Category Archives: Newsletter

UMass Linguistics at WCCFL 31 (UC Santa Cruz)

This year’s West Coast Conference in Formal Linguistics (WCCFL 41) featured a great many talks and posters by both students and faculty from UMass, both current and former.

In alphabetical order, this work included:

Rajesh Bhatt, Arka Banerjee, and Kousani Banerjee, “Egocentric Questions in Bangla: Rhetorical or Information-Seeking, but Always Surprising”

Seth Cable and James Crippen, “Stative Marking in Tlingit: Evidence for the Complexity of States”

Amy Rose Deal and Justin Royer, “Mayan Animacy Heirarchy Effects: A Dynamic Interaction Approach”

Angelica Hill, “What About ‘About To’? A Semantic Proposal for Proximate Future Constructions”

Rodica Ivan and Ion Giurgea “Two Types of Anaphoric Relations in Pronouns Consequences for their Syntactic Analysis”

Jon Ander Mendia “Between Aspect and Modality: The ‘Soler+Infinitive’ Periphrasis in Spanish”

Zahra Mirrazi, “Choice Functions and Binder Roof Constraint”

Zahra Mirrazi and Michela Ippolito, “Modal Past as Past: Evidence from non-SOT Languages”

Marcin Morzycki and Starr Sandoval “Propositional How and Implicit Modality”

Deniz Ozyildiz, Maribel Romero, Ciyang Qing, Floris Roelofsen, Wataru Uegaki, “Immobile Remnants of Japanese Why-Stripping”

Paul Portner and Xiang Li, “Overt Deixis and Null Anaphor in Uyghur Attitude Reports”

Brandon Prickett, “Explaining Sour Grapes Harmony’s Unattestedness with Agent-Based Modeling”

Jelly Hill Presents Talk at ILLC Workshop on Causation & Modality

PhD Student Jelly Hill recently presented an invited talk at the University of Amsterdam’s Institute for Logic, Language, and Computation, as part of their Workshop on Causation and Modality in Logic and Language. Titled “Two Peas in a Causal Pod: Testing the Relationship Between Modals and Causatives”, this talk highlighted the research that forms Jelly’s recent (second) Generals Paper.

Congratulations Jelly!

Polina Kasyanova Awarded Predissertation Research Grant

Please join us in congratulating Polina Kasyanova, who has just been awarded a Predissertation Research Grant from the UMass Graduate School.

This funding will support Polina’s continued research on incorporation in Chukotko-Kamchatkan languages such as Chukchi and Itelmen. In particular, it will fund an extended research visit to Harvard University, where Polina will be able to collaborate with scholars like Jonathan Bobaljik and his students, as well as conduct research on written sources available at Widener Library.

Congratulations, Polina!

Ellen Lau colloquium Friday May 12 at 3:30

Ellen Lau of the University of Maryland will be presenting a colloquium entitled “Individuals in brain and language” in ILC N211 at 3:30 Friday May 12th. All are welcome! The abstract is below.

Abstract: In this talk I would like to consider what is known about how the human mind and brain represents individuals, and what the implications are for our theories of linguistic interpretation. In standard model-theoretic semantics, individuals are simply taken for granted as part of the world model; and I too assume that the world itself contains individual entities. But if we take seriously the goal of developing a theory of the natural language semantics that is instantiated in the human mind, we need to know something about how the mind manages to approximate the world in mental representation, as it is this mental representation of the world to which natural language has to be mapped. As Bach (1989) noted, this is as challenging for individuals as for anything else. Although cognitive neuroscience is still in its infancy, some rough outlines of how the brain represents individuals are becoming clearer. As I will review, there appear to be multiple, redundant representations of individuals in different circuits that evolved for different purposes and which differ in format and temporal continuity. Some of our representations of individuals are fleeting, serving the purpose of helping us to accurately represent the structure of a current situation or interaction while it is happening. Others, supported by different brain circuits, are designed to last a longer period of time, allowing us to re-identify a previously encountered individualand successfully integrate new knowledge about them with prior knowledge. Yet a different form of representation for known individuals is included within the semi-permanent long-term knowledge base that also supports generalized knowledge. The diversity of individual representation formats suggested by cognitive neuroscience thus raises new and interesting questions for semantic theory about what we should take to be the internal world-model in which sentences are interpreted. A separate set of questions has to do with how representations of individuals get populated in the brainsystems reviewed above. Again, we may be willing to grant that a ‘fixed and given’ domain of individual entities really exists (e.g. summed across all times and locations in a multiverse), but minds have neither the capacity for nor access to that full domain, and must approximate and expand it piecemeal over time. Key insights into how the mind does this, with interesting implications for our theories of noun meanings, are provided by Sandeep Prasada’s ‘instance-of-kind’ theory from cognitive psychology, which argues that kinds are mental representations that generate individual representations of instances much like a class definition in object-oriented programming languages contains code that can generate new instances of the class. 

