Category Archives: Uncategorized

Open letter to the leadership at West Virginia University

To: Provost Maryanne Reed, President Gordon Gee, and the Board of Governors,
West Virginia University

We, the undersigned faculty of the Department of Linguistics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, write with the deepest concern about the recommendation to close the Department of World Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics. If acted upon, this will have the effect of depriving future students at WVU of a fundamental educational opportunity, the ability to experience the world using a language other than English. This will not only diminish their ability to understand the broader world, but it will also diminish their future career prospects. Furthermore, the loss of Linguistics at WVU will mean the loss of an important bridge from the Humanities to STEM. We note that just one day after this possible cut was announced, an announcement of a major NSF grant to two of your Linguistics faculty members, Jonah Katz and Sergio Robles-Puente, appeared in the WVU College of Arts and Sciences News and Events.

We understand that you are in a financial crisis, but we urge you to seek alternative ways of dealing with it. It is hard to imagine that WVU will be able to recover if it abandons this core part of its mission, both in terms of its ability to recruit students, and in terms of its reputation as the flagship public university of West Virginia.

Faruk Akkus, Assistant Professor

Ana Arregui, Professor

Michael Becker, Associate Professor

Rajesh Bhatt, Professor

María Biezma, Assistant Professor

Seth Cable, Professor

Lyn Frazier, Professor Emerita

Lisa Green, Distinguished University Professor

Alice Harris, Professor Emerita

Vincent Homer, Associate Professor

Gaja Jarosz, Professor

Kyle Johnson, Professor

John Kingston, Professor

Angelika Kratzer, Profesor Emerita

John McCarthy, Distinguished University Professor Emeritus and Provost Emeritus

Shota Momma, Professor

Barbara Partee, Professor Emerita

Joe Pater, Professor and Department Chair

Thomas Roeper, Professor

Elisabeth Selkirk, Professor Emerita

Margaret Speas, Professor Emerita

Kristine Yu, Associate Professor

SCiL is meeting this week!

The Society for Computation in Linguistics is meeting this week. Today it got started with a plenary talk by Naomi Feldman, the recording of which is now available to registered participants. The schedule is here:
To register go here: (free for students, $20 for others). Once registered, you can get the Zoom and GatherTown links here: (you can also get details for how the conference is being run there).

The SCiL proceedings are now available here:

Pizarro-Guevara to speak at Brown LingLangLunch

This Wednesday (2/10), Jed Pizarro-Guevara will be giving a talk in the Ling Lang Lunch seminar series at Brown University’s Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences department. Jed will give a talk entitled Processing (a)symmetries in relative clauses: Tagalog as a case study.

Jed’s talk will be hosted virtually on Zoom on Wednesday 2/10 at 12PM EST: You can access the talk here!

Spring 2021

101People and Their Language (SB DU)Magda OiryMW 1:25 - 2:15Fully Remote
201How Language Works: Introduction to Linguistic Theory (R2)Seth CableMW 1:25 - 2:15Fully Remote
201-07How Language Works: Introduction to Linguistic Theory (R2)Jonathan PesetskyTuTh 10:00 - 11:15Fully Remote
201HHow Language Works: Introduction to Linguistic Theory Honors (R2)Ana ArreguiMW 2:30 - 3:45Fully Remote
297ALanguage & AdvertisementMaria BiezmaTuTh 2:30 - 3:45Fully Remote
305Writing for Linguists (JYW)Brian DillonMWF 1:25 - 2:15Fully Remote
330The Structure of English & Language TeachingJoe PaterOnline
330 discussionJoe PaterOnline Th 10:00 - 11:15 EST
389Introduction to African American English (IE)Lisa GreenTuTh 10:00 - 11:15Fully Remote
394BILanguage & CognitionJohn KingstonMWF 11:15 - 12:05Fully Remote
397LHST - Language AcquisitionMagda OiryTuTh 11:30 - 12:45Fully Remote
401Introduction to SyntaxKyle JohnsonMWF 10:10 - 11:00Fully Remote
402Speech Sounds and StructureKristine YuTuTh 2:30 - 3:45Fully Remote
411Introduction to Language AcquistionTom RoeperMW 2:30 - 3:45Fully Remote
492BComputational Linguistics: Use & MeaningGaja Jarosz SnoverTuTh 1:00 - 2:15Fully Remote
493PGrammatical Processes in Speaking & UnderstandingShota MommaMWF 1:25 - 2:15Fully Remote
497PIntroduction to PragmaticsMaria BiezmaTuTh 11:30 - 12:45Fully Remote
510Introduction to SemanticsSeth CableTuTh 1:00 - 2:15Fully Remote
510 LabIntroduction to SemanticsF 12:20 - 1:10Fully Remote
593AStructure of African American EnglishLisa GreenTuTh 1:00 - 2:15Fully Remote
604Syntactic TheoryRajesh BhattTuTh 4:00 - 5:15Fully Remote
606Phonological TheoryGaja Jarosz SnoverTuTh 10:10 - 11:25Fully Remote
611Psychological Background to Linguistic TheoryBrian Dillon & Shota MommaMW 4:00 - 5:15Fully Remote
614Intro to Phonetic TheoryKristine YuMW 8:30 - 9:45Fully Remote
620Formal SemanticsAna ArreguiMW 10:10 - 11:25Fully Remote
692BFormal Foundations of LinguisticsVincent HomerTuTh 11:30 - 12:45Fully Remote
711Language AcquisitionTom RoeperTu 4:00 - 6:30Fully Remote
716Topics in PhoneticsJohn KingstonMW 2:30 - 3:45Fully Remote
752Topics in SyntaxEllen WoolfordTuTh 10:00 - 11:15Fully Remote
753Topics in SemanticsVincent HomerTuTh 2:30 - 3:45Fully Remote
791AColloquiumF 3:30 - 5:30Fully Remote

