimagining of the Positional Licensing formalism and even Harmonic Grammar itself.  Currently, Positional Licensing penalizes elements that do not overlap with the target strong position, but in HG it must instead reward elements that do overlap with that position.

But "positive" constraints of this sort are widely regarded as extremely problematic in frameworks like HG, and repairing their defects requires grafting elements of another theory, Harmonic Serialism, onto HG.  This leaves us in a very strange position:

positive constraints in a theory that combines the defining characteristics of Harmonic Grammar and Harmonic Serialism.

 Feb. 19 - Aniko Csirmaz- My lexicon is dumber than yours

In generative syntactic research, a large number of characteristics were encoded as properties of lexical items. These properties distinguished between count and mass nouns and between different types of verbs. The latter determine the difference between stative / nonstative verbs (sleep vs run) and atelic / telic (run vs fall) (see Vendler 1967 and Dowty 1979, a.o.). One problem with the telic/atelic property is that it is not verbs per se that are telic or atelic, but larger pieces of structure. This is shown by the fact that 'Jill ran' is atelic but 'Jill ran to the fire escape' is telic. It seems more attractive to assume that telicity is not a lexical property, but it is perhaps determined by a functional head; this head can be relevant for case licensing as well. One problem with a naive implementation of a functional head is that telicity is compositional; in general, overt elements unambiguously determine the telicity of the structure in question.

Complete Abstract

Feb. 26 - Brian Dillon (Umass) - Which noun phrases is this verb supposed to agree with... and when?

The study of agreement constraints has yielded much insight into the organization of grammatical knowledge, within and across languages. In a parallel fashion, the study of agreement production and comprehension have provided key data in the development of theories of language production and comprehension. In this talk I present work at the intersection of these two research traditions. I present the results of experimental research (joint work with Adrian Staub, Charles Clifton Jr, and Josh Levy) that suggests that the grammar of many American English speakers is variable: in certain syntactic configurations, more than one NP is permitted to control agreement (Kimball & Aissen, 1971). However, our work suggests that this variability is not random, and in particular, optional agreement processes are constrained by the nature of the parser. We propose that variable agreement choices arise in part as a function of how the parser stores syntactic material in working memory during the incremental production of syntactic structures.

March 5 - Sean Redmond (Communication Science & Disorders)

What Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can teach us about Specific Language Impairment (SLI)

Everybody’s heard of ADHD but outside of the research community, very few people are aware of the existence of SLI. This is interesting because these disorders occur in the population at roughly the same rates and both compromise the academic, social, and vocational outcomes of affected individuals. This presentation highlights some key findings associated with an ongoing line of inquiry comparing the linguistic and socioemotional profiles associated with ADHD and SLI. What happens to children’s language development when both disorders are present will be discussed as well. In addition to informing clinical practice, these data speak to ongoing debates about the “specific” nature of the language impairments associated with SLI and whether information processing deficits of the sort associated with ADHD contribute to children’s language symptoms. 

 March 12 - Tanya Flores (Languages & Literature)- Accommodating to Stereotypes

This presentation will focus on the Sociolinguistic-Speech Accommodation analyses of three cases of phonetic variation in Chilean Spanish. Previous literature (Lipski 2009, Hualde 2005, Silva-Corvalan 1987, Oroz 1966) reports that the innovative variants of the /tr/cluster, the affricated /tf'/, and the velar fricative /xx are associated to specific social traits of speakers who produce them. Most of the studies on these sound changes are descriptive and/or sociolinguistic studies focusing on the sex, age, and social class of the speakers.

Complete Abstract

March 23 - Akira Omaki (Johns Hopkins)- Linking parser development and acquisition of syntax

Traditional work on syntactic development has paid little attention to the developing parsing mechanism in language learners. In this talk, I will argue that a proper understanding of syntactic development requires an understanding of how language learners encode and represent syntactic structures of the input. In the face of cross-linguistic variations in syntactic structures, language learners must rely to some extent on information in the input in order to acquire the target grammar. By definition, input is merely an external signal, and it must be assigned a mental representation before it could be used for the purpose of language acquisition. This view predicts that the learning outcome or developmental trajectory should vary as a function of (possibly incorrect) syntactic representations that learners assign based on their immature knowledge and parsing mechanisms. I will present novel evidence for this prediction from word learning behaviors in Japanese infants, as well as 5-year-old children's incremental parsing mechanisms (and errors) in comprehension of English, Japanese and French wh-questions. While these findings demonstrate the importance of parsing constraints on language acquisition, it also raises a new research question: how do parsing mechanisms themselves develop in language learners? In the second part of this talk, I will discuss on-going investigations of predictive sentence processing mechanisms (or lack thereof) in 5-year-old children. I will propose that predictive parsing procedures may need to develop through years of accumulation of skewed distributional information in the input. As such, research on parser development not only informs theories of language acquisition, but also provides theoretical implications for models of sentence processing.

March 26 - Ben Slade- Iyaric Iformations: an Optimality Theoretic Analysis of Rastafari morphology

The speech of members of the Rastafari community (originating in Jamaica) exhibits various linguistic innovations, including garden-variety extensions of productive morphological patterns to produce neologisms like _upful_ "positive" or _livity_ "lifestyle", as well as examples of punning/word-play like _politricks_ "politics". But we also find examples of more unusual linguistic innovations, such as _outiquity_ and _Ital_, both part of larger systems of morphological transformations. In this talk I will focus on the latter type.

