The Maryland Linguistics Colloquium Series

The linguistics graduate students organize a colloquium series every fall and spring semester. They bring linguists in from all over the world to present their most current work. Often, the Maryland Linguistics Colloquium Series is the first public presentation of ground-breaking research. To receive announcements of the colloquium talks, please subscribe to the Linguistics Colloquium Series listserv. You can also subscribe to an RSS feed that lists all of our colloquium talks.

Upcoming events

Susi Wurmbrand · TBA

Linguistics Colloquium

 

Toby Mintz · TBA

Linguistics Colloquium

 

Jon Sprouse · TBA

Linguistics Colloquium

 

Past events

It is an interesting curiosity that occasional can get an adverb-like reading in which it seems to scope outside its DP (Bolinger 1967, Stump 1981, Larson 1999, Zimmermann 2003, Schäfer 2007, DeVries 2010, Gehrke & McNally 2010):

(1) The occasional sailor strolled by. 'Occasionally, a sailor strolled by.'

This is the paradigm case of 'adverbial' or nonlocal readings of adjectives. What seems not to have attracted sufficient attention is that such nonlocal readings of adjectives have ...

 

Theories of language processing confront the question of how formal properties of a grammar affect selection among competing syntactic analyses during incremental interpretation. In this talk, I will consider how relative clause (RC) placement affects processing of filler-gap dependencies in Chamorro, an Austronesian language of the Mariana Islands.

Chamorro is among a small set of languages in which relative clauses can both follow the modified noun phrase, as in (1a), or precede it, (1b). Chamorro ...

 

This talk presents puzzles concerning the representation of features in the agreement system of the Eastern Algonquian language, Mi’gmaq. A growing body of research converges on the idea that phi-agreement should be separated into distinct person (π), number (#), and sometimes gender (Γ) probes (e.g. Anagnostopoulou 2003; Béjar & Rezac 2003; Laka 1993; Shlonsky 1989). This separation has led to a wide range of empirical converge, in everything from Mayan Agent Focus constructions to Basque ...

 

In this presentation, I present a new theory of the relationship between context-sensitivity, vagueness, and adjectival scale structure set within the Delineation semantics framework (Kamp, 1975; Klein, 1980, among others). From an empirical point of view, I argue that the four principle subclasses of adjectival predicates (relative adjectives (ex. tall), total absolute adjectives (ex. dry), partial absolute adjectives (ex. wet), and non-scalar adjectives (ex. atomic)) can be distinguished along three dimensions: 1) how their criteria ...

 

Even the most cursory observation of the world’s languages reveals a fairly robust correlation between structural cases and agreement. Thus, it is very often the case that subject agreement targets noun phrases that surface as nominative, and object agreement targets noun phrases that surface as accusative. And note: the existence of non-nominative subjects and non-accusative objects demonstrates that this is not merely a terminological truism. Let us refer to this interdependence of case and ...

 

Research in my lab seeks to understand how language production and comprehension are shaped by the competing pressures inherent to communication, and how this in turn affects the development of language over generations. The talk is divided into two parts. The first part presents a quick overview of some of our research on language production. This work investigates whether the systems underlying language production are organized so as to balance the demands inherent to production ...

 

Linguistic norms emerge in human communities because people imitate each other. A shared linguistic system allows people to enjoy the benefits of shared knowledge and coordinated planning. Once norms are in place, why would they ever change? This question, echoing broad questions in the theory of social dynamics, has particular force in relation to language. By definition, an innovator is in the minority when the innovation first occurs. In some areas of social dynamics, important ...

 

Human infants learn spontaneously and effortlessly the language(s) spoken in their environments, but we still have a very poor understanding of the mechanisms underlying this feat. Here, I will present an approach based on the computational modeling of the problem faced by infants. The problem presents itself as the simultaneous, unsupervized, and mutually constraining discovery of linguistic structures at many levels. I will illustrate the notion of learning synergies through several studies on the ...

 

There is a substantial literature describing how, over the course of development, infants become more sensitive to differences between native phonemes (sounds that are both present and meaningful in the native language) and less sensitive to differences between non-native phonemes (sounds that are neither present nor meaningful in the input). A more difficult problem is what to do with allophonic contrasts, dimensions that vary in the input but are not recruited for lexical encoding. For ...

 

The term "bootstrapping" appears frequently in the literature on child language acquisition, but is often defined vaguely (if at all) and can mean different things to different people. In this talk, I define bootstrapping as the use of structured correspondences between different levels of linguistic structure as a way to aid learning, and discuss how probabilistic models can be used to investigate the nature of these correspondences and how they might help the child learner ...

 

In this talk I will look at the following paradigm:

  1. Mary read some book or other that was on the reading list.
  2. Mary read whatever/whichever book was on the reading list.
  3. Mary read any book that was on the reading list.

All of the above involve some kind of epistemic uncertainty on the part of the speaker, as shown by the unacceptability of a follow up like It was ‘My Own Country’ (and…). They ...