Homer and Bhatt in new issue of Natural Language Semantics

A paper by Vincent Homer and Rajesh Bhatt has appeared in the Winter 2019 issue (27.4) of Natural Language Semantics. The title of the paper is “Licensing of PPI indefinites pseudoscope?

An abstract follows:

Positive Polarity indefinites (PPI indefinites), such as some in English, are licensed in simplex negative sentences as long as they take wide scope over negation. When it surfaces under a clausemate negation, some can in principle take wide scope either by movement or by some semantic mechanism; e.g., it can take pseudoscope if it is interpreted as a choice function variable. Therefore, there is some uncertainty regarding the way in which PPI indefinites get licensed: can pseudoscope suffice? In this article we show, using novel data from Hindi-Urdu and English, that pseudoscope is not sufficient, and that it is the syntactic position of PPI indefinites at LF, rather than their actual scope, which is relevant for licensing. These facts support a unified view of PPI indefinites as generalized quantifiers, and disfavor analyses where they are, or can be, interpreted as choice function variables.


CFP: Modal Inferences – an XPrag Workshop

Modal Inferences – an XPrag Workshop

Date: 03-Jun-2020 – 05-Jun-2020
Location: Siracusa, Italy
Contact Person: Ilaria Frana
Web Site:

Linguistic Field(s): Pragmatics; Psycholinguistics; Semantics

Call Deadline: 15-Feb-2020

Call for Papers:

On June 3rd-5th, 2020 the workshop “Modal Inferences” will be hosted by the University of Enna ”Kore” in Siracusa, Sicily, Italy.

The workshop is organized by Ilaria Frana (University of Enna), Marie-Christine Meyer (ZAS Berlin), Salvatore Pistoia-Reda (ZAS Berlin/Siena), Jacopo Romoli (Ulster University), and Uli Sauerland (ZAS Berlin).

Invited Speakers:

– Emmanuel Chemla (ENS)
– Lisa Matthewson (University of British Columbia)
– Clemens Mayr (Georg-August Universität Göttingen)
– Maribel Romero (Universität Konstanz)

The goal of the workshop is to bring together theoretical and experimental researchers in Linguistics, Psychology and Philosophy, working on deepening our understanding of modal inferences (e.g. inferences about the epistemic state of the speaker or the addressee) and how they arise in natural languages. We welcome submissions articulating empirical and theoretical issues on topics including but not limited to ignorance inferences arising from disjunctions, modified numerals and related constructions, speaker/hearer’s epistemic biases in polar questions, epistemic inferences arising from the future tense, evidentials, indefinites, discourse particles, miratives, and predicates of personal taste (full workshop description can be found here).

We welcome abstracts for 30 minutes talks (20 + 10 discussion) which address issues relevant to the workshop’s theme. Abstracts should be no longer than 2 A4 pages, with a 12 pt font and 2.5 cm/1 inch margins. The abstracts must be anonymous and not identify the authors. Authors may submit at most two abstracts, at most one of which may be single-authored. Please submit via Easychair by 15 February 2020 at the latest.

Link for online submission:

Meeting Description:

The goal of the workshop is to bring together theoretical and experimental researchers in Linguistics, Psychology and Philosophy, working on deepening our understanding of modal inferences (inferences about the epistemic state of the speaker or the addressee) and how they arise in natural languages. We welcome submissions articulating empirical and theoretical issues, including but not limited to the following areas.


A variety of constructions have been associated with ignorance inferences about the speaker. Prominent among these are disjunctive statements like (i) suggesting that the speaker is ignorant as to whether Salvo is in Palermo and as to whether he is in Catania.

