Archive for the ‘colloquia’ Category

Nick Fleisher colloquium on May 14

Saturday, May 9th, 2009

Attributive Adjectives and the Semantics of Inappropriateness

May 14, 3:30-5pm, Cobb 201

Nick Fleisher, Wayne State University

In this talk I discuss the syntax and semantics of a previously unexamined English attributive adjective construction and its implications for the study of gradable adjectives in the positive degree. The construction, which I call the nominal attributive-with-infinitive construction (nominal AIC), is exemplified by sentences likeMiddlemarch is a long book to assign. I argue that the major semantic characteristic of the nominal AIC—the interpretation of inappropriateness associated with it—arises compositionally from the interaction between the positive degree comparison operator and the modality of the infinitival relative clause, which contributes to the computation of the standard of comparison. Nominal AICs are compared and contrasted with a surface-identical construction I call the clausal AIC (Middlemarch is a bad book to assign), with attributive too (Middlemarch is too long (of) a book to assign), and with attributive comparatives (Middlemarch is a longer book than that); they are shown to exhibit major syntactic and semantic differences from all of these. Finally, I consider what light nominal AICs can shed on recent approaches to the determination of standards of comparison for positives. The standard provided by the infinitival relative can override the default for minimum standard absolute adjectives, but typically not for maximum standard absolutes, suggesting that there may be a difference in the linguistic status of these two types of default standard.

Spring and colloquia are in the air

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

Spring 2009 colloquia are off and running. This full and final season of talks in the 2009 colloquium series began on April 2 with by MIT’s Adam Albright on “Rabbitometry vs. rabbitography: phonetic faithfulness and affix-by-affix differences in derived words.”

Coming up in the following weeks are several other fantastic speakers, including

April 30: Teresa Satterfield, University of Michigan

May 14: Nick Fleisher, Wayne State University

May 21: Ryan Shosted, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

May 28: Shigeto Kawahara, Rutgers University

June 4: Rob Podesva, Georgetown University

Per custom, colloquia are held on Thursday afternoons at 3:30 in Cobb 201. We look forward to these visits, and hope many of you will join us!

Keren Rice Colloquium Thursday

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

University of Chicago Linguistics Colloquium

Keren Rice, University of Toronto

What determines morpheme order in the Athapaskan verb?

March 5, 3:30-5:00pm, Cobb 201


The surface order of morphemes in the verb word of Athapaskan languages has traditionally been considered to be idiosyncratic, stipulated by a template. In Rice 2000 I argued that what I called semantic scope plays an important role in the ordering of morphemes. Here I extend the account of morpheme ordering in the verb word, focusing on a series of problems that arise if scope alone is involved. I argue that if phonological factors are also taken into account, a systematicity to the complexities of morpheme ordering in the verb emerges, with morphemes being segregated by their phonological shapes, and, within these phonologically determined groups, scope plays a major role in the ordering of morphemes. I examine the principles that control the ordering in light of recent claims that functional principles such as parsability are key to morpheme ordering.

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Colloquia back in action this week

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

After our holiday hiatus, this year’s colloquium series resumes with the first of four (so far) scheduled talks for the Winter quarter. Tania Ionin of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will be presenting on “The scope of English indefinites: an experimental investigation” (abstract here).

As usual, this talk will take place on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. in Cobb 201, with department tea immediately following. We hope to see many people there as we kick off another quarter!

Autumn colloquia wrapping up with Alicia Wassink

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

For our final colloquium of 2008, we are delighted to host Alicia Wassink, associate professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Washington, who will be giving a talk on “The Development of Sociolinguistic Competence in Children” this Thursday, December 4, from 3:30-5:00 p.m. in Cobb 201. (See abstract here.)

If you’re sorry to see the last of the Autumn colloquia, fear not! Here are the remaining scheduled talks for the 2008-2009 series, which will resume on January 15:

January 15: Tania Ionin, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

March 5: Keren Rice, University of Toronto

April 2: Adam Albright, MIT

April 30: Teresa Satterfield, University of Michigan,

May 7: Sun-Ah Jun, UCLA

May 14: Nick Fleisher, Wayne State University

May 28: Shigeto Kawahara, Rutgers University

Autumn 2008 colloquia are underway!

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

The Department of Linguistics was pleased to host Georgetown University’s Paul Portner last Thursday at our inaugural colloquium of the 2008-2009 series. This week, we will be having Diane Brentari of Purdue University giving a talk on tracking phonological emergence in sign languages.

