Archive for the ‘visits’ Category

Linguistics Guru

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

Masha Polinksy will be visiting the department for two weeks beginning January 13 as this year’s linguistics guru. She will be hanging out in Itamar’s office (Rosenwald 229D). Please stop by to say hi! If you want to meet with her to discuss your research, please e-mail her (mpolinsk<AT>gmail<DOT>com) directly to schedule an appointment.

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).