Words like _Ital_ (<_vital_) and _Iver_ (<_ever_) are part of a larger group of commonly used "I-words", which often involve the replacement of the initial syllable with _I_ [ɑɪ]. However, the pattern of _I_-replacement is considerably more complex than that, as can be seen from _Iration_ (<_creation_) and _Irous_ (<_desirous_)---for which we would expect _Iyation_ and _Isirous_, respectively. The morphological process involved here then is not simple replacement of the first sound or syllable, but is rather akin to the process of blending (e.g._spork_, _brunch_).

One factor involved is maximizing overlap, e.g. the blend _chillax_ (<_chill_ +_relax_) takes advantage of an overlap of _l_, which does not occur in the hypothetical alternative *_relill_. Likewise, _Irous_ maximizes overlap between the _I_ component and _desirous_ by aligning _I_ with the position of the homophonous [ɑɪ] sound in _desirous_. Further evidence of the complexity of I-word formation can be seen in the case of monosyllable base-words, e.g. _food_ become _yood_ in Rasta Talk, and yet another type of formation is found in _Iyadda_ (<_father_).

I present an Optimality Theoretic analysis of I-words, which treats them as akin to blending.

 April 2 - Tania Ionin (UIUC)- Focus on Russian score: an experimental perspective

This paper examines the scope readings of Russian double-quantifier sentences like (1) in both native and non-native Russian, focusing on the relative contributions of word order, prosody, and information structure. Corresponding English sentences are ambiguous between surface-scope and inverse-scope readings, which are commonly derived by covert QR of either the subject QP or the object QP to a higher position at LF (e.g., May 1977, Heim & Kratzer 1998). For Russian, Ionin (2003) argues that scope of (1) is frozen in prosodically neutral sentences: the preverbal QP is in Topic position, with covert QR above Topic position being impossible. Ionin ties this claim to the ability of Russian objects to move overtly, resulting in OVS order (cf. Bailyn 1995), and argues that scrambled OVS sentences, just like SVO sentences, have only surface-scope readings: in the scrambled sentences, the scrambled object is in Topic position, and topics cannot reconstruct. In contrast, Antonyuk (2006) argues that covert QR does apply in Russian, and that both SVO and OVS orders are scopally ambiguous. Finally, contrastive focus on the preverbal QP in Russian has been tied to availability of inverse scope (Ionin 2003, Neeleman & Weerman 2009; cf. Bobaljik & Wurmbrand 2012 on the relationship between scope and focus in other languages).

Complete Abstract

April 9 - Karlos Arregi (U Chicago)- How to sell a melon: Postsyntactic mesoclisis in Spanish imperatives

Harris and Halle (2005) present a framework (hereafter, GeneralizedReduplication) that unites the treatment of phonological reduplication and metathesis with similar phenomena in morphology, thereby accounting for the apparently spurious placement of imperative plural inflection -n in non-standard Spanish. For instance, alongside standard "vénda-n-me-lo"

("Sell it to me!"), where -n precedes enclitics, one also finds forms such as "vénda-me-lo-n" and "vénda-n-me-lo-n", in which the plural suffix follows enclitics, with an optional copy of the suffix before them. More recently, Kayne (2010) has challenged their analysis, arguing that such cases should be uniformly treated in the syntax. In this talk, I reassess some of Kayne’s arguments, agreeing with his conclusion that the most important desiderata of any general analysis of these sorts of phenomena is restrictiveness, but contending that greater restrictiveness can be achieved through metaconstraints on postsyntactic Generalized Reduplication rather than through byzantine syntactic derivations. I conclude with general remarks about the division of labor in word-formation.

 April 16 - Shannon Barrios -Predicting discrimination behavior across L2 development

Models of nonnative speech perception make predictions about listeners' discrimination performance for a pair of phones on the basis of how the sounds are assimilated to native language (L1) phonetic and phonological categories (Best, 1995; Best & Tyler, 2007).  It is less clear whether such models also make accurate predictions about second language (L2) learner's discrimination performance when L2 categories, which may also influence the listener’s identification and discrimination behavior, are taken into account.  To this end, we investigated the relationship between L1 English L2 Russian learners’ assimilation patterns and discrimination accuracy across two proficiency levels for two continua (i.e. a native-native continuum, /i/-/ɪ/ and a native-nonnative continuum, /ɪ/-/ɨ/).  As expected, we found no difference in either assimilation patterns or discrimination performance between the two proficiency levels along the native continuum (/i/-/ɪ/). Additionally, while we find different assimilation patterns for high and low proficiency groups along the native-nonnative continuum (/ɨ/-/ɪ/), the predicted difference in discrimination performance was not observed.  Interestingly, we find that discrimination accuracy for each assimilation type varies with proficiency levels along the native-nonnative continuum only.  Possible explanations of this unexpected finding will be discussed.

 April 23 - Alexis Wellwood (Northwestern)- Finding meaning in formal semantics

Linguistic meanings are not exhausted by their contributions to truth-conditions. Judgments of truth cannot therefore be the only data for semantic theory, especially if natural language semantics is a part of cognitive science. In this talk, I discuss how other behavioral data can allow us to infer the semantic properties of expressions, relying on assumptions about how they interact with other cognitive systems. As a test case, I discuss speaker understanding of "more" and "most", combining an analysis of their grammatical properties with evidence from adult performance and child language acquisition.


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Last Updated: 3/13/20