(i) Salvo is in Palermo or Catania.

Ignorance inferences like the above have been analysed as an implicature, arising either from pragmatic reasoning on the part of the hearer (Gazdar 1979, Sauerland 2004, Fox 2007, Pistoia-Reda 2014), or from more grammatical means (Meyer 2013, Buccola and Haida 2019, Fox 2017). Similar ignorance inferences have been observed in connection with modified numerals (see e.g. Nouwen 2010) and so-called modal indefinites (Kratzer & Shimoyama 2002, Chierchia 2006, Alonso-Ovalle and Menendez-Benito 2009, a.o.).
In recent years, the processing and acquisition profiles of ignorance inferences (Hochstein et al 2014, Dieuleveut et al 2019), as well as their interactions with presuppositions and other inferences (Gajewski and Sharvit 2009, Spector and Sudo 2017, Anvari 2018, Marty 2017), have been more and more at the centre of attention in this literature.

Bias and Evidence:

Another line of work investigating modal inferences focuses on speaker/hearer’s epistemic biases in polar questions (Ladd 1981, Büring & Gunlogson 2000; Romero & Han 2004; Krifka 2017; Domaneschi et. al. 2017, a.o.). For instance, the English negative polar question in (ii) mandatorily conveys that the speaker had a prior bias for the positive answer to the question and is posing the question with the intent of double-checking that bias in the face of counter-evidence (here provided by Salvo’s assertion) and, at the same time, challenge the addressee’s attempt to add the content of his assertion to the common ground. Recent work has shown that epistemic biases in polar questions may interact with other perspectivally centered elements, like evidentials or discourse particles (see for e.g. Bhadra 2016; Frana & Rawlins 2016; Frana & Menendez Benito 2019). In the domain of assertions, epistemic adverbs like really, Verum focus, discourse particles, focused negation in denials, have also been shown to trigger inferences on the epistemic state of the speaker with respect to the common ground (Gutzmann & Castroviejo Miró 2011; Repp 2013; Romero 2014, among many others).

(ii) Salvo: I have never been to the South of Italy.
Caterina: Didn’t you go to Sicily last year?

For each of the above areas, a number of questions remain open, including:

What is the status of these inferences, i.e., are they implicatures, presuppositions, or some other type of not-at-issue content? How do they arise?
What are the properties of the constructions and sentences associated with those inferences?
Can the inference-trigger occur in embedded contexts, and if so, what are the related constraints?
How do epistemic inferences interact with each other and other types of inferences?
What is the processing profile of those inferences and how are they acquired?

Parallel questions can be asked about epistemic inferences arising from evidentials, discourse particles, miratives, predicates of personal taste and related phenomena.


Shota Momma to give colloquium to UCI Language Science

Shota Momma is traveling to UC Irvine to give a colloquium in the brand-new department of Language Science there on 11/18. The title of his colloquium is ‘Structure Building in Speaking,’ and the abstract can be found below. Bon voyage, Shota!


Speakers build syntactic structure so they can avoid producing ungrammatical sentences too frequently. But how speakers do so remains poorly understood. In this talk, I discuss our recent series of studies on how speakers encode structural representations, such as argument structures, filler-gap dependencies, and coreference relations, as they construct sentences. Building on experimental results, I introduce a preliminary model of structure building in speaking, which I argue can also be used to capture syntactic processes in comprehension. This model of a shared structure-building mechanism for both comprehension and production aims to contribute to the broader goal of understanding the relationship between syntactic knowledge and syntactic processes.



Roeper in Berlin

Tom Roeper will give a talk in Berlin next week whose title is “The Dignity of a child lies in the Depth and many-sided structure of language”. Details below.
Liebe Linguistik-Interessierte, 
hiermit möchten wir Sie herzlich zum nächsten Vortrag in unserer Reihe “Treffpunkt Sprache” einladen:
“Die Würde des Kindes liegt in der Tiefe und vielseitigen Struktur der Sprache”
gehalten von Prof. Dr. Tom Roeper (University of Massachusetts Amherst)
Datum: Dienstag, 22. Oktober 2019, 18:15 Uhr  
Ort: Dorotheenstraße 24, 10117 Berlin, Raum 1.101 
Es handelt sich um einen öffentlichen Vortrag – eine Anmeldung ist nicht erforderlich. 