 

For some initial set of words in a child’s lexicon, acquiring word meanings must be accomplished via observation of the co-occurring referent world (i.e., map ‘dog’ onto the visually present referent of a dog, and infer the meaning DOG). However, all naturally-occurring referential scenes are rich, complex, and thus highly ambiguous: there are usually many possible referents present and always many possible meanings to infer from a referent. One currently popular explanation for ...

 

The speech perception abilities of adults exhibit a curious property. On the one hand, it is well known that the acquisition of certain non-native phonetic contrasts is very difficult for adults, suggesting that mature phonetic category representations are somewhat inflexible. On the other hand, listeners appear to be able to adjust to acoustic variability in their own language. These sources of variability are substantial: slips of the tongue produce imperfect or ambiguous speech tokens, environmental ...

 

I argue for a contextual approach to phasal edges based on an investigation of the possibilities for movement and anaphor binding in constructions where more than one phrase is located at a phasal edge. Additionally, a new, pervasive generalization is established regarding extraction from complements of lexical heads.

 

It is commonly observed that some phonological positions are associated with prominence while others are not. Prominent positions tend to be characterized by having more robust phonetic cues or a wide range of phonological contrasts, while non-prominent positions have weaker cues and fewer contrasts (e.g., Beckman 1999, Smith 2000). Prominence, however, has often been used as an explanation (e.g., there are more contrasts in a certain “strong” positions because they are psycholinguistically or ...

 

Much debate in recent years has focused on whether post-verbal elements/PVEs in SOV Hindi are derived via leftwards LCA-compatible movement (Mahajan 1997a/b, 2003), or must be assumed to result from some kind of rightwards non-antisymmetric movement applying to informationally backgrounded constituents (Bhatt and Dayal 2007, Manetta 2012). A second phenomenon, scope restrictions on wh in situ elements in post-verbal CPs, is often linked to the syntactic analysis of PVEs. Comparing Hindi with Bangla ...

 

We claim that the root nonfinite verb phenomenon, or Optional Infinitive Stage, is a subcase of the larger phenomenon of Interface Delay, as a result of which distinct domains of cognition experience gradual development of their capacity to communicate with one another. Root nonfinite verbs, then, are the result of the delayed development of temporal anaphora – a construct that requires the interaction of syntax with the representation of interlocutors’ common ground perspectives. In the absence ...

 

The goal of this talk is to provide a principled account of the factors determining whether a given control verb permits partial control, in terms of semantic properties of the predicate in question.

The ability of certain control predicates to participate in configurations where the controller is a proper subset of the plurality given by the understood subject constitutes a puzzle in the study of control. Such predicates include intend, remember and be glad:

1a ...

 

Why can I tell you that I 'ran for five minutes' but not that I 'ran all the way to the store for five minutes'? Why can you say that there are 'five pounds of books' in this package if it contains several books, but not 'five pounds of book' if it contains only one? What keeps you from using 'sixty degrees of water' to tell me the temperature of the water in your pool ...

 

Positing a morpheme-based route to complex word recognition entails not only access to morphological constituents, but also mechanisms for the initial segmentation of words into putative constituents, and compositional processes operating on these constituent representations. In this talk, I will present some recent findings on segmentation, morphological activation, and composition in complex words, including evidence from priming, lexical decision, and passive reading paradigms, in tandem with the electrophysiological brain imaging methods EEG and MEG. The ...

 

I present evidence that speakers of Cochabamba Quechua are aware of non-local restrictions on laryngeal features in their language, and look at whether typological asymmetries have an impact on the synchronic knowledge of Quechua speakers.

Quechua exhibits two non-local restrictions of interest: a cooccurrence restriction prohibits pairs of ejectives within roots (e.g., [k'ap'i], and an ordering restriction prohibits roots with an initial plain stop and a medial ejective (e.g., [kap’i ...

 

Florian Schwarz, from the University of Pennsylvania, will present joint work with Sonja Tiemann, University of Tuebingen. Abstract below.

One prominent line of experimental research on meaning in the past decade or so has been concerned with the relative time course of different aspects of meaning unfolding in online processing, mostly with a focus on scalar implicatures vs. literal meaning. More recent work has begun to look at the processing of presuppositions as yet another ...

 

Debate persists over whether Mandarin Chinese, a language with no overt agreement marking and (arguably) no overt tense marking, exhibits a (covert) finite/nonfinite split. Proponents of such a split point to asymmetries in the properties of complement clauses that they argue are most naturally explained by positing a finite/nonfinite distinction (C-T. J. Huang 1982, 1984, 1987, 1989; Li 1985, 1990; C.C. Tang 1990; Ernst 1994; T.C. Tang 2000; T-.H. J ...

 

In this talk I explore how the semantic feature of animacy can help guide children's learning of certain abstract predicates, and lead them to figure out the syntactic structures associated with these predicates. More specifically, I show that encountering an inanimate subject in a biclausal structure provides a cue that the subject is displaced with respect to its theta-marked position. In turn, this tells the learner that the main predicate is what I'll ...

