2nd and 3rd year Graduate Student QP-fest! — Poster sessions

Dear all,

The research seminar class will present to you a QP Poster fest on March 10th! We have a large class this year, and the poster presentation is divided into two sessions.  Please come by to talk to the grad student researchers! They have all made significant progress on their QPs. Your support will be greatly appreciated.

Please find below the information on the location, time schedule, project titles, and a short summary for each project.

Diane and Ming (on behalf of the research seminar class)

Research Seminar Poster Sessions

March 10th, Tuesday, 3-5:50

Classics, 110


Session 1: 3-4:20pm

  1.  Emily Coppess: Individual Variation in Perceptual Compensation: Evidence from Sibilant Perception in American English

The perception of the acoustical information contained in a speech signal can become warped by its surrounding context (i.e. perceptual compensation).  Recently, it has become apparent that there is variation across individuals in the amount that those individuals perceptually compensate.  In order to further understand this variation across individuals, I am proposing a perception study investigating the effect on context on the classification of naturally-produced sibilants (as opposed to artificially-manipulated stimuli) and how the strength of the this effect varies across individuals.  I am interested in determining if individuals vary in their sensitivity to vocalic effects when the vowel is not overtly present.

  1. Ksenia Ershova: Nominalizations in Bzhedug Adyghe: Incorporation and Argument Structure 

This project provides an analysis of the morphosyntactic behavior of nominalized predicates in the Bzhedug dialect of Adyghe, an ergative polysynthetic language. I argue that nominalizations unveil underlying asymmetries between verbal arguments, which may not be apparent elsewhere in the syntax of the language. While the behavior of full NPs suggests syntactic ergativity, i.e. the prioritizing of the absolutive argument, data on nominalizations shows that the absolutive isn’t necessarily generated higher than other arguments, and there is no one-to-one mapping between case marking and structural position.

  1. Joshua Falk: A Compositional Analysis of Imprecise Numerals

Number expressions are interpreted more or less precisely depending on the degree of “roundness” of the number. Building on Krifka 2007’s scale granularity analysis, I provide a compositional semantics for number expressions that captures these varying degrees of precision. This analysis can be implemented efficiently, and thus represents a step in limiting the computational complexity of pragmatics.

  1. Julian Grove: Information Structure and the Resolution of VP-ellipsis

Recent accounts of voice-mismatched ellipses (Merchant, 2013; Sailor, 2014) posit a structural distinction between low ellipses that exclude Voice (VP-ellipsis) and high ellipses that include it (sluicing) that reflects the varying acceptability of these different construction types under mismatch. However, as Kehler (2000) discusses, acceptability varies even among examples of VP-ellipsis depending on the coherence relation between an ellipsis site and its antecedent. I present an account of voice-mismatch that relies crucially on Rooth (1992)’s semantic condition on ellipsis, but revises it to be sensitive to the distinction between Contrastive Topic and Contrastive Focus in a way that explains variation in acceptability among examples of voice-mismatched VP-ellipsis, but that, unlike Kehler, remains consistent with structural accounts of the distinction between VP-ellipsis and sluicing.

  1. Emily A. Hanink: Familiarity and the German Definite Article

German makes use of both a strong and weak form of the definite article, which have a different semantics and follow a complementary distribution. Schwarz (2009) proposes that while the weak article encodes uniqueness, the strong article encodes anaphoricity, and for this reason must host a silent pronoun above D (à la Elbourne 2005) in order to support anaphoric reference. I build on this work, but argue instead that a referential property is encoded below D in strong article uses, and in doing so achieve the following: 1) the preservation of one denotation for the definite article, while Schwarz (2009) must assume three, 2) a unified account of all strong-article uses as discourse referential in the sense of Heim (1982), and 3) a simplified analysis of the weak article, which constitutes the elsewhere case.


  1. Jacob B. Phillips: Noun Incorporation in Sora

Noun Incorporation (NI), or the process by which a noun becomes part of a verb stem, has often been derived using head movement (Baker 1988). While head movement allows for the vast majority of incorporated structures cross-linguistically, head movement cannot account for all noun incorporation in Sora, which allows for incorporation of goal/locations and subject/agents. I propose that noun incorporation should be treated as a combination of phrasal movement and morphological merger (Matushansky 2006), allowing for incorporation regardless of syntactic role.


  1. Betsy Pillion: Vowel Devoicing in Lezgi: The Effect of Speech Rate

Previous descriptions of Lezgi have noted a pattern of vowel syncope (Haspelmath, 1993), wherein pre-tonic high vowels in voiceless obstruent initial syllables delete leaving residual phonetic information from the vowel. More recent work by Chitoran and Iskarous (2008) and Chitoran and Babaliyeva (2007) shows that this phenomenon is better categorized as vowel devoicing as a result of gestural overlap, while still leaving the question of whether or not this is a phonetic or phonological phenomenon unanswered. This work aims to discern the gradient or categorical nature of this pattern by manipulation of speech rate.