UMass at WSCLA 2023 (McGill)

WSCLA 2023 at McGill University

UMass was well represented at this year’s Workshop on Structure and Constituency in Languages of the Americas (WSCLA 2023), held April 28-30 at McGill University.

Work by current and former UMass folks included:

  • Seth Cable and James Crippen, “Stative Marking in Tlingit: Evidence for the Complexity of States”
  • Amy Rose Deal and Justin Royer, “Mayan Animacy Restrictions and Dynamic Interaction”
  • Emily Elfner, “Re-Examining Default-to-Opposite Stress in Kwak’wala”
  • Suzi Lima & Pedro Mateo Pedro, “Itzaj is a Classifier-for-Numerals Language”
  • Andrew McKenzie, “Polysynthesis and the Division of Labor in Grammar”
  • Rose Underhill, Anne Bertrand, and Terrance Gatchalian, “A Typology of Roots in Ktunaxa”

Seth Cable’s new paper selected as a “good read” by the LSA

In the LSA update of April 24th, Seth Cable’s paper “Two paths to habituality: The semantics of habitual mode in Tlingit“, published in Semantics and Pragmatics in 2022 was recommended as a “good read”:

This article is interesting from multiple angles: Dissecting the properties of two ways of marking habitual statements in the critically endangered language Tlingit (Southern Alaska, Western Canada) and developing a formal semantic analysis that captures the contrasts between them, it shines a revealing light on the morphosyntactic expression of habituality cross-linguistically and the semantic duplicity of this category.

Congratulations Seth!

Shivaangi Salhotra receives Undergraduate Sustainability Award from UMass Libraries

Shivaangi Salhotra, an undergraduate linguistics major in the class of ’26, received an Undergraduate Sustainability Award from UMass Libraries for their research paper: “Trash Talk: Rethinking the Notion of Waste”. They received a $1000 scholarship, and their paper will be uploaded to ScholarWorks, the university’s digital repository. Congratulations Shivaangi!

The Undergraduate Sustainability Award promotes in-depth understanding of sustainability topics, research strategies, and the use of library resources, providing participating students with vital skills they will carry into future academic and vocational endeavors.The competition was open to all currently enrolled UMass Amherst undergraduates. 

Lisa Green selected as a Distinguished Graduate Mentor

Lisa Green has been selected as one of three faculty members campus-wide to be recognized this year as a Distinguished Graduate Mentor. This award recognizes her excellence in graduate mentoring in the department, and her work as the first Associate Dean for Graduate Education in our College, a position she has held since September 2021. Congratulations Lisa!

Will Oxford colloquium Friday April 21, 2023 @ 3:30pm

Will Oxford will present, “Contrastive, obligatory, and spurious voice” on Friday, April 21st, 2023 at 3:30pm as part of the Linguistics colloquium series. The presentation will be both in-person in S211 in the ILC and available through Zoom. Abstract can be found below. All are welcome!

Algonquian languages have a system of direct-inverse marking that is conditioned by a person hierarchy: 1/2 > 3 > 3′ > 3″ (where 3′ and 3″ represent obviative and “further obviative” third persons). Since a multi-level hierarchy such as this cannot be captured by a single feature, the apparent need to account for such hierarchies has led to some creative proposals about what syntax can do. I will argue that the Algonquian person hierarchy is in fact an illusion created by the use of marked voice morphology under three different conditions, which I refer to as “contrastive voice”, “obligatory voice”, and “spurious voice”. Each condition is responsible for one of the three rankings that make up the apparent hierarchy: the 3′ > 3″ ranking reflects contrastive voice, the 3 > 3′ ranking reflects obligatory voice, and the 1/2 > 3 ranking reflects spurious voice. I will show how this dissolution of the hierarchy improves our understanding of the data and explore its implications for formal models of voice and agreement.