Symmetrical objects in Moro: Challenges and solutions

A paper by Farrell Ackerman, Rob Malouf, and John Moore has just appeared in the Journal of Linguistics! Here’s the abstract.

This paper examines the syntactic and semantic behavior of object arguments in Moro, a Kordofanian language spoken in central Sudan. In particular, we focus on multiple object constructions (ditransitives, applicatives, and causatives) and show that these objects exhibit symmetrical syntactic behavior; e.g., any object can passivize or be realized as an object marker, and all can do so simultaneously. Moreover, we demonstrate that each object can bear any of the non-agentive roles in a verb’s semantic role inventory and that the resulting ambiguities are an entailment of symmetrical object constructions of the type found in Moro. Previous treatments of symmetrical languages have assumed a syntactic asymmetry between multiple objects and have developed theoretical analyses that treat symmetrical behaviors as departures from an asymmetrical basic organization of clausal syntax. We take a different approach: we develop a Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar account that allows a partial ordering of the argument structure (arg-st) list. The guiding idea is that languages differ with respect to the organization of their arg-st lists and their consequences for grammatical function realization: there is no privileged encoding, but there is large variation within the parameters defined by arg-st organization. This accounts directly for the symmetrical behaviors of multiple objects. We also show how this approach can be extended to account for certain asymmetrical behaviors in Moro.

Grant for International Collaboration with UCL

Jeremy Skipper (University College London) and Eva Wittenberg received a small grant from the Global Engagement Fund at UCL to deepen their collaboration on how spatial and temporal activation patterns in the brain can predict pronoun resolution. The grant will serve as seed funding for mutual visits in order to plan a behavioral pilot study, and a series of neuroimaging studies.

“The Way We Talk”: on stuttering and related matters

Our department organized a screening of The Way We Talk, a documentary film on stuttering on Thursday October 13 at 6 pm in Atkinson Hall. The screening was followed by a Q&A with the director Michael Turner and other people who stutter: Ryan Turner, a UC San Diego math major and the director’s brother, Prof. Jesse Harris (UCLA, Linguistics), and Michael Addonizio, Bayan Azima, and Jaymie Horak, members of the San Diego Chapter of the National Stuttering Association.

The event was free and open to the public. It was sponsored by UC San Diego Division of Social Sciences, John Muir College, and the Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.

Scott Seyfarth defends!

Congratulations to Scott Seyfarth on the defense of his dissertation Contextual and morphological effects in speech production!
Scott will be moving to New York City in the fall for a position as visiting assistant professor in the NYU Linguistics Department.

San Diego Linguistic Papers Issue 6

The sixth issue of San Diego Linguistic Papers is now available. SDLP is the working-papers series of the UC San Diego Department of Linguistics. This issue includes five papers by members of the San Diego linguistics research community:

Frederiksen, Anne Therese. Hold + stroke gesture sequences as cohesion devices: Examples from Danish narratives
DeAnda, Stephanie; Hendrickson, Kristi; Zesiger, Pascal; Poulin-Dubois, Diane; Friend, Margaret. Lexical access in the second year: A cross-linguistic study of monolingual and bilingual vocabulary development
McCollum, Adam. Vowel dispersion and Kazakh labial harmony
Kroeger, Richard. Folk definitions of Korean ideophones
Malouf, Robert. Generating morphological paradigms with a recurrent neural network

Issue 6 is published online through eScholarship, and is available there or from the SDLP website.

R. defends!

Congratulations to R. Mata on the defense of his dissertation “Traversing The Wall: A Study of Language Contact among Heritage and Immigrant Speakers of Spanish in the Tijuana-San Diego Border Area”. R(odolfo) will be moving to Maine to take up a visiting professor position in Spanish linguistics at Colby College.