Department of Linguistics News and Events

NOTICE! The Department of Linguistics is currently in the process of moving to the first floor of Johnston Hall. The phone lines have been disconnected and are scheduled to resume operation on Monday, July 20th. Please email for any assistance that is needed during this time.

Spring 2014


All talks take place at 3:00pm in Curtin 124, except as noted.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Vivian Chiang, UW-Milwaukee
"Context, Animation, and L2 Acquisition: A Pilot Study on the Acquisition Sequence of the Particle LE in Mandarin Chinese."

Friday, February 28, 2014

Zafer Al Lababidi,UW-Milwaukee
"L1-English tense-lax vowel system influence on L2-Arabic short and long vowel learning."

Friday, March 7, 2014

Juman Al Bukhari and Hamid Ouali, UW-Milwaukee
"On Serial Verb Constructions in Arabic"

Friday, March 14, 2014

Eric Raimy, UW-Madison
"A generative approach to precedence"

Friday, March 28, 2014

Monica Macaulay, UW-Madison
"Menominee Derivational Morphology"

Friday, April 18, 2014

Kenneth de Jong, Indiana University
"Speech perception and speech production experiments: Experimental systems for investigating phonological systems"

Fall 2013


All talks take place at 3:00pm in Curtin 109.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Hyunjung Lee, University of Chicago
"Evidence for sound change in the prosody of Kyungsang Korean"

The Kyungsang dialect of Korean (spoken by 10 million people in the southeastern part of Korea) is distinct from the Seoul dialect, which is considered standard, with regard to segment, lexical pitch, and intonation. However, whether this distinction in Kyungsang Korean is maintained in younger generations is questionable due to the increased contact with Seoul speakers and the prevailing linguistic ideology that has lent Seoul Korean a strong normative bias. In this talk, I provide acoustic evidence for sound change currently in progress in Kyungsang Korean by showing generational variations in the prosody of Kyungsang Korean. Particularly, comparing the phonetic data from younger Kyungsang speakers with those from Seoul speakers, the present study indicates how Seoul Korean has influenced the prosody of Kyungsang Korean and how the prevailing language ideology of a nation impacts the dialectical diversity of that language.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Barbara Birch, California State University, Fresno
"The 'Acquisition Problem' and Construction Grammar"

The "acquisition problem" is the question of how infants go from babbling to speaking like adults in such a short time. Although the acquisition problem and any solutions have been posed in terms of L1 acquisition, they are also relevant to L2 acquisition. One solution to the acquisition problem is the Innatist Hypothesis, the idea that humans are born with a language- specific capacity to map words onto universal grammatical structures as well as general learning capacities that permit the learning of peripheral linguistic features. Some basic assumptions make this hypothesis problematic for second language acquisition. In contrast, the Usage/Exposure Hypothesis depends only on general learning abilities and normal usage and exposure to language. A new theory of grammar, Construction Grammar, builds upon the usage/exposure hypothesis and such ideas as multicompetent speakers/hearers, computational analyses of performance data, emergence, naturalness, priming, and language acquisition through the life-span. This presentation lays out the features of Construction Grammar that make it especially applicable to L2 acquisition.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Tue Trinh, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee
"On the derivation of alternatives"

An influential strand of research on natural language meaning, initiated by Paul Grice, has been guided by the intuition that interpretation of a sentence S involves taking into account other sentences which could have been asserted instead of S: the "alternatives" of S. Thus, the task presents itself of characterizing the relation between S and its alternatives. In this talk, I address some problems faced by theories of alternatives on the market and propose a solution to them.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Dola Algady, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee
"The L2 Acquisition of Modern Standard Arabic Relativization Constructions from a Minimalist Perspective"

Didem Ikizoglu, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee
"Against Compound Stress in Turkish"

