Archive for the ‘faculty’ Category

Linguistics at UChicago Humanities Day

Friday, October 9th, 2015

The University of Chicago’s Humanities Day is October 17th, and the Department of Linguistics has several faculty members who will be presenting.

Due to space limitations, please register at to reserve your seat now!

[SESSION 1 9:30-10:30 A.M.]

Jason Merchant

 How to write around the world (And which ways are best)

From Sumeria, Egypt, Phoenicia, and Greece to China and the Mayan empire, writing has been central to civilization and has been invented several times independently around the world, using just four basic models: in this class, we explore the four types of writing and their histories, and discuss the advantages and disadvantages for particular languages and age groups, as well as the challenges for learners and the prospects for orthographic reform and degradation in English.

[SESSION 2 2:00-3:00 P.M.]

Diane Brentari

The emergence of sign language in Nicaragua: Theoretical implications and notes from the field

A new sign language has been emerging in Nicaragua for approximately 40 years. In this talk the critical differences and similarities will be presented between acquiring a language as children do when they learn a signed or spoken language, and creating a language as the Nicaraguan signers have done. Important cultural and contextual conditions for working in Nicaragua will also be discussed.

[SESSION 3 3:30-4:30 P.M.]

Salikoko Mufwene

The Emergence and Evolution of Language: Some Ecological Perspectives

Over the past 2-3 decades, linguists have attempted to account for the emergence of Language in mankind on the Darwinian evolutionary model. The scholarship has generally focused on articulating various ecological factors, chiefly changes in the hominine anatomy and mental capacity, which account for the protracted and incremental way in which language may have arisen (though some still subscribe to saltationism). Capitalizing on inter-individual variation and population structure, I also speculate on how linguistic diversity and community-specific norms emerged (while the agency lies in individuals) and on how the phenomena of language birth and death seem to have recurred several times over since the dispersal of our species out of East Africa about 50.000 years ago. These phenomena make it difficult to reconstruct a primordial language, if there is any reason at all to prefer language monogenesis over polygenesis.

[SESSION 3: 3:30-4:30 P.M.]

Itamar Francez

Matters of Semantics

Saying that something is a matter of semantics is usually a way of saying that it is unimportant in a particular way: that it is a matter only of how we define things. Semantics, however, is also a branch of the science of linguistics, the branch that deals with the systematic ways in which linguistic expressions relate to an extralinguistic reality. This presentation will explore some matters of semantics—what is and isn’t systematic about linguistic meaning, what kinds of discoveries have linguists made about meaning, and how the relation between sound and meaning figures in verbal art.

UChicago at SSILA

Monday, October 5th, 2015

There are a number of UChicago connections at the concurrent meeting of SSILA (Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas):

1. “Information structure conditioned word order in Potawatomi” by Robert Lewis
2. ” On the pragmatic relationship indexed by Long Distance Agreement in Meskwaki” by Amy Dahlstrom
3. “A preliminary study on accentuation in Hidatsa” by John Boyle (PhD alum 2008) et al.
4. “Perfect ‘status’ and its relationship to morphosyntax in Kaqchikel” by Raina Heaton & Judith Maxwell (PhD alum 1982)
5.  Special session in memory of Emmon Bach (UChicago PhD in Germanic, 1959)
6.  Introduction to the Emmon Bach session by Barbara Partee, (UChicago honorary degree, 2014)

Full SSILA schedule here:

UChicago at LSA 2016

Monday, October 5th, 2015

The program for the 2016 LSA annual meeting is out and it looks like UChicago will have another strong showing at the upcoming annual meeting! The list of presentations is given below (presentation info for the meetings of the sister societies and other symposiums are not  yet available).

  1. “Decomposing complex relations between phonological maps” by Eric Bakovic, Lev Blumenfeld, Jeff Heinz, and Jason Riggle
  2. “Strictly speaking, precisification is not slack regulation” by Andrea Beltrama  and Peter Klecha (PhD alum, ’14)
  3. “Severing the external argument from the aspectual verb” by Thomas Grano (PhD alum, ’10) and Brandon Rhodes
  4. “Conventionalization of the Lexicon in a Family Homesign System” by Laura Horton, Susan Goldin-Meadow, and Diane Brentari 
  5. “Emerging Morphology in Nicaraguan Sign Language Agent and Number Marking” by Laura Horton, Susan Goldin-Meadow, and Diane Brentari 
  6. “Demoting the agent in Nicaraguan Sign Language effects of language input on linguistic structure” by Lilia Rissman, Laura Horton, Diane Brentari, and Susan Goldin-Meadow 
  7. “Prosody-driven extraposition of CPs in Malagasy” by Daniel Edmiston and Eric Potsdam
  8. “Two types of speaker’s ignorance over the epistemic space Referential vagueness marker “inka” vs. epistemic subjunctive marker “nka” in Korean” by Arum Kang (PhD alum, ’15) and Suwon Yoon (PhD alum, ’11)
  9. “Unfortunately, you are bello tall. When bleaching can’t tell the whole story” by Andrea Beltrama 
  10. “’Not very’ Adj Vagueness and implicature calculation” by Timothy Leffel, Alexandre Cremers, Jacopo Romoli, and Nicole Gotzner
  11. “The Semantics of Domain Adverbs” by Thomas Ernst and Timothy Grinsell 
  12. “Differential effects of background knowledge on absolute vs. relative adjective interpretation” by Timothy Leffel, Chris Kennedy, and Ming Xiang
  13. “The syntax of synthetic and periphrastic tenses in Ndebele” by Asia Pietraszko
  14. “Dimensions of (Non)configurationality Argument Structure in Adyghe” by Ksenia Ershova 
  15. “Multi-verb constructions in two languages of Northern Australia” by Dorothea Hoffmann 
  16. “This is, like, a mirative construction! “Like” between uncertainty and surprise” by Andrea Beltrama and Emily Hanink
  17. “When Relative Clause Extraposition is the Right Choice, it’s Easier” by Elaine Francis (PhD alum, 1999) and Laura A Michaelis

Congratulations Alan!

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

Congratulations to Alan Yu who has been promoted to the rank of Full Professor, in recognition of his achievements as a scholar and teacher.

Assistant Professors featured in Tableau Magazine

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

Assistant professors Greg Kobele, Itamar Francez, Yaroslav Gorbachov, and Ming Xiang bring modern touches to linguistics’ traditional focus.  Please visit to read the article “Native Knowledge” in Tableau magazine.