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Rutgers tenure-track position in phonology

The Department of Linguistics at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey (New Brunswick) invites applicants for a tenure‐track Assistant Professor position in linguistics with a specialization in phonology, beginning September 1, 2016. We seek applicants whose research interests complement those of the current faculty and who can contribute breadth and depth to the department with respect to research, teaching, and advising at the graduate and undergraduate levels.

Applicants must have completed all degree requirements for a Ph.D. in linguistics or a related field by August 31, 2016.

Applications should include a cover letter, a curriculum vitae, a research statement, sample publications, a teaching statement, teaching evaluations if available, and three letters of reference addressed to Linguistics Search Committee (address below). The cover letter should include a list of those writing letters of reference and a list of all the materials that have been, or will be, submitted. All materials should be submitted via Interfolio (link below).

Review of applications will begin November 1, 2015 and continue until the position is filled. For full consideration, applications should be submitted by November 15, 2015. Inquiries about the search should be sent to Ms. Marilyn Reyes (email below).

Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, is an Equal Opportunity / Affirmative Action Employer. Qualified applicants will be considered for employment without regard to race, creed, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, disability status, genetic information, protected veteran status, military service or any other category protected by law. As an institution, we value diversity of background and opinion, and prohibit discrimination or harassment on the basis of any legally protected class in the areas of hiring, recruitment, promotion, transfer, demotion, training, compensation, pay, fringe benefits, layoff, termination or any other terms and conditions of employment.

Application Address:

Linguistics Search Committee
Dept. of Linguistics, Rutgers University
18 Seminary Place
New Brunswick NJ

Application URL:

Contact Information:
Ms. Marilyn Reyes
Phone: 848-932-0477 Fax: 732-932-1370

The Dual Lexicon Model

Hello All,

I’ve lately become interested in the dual lexicon model, originally conceived of by Lisa Menn and put in print in Kiparsky and Menn (1977). My basic interest is in what I consider to be an outstanding problem in phonological development, and the primary motivator of the dual lexicon model, namely, why children’s production abilities lag behind their perceptual abilities.

To satisfy my interests, I’ve started reading more about the model and its various instantiations, and I’m posting my notes to Phonoloblog. In a moment, I’ll post a review of Kiparsky and Menn (1997). Future posts will cover Hewlett (1989), Menn and Matthei (1992), Smolensky (1996), and a section of Hale and Reiss (2008). If you’d like to see a particular manuscript reviewed, let me know. I’d also love to get feedback about the proposals I’m reviewing (or about my reviews). Thanks!


NAPhC 6 at Concordia

The Linguistics Program at Concordia University presents
Sixth North American Phonology Conference

(NAPhC 6)
Concordia University, Montreal
April 30-May 2, 2010

Theme: A celebration of the 51st anniversary of the publication of The Sound Pattern of Russian.

Morris Halle’s (1959) The Sound Pattern of Russian (SPR) proposes 6 formal conditions that a phonological theory should fulfill, paraphrased as follows:

Condition 1: Phonological representations consist of segments and boundaries.

Condition 2: The phonetic properties of segments are characterized by a set of binary distinctive features.

Condition 3: A phonological description of a language must provide a deterministic algorithm for mapping from an input  representation (containing only phonological information) to an output representation.

Condition 4: The phonology must interface with other modules of grammar, such as syntax.

Condition 5: In phonological representations the number of specified features is consistently reduced to a minimum compatible with satisfying Conditions (3) and (4).

Condition 6: Morphological boundaries have to be eliminated or converted by the phonology.

These six conditions serve as the theme of this year’s NAPhC. We invite papers (on any and all languages–not just Russian!) that address issues raised by these conditions and other aspects of SPR. Are these conditions met by current models? Has their acceptance or rejection been sufficiently justified? For example, do Halle’s arguments for binarity still hold? Are other arguments available for binarity? Have models that evaluate alignment of, say, syllables and morphemes justified the rejection of Condition 6?

Please submit an anonymous 2 page abstract in pdf format to submissions by March 26, 2010. Authors of accepted papers will be notified on March 29, 2010.

Invited Speakers:
Lee Bickmore (SUNY Albany)
Daniel Currie Hall (Meertens Instituut)
Suzanne Urbanczyk (University of Victoria)

Organizing Committee:
Mark Hale
Madelyn Kissock
Charles Reiss

Call for course proposals: LSA 2011

Dear colleagues,
I don’t think it’s widely known that the 2011 summer institute courses are being chosen based on submissions, rather than through the usual invitation procedure. I’m posting this here because I thought that the risk of creating more competition for my own proposal was far outweighed by the chance of seeing some of you there.

The 2011 Linguistic Institute, which will take place at the University of Colorado at Boulder from July 5 to August 5, 2011, is seeking proposals for courses to be offered at the Institute. The online submission process for these proposals is now available.

