Yearly Archives: 2016

Commitment to gender equity at scholarly conferences

This petition has been around for about 5 years now, but it’s been making the rounds on social media lately. Some recent discussion of this issue and related ones in phonology can be found in these posts to Phonolist.

“If you are an academic in favor of a more equitable representation of women at scholarly conferences across the world, join us in signing this Commitment:

Commitment to gender equity at scholarly conferences

Across the disciplines, disproportionately more men than women participate in scholarly conferences – as keynote or plenary speakers, as symposiasts, or as panelists. This, we believe, is the outcome of widespread and generally unintended bias. It is unfair, it hinders advancement in scholarship, and it is especially discouraging to junior scholars. Overcoming such bias involves not just awareness but positive action.

We therefore undertake to make our participation in conferences – whether as an organizer, sponsor, or invited speaker – conditional on the invitation of women and men speakers in a fair and balanced manner.”


Boskovic (2016) – What is sent to spell-out is phases, not phasal complements

What is sent to spell-out is phases, not phasal complements
Zeljko Boskovic
Direct link:
October 2016
An appealing property of the phase theory is that it is relevant to many phenomena, i.e. many domain-based mechanisms are stated in terms of phases. However, although phasal complements have no theoretical status in the phase theory (only phases do), they are taken to define spell-out units. This paper argues for an approach where phases define spell-out domains, which means that what is sent to spell-out is the phase itself. Several arguments to this effect are presented regarding syntax-phonology interaction (in particular, encliticization in Bulgarian and Arabic, stress assignment in German and English, raddoppiamento fonosintattico in Abruzzese, and tone sandhi in Taiwanese), as well as more theoretical issues such as labeling. The assumption, however, has significant consequences for successive-cyclic movement. If phases are sent to spell-out and what is sent to spell-out is inaccessible to the syntax, successive-cyclic movement cannot target phases. Under the account argued for here, successive-cyclic movement therefore does not proceed via phases (i.e. phasal edges). As a result, the account also eliminates the PIC.

Format: pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/003150
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: To appear in Linguistica 2017 (SinFonIJA 8)
keywords: locality of movement, phases, the phase-impenetrability condition, spell-out, stress assignment, successive-cyclic movement, syntax-phonology interface, morphology, syntax, phonology

Szeredi (2016) – Exceptionality in vowel harmony

Exceptionality in vowel harmony
Daniel Szeredi
Direct link:
September 2016
Vowel harmony has been of great interest in phonological research (eg. Clements and Sezer 1982, Kaun 2004, Nevins 2004, Hayes et al. 2009). It has been widely accepted that vowel harmony is a phonetically natural phenomenon (Fowler 1983, Kaun 2004, Linebaugh 2007), which means that it is a common pattern because it provides advantages to the speaker in articulation and to the listener in perception.

Exceptional patterns proved to be a challenge to the phonetically grounded analysis (Benus and Gafos 2007, Hayes et al. 2009) as they, by their nature, introduce phonetically disadvantageous sequences to the surface form, that consist of harmonically different vowels. Such forms are found, for example in the Finnish stem tuoli`chair’ or in the Hungarian suffixed form hi:d-hoz `to the bridge’, both word forms containing a mix of front and back vowels. There has recently been evidence shown that there might be a phonetic level explanation for some exceptional patterns: Benus and Gafos 2007 have shown the possibility that some vowels which participate in irregular stems (like the vowel [i] in the Hungarian stem hi:d `bridge’ above) differ in some small phonetic detail from vowels in regular stems. The main question has not been raised, though: does this phonetic detail matter for speakers? Would they use these minor differences when they have to categorize a new word as regular or irregular?

A different recent trend in explaining morphophonological exceptionality by looking at the phonotactic regularities characteristic of classes of stems based on their morphological behavior (Becker et al. 2011, Linzen et al. 2013, Gouskova et al. 2015). Studies have shown that speakers are aware of these regularities, and use them as cues when they have to decide what class a novel stem belongs to. These sublexical phonotactic regularities have already been shown to be present in some exceptional patterns vowel harmony, but many questions remain open. One such question is how exactly learning the static generalization can be linked to learning the allomorph selection facet of vowel harmony? Also, how much does the effect of consonants on vowel harmony matter, when compared to the effect of vowel-to-vowel correspondences?

This dissertation aims to test these two ideas — that speakers use phonetic cues and/or that they use sublexical phonotactic regularities in categorizing stems as regular or irregular — and attempt to answer the more detailed questions, like the effect of consonantal patterns on exceptional patterns or the link between allomorph selection and static phonotactic generalizations as well. The phonetic hypothesis is tested on the Hungarian antiharmonicity pattern (stems with front vowels consistently selecting back suffixes, like in the example hi:d-hoz `to the bridge’ above), and the results indicate that while there may be some small phonetic differences between vowels in regular and irregular stems, speakers do not use these, or even enhanced differences when they have to categorize stems.

