The second Symposium on Amazonian Languages (SAL) will take place over the hill on April 8 and 9 in 1229 Dwinelle Hall on the Berkeley campus. There is no registration — any and all interested are welcome to attend. A schedule with linked abstracts is available here. Please email Zach O’Hagan at with any questions.

LASC 2017!

Mark your calendars for this year’s edition of Linguistics at Santa Cruz (LASC), the annual UCSC linguistics research conference at which second- and third-year graduate students present their research. The all-day event will take place on Saturday, March 18th, in Hum 1, Room 210. Eight talks are on the slate this year, covering a diverse range of subfields, including syntax, semantics, pragmatics, morphophonology, psycholinguistics, and numerous combinations therein, and spanning such languages as English, Cebuano, Georgian, Estonian, Chamorro, Hawai’i Creole, and Japanese. This year’s Distinguished Alumnus Lecture be given by Kyle Rawlins (Johns Hopkins), entitled “Unary ‘or'”. The full program can be found here. Don’t miss it!


This Tuesday, March 7th, there will be a colloquium talk given by Jennifer Smith (UNC), at 1:30pm in Hum 1, Room 210. Her talk is entitled “Unpacking the asymmetries in category-specific phonology,” and the abstract is given below:

Lexical category (N, A, V) has long been important for morphology and syntax. However, it turns out that even phonological phenomena—processes or phonotactics—sometimes apply differently to words of different lexical categories.

A typological survey of languages with category-specific phonology finds two striking asymmetries. First, category-specific phonology is skewed toward prosodic phenomena (accent, tone, word shape) rather than segmental or featural phenomena. Second, there is a hierarchy of phonological privilege N > A > V, where ‘privilege’ essentially means the ability to support greater phonological complexity.

This talk presents results from both formal phonological analysis and experimental-phonology data, arguing for the view that the skew toward prosodic phenomena comes about through extragrammatical factors (such as acquisition and diachronic change), while the hierarchy of privilege is a linguistic universal (though a ‘soft’ one that can be overcome in the face of data). Category-specific phonology has implications for theories of positional privilege in phonology; approaches to the phonology/morphosyntax interface; the formal modeling of markedness scales in natural language; and the investigation of learning biases in language acquisition and their effect on diachrony and typology.


Last quarter, we alerted you to the existence of a new reading group, WLMA, which focuses on the languages of Meso-America. Ever organized, the WLMAns have provided us this update on activities taking place in Spring Quarter and the summer.

Pranav Anand and Maziar Toosarvandani recently received a Board Opportunity Fund award from the UC Santa Cruz Foundation. Thanks to this award as well as the Linguistics Department and the Institute of Humanities Research, WLMA will be holding a one-day workshop on Monday, June 12, bringing together researchers here with three invited speakers:

Emiliana Cruz (University of Massachusetts, Amherst), a linguistic anthropologist concentrating on Chatino.

Eric Campbell (UC Santa Barbara), a morphosyntactician working on Zapotec and Chatino.

Christian DiCanio (State University of New York, Buffalo), a phonetician studying Trique and Mixtec.

The Board Opportunity Fund award will also allow us to continue development of the technical infrastructure to support ongoing fieldwork by WLMAns in several Mixe, Mixtec, Zapotec languages spoken in the Monterey Bay area.

We are also happy to announce that Andrew Hedding and Jason Ostrove have been selected as UC Public Scholars for 2017-2018, thanks to support by the UC Santa Cruz Institute of Humanities Research and the Mellon Public Scholars Program at the UC Davis Humanities Institute. The awards will enable Andrew and Jason to devote time during Summer 2017 toward their respective fieldwork on Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec Mixe and San Martín Peras Mixtec as well as to language and culture documentation for community members and the general public.


This Thursday, March 2nd, Amanda Rysling (UMass Amherst) will be giving a colloquium talk at 1:30pm in Humanities 2, Room 259. Her talk is entitled “Preferential early attribution in segmental perception” and the abstract is given below.

Recognizing the speech we hear as the sounds of the languages we speak requires solving a parsing problem: mapping from the acoustic input we receive to the sounds and words we recognize as our language. The way that listeners do this impacts the phonologies of the world’s languages.