Call for proposals:

Institute website:

Online submission website:

E-mail contact: lsa2011atcoloradodotedu

Deadline for course proposals: January 15, 2010.

Major sponsors of the 2011 Linguistic Institute include the Linguistic Society of America and the Department of Linguistics, University of Colorado at Boulder.

Goldrick, Matthew. (in press). Utilizing psychological realism to advance phonological theory.

Hello All,

I just finished reading a draft of Matt Goldrick’s chapter from the upcoming Handbook of Phonological Theory (2nd Edition). I enjoyed it and found it helpful in the way it covers the relationship between theoretical work on generative grammar and psycholinguistic work. So, I wrote a short summary, which I’m posting


Goldrick essentially reviews the role of phonotactics in psycholinguistic literature, but takes as a starting point the term “psychological reality” as it was used by Sapir (1933) to refer to the cognitive status of a grammar. Goldrick argues that it is vital for linguists to approach their research with at least some understanding of psychological reality—how things happen in real time, for instance—and that theories of grammar can only be improved by consideration of related data from the psycholinguistic literature.

As an example, Goldrick discusses the division between pre-lexical processing and lexical processing in the speech perception literature. Pre-lexical processing refers to a cognitive function which takes in fine-grained acoustic information (something like the signal sent along the auditory nerve) and spits out a pre-lexical but phonologically detailed representation. Lexical processing then takes this representation that has been passed to it and finds the corresponding entry in the mental lexicon . The term ‘function’ is used consistently to refer to a theoretical mapping of inputs (say, the signal from the auditory nerve) to outputs (phonemic representations). Following Marr (1982) and Smolensky (2006), Goldrick contrasts these levels of description with a higher algorithmic level—which details how a function is computed—and a lower neural level—which explains how the brain acheives a function. Of course, description at all three levels is necessary.

Goldrick works through evidence that categorical and gradient phonotactics influence both pre-lexical and lexical processing stages withing the larger cognitive task of single word recognition. As an example, identification tasks show listeners erroneously hear ill-formed sequences as well-formed ones; discrimination tasks show listeners have difficulty keeping separate words with ill-formed sequences and well-formed words that contain the likely repair strategies for the ill-formed words. Importantly, identification and discrimination errors do not always lead to real words, so they are arguably pre-lexical processing effects. More broadly, the reviewed psycholinguistic literature supports the existence of phonotactic representations apart from lexical ones, and it appears the representations are actively engaged in multiple cognitive functions, including both pre-lexical and lexical processing.

As something of a cautionary tale to linguistics, Goldrick talks about what can be gleaned from studies of wordlikeness judgments. First, he points out that the cognitive mechanisms employed in a judgment task are poorly defined (as Rob Fiorentino would say, it’s a very offline task), so it’s difficult to say what in the task reflects grammar (a mapping between surface and underlying forms) and what reflects other cognitive functions. We know, for example, that lexical neighborhood affects influence judgments (Bailey & Hahn, 2001). We also know from Luce and Vitevitch’s work (see refs below) that having real works in other tasks with nonwords increases the effects of lexical neighborhoods, and recently Shademan (2006, 2007) has shown that including real words in a judgment task does the same thing. Albright (2009) argues that the distribution of phonotactic probabilities within a nonword set also influences the relative roles of lexical and phonotactic effects on judgments. Finally, Goldrick notes that judgments may be the result of prior processes, such as perceptual effects that warp the percept. For example, Dupoux, Kakehi, Hirose, Pallier, and Mehler (1999) showed that Japanese listeners “repair” illegal consonant clusters by inserting an epenthetic vowel (cf. Berent et al., 2008, in PNAS).

For linguists, all the literature above means that claims to study competence apart from performance are not tenable, at least if our data are from wordlikeness tasks. We can’t study competence from these tasks because we know that the judgments are influenced by extra-grammatical factors. Therefore, Goldrick’s initial goal of emphasizing the importance of psychological reality within the study of linguistics holds. Beyond that, Goldrick offers several steps for future research, including some ideas for the study of the interaction of phonotactic and lexical knowledge.

Representative References

Albright, Adam (2009). Feature-based generalisation as a source of gradient acceptability. Phonology 26: 9-41.

Bailey, Todd M. and Ulrike Hahn (2001). Determinants of wordlikeness: Phonotactics or lexical neighborhoods? Journal of Memory and Language 44: 568-591.

Berent, Iris, Tracy Lennertz, Jongho Jun, Miguel A. Moreno, & Paul Smolensky (2008). Language universals in human brains. PNAS 105: 5321-5325.

Dupoux, Emmanuel, Kazuhiko Kakehi, Yuki Hirose, Christophe Pallier, and Jacque Mehler (1999). Epenthetic vowels in Japanese: A perceptual illusion? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 25:1568-1578.