  1. Adam Roth Singerman: Pronoun, Agreement, and Ergativity in Tupari

Person marking on verbs in Tupari, a little-studied Tupian language of the Brazilian Amazon, displays properties reminiscent both of agreement and bound pronouns. I argue that these morphemes are all pronouns; what look like agreement markers are really overt copies within a movement chain. This account explains the distribution of the language’s mysterious `theme vowel’, as well as the strict constituency of the verb phrase and the absolutive cross-referencing on lexical verbs.


  1. Jeffrey Geiger: The role of rhythm in iterative-infixing ludlings





Session 2: 4:30-5:50


  1. Anqi Zhang: Duration and Frequency Phrases in the Nominal Domain: A Case of Mandarin

This paper argues that Duration Phrase and Frequency Phrase before the direct object form a constituent with the direct object in Mandarin.It  claims that these constructions are cases of event measurement and counting expressed nominally on the direct object. It shows that Duration Phrase and Frequency Phrase are parallel to a  Monotonic Measure Phrase and a `Num+Classifier’ constructions respectively.

  1. Carlos Cisneros: FCI in Mixtec 

Free Choice Items (FCIs) in Mixtec differ from the more commonly studied FCIs in European languages by appearing to be structurally more phrasal (as opposed to adjectival or determiner-like) and exhibiting optionality of focus-sensitive morphemes in some environments without change in meaning.  These facts demand an investigation into the internal composition of Mixtec FCIs and what they might reveal about the semantic ingredients to Free Choice interpretations, and their relationship to the environments which license the occurrence of FCIs.  The best analysis seems to be one which considers the obligatory contribution of alternative exhaustifying morpho-syntax and has that the FCI be an existential quantifier (Giannakidou 2001; Chierchia 2013), but it remains to be explained how indicriminative readings of FCIs (Horn 2000) are derived, which are the one primarily exhibited by Mixtec FCIs.

  1. Zachary Hebert: Morphology & Phonological Complexity in the British Sign Language Lexicon

This project investigates the relationship between phonological complexity, morphology, and the lexicon, using monosyllabic, lexical signs from the British Sign Language (BSL) online dictionary BSL SignBank (Schembri et al. 2014) as its case study. Complexity “scores” of handshape and location specifications of signs of various morphological statuses (e.g., lexicalized compound, lexical root, affixed stem) are calculated using basic scoring system adapted from Brentari et al. (2012) and Hara (2003) and are compared across sign types. Preliminary results suggest that phonological complexity does tend to vary by morphological or lexical status of the sign.


  1. Robert E. Lewis: Potawatomi word order

I give the first empirical analysis of word order in Potawatomi. In this analysis I use several diagnostics to show that word order in Potawatomi is conditioned by a pragmatic topic and three focus types (predicate, argument, and sentence). These diagnostics show that Potawatomi makes used of a sentence initial topic position and a pre verbal argument focus position while post verbal arguments appear to be unmarked and largely unordered.


  1. Hilary McMahan: The Kalaallisut demonstrative system: a comparative historical account

In this paper, I examine the Kalaallisut demonstrative system in terms of its diachronic development out of Proto-Yupik-Inuit, looking at what the Kalaallisut system has inherited and in what ways it has innovated. Today’s Yupik-Inuit languages display many different reflexes of the Proto demonstrative paradigm, which includes 28 stems semantically classified by proximity, verticality, enclosure, accessibility and visibility (relative to the speaker) as well as shape/extent of the referent. Using a combination of original fieldwork data and published data, I argue that Kalaallisut’s system of 12 stems has lost the encoding of semantic features of the referent within the stems themselves and I show how the semantic dimensions of the Proto system collapse and transform into those of Inuit and Kalaallisut.

  1. Cherry Meyer: Noun Categorization in Ojibwe (Algonquian): Animacy

Animacy in Algonquian languages is traditionally referred to as marking a distinction in gender, though recently this characterization has been opposed.  Using data drawn from Ojibwe, I will examine arguments for and against each position. Of particular interest are the realization and assignment of animacy, its relation to number and the count/mass distinction, as well as its position cross-linguistically.


  1. Patrick Muñoz: Naming relations and the semantics of proper names

Though contemporary accounts of the semantics proper names all crucially appeal to some sort of naming relation in virtue of which a name can refer to its referent – such as bearing the name, being dubbed with the name, etc. – there exist literal, successful uses of names to refer that depend on no such relation. To capture this, I give a semantic analysis of names as variables, and characterize naming relations as pragmatic restrictions on the assignment functions governing their mappings to individuals. This approach in turn results in a new referentialist treatment of the semantics of names that makes no appeal to predicative or indexical content while avoiding many of the traditional problems that referentialists face, while also providing a formal model-theoretic account of naming relations for the first time.

  1. Natalia Pavlou: Cross-clausal Subject-Verb Agreement in Greek

This project looks at cases where the matrix verb agrees with a subject, which is located in the embedded clause and behaves as an argument of the embedded verb. To explain the phenomenon, different approaches such as Backward Control and Restructuring are discussed and are shown to be impossible with the Greek facts. The question focuses on an explanation of the agreement pattern as Long Distance Agreement across finite clauses or as local agreement in each clause’s domain.


18. Ross Burkholder: The Use of “do” in Pennsylvania German