The sublexical hypothesis is tested and confirmed by looking at the pattern of mixed stems in Finnish. In Finnish, stems that contain both back and certain front vowels are frequent and perfectly grammatical, like in the example tuoli `chair’ above, while the mixing of back and some other front vowels is very rare and mostly confined to loanwords like amatøøri `amateur’. It will be seen that speakers do use sublexical phonotactic regularities to decide on the acceptability of novel stems, but certain patterns that are phonetically or phonologically more natural (vowel-to-vowel correspondences) seem to matter much more than other effects (like consonantal effects).

Finally, a computational account will be given on how exceptionality might be learned by speakers by using maximum entropy grammars available in the literature to simulate the acquisition of the Finnish mixed stem and disharmonicity pattern. It will be shown that in order to clearly model the overall behavior on the exact pattern, the learner has to have access not only to the lexicon, but also to the allomorph selection patterns in the language.

Format: pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/003148
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Doctoral dissertation, NYU
keywords: phdthesis, vowel harmony, exceptionality, laboratory phonology, sublexical phonology, hungarian, finnish, computational phonology, phonology

Sugawara (2016) : The role of Question-Answer Congruence (QAC) in child language and adult sentence processing

The role of Question-Answer Congruence (QAC) in child language and adult sentence processing [Dissertation]
Direct link:
Ayaka Sugawara
September 2016
This dissertation investigates experimentally the role of Question-Answer Congruence (QAC, von Stechow 1990, Rooth 1985, 1992) in child language acquisition and adult sentence processing. Specifically, I present two case studies: sentences with “only” and sentences with the Rise-Fall-Rise contour (RFR, Jackendoff 1972). Case study 1 investigates a long-standing puzzle concerning the acquisition of “only.” Since Crain et al.(1994), many studies report children display difficulties understanding sentences with pre-subject “only” while having no difficulty with pre-verbal “only.” The current study manipulates the levels of QAC to study the puzzle. The results show that QAC plays a significant role in the asymmetry between Subject-only vs. VP-only, and more generally, both children and adults are sensitive to QAC, with congruence facilitating processing, and incongruence interfering with processing. We conclude that the cost of the accommodation of a sub-question to obey QAC is different for Subject-only and VP-only. I propose that the way information is packaged makes it easier to accommodate a set of questions asking about the object of the sentence, which makes it easier to process VP-only. We also showed that the extent to which QAC influences comprehension is different for children and adults. For children, QAC has a stronger influence than the syntactic condition on only. For adults, the syntactic condition is not violated. We suggest that the status of the syntactic condition regarding only is a factor that distinguishes children from adults in the processing of only. Case study 2 investigates whether children can construe the inverse scope interpretation, which children are reported to disfavor (Musolino 1998), with the RFR prosody, which is standardly taken to require inverse scope. The results show that both children and adults are sensitive to RFR and able to compute the implicature associated with RFR to disambiguate the inverse scope interpretation. As in the “only” study, QAC levels varied in the RFR experiment. However, the results revealed no effect of question type. This leaves an important open question: why QAC seems more active in children in determining the associate of only than in the determination of quantifier scope when the prosody makes the scope clear.

Format: pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/003142
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
keywords: first language acquisition, processing, semantics, focus, only, quantifier, scope, rise-fall-rise, prosody, question-answer congruence, qac, question under discussion, qud, relevance, semantics, phonology

CFP: Workshop on Sound Change Edinburgh

4th Workshop on Sound Change
University of Edinburgh, UK
19-22 April 2017

Abstract submission for the 4th International Workshop on Sound Change (WSC4) is open until 15 October 2016.

WSC4 is the continuation of the highly successful workshop series that have previously been held in Barcelona (2010), Kloster Seeon (2012) and Berkeley (2014). The aim of this workshop series is to bring together scholars from a wide range of theoretical and methodological backgrounds in order to foster truly collaborative and interdisciplinary work on the actuation, evaluation, transmission, and diffusion of sound change.

The theme of this workshop is “individuals, communities, and sound change”, with special attention to the role of individual differences in the initiation and propagation of change. By “individual differences”, we refer to those psychological, sociological, genetic and/or behavioural differences between the individuals who make up a speech community at the levels of production, perception and cognitive representation.

The workshop will consist of oral presentations, discussion sessions, and poster sessions. We welcome abstracts on any topic related to the workshop themes or to empirical research on sound change more generally. Abstract submitters may choose to have their abstract considered either for a poster only, or for a poster or a talk. Following past practice for the WSC, we anticipate that most abstracts selected for presentation will be allocated a poster presentation slot. A small number of abstracts which fit with the theme of the workshop will be selected to be presented as talks (in addition to the talks from invited speakers).