We eagerly anticipate the scheduled speakers for the Autumn colloquia and invite you to join us for the remaining sessions, which generally commence at 3:30 p.m.

October 23: Paul Portner, Georgetown University

Two Problems about Permission

October 30: Diane Brentari, Purdue University

When does a system become phonological? Grammatical regularities at the interfaces

November 4: Matthias Brenzinger, University of Cologne

Changing roles for African languages in the past, present, and future

*Note special date, time and place: 4-5:30pm, Harper 103

November 13: Duane Watson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

November 20: Luis López Carretero, University of Illinois at Chicago

December 4: Alicia Wassink, University of Washington,

The Development of Sociolinguistic Competence in Children

See you there!

Livescu Colloquium

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Phonological Models in Automatic Speech Recognition

Karen Livescu
Toyota Technological Institute at Chicago
Location: Cobb 201
Time: 3:30pm


The performance of automatic speech recognizers varies widely across contexts. Very good performance can be achieved on single-speaker, large-vocabulary dictation in a clean acoustic environment, as well as on small-vocabulary tasks with fewer constraints on the speakers and acoustics. One domain that is still elusive is that of spontaneous conversational speech. This type of speech poses a number of challenges, among them extreme variation in pronunciation. I will describe efforts in the speech recognition community to characterize and model pronunciation variation.

The most thoroughly studied approach is augmentation of a phonetic pronunciation lexicon with phonological rules. Despite successes in a few domains, it has been surprisingly difficult to obtain significant recognition improvements by including those phonetic pronunciations that appear to exist in the data. I will advocate an alternative view: that the phone unit may not be the most appropriate for modeling the lexicon. I will describe approaches using both larger (e.g. syllable-sized) and “smaller” (e.g. articulatory) units. In the class of “smaller” unit models, ideas from articulatory and autosegmental phonology motivate multi-tier models in which tiers have semi-independent behavior. I will present a particular model in which articulatory features are represented as variables in a dynamic Bayesian network.

Non-phonetic pronunciation models can involve significantly different model structures than those typically used in speech recognition, and as a result they may also entail modifications to other components such as the observation model and training algorithms. At this point it is not clear what the “winning” approach will be. The success of a given approach may depend on the domain or on the amount and type of training data available. I will describe some of the current challenges and ongoing work, with a particular focus on the role of phonological theories in statistical models of pronunciation (and vice versa?).

Bobaljik Colloquium on Thursday

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

Getting ‘Better’: On Comparative Suppletion and Related Topics

Jonathan Bobaljik
University of Connecticut
Location: Cobb 201
Time: 3:30pm

I present and discuss four or five universals drawn from across-linguistic study of comparative and superlative morphology. Special attention is given to three generalizations regarding root suppletion in the comparative degree of adjectives (good-better, bad-worse). These generalizations, I contend, have a variety consequences for morphology, semantics and perhaps syntax, particularly in the areas of lexical decomposition (at whatever level this obtains) and the formal treatment of suppletion vs. irregularity. Although comparative suppletion is rare (though attested) outside of Indo-European, and although the data sample is small within any one language, the generalizations over the total data set are surprisingly robust. Two generalizations are given here:

The Comparative-Superlative Generalization:

If the comparative degree of an adjective is built on a suppletive root/stem, then the superlative is also suppletive. The superlative may use the same root as the comparative, or may be further suppletive, but will not use the basic adjectival root. Thus the schema in (1), where A, B, C refer to phonologically unrelated roots.

(1) A – A – A completely regular: short, short-er, short-est
A – B – B suppletive: bad, worse, worst
A – B – C doubly suppletive: Latin ‘good’: bonus – melior -optimus
A – B – A *unattested* * bad – worse – baddest

I argue that this generalization favours analyses in which the superlative is not merely related to the comparative (e.g., both involve degree operators), but is rather _derived_from_ the comparative: [[[SHORT]-ER]-(ES)T]. Put somewhat more contentiously, I argue (with a qualification) that UG excludes a morpheme “-EST” (Superlative) that attaches directly to adjectival roots.

The Comparative-Change-of-State Generalization:

If the comparative degree of an adjective is built on a suppletive root, then a derived change-of-state verb (inchoative or causative) will also be suppletive. The verb may use the same root as the comparative (bad – worse – worsen; bonus -melior – meliorare), or may be further suppletive, but will not use the basic adjectival root.

By parity of reasoning to the first section, I must conclude (contra Dowty and others) that change-of-state verbs always include the comparative at some level of representation (cf. Kennnedy & Levin). I will defend this view against a variety of possible objections and examine apparent counter-examples.

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