Author Archives: Brian Dillon

UMass triple header: Jarosz, Yu, and Dillon give colloquia

UMass faculty are on the move this week, giving colloquia around the world!

Gaja Jarosz is giving a colloquium talk at the MIT Department of Linguistics on December 3rd at 3:30PM. Her talk is entitled ‘Learning Hidden Phonological Generalizations ‘. More information on the talk can be found here.

Kristine Yu is giving a colloquium talk at the Rutgers Department of Linguistics on December 3rd, at 3:00PM. Her talk is entitled ‘Building phonological trees.’ More information on the talk, including details on how to register for the Zoom event, can be found here.

Brian Dillon is giving a colloquium talk at the Tel Aviv University Department of Linguistics on December 2nd at 9:15AM. His talk is entitled ‘Grammatical constraints on reference: The view from comprehension.’ More information on the talk can be found here.

Abstracts are found below!

Learning Hidden Phonological Generalizations, Gaja Jarosz: Language acquisition proceeds on the basis of incomplete, ambiguous linguistic input, and one source of this ambiguity is hidden phonological structure. Due to recent developments in computational modeling of phonological learning, there now exist numerous approaches for learning of various kinds of hidden phonological structure from incomplete, unlabeled, and noisy data. These computational models make it possible to connect the full representational richness of phonological theory with noisy, ambiguous corpus data representative of language learners’ linguistic experience to make detailed and experimentally testable predictions about language learning and generalization. In this talk, I briefly review these computational developments and then discuss two ongoing projects that utilize these mutually-informing connections between computation, phonological theory, and experimental data to test hypotheses about the abstract representations that underlie phonological knowledge.

Building phonological trees, Kristine Yu: Computational perspectives from string grammars have richly informed our understanding of phonological patterns in natural language in the past decade. However, a prevailing theoretical assumption of phonologists since the 1980s has been that phonological patterns and processes are computed on trees built with prosodic constituents such as syllables, feet, and prosodic words. Moreover, multiple dependencies in prosodic structures, such as multiple association of a tone to a higher-level prosodic node in addition to a tone bearing unit such as a mora or syllable, have been broadly assumed in intonational phonology without much comment. We revisit these concepts and show that multiple bottom up tree transducers provide a natural representation for multiple tonal association as well as multiple dependencies in prosodic structures in general, including prosodically-conditioned segmental allophony.

Grammatical constraints on reference: The view from comprehension, Brian Dillon: Experimental research has consistently shown that the grammatical knowledge reflected in (e.g.) the Binding Theory guides real-time pronoun interpretation. Evidence for this conclusion comes from a range of experimental evidence that comprehenders selectively activate grammatically-licit antecedents when processing pronouns and anaphors. But what are the mechanisms by which comprehenders arrive at these grammatically constrained interpretations? And what is the relationship that these mechanisms bear to offline grammatical knowledge? Psycholinguistic studies of pronoun interpretation emphasize the fact that pronoun interpretation is a mixture of bottom-up and top-down processes (e.g. Rohde & Kehler, 2019). In this talk I aim to show that this perspective offers a useful framework for thinking about how structural constraints on coreference enter into the real-time comprehension of pronouns and anaphors. Using Principle B effects as a test case in a range of languages, I will survey a number of experimental studies done with our research group here at UMass and collaborators at the University of Toronto that illustrate how top-down and bottom-up pronoun resolution processes jointly contribute to disjoint reference phenomena in pronoun interpretation. 

Mirrazi to UCLA

Zahra Mirrazi has accepted a Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali post-doctoral fellowship to continue her research at the Department of Linguistics at UCLA. Starting September 2022, she will join the department there, working with Yael Sharvit and Ethan Poole. Congratulations Zahra! تبریک!

Dillon, Hutton, and Longman present at Creative Commons Global Summit

Brian Dillon (Linguistics), Sara Hutton (UMass Libraries), and Carly Longman (BA Linguistics, 2021) presented their work on scientific communication in linguistics at the Creative Commons Global Summit on Tuesday 9/21. Their session was entitled ‘Language in the Public Sphere: Teaching Linguistics Concepts to Community Members with Open Student Scholarship,’ and focused on a collaboration between Sarah Hutton and LINGUIST305 in Spring 2021 to develop a novel, Open Education Resource-oriented approach to scholarship and scientific communication in LINGUIST305. The session discussed the approach taken in LINGUIST305, and featured published open scholarship by Carly Longman, a recent graduate of the BA program, on revitalization efforts on the Wichita language.

Ivan joins Altus Assessments

Rodica Ivan (Ph.D. 2020) has accepted a position as a Research Scientist at Altus Assessments. As an Altus research scientist, Rodica will be tasked with designing, implementing, analyzing and presenting original research aimed at helping higher education institutions understand the full range of factors that make an applicant likely to succeed and help the institution grow, with a focus on going beyond traditional measures of academic achievement towards a more holistic view of applicants.

Congratulations, Rodica! We’re proud of you, and wish you the best of luck!

Bhatia and other UMass linguists to present at SAFAL-2

The Second South Asian Forum on the Acquisition and Processing of Language (SAFAL) is being hosted virtually by the University of Potsdam on August 30 and 31st. It is the second annual SAFAL conference, and showcases acquisition and processing research in the context of South Asian languages.

UMass Alumnus Sakshi Bhatia (Ph.D. 2019) will open the conference with an invited keynote talk entitled: Limits on parser adaptability: Local coherence in Hindi.

In addition, Dustin A. Chacón, Subhekshya Shreshtha, Brian Dillon, Rajesh Bhatt, Diogo Almeida and Alec Marantz will present Paying attention to agreement: An MEG study of Hindi split-ergative agreement.

