Tom Roberts was in Amsterdam December 18-19 at InqBnB2, a workshop on inquisitivity organized by former LRC visitors Jakub Dotlačil (Groningen) and Floris Roelofsen (Amsterdam). Tom presented a talk on “Relating Form and Meaning in Negative Polar Questions,” based on ongoing work about the semantics/pragmatics divide in the interpretation of Estonian NPQs. Alum Scott AnderBois (Brown) also contributed to the strong showing among Santa Crustaceans with an invited talk on QUD downdating in Tagalog. Tom describes the atmosphere as equal parts convivial and informative: in addition to engaging with people on the cutting-edge of investigating meaning in questions, he was pleased to obtain extensive secondhand knowledge about the activities of the Amsterdam counterculture in the 1970s.
Anya Lunden (UCSC PhD, 2006), Jessica Campbell, Mark Hutchens and Nick Kalivoda (UCSC) published a paper on “Vowel-length contrasts and phonetic cues to stress: an investigation of their relation” in Phonology this past December. The abstract is given below.
The functional load hypothesis of Berinstein (1979) put forward the idea that languages which use a suprasegmental property (duration, F0) contrastively will not use it to realise stress. The functional load hypothesis is often cited when stress correlates are discussed, both when it is observed that the language under discussion follows the hypothesis and when it fails to follow it. In the absence of a more wide-ranging assessment of how frequently languages do or do not conform to the functional load hypothesis, it is unknown whether it is an absolute, a strong tendency, a weak tendency or unsupported. The results from a database of reported stress correlates and use of contrastive duration for 140 languages are presented and discussed. No support for the functional load hypothesis is found.
Fourth-year grad student Steven Foley recently visited Reykjavík for NELS 48, hosted by the University of Iceland. There he presented recent work on Georgian relative clause processing, done in collaboration with Matt Wagers. Steven reports an altogether lively and stimulating conference, which featured a number of Santa Cruz alumni, including Eric Baković, Matt Barros, Boris Harizanov, Eric Potsdam, Kyle Rawlins, Rachel Walker, and Aaron Steven White. But more impressive than the conference was Iceland itself. Just outside Reykjavík is an otherworldly landscape of lava fields, glaciers, and geysers (pictured). Steven regrets missing a few other natural phenomena the country is known for (the northern lights, Björk), so he hopes it won’t take another 48 years for Iceland to host NELS again.
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.