Our aim is to show the problems with present analyses and propose a new solution to the problem of compound stress in Turkish. We argue that the productive forms of compounding, specifically the Noun+Noun-sI form and various ‘compound verb’s, are phrases, and that they have the stress pattern expected of phrases. The true lexical compounds are those with final stress. As these are maximally lexicalized words, they exhibit the expected final stress pattern of words in Turkish.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Rebekah Baglini, University of Chicago
"Reference to states and degrees across categories"

Abstract: Linguists and philosophers often mention states in characterizing the referential properties of certain lexical items. But different languages use different syntactic categories to encode these meanings, leading to systematic variation in the shape of stative constructions. English exemplifies the three primary strategies for expressing stative meaning attested cross-linguistically: non-dynamic verbs (1), adjectival predicates (2), and certain abstract mass nouns or roots (3).

  1. VERBAL: Sam hungers for pie.
  2. ADJECTIVAL: Sam is hungry.
  3. NOMINAL: Sam has hunger.

Surprisingly, the semantics literature does not relate the types of stative expressions in (1)-(3) model-theoretically. Rather, it is typically assumed that stative verbs denote properties of stative eventualities; that (gradable) adjectives denote (functions from degrees to) properties of individuals; and that abstract mass nouns denote properties of individuals or individual kinds. This heterogeneity in the formal treatment of stative expressions provides the central question of this talk: can stative meanings be captured model-theoretically as a natural class across syntactic categories? The empirical focus of my research is cross-linguistic variation in the morphosyntax of stative constructions which, I argue, provides important clues to identifying the structures which underlie stative meanings universally. I draw heavily on my ongoing fieldwork on the Senegambian language Wolof, a language which exemplifies two different strategies for constructing statives which express gradable property concepts: concepts like tall, expensive, and happy which are prototypically associated with adjectives. Wolof, like many languages, appears to lack a true adjective class, instead dividing property concepts lexemes between stative verbal predicates and kind-denoting mass nouns. The latter cannot be predicated of an individual directly, and so must compose with additional morphosyntactic structure. I show that comparing the semantic properties of these stative expression across categories points us towards a unified definition of statives as a natural class of meanings, and provides insight into the relationship between states and degrees in semantic ontology.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Franzo Law, University of Wisconsin-Madison
"Perception of Canadian French word-final vowels by English-dominant and French-dominant bilinguals"
Franzo Law's Website

The goal of this study was to contribute to the understanding of phonological processing by bilinguals, in exploring automaticity in vowel perception relative to language dominance. Certain vowel contrasts that are phonemic in French are known to be difficult for English speakers to distinguish, even with extensive experience with French. This study investigated the perception of Canadian French word-final vowels by English-dominant and French-dominant bilinguals living in Montreal. In a modified identification task, listeners selected the response that rhymed with the target word, embedded in a carrier sentence. The target words were minimal sets of real and nonsense words, contrasting in word-final vowel, as well as morphosyntactic verb minimal pairs contrasting in word-final /e-ε/ (e.g., parlerai “I will talk” v. parlerais “I would talk”). Percent correct was used as a dependent measure. In addition, reaction time, reaction-time difference scores and per-trial mouse tracking patterns were collected as more sensitive measures of the perception process. Results showed that both groups were highly accurate in identifying the French vowels, although the French-dominant group was comparatively more accurate and faster. For the English-dominant group, overall accuracy correlated with participants’ perceived accentedness and fluency in French. Analysis of the listeners’ French productions revealed that robustness of contrast in /e-ε/ production was correlated with better perception. Future studies will investigate the perceptual robustness of phoneme categories in developmental bilingual populations.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Chris Kennedy, University of Chicago

Negative DPs can have readings in which their negative and existential components are “split” by another operator: ‘The company is required to fire no employees’ can mean that it is NOT required that THERE BE employees fired. Previous analyses of split scope involve determiner decomposition or special kinds of quantification, but we argue that split scope readings do not involve “splitting” at all. Instead, they arise because ‘no’ has an independently motivated analysis as a degree quantifier, rather than a determiner, which saturates a quantity position inside DP and takes scope independently of its existentially bound nominal host.