Archive for the ‘visits’ Category

Rajesh Bhatt Installed as First Linguistics Guru

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

Rajesh Bhatt from UMass will be visiting the department from May 12 to May 21 as our first linguistics guru. He will be hanging out in Anastasia’s office (Classics 314E). Please stop by to say hi! If you want to meet with him to discuss your research, please e-mail him <bhatt<AT>> directly to schedule an appointment.

Meet the visitors

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Several scholars are visiting the department this quarter. Please give them a warm Chicago welcome!

  • Elizaveta Bylinina (Lisa Bylinina) will spend this quarter in Chicago as a visiting student. She is  in a project on degree semantics in Utrecht Institute of Linguistics in Holland, but spend most of the time in Moscow with her family. She’s interested in semantics of vagueness, gradability and comparison, and all sorts of unrelated topics she sometimes find exciting, according to her, for no particular reason — distributivity, event semantics, reduplication (wh-reduplication!), sluicing etc. Right now she wants to know more about history and typology of comparative morphemes (especially in Turkic), low degree modifiers and negative evaluative adjectives, and interadjectival comparison. And things to do in Chicago with a 3yo, of course.
  • Anna Chernilovskaya, also from Utrecht, will also be working on semantics.
  • Cécile Evers is visiting for the Fall and Winter from the University of Pennsylvania’s program in Educational Linguistics. She works with North African dialects and Wolof, specifically in the context of her work in Marseille, France with second-generation youth who are of North and West African descent. She is interested in questions pertaining to heritage language speakers in this setting (i.e., mixed language use, slang registers, L1 phonological transfer) and also in the role of religious (Classical Arabic) activities and (Muslim) memberships in shaping language use. Please contact her at
  • Zoe Gavriilidou, Associate Professor at the Department of Greek of the Democritus University of Thrace, will be working with Anastasia Giannakidou.
  • Christina Kim is a doctoral student in Linguistics  Brain & Cognitive Sciences at the University of Rochester. She will be working with Chris Kennedy and Ming Xiang.
  • Masahiro Yamada and Sanae Tamura, both from Kyoto University, will be working with Chris Kennedy on evidentiality.

Talk by McDonough on May 27

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Departmental Colloquium

Documentation of tone in the Mackenzie Basin Dene languages

Joyce McDonough
University of Rochester

Cobb 201

As part of a study of the phonetics of the Dene languages, this talk examines the realization of tone in several Athabaskan, or Dene (as speakers prefer) languages in the Mackenzie Basin area of Canada, an important group of language communities and dialects for which little instrumental phonetic documentation has been available. The Dene languages are polysynthetic; words are multisyllabic, and these languages are considered to be among the most morphologically complex known to us. Many of these languages have contrastive tone. Despite their enormous spread, the languages are phonetically and morphologically conservative, resisting ‘exotic influence’ (Sapir 1945), they share a surprisingly consistent phonemic inventory, phonetic realization patterns and morphological structure, thus providing a ground of stability in which to examine tonal variation.

There are several reasons why tone in this group is interesting. First, these inventories are heavily obstruent, the stop series include ejectives and glottal stops, the sonorant consonants are limited. Thus pitch contours are broken up by often robust (in duration and intensity) stops and fricatives; tonal contours are systematically disturbed in ways that they are not in other tone language groups. Second, tone is paradigmatic rather than lexical, broadly marking inflectional, morphological and lexical categories. Third, tonogenesis arguably resulted from the incorporation of glottal suffixes into the word-final stem, but produced both H and L marked tone language communities (Sapir, 1925; Li, 1930, 1933; Leer, 1979, 1999; de Ruse, 2005; Krauss, 2005; Kingston 2005). Thus the documentation of this type tone reversal within a closely related group with near identical tonongenesis patterns is important to theories of tone and language change. Fourth, despite the diachronic consistency in their grammars and lexicons, a great deal of prosodic variation has been observed across the group. Typologies include metrical stress, pitch accent and non-tone systems. This has not been instrumentally documented, which is essential to the understanding and description of prosodic variation and discourse related intonation patterns across these language communities and theoretical constructions based on this data.

In this talk, we examine tone from 4 communities in the Mackenzie Basin group, with examples of both H and L tone-marked languages (tone reversal), in an instrumental analysis of fieldwork data, in a preliminary analysis of the tone data. The broad goal is to provide a documentation of the pitch typology and variation in this area and its relationship to the theories of Athabaskan tonogenesis, with an instrumental analysis of pitch patterns including pitch range, tone bearing units, peak/valley alignment, tone distribution, and patterns in tone realization between the morphological categories (pre-stem (inflectional) versus stem (content) domains (McDonough 1999, 2003; Gessner, 2005; Kingston, 2005.))

This talk will also outline the issues related to the collection and analysis of fieldwork data from small speech communities and/or endangered language communities, and the generalizations that can be drawn from this type data.