Most work on segmental perception has focused on how listeners successfully disentangle the effects of segmental coarticulation. An assumption of this literature is that listeners almost always attribute the acoustic products of articulation to the sounds whose articulation created those products. As a result, listeners usually judge two successive phones to be maximally distinct from each other in clear listening conditions. Few studies (Fujimura, Macchi, & Streeter, 1978; Kingston & Shinya, 2003; Repp, 1983) have examined cases in which listeners seem to systematically “mis-parse” (Ohala, 1981; et seq.), hearing two sounds in a row as similar to each other, and apparently failing to disentangle the blend of their production. I advance the hypothesis that listeners default to attributing incoming acoustic material to the first of two phones in a sequence, even when that material includes the products of the second phone’s articulation. I report studies which show that listeners persist in attributing the acoustic products of a second sound’s articulation to a first sound even when the signal conveys early explicit evidence about the identity of that second sound. Thus, in cases in which listeners could have leveraged articulatory information to begin disentangling the first sound from the second, they did not do so. I argue that this behavior arises from a domain-general perceptual bias to construe temporally distributed input as evidence of one event, rather than two.

These results support a new conceptualization of the segmental parsing problem. Since listeners necessarily perceive events in the world at a delay from when those events occurred, it may be adaptive to attribute the incoming signal to an earlier speech sound when no other determining information is available. There are cases in which listeners do not disentangle the coarticulated acoustics of two sequential sounds, because they are not compelled to do so. Finally, I argue that this has affected the phonologies of the world’s languages, resulting in, for example, predominantly regressive assimilation of major place features.


Are you interested in pursuing a career in computational linguistics or thinking about applying your linguistic skills in the tech industry? If so, come to the Computational Linguistics/Linguistics in the High Tech Field career workshop!

When: Thursday, March 2nd, 5:00pm-6:30pm
Where: Linguistics Common Room (Stevenson 249)

Light refreshments will be provided.


Join us this Tuesday, February 21st, for a colloquium talk by Sam Zukoff (MIT), at 1:30pm in Hum 2, room 259. His talk is entitled “Stress Restricts Reduplication” and the abstract is given below:

This paper considers the typology of reduplicant shape, and argues that a system with freelyrankable templatic constraints on reduplicant size/shape over-generates. A survey of Australian languages with quantity insensitive left-to-right alternating cyclic stress systems finds that monosyllabic prefixal reduplicants are not attested; all prefixal partial reduplication patterns in such languages are disyllabic. The disyllabic pattern allows for complete satisfaction of all otherwise undominated stress constraints, whereas any monosyllabic reduplicant would induce violation of one of these constraints. The typological absence of the monosyllabic pattern in these languages thus follows only if templatic constraints (“Reduplicant Size”) must be subordinated to otherwise undominated stress constraints (“Stress Requirements”). This is captured through a meta-ranking condition on the phonological grammar: StressReq >> RedSize (S>>R). The paper further explores how this meta-ranking is compatible with prosodically variable yet predictable reduplicant shape in Ponapean, and an apparently problematic case of monosyllabic reduplication in Ngan’gityemerri which turns out to be the exception that proves the rule.


Our second talk this week will be Thursday, February 23rd, given by Ryan Bennett (Yale), at 1:30pm in Hum 1, room 202. His talk is entitled “Idiosyncrasy and contextual variability in the prosody of functional morphemes” and the abstract is given below:

Dependent morphemes (affixes, clitics) may idiosyncratically select for prosodic properties of their hosts (Inkelas 1990, Zec 2005, etc.). For example, the English comparative suffix -er does not attach to stems greater than two syllables in size (smart-er vs. *intelligent-er). Violation of a prosodic subcategorization frame may lead to simple ungrammaticality (e.g. *pretentious-er). In other cases, subcategorization requirements are met by restructuring the prosody of a morpheme’s host. In this talk we consider several case studies in which functional morphemes idiosyncratically impose a particular prosodic structure on their hosts, sometimes with dramatic results.

In Macedonian, preverbal object clitics are typically unstressable ( ‘(s)he saw him’, *). But in the presence of wh-words or sentential negation, such clitics are parsed into the same prosodic word as the verb and may bear stress ( ‘Who saw him?’). In Kaqchikel, a variety of diagnostics indicate that absolutive agreement markers have a different prosodic parse depending on the presence or absence of outer aspect marking (e.g. [xin-b’e] ‘I went’ vs. [in=jwi’] ‘I am intelligent’). The puzzle here is understanding why the prosody of “inner” morphemes (e.g. object clitics) depends on the occurrence of a specific “outer” morpheme (e.g. wh-words).

We propose that these patterns arise from prosodic subcategorization: the “outer” morphemes in question have subcategorization requirements which force re-parsing of their hosts, including any dependent morphemes present in the same structure. We account for this behavior in a novel theory of subcategorization which makes extensive use of prosodic recursion, and which emphasizes the prosodic result of combining a dependent morpheme with its host. We then consider possible extensions of this framework to Chamorro and English, and conclude with the theoretical and methodological implications of our proposal.