Last Saturday (November 18), the department hosted an IHR-funded workshop entitled Syntax-Prosody in Optimality Theory (SPOT). The workshop, which was organized by Junko Ito and Armin Mester, featured invited talks from guests Shinichiro Ishihara (Lund University), Lisa Selkirk (UMass Amherst), and Nicholas Rolle (UC Berkeley). There were also several talks from UCSC students and faculty. Jenny Bellik and Nick Kalivoda presented their application SPOT, a computational tool for research on the syntax-prosody interface, and some theoretical consequences of the program’s constraint definitions. Ryan Bennett (UCSC) presented joint work with Jim McCloskey (UCSC) and Emily Elfner (York University) on “Incorporation, focus and the phonology of ellipsis in Irish”. The talks all resulted in stimulating discussion. In addition to the visiting speakers, interested faculty and students made the journey to Santa Cruz from Stanford, UC Berkeley, and Fresno State. The workshop culminated in a reception, where the warm and friendly air and conversation continued.

Below are a few photos from Junko’s phone. More photos from the IHR photographer coming soon!



This Friday, November 17th, at 4:00 pm in Humanities 1, Room 210, there will be a colloquium talk by Brian Dillon (UMass, Amherst). His talk is entitled “Process and representation in morphosyntactic processing: A psychophysical approach using Signal Detection Theory.” The abstract is given below:

Intuitive acceptability judgments have long formed the empirical foundation of syntactic and (to a lesser extent) psycholinguistic theories (Schütze, 1996). Despite their centrality, there remain many open issues in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of acceptability judgment data. One important thread of research in experimental syntax addresses these issues by borrowing methodology from psychophysics, such as magnitude estimation (Bard et al. 1996; Cowart, 1997), to more precisely model the relationship between linguistic stimuli and perceived acceptability.

In this talk I will follow these researchers in treating intuitions of acceptability as psychological evidence. Accordingly, I will argue that acceptability judgments can be fruitfully understood as psychophysical data. To this end, I will describe a framework for analyzing acceptability judgment data using Signal Detection Theory (Bader & Haussler, 2010; Macmillan & Creelman, 2005). This approach offers an explicit model of how the underlying percept of acceptability is reflected in experimental measures of acceptability, such as judgments in a rating task.

To illustrate this approach, I survey a series of studies that investigate diverse illusory agreement licensing phenomena (“agreement attraction”) in English using untimed acceptability judgment measures (joint work with Charles Clifton, Christopher Hammerly, Joshua Levy, and Adrian Staub). I report several results. First, untimed judgment measure mirror the patterns seen in more ‘online’ measures of sentence comprehension. Second, the untimed judgment data exhibit surprisingly little evidence of contamination from slow, ‘deliberative’ processes (cf. Bader & Haussler, 2010). Third, and perhaps most interestingly, this analysis of the judgment data yields unique insights into the cognitive processes and representations that underly agreement attraction effects. In particular, the judgment data lend support to models that analyze illusory agreement errors as the result of mis-identification of an agreement controller in working memory (e.g. Badecker & Kuminiak, 2007; Wagers et al., 2009), rather than models that locate the error in a noisy representation of the morphosyntactic features of the agreement controller (e.g. Eberhard, Cutting & Bock, 2005).


Junko Ito and Armin Mester are mounting a one-day IHR (Institute of Humanities Research)-sponsored workshop on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017, called SPOT (“Syntax-Prosody in Optimality Theory”) at Santa Cruz. They provide additional details:

“This is part of our research project aiming to create a computational platform that generates prosodic candidate sets from syntactic structures. Besides a presentation of the pilot SPOT program by Nick Kalivoda and Jenny Bellik, the workshop will consist of research talks focused on the syntax-prosody interface. The invited speakers are Lisa Selkirk (UMass/Amherst) and Shin Ishihara (Lund University, Sweden), and more locally, Nicholas Rolle (UC Berkeley), and Ryan Bennett and Jim McCloskey (UC Santa Cruz).

Here is the program with links to abstracts of the talks:


We hope you will be able to join us!”


This September 1st-3rd, UC Santa Cruz hosted a summer camp for community members and native speakers of two Oaxacan languages in a partnership with the non-profit organization Senderos. WLMA has a new website that shows what happened at the summer camp, check it out at the link:


Also, the Nido de Lenguas: Pop-Up will be making its first appearance this Saturday, November 4th at the Día de los Muertos festival sponsored by the Museum of Art History (MAH). See the schedule here. At the conclusion of the procession at Evergreen Cemetery (3:30-6 pm), Nido de Lenguas will have a table staffed by students with a game for learning the numbers in Santiago Laxopa Zapotec, as well as materials for learning about Nido de Lenguas events.


On the weekend of 20-21 October, the 10th annual California Universities Semantics and Pragmatics (CUSP) conference was held at UC Irvine. In tribute to the pan-Californian spirit of CUSP, five graduate students from three California universities carpooled from the bay to SoCal — Deniz Rudin of UCSC, Maura O’Leary of UCLA (a former UCSC undergrad and current visitor to the department), and Lelia Glass, Ciyang Qing and Brandon Waldon of Stanford. Rudin spoke on rising imperatives, O’Leary on tense in cleft constructions, Glass on the correlation between causativity and distributivity, Qing on Mandarin dou, and Waldon on the strength and weakness of might and must. Also in attendance was Santa Crucian Hitomi Hirayama, who presented a QUD-based analysis of Japanese contrastive wa, and replaced Glass on the return trip to the North.

The conference was rich with presentations on other topics from students at other California universities, and on display throughout was an atmosphere of discussion that maintained a pleasant balance between trenchant, searching engagement and warm, welcoming collegiality — as always, CUSP serves as an annual reminder that we’re all very lucky to be studying meaning in the Golden State.