Talk by Clayards on May 7

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Workshop on Language, Cognition, and Computation

The role of phonetic detail, auditory processing and language experience in the perception of assimilated speech

(Communication Sciences and Disorders, McGill)

Friday, May 7 at 3:30pm, in Harper 130

The speech signal is notoriously variable and complex. Not only do listeners cope well with this variability and complexity, they display exquisite sensitivity to the co-occurrence and predictability of fine grained aspects of the speech signal. In this talk I will discuss one such example – place assimilation at word onset and offsets and listeners’ abilities to make use of this information (compensation). Models of spoken-word recognition differ on whether compensation for assimilatory changes is a knowledge-driven, language-specific phenomenon or relies more on general auditory processing mechanisms. Both English and French exhibit some assimilation of sibilants (e.g., /s/ becomes like /S/ in “dress shop”), but they differ in the strength and directionality of these shifts. We taught English and French participants words that began or ended with /s/ or /S/ consonants. After training, participants were presented with the novel words embedded in native-language sentences that could engender assimilation. Sentences were uttered by both French and English speakers and used a continuum of sibilant sounds between the two phonemic endpoints. Listeners’ perceptions of the potential assimilations were examined using a visual-world eyetracking paradigm in which the listener clicked on a picture matching the novel word. The results suggest that French and English participants treated these assimilatory sequences differently. Furthermore, there was evidence for low level auditory processing in cases with weak or no assimilation patterns in the language (/S/-/s/ sequences in both languages) as well as knowledge driven compensation in response to patterns of strong assimilation in the language (/s/-/S/ in English).

Talk by Wagner on May 6

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Departmental Colloquium

Information Structure Effects on Prosody: English vs. French

Michael Wagner
McGill University

Cobb 201
2:30-4pm *NOTE NEW TIME*

Germanic and Romance languages differ in how prosody is affected by information structure.  Ladd (2008), e.g., observes contrasts between English and Italian that reveal differences in how argument structure and  information structure affect prosody. These differences seem to generalize to other Romance and Germanic languages (see Swerts et al. 2002, Swerts 2007 for experimental evidence on Dutch, Italian, and Romanian). Using evidence (mainly from English and French), this talk explores the semantic, syntactic, and phonological underpinnings of the prosodic differences. The observed patterns suggest a connection between seemingly unrelated facts, e.g., the stresslessness of indefinite pronouns such as ‘something’ and contrastive focus; they reveal that both semantic and phonological givenness play a role in focus marking, as do constraints on syntactic movement; they cast doubt on claims of a universal nuclear stress (Cinque 1993); and finally, they have repercussions in sometimes unexpected ways, e.g., they influence what types of rhyme are considered artistic in poetry.

Pesetsky here next week

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

David Pesetsky (MIT) will be on campus next week on Thursday, March 4. He’ll give a talk on “Russian case morphology and the syntactic categories” (abstract below) at 10:30 a.m.

He is also giving a different talk on islands (abstract here) at the University of Illinois at Chicago the following day.

Abstract (for U. of C. talk)

Sometimes it is the oddest facts that provide the best clues to significant properties of language, because their very oddity limits the space in which we are likely to search for possible explanations. In  this talk, I argue that the strange behavior of  Russian nominal phrases with paucal numerals (‘two’, ‘three’ and ‘four’) provide clues of just this type concerning the syntactic side of morphological case.

When a nominal phrase like the Russian counterpart of ‘these last two beautiful tables’ occupies a nominative environment, the pre-numeral demonstrative and adjective (‘these last’) bear nominative plural morphology, and the numeral itself is nominative. The post-numeral adjective (‘beautfiul’), however, is often genitive plural; and the noun (‘table’) is genitive singular — a situation that the illustrious Russian grammarian Peshkovsky (1956) characterized as “a typical example of the degree to which grammatical and logical thinking may diverge”.

I suggest that the behavior of these phrases is actually entirely logical — once one adopts a particular structural analysis of the Russian DP and a particular view of the nature of case morphology. Developing ideas by Richards (2007), I propose that Russian is a covert case-stacking language in which the realization of outer case morphemes suppresses the pronunciation of inner morphemes — with this process restricted, however, by the phonological freezing effect of phase spell-out (Chomsky 1995; 2001).  The case affixes themselves — traditionally classified using case-specific sui generis terminology (nominative, genitive, etc.) — are actually instantiations of the various syntactic categories: N, P and V.  The interaction of this proposal with the theory of phases and spellout raises at least the possibility that there is no special theory of morphological case.

Kratzer on campus Friday

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

This Friday, June 5, the Workshop on Philosophy of Language and Semantics, co-sponsored by the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, will be hosting Angelika Kratzer from UMass Amherst. Her talk will be in Cobb 110 from 1-3 p.m. Please join us!

Public conversation with Lila Gleitman on May 11

Saturday, May 9th, 2009

The second in a series of public conversations entitled Lives in Linguistics

Lila Gleitman
Rutgers University
Monday, 11 May 2009
4 pm
Franke Institute for the Humanities
Regenstein Library
The University of Chicago

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