Marr, David (1982). Vision. San Francisco: W. H. Freeman and Company.

Sapir, Edward (1933). La Réalité psychologique des phonèmes. Journal de Psychologie Normale et Pathologuique 30: 247-265. English translation reprinted in David G. Mandelbaum (ed.) (1949), Selected Writings of Edward Sapir in Language, Culture and Personality 46-60. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Shademan, Shabnam (2006). Is phonotactic knowledge grammatical knowledge? In Donald Baumer, David Montero, and Michael Scanlon (eds.) Proceedings of the 25th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics 371-379. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.

Smolensky, Paul (2006). Computational levels and integrated connectionist/symbolic explanation. In Paul Smolensky and Géraldine Legendre The Harmonic Mind: From Neural Computation to Optimality-Theoretic Grammar (Vol. 2, Linguistic and Philosophical Implications) 503-592. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Vitevitch, Michael S. (2003). The influence of sublexical and lexical representations in the processing of spoken words in English. Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics 17: 487-499.

Vitevitch, Michael S., Paul A. Luce (1999). Probabilistic phonotactics and neighborhood density in spoken word recognition. Journal of Memory and Language 40: 374-408.


How do we feel about acronyms?

I’ve been sitting in on a class on developmental language disorders here at Purdue. The course instructor, Larry Leonard, was describing the Rice/Wexler Test of Early Grammatical Impairment, which “assesses the use of tense and agreement morphology by children ages 3 through 8 years” (from my handout). Apparently, some people know this test by its initials, TEGI, and some subset of those people use TEGI as an acronym pronounced /tigi/. Larry went on to say that, amongst certain circles of the speech and hearing world, /tigi/ is looked down upon. This reminded me of a rant by NPR sports contributor Frank Deford about the pronunciation of the baseball term RBI as /rɪbi/.

So, here’s my question: do acronyms generally have social stigma when compared to a competing initialism (or alphabetization, as I was taught)? Is this a case of a prescriptively bad phonological process?

Note: A brief search didn’t turn up discussion of this issue on Language Log, although the acronym/initialism distinction seems well covered. And here’s a sampling of pronunciations from Nintendo fans!

Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at Northwestern University

The Department of Linguistics at Northwestern University invites applications for a full-time non-renewable Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship funded through a grant to the University from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The fellowship is for a period of two academic years, beginning September 1, 2010. In accordance with the fellowship guidelines, all requirements for the Ph.D. must be completed prior to the start of the fellowship period. We are seeking recent Ph.D.s in any subfield of linguistics who have analyzed primary data (e.g., experimental data, field data, or natural language corpora) in order to address theoretical issues.

Salary is competitive and commensurate with qualifications. The position also provides funds for computer facilities and professional travel. Mellon postdoctoral fellows are expected to participate fully in Northwestern’s interdisciplinary research environment, teach a one-quarter lecture course and a one-quarter seminar per year, and present one colloquium per year.

For fullest consideration, candidates should ensure that their application arrives in the Department before December 1, 2009. APPLICATIONS BY E-MAIL WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED. The application should include the candidate’s CV (indicating an e-mail address), statements of research and teaching interests, teaching evaluations (if available), and reprints or other written work. (Finalists will be asked to submit a copy of the dissertation, or completed portions thereof, at a later date; it is not necessary to do so at this time.) Candidates should arrange to have 3-4 letters of reference sent directly to the search committee by the application deadline; if possible, one of the letters should specifically address the applicant’s teaching qualifications.

Send all materials to:
Mellon Search Committee
Department of Linguistics
Northwestern University
2016 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208-4090
(Tel: 847-491-7020, Fax: 847-491-3770)

E-mail inquiries should be directed to The web page for the Department is:

Northwestern University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer, and applications from minority and women candidates are especially welcome. The fellowship is open to non-US citizens, as long as the necessary permit to work in the US is in hand prior to September 1, 2010.

Homophony avoidance in acronym pronunciation?

During a discussion in our department meeting about whether to rename our TESL program a TESOL program (snore…), I learned that TESL is pronounced [tɛsəl] while TESOL is pronounced [tisɑl]. I’m curious as to why the pronunciation of the first vowel changes depending on the second vowel. I can think of two possibilities:

1) To emphasize the presence of the O in TESOL, speakers want a full vowel in the second syllable, which requires putting a secondary stress on the second syllable, which requires making the second syllable a foot, which in turn requires that the first syllable be a foot by itself: (t__)(sɑl). Being a single light syllable, (tɛ) would not make such a good foot, so (ti) is chosen instead.

2) Maybe [tɛsəl] and [tɛsɑl] would sound too similar, so an additional sound difference was introduced to disambiguate.