Archive for February, 2010

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.

Chicagoans at Penn Linguistics Colloquium

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Autumn quarter’s sociophonetics seminar has proven fruitful—the experiment designed by the class has been accepted to the Penn Linguistics Colloquium (PLC 34)!  The eight co-authors include Alan Yu, Carissa Abrego-CollierRebekah BagliniTommy Grano, Martina Martinovic, Charles Otte III (NELC/Ling), Julia Thomas, and Jasmin Urban.

The paper, entitled “Mediating factors in phonetic imitation: Perceived sexual orientation,” will be presented Saturday, March 20.

Continuing Chicago’s efforts to invade Penn, Chris Kennedy also happens to be the invited plenary speaker at PLC this year. The title of his talk is “The Composition of Incremental Change” (abstract here).

Super conference acceptances

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Fourth-year Nassira Nicola recently learned some exciting news: the acceptance of her submission to the Theoretical Issues in Sign Language Research (TISLR 10) in October at Purdue University.  She’ll be presenting her paper, “Re-Analyzing Plural Classifier Predicates in American Sign Language.” Congrats, Nassira!

Third-year grad Ryan Bochnak also has a poster acceptance to a big conference, this year’s Semantics and Linguistic Theory (SALT 20) in Vancouver, April 29-May 1. His poster is on “Quantity and gradability across categories.” Just a few days later, he’ll give a talk on “Exceed comparatives in Luganda” at the 41st Annual Conference on African Linguistics in Toronto, May 6-8.

[Update] And this just in:

Max Bane (Linguistics) and Morgan Sonderegger (Computer Science), along with Peter Graff (MIT, Linguistics) have been accepted to present a poster titled “Longitudinal phonetic variation in a closed system” at the 12th Conference on Laboratory Phonology (LabPhon 12), July 8-10 at the University of New Mexico.

Looking forward to hearing about these appearances!

Reminder about colloquium

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Due to job talks this month, the 2009-2010 colloquium series has had a delayed winter-quarter start. For all those waiting in eager anticipation, colloquia will finally resume next week, Thursday, February 25, with a talk by UChicago’s Katherine Kinzler (Psychology). More on her lab’s research can be found here. As usual, we’ll begin at 3:30 in Cobb 201, followed by tea at 5:00 in the department lounge. See you there!

Some recent Canada conferences

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Alan Yu gave two invited lectures in Canada this past couple weeks. The first lecture, “Washo Word Prosody”, was presented at the Workshop on Structure and Constituency in the Languages of the Americas (WSCLA 15) at the University of Ottawa in Ontario. He then presented “When does perceptual compensation fail? The implications of analyzing channel bias rationally” at the Workshop on Computational Modelling of Sound Pattern Acquisition at the University of Alberta – Edmonton.

Meanwhile, third-year grad Alice Lemieux also presented at University of Ottawa for WSCLA 15 a couple weeks ago. Her presentation was titled “Small but significant – body part incorporation in Washo,” and the abstract can be found here.