Thanks to everyone who participated in this year’s Linguistics Undergraduate Research Conference (LURC) on Friday, June 8. Three undergraduates in Linguistics and Language studies — Alejandro Garcia, Kevin Sanders, and Emily Martinez-Figueroa — presented original research dealing with topics in ellipsis, movement, focus, comparatives, reduplication, and prosody. The conference was capped off with a lovely presentation by UCSC undergraduate alumna Meredith Landman, entitled “The pragmatics of the sentence-final particle o in Yoruba”. Congratulations to our student presenters for a job well-done!

Thanks also to Hitomi Hirayama, who provided photo coverage of the event. Some highlights are included below.

Pictured: Kevin Sanders

Pictured: Meredith Landman

Pictured: Alejandro Garcia

Pictured: Emily Martinez-Figueroa

Pictured (Left to right): Alejandro Garcia, Kevin Sanders, Ryan Bennett, Emily Martinez-Figueroa, Meredith Landman





Last Tuesday, graduate student Erik Zyman gave a talk at the University of Chicago entitled “On the Timing of Adjunction.” He reports that he received a warm welcome and numerous helpful questions and comments, and had productive meetings with faculty and graduate students about both their work and his, for all of which he’s grateful to his UChicago hosts (not to be confused with adjunction hosts).


The UCSC linguistics department dispatched intrepid reporter Deniz Rudin to cover the 28th annual Semantics And Linguistic Theory conference, which was hosted this year by MIT (in addition to his journalistic duties, he presented a poster on Rising Imperatives — attendees listened with measured politeness). Impressive presentations were delivered on a wide variety of topics, several of which didn’t even mention covert exhaustification or grammaticized implicature generation, and much collegial merriment was observed, the culmination of which was a reception, dinner, and karaoke session held in the MIT museum. Bonds of mutual professiono-personal regard were cemented that will presumably endure for a lifetime. Thanks to the organizers, and looking forward to next year!


Deniz Rudin will be defending his dissertation at 11:00am on Friday, June 1st, in HUM 1 Room 210. Deniz’s dissertation is titled “A Tale of Two Contours.” The committee consists of Pranav Anand (chair), Donka Farkas, Adrian Brasoveanu, Cleo Condoravdi (Stanford), and Dan Lassiter (Stanford).


Jason Ostrove will be defending his dissertation at 10:00am on Monday, May 28th, in HUM 1 Room 210. Jason’s dissertation is titled “When phi-agreement targets topics: The view from San Martín Peras Mixtec.” The committee consists of Jim McCloskey (chair), Sandy Chung, Ryan Bennett, and Ruth Kramer (Georgetown).


Congratulations to current faculty member Amanda Rysling and former slug Shayne Sloggett (BA ’10), who walked in the UMass graduate commencement on May 13th, since both defended and filed dissertations last year after the ceremony.

Both also presented at LynSchrift18, the workshop celebrating Lyn Frazier, who is retiring this year. Amanda presented a joint talk with John Kingston titled “Regressive spectral assimilation bias in ambiguous speech sound perception.” Shayne presented a talk titled “Logophlexivity: When reflexives behave like logophoric pronouns.” The program can be found here.

Also, a photograph from the graduation ceremony:

Pictured (left to right): Shayne Sloggett, Caroline Andrews (another former slug), Amanda Rysling






This Friday, May 18th, at 1:30 pm in Humanities 1, Room 210, there will be a colloquium by Meghan Sumner (Stanford). Her talk is entitled “Usage-based linguistic models and understanding human behavior.” Afterward, there will be a reception at 3:30pm in the Silverman Conference Room. The abstract is given below:

The past three decades of research in phonetics and psycholinguistics have led to great advances in our understanding of language, representation, and the relationship between language and other cognitive domains.  While debates certainly still exist, we can take as established that how often and in what context different speech patterns occur influence both memory and processing.  The question now is what we do with this rich foundation.

In this talk, I present a few, short examples of how usage-based approaches to phonetics and psycholinguistics help us understand social biases and human behavior. I provide some evidence showing that phonetically-cued talker information (e.g., emotion, gender) directly activates lexical items, providing us with some insights into the timing and availability of this information. The purpose of this first part is to illuminate the complexity of experiencing linguistic events from the perspective of a listener.

