Nina Semushina awarded CARTA Anthropogeny Fellowship

Graduate student Nina Semushina just received a CARTA Anthropogeny Fellowship for 2017-2018 year! She joined Anthropogeny Student Specialization Track a year ago, and since then she has actively participated in the program. This winter she got an MA in Linguistics from our Department and now is preparing for her future qualifying exam. Her thesis will be about the impact of delayed first language acquisition on quantitative reasoning and acquisition of numerical concepts.

More information about the Graduate Specialization in Anthropogeny can be found here:

Rachel Mayberry and Sara Goico awarded NSF rapid grant

Sara Goico, a graduate student in anthropology, and Rachel Mayberry, a professor in linguistics, received an NSF rapid grant, “Language emergence from inception.”  They will study how deaf children living in Iquitos, Peru, who know no sign or spoken language, gesture with their families before entering school for the first time, and how their gestures change over time as they communicate with one another in the school.

Micheal Obiri-Yeboah research on Gua

1st year PhD student Michael Obiri-Yeboah will present a paper on vowel harmony in Gua with Sharon Rose at the 48th Annual Conference on African Linguistics at Indian University in April. He also received funding to attend the NSF-DEL sponsored Summer School in Documentary Linguistics: Methods and Data Management at the University of Education, Winneba, Ghana to further his research on Gua.

UC San Diego Linguistics at the LSA Annual Meeting

Many members of our department presented at the Linguistics Society of America’s 91st Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas on January 5-8. They are listed below in bold and in alphabetical order, together with their co-authors and the titles of their presentations:

Angeliki Athanasopoulou
“The acquisition of Greek clitic construction prosody: an acoustic analysis”

Angeliki Athanasopoulou, Irene Vogel (University of Delaware), Hossep Dolatian (University of Delaware)
“Are the acoustic properties of canonical and non-canonical stress the same?”

Eric Bakovic
“Apparent ‘sufficiently similar’ degemination in Catalan is due to coalescence”

Grant Goodall
“Designing a language and the design of language”

Meilin Zhan (MIT), Roger Levy (MIT), and Andrew Kehler
“Testing a Bayesian pronoun interpretation model with Chinese ba and bei”

Ryan Lepic
“A usage-based analysis of the THEME construction in ASL”

Ryan Lepic and Corrine Occhino (University of New Mexico)
“Sign language structure: a construction-theoretic perspective”

Eric Meinhardt
“Non-stationarity and other critical mathematical problems for channel coding-based explanations of variation in language production”

Savithry Namboodiripad and Grant Goodall
“Formal acceptability experiments as a tool for exploring variation in constituent order”
Titus von der Malsburg (University of Potsdam), Till Poppels, Roger Levy (MIT)
“The President gave her inauguration speech: explicit belief and implicit expectations in language production and comprehension”

William Matchin is giving a colloquium talk at UC Irvine

 William is giving a colloquium talk at UC Irvine Department of Linguistics this Monday, January 23rd, entitled “Structure and content in real-time: an integrated theory of syntax”:
A successful syntactic theory provides insight into the creative machinery of language. However, there is an apparent fundamental divide among current syntactic theories. Mainstream Generative Grammar uses the simplest possible building blocks and provides a theory of the nature of syntactic structure, but its connection to real-time sentence processing is entirely unclear. On the contrary, “lexicalist” grammatical theories posit structurally complex building blocks and
connect well with real-time sentence processing but lack insight into the origin of these structures.

In this talk I propose an integration of these two approaches: a
Minimalist Grammar as a system of conceptual-semantic combination that generates syntactic objects, and Tree-Adjoining Grammar as a system that makes efficient use of these objects during comprehension and production. I provide evidence for this integrated framework with neuroimaging experiments that localize these systems to distinct anatomical locations of the brain. I also present neuroimaging data that support the integrated approach to an important problem for syntactic theory: island phenomena. I will discuss how the integrated approach facilitates communication among syntactic theory, psycholinguistics, and neurolinguistics, and potentially allows for better understanding of language acquisition and language disorders.

If you want a quick kiss, make it count: How choice of syntactic construction affects event construal

An open access article by Eva Wittenberg and Roger Levy has just appeared in Journal of Memory and Language! Here’s the abstract:


When we hear an event description, our mental construal is not only based on lexical items, but also on the message’s syntactic structure. This has been well-studied in the domains of causation, event participants, and object conceptualization. Less studied are the construals of temporality and numerosity as a function of syntax. We present a theory of how syntax affects the construal of event similarity and duration in a way that is systematically predictable from the interaction of mass/count syntax and verb semantics, and test these predictions in six studies. Punctive events in count syntax (give a kiss) and durative events in mass syntax (give advice) are construed as taking less time than in transitive frame (kiss and advise). Durative verbs in count syntax (give a talk), however, result in a semantic shift, orthogonal to duration estimates. These results demonstrate how syntactic and semantic structure together systematically affect event construal.