Was bedeutet es, wenn ein Kind auf Englisch sagt: “My mind is very angry and so am I” oder “I’m good at chess because I use my brain instead of thinking”?
Der Vielfalt an Perspektiven, die dem Kind durch die unendlichen Mittel der Sprache zur Verfügung stehen, sind keine Grenzen gesetzt. Wie erfasst das Kind die verschiedenen “Welten”, die in alltäglichen Sätzen wie den folgenden verborgen liegen und leicht zu Missverständnissen führen können:
– “Wer liebt wen?”
– “Kannst Du die Erbsen nicht essen?”
– “Was hat er gesagt, dass er geglaubt hat, dass er tun kann?”
Wir diskutieren: 1. die Anwesenheit von Rekursion (der Fähigkeit, einen Prozess in sich zu wiederholen), 2. die Fähigkeit, das Wissen anderer zu erfassen, und 3. welche Frage wirklich diskutiert wird, wenn man sagt: “Niemand kommt” und jemand antwortet: “Nein”.
Wir werden sehen, dass viele sprachlichen Fähigkeiten bereits angeboren sind und nicht erst erlernt werden müssen.
Zur Person
Tom Roeper ist Professor für Linguistik an der University of Massachusetts Amherst und arbeitet hauptsächlich im Bereich des Spracherwerbs. Er hat Untersuchungen in den Gebieten Syntax, Semantik und Pragmatik in 10 verschiedenen Länder durchgeführt und dabei mit vielen anderen Wissenschaftler*innen, insbesondere auch Kollegen und Kolleginnen am Leibniz-Zentrum Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft, zusammengearbeitet. Er hat einen Test für Sprachstörungen – den DELV™ (“Diagnostic Evaluation of Language Variation”) – ausgearbeitet, der mittlerweile in einer Vielzahl verschiedensprachiger Länder angewandt wird. 2007 veröffentlichte er das Buch “The Prism of Grammar: How Language Acquisition Illuminates Humanism” (MIT Press).
Wir würden uns sehr freuen, Sie bei diesem Vortrag als Gast begrüßen zu dürfen! 
Im Anschluss besteht wie immer die Gelegenheit zu Gesprächen in kleineren Gruppen. 
Der “Treffpunkt Sprache” ist eine gemeinsame Vortragsreihe des Leibniz-Zentrums Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft sowie des Instituts für deutsche Sprache und Linguistik und des Instituts für Philosophie der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Der nächste Vortrag der Reihe findet am 26. November 2019.
Herzliche Grüße 
Das Öffentlichkeitsteam des Leibniz-Zentrums Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft 

UMass linguists and alumni at AMP 2019

UMass was well represented at the Annual Meetings on Phonology (AMP) at Stony Brook University, Oct 11-13. Several current students gave presentations:

  • Ivy Hauser presented “Coarticulation with alveopalatal sibilants in Mandarin and Polish: Phonetics or phonology?”
  • Leland Kusmer presented “Khoekhoegowab tone sandhi and extended projections”
  • Max Nelson presented “Learning and generalizing phonotactics with recurrent neural networks”
  • Brandon Prickett presented “Unconstrained Variables Oversimplify Phonotactic Learning”

Presentations by alumni included:

  • Shigeto Kawahara (PhD 2007) presented “Do Japanese speakers always prosodically group wh-elements and their licenser? Implications for Richards’ (2010) theory of wh-movement” with Jason Shaw (Yale University) and Shinichiro Ishihara (Lund University)
  • Aleksei Nazarov (PhD 2016) presented “Bedouin Arabic multiple opacity with indexed constraints in Parallel OT”
  • Maria Gouskova (PhD 2003) presented “Clusters or complex segments? A learnability approach” with Juliet Stanton (New York University).

Among the organizers were Michael Becker (PhD 2009) and Ellen Broselow (PhD 1976).

Abstract for Breen talk

The Cat in the Hat: Musical and linguistic metric structure realization in child-directed poetry

Children’s nursery rhymes represent an intersection of music and language. In the current talk, I’ll describe recent work from my lab demonstrating the realization of systematic musical structure in acoustic measures of a corpus of adult productions of Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat, a quintessential example of metrically-regular, rhyming children’s poetry.

First, we show that duration variation based on metric structure in the spoken corpus is similar to expressive duration variation based on metric phrasing structure in music, such that longer word (and similarly, note) durations are associated with higher positions in a metric tree structure. Second, we show that intensity variation based on a 6/8 musical meter in the spoken corpus is similar to expressive intensity variation in 6/8 meter in music performance, such that words (and notes) associated with beat 1 are produced with the greatest intensity, words (and notes) associated with beat 4 are produced with moderate intensity, and words (and notes) associated with beats 2, 3, 5, & 6 are produced with the least intensity. Finally, we show that pitch measures correspond to both metric phrasing structure and metric accent structure.

In summary, these results demonstrate the close relationship between music and language that is realized in children’s poetry. Moreover, they give us insight into the mechanisms by which adult productions of children’s books like The Cat in the Hat provide a cognitive benefit to child listeners.