For the remainder of the talk, I move away from phonetics, taking the basic insights from the studies initially presented (e.g., that we are pattern recognizers) to question assumptions about language use and experience and ask how our understanding of language use, semantic associations and culture can inform society at large.  Specifically, I spend the last large chunk of this talk investigating how we can understand the refugee experience through the lens of spoken language comprehension.

Some background: As developed democracies settle an increasing number of refugees, refugees have been displaced, face daunting new laws and cultures, and yearn to make a new land their home. Regardless of perspective, that of the government or that of the refugee, numerous challenges litter the path to refugee integration. The goal of host countries is integration – realized as an ideal, productive member of society, where society stays the same and refugees learn to talk and act a certain way. In this view, language is an important measure of integration. But I argue, it is a misleading one.

As humans, we understand the world around us through sight, touch, smell, and the sounds of language. We are pattern recognizers, and we make meaning from co-present cues. For example, the cartoon Tom and Jerry does not use language at all, but from it we learn to associate the animal that meows (‘cat’) with the animal that squeaks (‘mouse’). Associations like these are culture-specific; and experience leads to re-weightings that result in a new understanding of the world, and influence the way one uses language. Focusing on Syrian and Afghan refugees in Hamburg, Germany, I propose to examine whether Arabic-speaking Syrian refugees and Dari- and/or Pashto-speaking Afghan refugees living in Hamburg for two years have re-weighted their language associations to be culturally German, compared to refugees living in Hamburg for less than 6 months. This research would show that part of the integration process, at least, is facilitated through the native language of the refugees, not hindered by it.

Three distinct but related hypotheses are investigated: (1) refugees have adapted to German culture via their native language, (2) engagement with mentors who have lived in Germany facilitates this process, and (3) this occurs regardless of literacy (more than half of Afghan refugees in Germany are non-literate). At times, we have a vision of the “ideal”; convinced that integration means “like us”. Sometimes, this ideal involves pushing back against differences such as language, that is often the one thing displaced refugees hold onto as a memory of their past lives. This talk questions that ideal, and suggests that models that harness the power of language and community may alter our ideas about integration and improve the refugee experience.


On Thursday, Sandy Chung, Matt Wagers, Jed Pizarro-Guevara, Jake Vincent, and Richard Bibbs were at Academia Sinica in Taipei, Taiwan, for the 25th Annual Meeting of the Austronesian Formal Linguistics Association. They report a collegial environment to exchange ideas and nerd out on anything Austronesian.

Sandy and Matt opened the conference on Thursday with an invited talk about resumptive pronouns in Chamorro and Palauan. They argue that in both languages, resumptive pronouns arise in two ways: one that is licensed by the grammar, and another that is produced outside the grammar.

Jed (joint work with Matt) presented experimental evidence for an asymmetry in the extraction-restriction in Tagalog, and proposed that the results could be reframed as two grammars in competition. He provides computational evidence consistent with a two-grammar hypothesis.

The first day ended with a bang—with a Chinese lauriat, a multi-course meal that seemed endless! Especially noteworthy is the soup called “Buddha jumps over the wall”.

On Friday, former banana slug Eric Potsdam (University of Florida) opened the second day with an invited talk about ellipsis in Malagasy.

Later that day, Jake gave a presentation about the encoding of sentential negation in Chamorro and how phrases exhibiting negative concord might be licensed. He focused on explaining the inability for subjects to either signal sentential negation or exhibit negative concord without undergoing focus movement to Spec, CP.

Finally, Richard presented on an agentive nominalizing morpheme in Chamorro. He claimed that the morpheme is a reduplicant, and proposed a markedness analysis accounting for why the vowel of the reduplicant surfaces as non-identical to the vowel in the base.

Richard, Jake, and Jed enjoyed the company of new friends and old. Night markets, festival for a sea goddess, delicious oolong tea, craft cocktails, karaoke, and efficient public transportation were some of the things in Taiwan that they really appreciate. They can’t wait to be back!Pictured (left to right): Richard Bibbs, Jake Vincent, Eric Potsdam, Sandy Chung, Matt Wagers, Jed Pizarro-Guevara