Congrats all!

Neal, O’Connor, and Green at Unimplicit workshop

Anissa Neal, Brendan O’Connor, and Lisa Green co-presented Challenges in detecting null relativizers in African American Language for sociolinguistic and psycholinguistic applications at the first ever Unimplicit workshop on understanding implicit and underspecified language.

Unimplicit was held in conjunction with ACL-IJCNLP 2021. The first of hopefully many such workshops, Unimplicit featured a range of talks by NLP researchers aiming to model the understanding of implicit or underspecified meaning in natural language.

Congratulations Anissa, Brendan and Lisa!

UMass linguists present at (virtual) AMLaP

The Université de Paris is virtually hosting the 2021 Architectures and Mechanisms in Language Processing conference, September 2-4th. Registration is free for students, and 25 euros for non students.

UMass linguists and alumni are well represented among the talks at the conference, including:

Alexander Göbel and Michael Wagner: Syntactic and Prosodic Factors in the Interpretation of Ambiguous ‘at Least’ 

Dustin Chacón, Subhekshya Shrestha, Brian Dillon, Rajesh Bhatt, Diogo Almeida, and Alec Marantz: Paying Attention to Agreement: RTPJ Aids the Encoding of Agreement in Hindi 

Nayoun Kim, Keir Moulton and Daphna Heller: Subject-object Asymmetries Are Not Specific to Dependency-formation: Evidence from Korean 

Adina Camelia Bleotu and Brian Dillon: On the Multiple Mechanisms of Agreement Attraction: Evidence from Romanian 

Anissa Neal, Brian Dillon, Dustin Chacón, and Maayan Keshev: Plausible Plausibility: Replicating the Plausibility Mismatch Effect 

Jed Pizarro-Guevara and Brian Dillon: The Influence of Word Order in Reflexive Processing: Insights from Tagalog 

Duygu Goksu, Brian Dillon, and Shota Momma: When Syntactic Complexity Shifts the Subject Preference in an SOV Language: Processing [OV]S vs. [SV]O Sentences in Turkish 

Katy Carlson and David Potter: Where Accents Do, and Do Not, Affect Attachment 

Congratulations, UMass linguists!

Pant and Morton winners in Charles Moran Best Text Contest

Congratulations are in order to Linguistics undergraduates Bhavya Pant and Thomas Morton for their recognition in the Charles Moran Best Text contest, a campus-wide contest that highlights student writing in, among other things, Junior Year Writing.

Bhavya Pant was awarded this year’s prize for the Best Multimedia/Non-traditional Format for her video entitled ‘Introduction to Grammatical Gender‘.

Thomas Morton was also awarded an honorable mention in the competition for the Best Multimedia/Non-traditional Format for his video entitled ‘Why do we speak like we do?

Congratulations to Bhavya and Thomas!

UMass Linguists go west, to WCCFL39!

The 39th meeting of the West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics (WCCFL) is being hosted by the University of Arizona’s department of Linguistics Thursday 4/8 through Sunday 4/11! As an added bonus, WCCFL is co-located (virtually) with the Symposium on Native American Languages, which takes place 4/9 through 4/10.

You may register for the conference here: conference registration fees are on a sliding scale.

Andrew McKenzie will be giving an invited plenary talk entitled “Incorporation beyond the object : Interpretation and compositionality in polysynthesis” on Saturday 4/10, at 10AM PDT UTC-7.

In addition UMass linguists past and present will be presenting a number of platform talks at WCCFL, such as:

Faruk Akkus: C and T are distinct probes (4/8, 8:30AM PDT UTC-7)

John Duff: Composing associated motion in Santiago Laxopa Zapotec (4/8, 5:00PM PDT UTC-7)

Robert Henderson, Jérémy Pasquereau and John Powell: Dependent pluractionality in Piipaash (4/9, 8:00AM PDT UTC-7)

Deniz Satik: Turkic default agreement with complex possessors (4/9, 3:30PM PDT UTC-7)

Jason Overfelt: Having space to sprout: Failed sprouting in sub-clausal ellipses (4/9, 4:00PM PDT UTC-7)

Rose Underhill and Marcin Morzycki: ‘Single’, Exhaustification, and Nonlocal Adjectives (4/9, 5:30PM PDT UTC-7)

Canaan Breiss, Hironori Katsuda and Shigeto Kawahara: Paradigm uniformity is probabi- listic: Evidence from velar nasalization in Japanese (4/10, 5:30PM PDT UTC-7)

And you can also see work from UMass Linguists at the virtual poster sessions, including:

Work presented in Poster Session 1: 4/9, 10:30-11:30AM (PDT UTC-7)

Adina Camelia Bleotu and Jelke Bloem: What’s the Meaning of a Nominal Root? Insights from Experiments into Denominals and Similarity.

Jonathan Palucci, Luis Alonso-Ovalle and Esmail Moghiseh: Against Obligatory Wide Scope for Any : Transparency.

Rudmila-Rodica Ivan, Brian Dillon and Kyle Johnson: (Bound) Pronouns in Competition: Evidence from Romanian Comprehension.

Work presented in Poster Session 2: 4/10, 3:30-4:30PM (PDT UTC-7)

Brandon Prickett: Learning Sour Grapes Harmony in an artificial language learning experiment

Michael Wilson: Again reveals multidominance in the structure of spray/load verbs

Jack Rabinovitch and Baoqing Qian: Using Phasal Syntax to Make Generalizations in Manchu Vowel Harmony

Work presented in Poster Session 3: 4/11, 9:30-10:30AM (PDT UTC-7)

Shannon Bryant and Deniz Satik: A Minimalist Account of Balinese Binding