 

Object agreement is the realization of valued phi features on v. Clitic doubling is the movement of a D head into the verbal inflectional complex. In principle, these two phenomena are distinct, but in practice it can be difficult to determine whether a given morpheme is the reflex of object agreement or a moved clitic. In this talk, I will take up the issue for the Amharic (Ethiosemitic) object marker, a morpheme attached to verbs ...

 

The production and the comprehension of syntactically complex sentences is impaired in aphasia. For example, both Wh-movement sentences (such as object-extracted relative clauses) and NP-movement sentences (such as passives) elicit chance performance by adults with aphasia in off-line comprehension tasks like sentence-picture matching. However, it remains unclear how exactly impaired adults try (and often fail) to comprehend such sentences in real time. This talk reviews evidence from a series of studies examining the real-time comprehension ...

 

I argue that compositionality (in the sense of homomorphic interpretation) is compatible with radical and pervasive contextual effects on interpretation. Apparent problems with this claim lose their force if we are careful in distinguishing the question of how a grammar assigns interpretations from the question of how people figure out which interpretations the grammar assigns. I demonstrate, using a simple example, that this latter task must sometimes be done not by computing a derivation defined ...

 

Samoan is a Polynesian language with an ergative case marking system. While ergative and oblique case are marked segmentally, the absolutive case has been thought to be unmarked. I will present fieldwork data in Samoan supporting the hypothesis that absolutive case is marked by a lexical high tone, although this is not necessarily a one-to-one mapping, since high tones also mark other grammatical structures, as well as prosodic boundaries. I will discuss implications of this ...

 

Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor and Professor of Linguistics at M.I.T., will be visiting the University of Maryland for two days, January 26-27, 2012, as a part of the Humanities Dean's Lecture Series.

On the morning of Friday January 27th Professor Chomsky is giving a specialist talk on linguistic theory.

 

Joint work with Ilaria Frana, University of Goettingen

Heim (1979) famously observed that sentences like (1) are ambiguous:

(1) Miles knows the price that Clara knows.
    = Miles knows what the price of the iPhone is, and Clara does too. ("what value"/A reading.)
    = Miles knows which product Clara knows the price of. ("which concept"/B reading.)

Understanding this ambiguity and its consequences have been a central to understanding "concealed questions" and question-embedding verbs in general ...

 

Researchers have argued that sound change may obtain when deviant percepts due to listeners' under-normalization for variation in speech become seeds for new perceptual and production norms (Ohala, 1993; Blevins, 2004). How deviant percepts accumulate in a systematic fashion to give rise to stable variation remains a vexing question. This study explores how variation in socio-cognitive processing may contribute to the emergence and propagation of sound change, showing that variations in several individual-difference cognitive dimensions ...

 

There are two main sources of variability in natural languages: sociolinguistic (probabilistic) variability and parametric variation. Although sociolinguistic variation has long been recognized as an integral part of the linguistic system, its impact on the acquisition of grammar has barely been explored. We present experimental data from Chilean Spanish (ChS) and Brazilian Portuguese (BrP), two languages in which there is significant sociolinguistic variation in the production of plural morphology but which also differ parametrically in ...

 

Appalachian English exhibits sentences that seem to contain two subjects, as in (1), which are not possible in standard English:

(1) a. We don’t nobody know how long we have. (Montgomery and Hall 2004)

b. ... they didn' nobody live up there. (our fieldwork)

c. There can't nobody ride him. (Montgomery and Hall 2004)

d. ... there wouldn' nothin' go down through there. (Feagin 1979, 238)

Our investigation of these types of (split subject) sentences ...

 

Pragmatic interpretations can be rapid and robust but are language-dependent inferences like scalar implicature preceded by semantic analysis? While many studies find an initial period of semantic interpretation (e.g., some interpreted as “some-and-possibly-all”), recent work has found that scalar implicatures are rapidly calculated when the quantifier was phonologically-reduced, providing a cue to the partitive construction (e.g., summa instead of some-of). This talk will examine possible reasons for this dichotomy. To distinguish between the ...

 

Please join us for summer research presentations of work conducted by undergraduate recipients of the Summer Baggett Scholarship. Listen to great research and chat with David Baggett, founder of the scholarship and UMD alum, all while munching on delicious dessert morsels.

The undergraduate students who will be presenting their work this year (and their faculty advisors) are:

Jacqueline Phillips (Jeffrey Lidz) Faina Kostyukovsky (Jeffrey Lidz and Valentine Hacquard) Jessica Lee (Jeffrey Lidz) Victoria Peck (Jeffrey ...

 

If we conceptualize a theory of human sentence comprehension as a combination of (1) a grammar (2) a strategy for using the rules of the grammar and (3) some architectural facilities like memory we still have a huge space of possible theories. It would be nice to narrow this class down to just those that somehow made sense in relation to the communicative function sentence-comprehension often serves.

This talk examines a smaller class of comprehension ...

 

Hal Daumé · TBA

Linguistics Colloquium