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.


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


Continuing recent work on Meso-American languages, several WLMAns will be presenting their work at the 22nd Workshop on Structure and Constituency in Languages of the Americans (WSCLA), from April 21-23 at the University of British Columbia. There will be two talks by current UCSC students and faculty:

Jason Ostrove “Severing PRO from its silence”
Steven Foley, Nick Kalivoda & Maziar Toosarvandani “Gender Case Constraints in Zapotec”

The program can be found here.


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.


Next week, on Wednesday, March 15th, Ivy Sichel will be giving this quarter’s Distinguished Faculty Lecture for Stevenson College. The talk begins at 4:30pm in the Stevenson Fireside Lounge, with a reception to follow. Her lecture is entitled “Ideology and Identity in the Revival of Spoken Hebrew”, and you can read more about it in the blurb below.

The revival of Spoken Hebrew took place in Palestine in the early 20th century, and is often seen as a historically unique example of successful language revival. In this talk I suggest that Hebrew is also exemplary, of the ways in which our languages speak through us. What is special about Hebrew is that key properties of the revival process – its rapidity and recency – make it possible to track mechanisms by which broader ideologies (of nation, ancestry, class, gender, etc.) come to be embedded in the languages we speak. The talk will focus on East-West diasporic dynamics in the negotiation of accent for the new spoken Hebrew, and on the shifting values of authenticity and sincerity in the construction of the new native-born speech style.