Matt Wagers was across the pond at University College London last week, giving a series of talks as part of their linguistics seminar series. Matt reports:

“Last week I traveled to University College London to give a series of lectures in the Department of Linguistics. There I was hosted by Wing-Yee Chow, who is a Lecturer in Experimental Linguistics, and one of my collaborators. The first lecture, given to a public audience, was about the relationship between verbatim memory for whole sentences and how its degradation can be attributed to the ordinary forgetting that occurs in the course of language comprehension. I was happy to be able to incorporate some of the research that Jenny, Tom, Jed & Steven did in my Fall Seminar. The second two talks were given as seminars, and both touched on the interaction between word order and morphological resources. There I drew upon my research on Chamorro with Sandy, as well as Jed’s research on Tagalog. Abstracts and notes can be found here. I was deeply impressed by the questions and contributions I received, which were simultaneously very perceptive but also friendly and constructive. In my free time, I did a lot of walking around London. Some highlights were visiting the Temple Church, a round church built in the 12th Century by the Templars, and attending a performance of the Duchess of Malfi, a rather grim (and rather long) Jacobean tragedy in which (nearly) everyone dies!

PS: While at UCL, I also met a Banana Slug: Caitlin Canonica (Linguistics B.A. 2010) who is currently a Ph.D. student in Linguistics at UCL.”


In other Ontario-related news, Donka Farkas recently gave a talk at the University of Toronto. Donka had this to report:

“This past week I visited University of Toronto, where I gave a talk on nominal semantics, for Michela Ippolito‘s research group, and a department colloquium on the semantics and discourse effects of declaratives and interrogatives. Among the familiar faces at the colloquium, there was Nathan Sanders, UCSC PhD, who is about to start teaching at Toronto. It was a joy to work with Michela and to spend some time with her lovely family. She sends a warm hello to her UCSC friends.”


Last weekend, Ivy Sichel was among those who stampeded to WCCFL in Calgary, Alberta, where the Flames of linguistic enthusiasm burn bright. Ivy had this to say about the event:

“The beautiful thing about research in linguistics is that it is full of surprises. When you start studying something, you never know where you will end up. The paper I presented at WCCFL this past weekend is based on a joint project with Martina Wiltschko from UBC, in which we follow the lead of a curious “negative effect” sometimes associated with the use of demonstrative-pronouns in German and Hebrew. The study of its distribution revealed a surprising demonstrative-internal typology, in which deixis and anaphora are two sides of the same coin, rather than oppositional categories.

There was impressive variety in the talks at WCCFL this year, in terms of content, and also in terms of the wide array of languages that were discussed: Mandarin Chinese, Polish, Russian, Tagalog, Korean, Turkish, Algonquian, Japanese, French, Mi’gmaq, to name but a few.”


On Thursday, April 6, Sandy Chung drove to Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose to speak at a workshop organized by the school’s Linguistics Club. She and the other two speakers (Arto Anttila and Roula Svorou) were astonished at the large audience, which included over 35 students. Among the Linguistics Club’s organizers are Suzanne Golshanara and Eliza Kolmanovsky, both of whom plan to major in Linguistics when they enter UC San Diego in the Fall. The following week, Sandy traveled to Evanston to give a colloquium at Northwestern on the work she and Matt Wagers are doing on Chamorro anaphora. While there, she had a most enjoyable conversation with M.A. alum Tommy Denby, who is now a fourth year Ph.D. student there, about to embark on a dissertation in phonetics and phonology.


This Friday, April 14th, at 2:40pm in Hum 2 Room 259, we’re kicking off this quarter’s colloquium series with our own Junko Ito and Armin Mester (UCSC). Their talk is entitled “Pitch Accent and Tonal Alignment,” and the abstract is given below.

Recent work (Kubozono 2009, Ito and Mester 2016, among others) has established that the metrical foot plays an irreducible role in the accent pattern of Japanese and its dialects. Here we make a complementary point: Some features of pitch accent systems are irreducibly tonal in
nature, and follow from the constraints aligning tonal melodies with prosodic structure. As a warm-up, we show that the autosegmental well-formedness conditions, recast as OT constraints on tonal alignment and tonal faithfulness, allow for a simple analysis of the recessive accent pattern of Ancient Greek, which has resisted a successful analysis in terms of foot structure (Steriade, Golston, Kiparsky), but follows directly in an account squarely centered on the rightward alignment of the word melody HL+L.

In the main part of the talk, we present some results of the Santa Cruz Accent Project (Adler/Ito/Kalivoda/Mester) on the microvariation in the pitch accent systems of the dialects of Kagoshima Prefecture: the main Satsuma dialect, and the separate dialects of Koshikijima island and the southernmost Kikaijima island (close to the Ryukyu archepelago). All these dialects, except for the main Satsuma dialect, are in serious decline in terms of numbers of speakers. We show that the accentual microvariation in Kagoshima Japanese is due to a simple reranking of the basic constraints aligning the accentual melodies HL and H. The difference in TBU between dialects (syllable- vs. mora-counting behavior), difficult to analyze as a parameter setting, follows from the ranking of constraints against tonal contours on moras and syllables.


During the spring break, Junko Ito traveled to Japan to give a keynote talk (in collaboration with Armin Mester) at a workshop honoring the 60th birthday of Haruo Kubozono (former LRC visitor, and currently the President of the Linguistic Society of Japan). In the audience, and asking good questions, was UCSC Ph.D. alum Philip Spaelti, who is now Department Chair at Shoin University. The work that Junko presented is part of the Santa Cruz Accent Project (Adler/Ito/Kalivoda/Mester), which we will be able to hear about at the colloquium this Friday.


On Saturday, March 18th, the department hosted Linguistics at Santa Cruz (LASC), which was a resounding success, featuring talks on linguistic topics of all shapes and sizes on languages both near and far. The day of talks by second- and third-years was rounded out by distinguished UCSC alumnus Kyle Rawlins’s talk on “Unary ‘or'”. The evening was then capped off with a feast and commensurate levels of merrymaking at the Cowell Provost House. Thanks to everyone who helped make LASC happen–in particular, Lisa Hofmann, our LASC paparazzo, who provided us with this photo of the LASC presenters:

LASC 2017 presenters

Back row: Matt Wagers (LING 290 instructor), Margaret Kroll, Tom Roberts, Steven Foley, Jed Pizarro-Guevara, Jake Vincent
Front row: Hitomi Hirayama, Lauren McGarry, Kelsey Sasaki, Kyle Rawlins


Matt Wagers and Steven Foley recently attended CUNY2017 at MIT. The weather was wet and icy, but this induced minimal interference with the conference atmosphere, which – to no one’s Surprisal – was productive and collegial.

Steven delivered his poster on Georgian relative clause processing, while Matt was there for his paper on applying signal detection theory to the analysis of acceptability judgments (joint work with several UMass’ans: Brian Dillon, Caren Rotello and UCSC Linguistics alumna Caroline Andrews [BA ‘11]).

Many other Slugs were in attendance, including 2 other undergraduate alumni: Jeff Runner [BA ‘89] & Shayne Sloggett [BA ‘10]; and 2 MA alumni: Katia Kravtchenko [MA ‘13; currently Saarland University] and Adam Morgan [MA ‘13; currently UCSD]. Sloggett, Kravtchenko and Morgan each delivered a spoken presentation!

An excellent feature of this year’s conference was YouTube streaming of all talks; and poster/slide PDFs deposited via Open Science Foundation. You can view Steven’s poster here or listen to Dillon, Andrews, Rotello & Wagers here.