San Diego Linguistics Papers Issue 11: Allison Park on the linguistics of keysmashes

Have you ever been so flustered, amused, frustrated, or surprised that you… just… lkajhslkasdf?

Well, Allison Park sure has, and they’ve turned their experience with the online practice of keysmashing into a topic of serious linguistic study. In their recent paper ‘On the linguistic behavior of keysmashes’, Allison argues that keysmashes are fundamentally linguistic, behaving according to many of the normal criteria used for establishing that expression is ‘language’, like semanticity, standards of form, and arbitrariness. Then, Park goes on to evaluate the kinds of criteria which go into people’s judgements about whether a keysmash is ‘well formed’ and ‘acceptable’, finding that not only do keysmashes have to be the right length and have the right amount of repetition, but that the location on the keyboard of the characters used is crucial, along with other important characteristics.

For more information about this work, their findings, and the social, linguistic, and communicative goals of keysmashing, have a look at San Diego Linguistics Papers Issue 11 on eScholarship.

San Diego Linguistic Papers is the working papers archive of the Department of Linguistics at UC San Diego.

Tory Sampson and Rachel Mayberry have a new publication in Language

Graduate student Tory Sampson and faculty member Rachel Mayberry have a new publication in Language, titled “An Emerging SELF: The Copula Cycle in American Sign Language.” The abstract is as follows:

We question the commonly accepted assumption that American Sign Language (ASL) has no overt copula. We present evidence that one of the functions of the sign self in present-day ASL is as a copula. This sign evolved into its current function by way of a grammaticalization process called the ‘copula cycle’ (Katz 1996). The copula cycle consists of a deictic item transforming into a demonstrative pronoun and then into a copula by means of a series of syntactic reanalyses. We present corpus evidence from Old French Sign Language (LSF) in the 1850s, Old ASL in the 1910s, and present-day ASL dating to the 2000s and the late 2010s, and with these data analyze ASL examples of syntactic structures outlined by Li and Thompson (1977) that led to the increased use of self as a copula. We also find that self, which is not generally regarded as a pointing sign, follows the grammaticalization scheme for pointing signs outlined by Pfau and Steinbach (2006), indicating that the scheme may be used for signs that are derived from demonstratives. Ultimately, we conclude that ASL undergoes the same grammaticalization processes as spoken languages.

Anna Mai has a new publication in Proceedings of the Royal Society B

Graduate student Anna Mai has a new paper with Tim Sainburg (Harvard Medical School) and Timothy Gentner (UC San Diego, Psychology) in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, titled “Long-range sequential dependencies precede complex syntactic production in language acquisition.” The paper finds that infant vocalizations contain long-range sequential dependencies, a property previously assumed to derive primarily from the complex syntax of adult language use. A summary of the article can also be found on Twitter here.

Yuan Chai publishes paper in Languages

Graduate student Yuan Chai has a new paper (with Shihong Ye) in a special issue of  Languages devoted to exploring the interaction between phonation and prosody.

Chai, Y., & Ye, S. (2022). Checked syllables, checked tones, and tone sandhi in Xiapu Min. Languages 7(1): 47. doi:


A “checked” syllable usually refers to one with a short vowel and an oral or glottal coda, which results impressionistically in a “short” and “abrupt” quality. Although common in languages of the world, it is unclear how to characterize checked syllables phonetically. In this study, we investigated the acoustic features of checked syllables in citation and sandhi forms in Xiapu Min, an under-documented language from China. We conducted a production experiment and analyzed the F0, phonatory quality, vowel duration, and vowel quality in checked syllables. The results show that, in citation tones, checked syllables are realized with distinct F0 contours from unchecked syllables, along with glottalization in the end and a shorter duration overall. In sandhi tones, checked syllables lose their distinct F0 contours and become less glottalized. However, the shorter duration of checked syllables is retained in sandhi forms. This study lays out the acoustic properties that tend to be associated with checked syllables and can be used when testing checked syllables in other language varieties. The fact that in Xiapu Min sandhi checked tones become less glottalized but preserve their shorter duration suggests that, when checked syllables become unchecked diachronically, glottalization might be lost prior to duration lengthening.

Eva Wittenberg publishes new paper on experimental design

Former UCSD undergrad Suhas Arehalli and his advisor Eva Wittenberg published a new article in Linguistics Vanguard, titled “Experimental filler design influences error correction rates in a word restoration paradigm”.

Abstract: Including fillers or distractors in psycholinguistic experiments has been standard for decades; yet, relatively little is known how the design of these items interacts with critical manipulations. In this paper, we ask about the role that contextual statistical information in filler items plays in determining if and how to correct a given error, and how grammatical expectations interact with context. We first replicate a speech restoration experiment conducted by Mack et al. (2012), measuring usage preferences of null-subject constructions. Then we report two additional experiments in which we manipulated only the filler items, either having noise appear uniformly at random, or with a particular bias. Our results (1) demonstrate that listeners are sensitive to statistical patterns in the distribution of noise within the experiment, and (2) suggest that this paradigm can be used to investigate interaction between the mechanisms that govern grammatical preferences, and those that govern error correction processes.

The paper is available here (Open Access).

SDLP Issue 10 has been published

Issue 10 of San Diego Linguistics Papers, our open-access online working papers series, has just been published and available here.

The current issue has been edited by Yuan Chai, Neşe Demir, Duk-Ho Jung, and Nina Hagen Kaldhol. This issue includes one manuscript on Gua phonology written by our recent graduate Dr. Michael Obiri-Yeboah: “Tone melody and tense, mood, aspect marking in Gua”

Joshua Wampler has a new paper in Glossa

Graduate student Joshua Wampler has a new paper out in Glossa.

Wampler, J. (2021). Do thus: an investigation into anaphoric event reference. Glossa: A Journal of General Linguistics6(1), 78. DOI:

Work on anaphoric event reference has focused on do so, do it, do this, and do that. This paper reports on an analysis of a heretofore unstudied form of event reference, do thus. Using a corpus of naturally occurring examples, I present evidence that do thus occupies the final slot in a hitherto incomplete paradigm for English event anaphora. Syntactically and semantically, do thus is similar to do so; but at the discourse level it patterns more like do this and do that. The data point to thus as an adverbial demonstrative on par with nominal this and that, which, when paired with do, can be used for complex event reference.