Anonymized abstracts (PDF, 12 point font, max 1 page text + 1 page figures and references) may be submitted via EasyAbstracts. You may submit no more than one abstract as first author. To submit an abstract, please use the submission page at

WSC4 will be held at the University of Edinburgh from 20-22 April 2017; two satellite workshops will be held on 19 April 2017. For more details, please refer to the WSC4 website:

For questions or more information, contact the organisers by email at

PhD Scholarships at University of Canterbury

E-mail from Kevin Watson to MFM list

PhD Scholarships

Department of Linguistics, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.

Deadline: 15th October 2016

We are pleased to announce the availability of University of Canterbury Doctoral Scholarships, which are tenable in the University of Canterbury Department of Linguistics in Christchurch, New Zealand. Staff in Linguistics at UC have expertise in phonetics & phonology, syntax, sociophonetics & language variation and change, as well as other areas (see below). The Linguistics Department is part of the New Zealand Institute of Language, Brain and Behaviour (NZILBB), and as such, presents substantial opportunities for multi-disciplinary research (see NZILBB also houses a variety of state-of-the-art equipment, including Ultrasound, Electromagnetic Articulography, EEG, and 3D motion tracking. We also have several large corpora, including the ONZE corpus (Origins of New Zealand English), the QuakeBox corpus, and the OLIVE corpus (Origins of Liverpool English). Any of these resources would be available to the successful candidate(s) for PhD research.


UC Scholarships provide NZ$21,000/year for three years, plus cover the university fees. There are no restrictions on regional origin of the applicants. The application deadline is October 15th (NZ time).


The PhD at the University of Canterbury is by thesis only, and interested candidates should, in the first instance, make contact with a potential supervisor in the Linguistics Department to discuss their research ideas. The currently available supervisors in the Linguistics Department are: Lynn Clark, Jen Hay, Beth Hume, Heidi Quinn and Kevin Watson.


  • Lynn Clark – language variation & change, sociophonetics, usage-based models of language
  • Donald Derrick – speech production and perception, articulatory phonetics, including ultrasound
  • Jen Hay – sociophonetics, laboratory phonology, morphology, lexical representation, NZ English
  • Beth Hume – phonology, phonetics/phonology interface, language variation, language change
  • Heidi Quinn – syntax, languages of the Pacific
  • Kevin Watson – sociophonetics, sociolinguistics, varieties of English


Faculty contact details are available here:


Following discussion with a potential supervisors, applicants should apply both for admission to the University of Canterbury PhD programme, and for the scholarship. Both applications must be made before the scholarship deadline. Applications are processed via MyUC, the University of Canterbury’s online portal. After registering with the system, applicants can apply for UC programmes and are guided through the process online. MyUC can be found here:


For further information about the scholarship:


If you have questions, contact: Kevin Watson


McCarthy and Pater 2016: Harmonic Grammar and Harmonic Serialism

From Equinox Press

Just Published!


Harmonic Grammar and Harmonic Serialism

Edited by John J. McCarthy and Joe Pater, both of University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Series: Advances in Optimality Theory edited by Vieri Samek-Lodovici, University College London, and Armin Mester, University of California, Santa Cruz

HB 9781845531492


£85 / $110

To receive 25% off quote the code Harmonic. To order and to view a full description and table of contents, follow this link.


Prince, Del Busso and Merchant 2016: OTWorkplace Quick Start Guide

Direct link:

ROA: 1291
Title: OTWorkplace Quick Start Guide
Authors: Alan Prince, Natalie DelBusso, Nazarre Merchant
Length: 68
Abstract: OTWorkplace provides an interactive environment for linguistic research, which calculates, manipulates, and displays the essential objects of OT and Harmonic Serialism. These give the investigator accurate and complete information about ranking and harmonic bounding, as well as extensive information about typologies constructed from well-defined systems of constraints and candidates.


The Quick Start Guide comes in the form of an annotated Excel workbook, a kind of slide show on steroids. In addition to presenting the basic organization and functionality of the program, the Guide includes an interactive easily-filtered table of all the analytical and editing tools that the user has access to. The program itself, along with information about it and about the OT concepts it is based on, may be downloaded from the OTWorkplace website.


Automated violation counting using the standard *-operator, regular expressions, and user-defined functions enables extensive, rapid, and error-free investigation of systems exactly as they are defined. Together with automated candidate generation, this makes heuristic probing a thing of the past. A variety of generators and constraints relevant to the study of prosody are built in.


OTWorkplace produces structured Excel workbooks that are organized into projects, facilitating systematic research. An indexing system makes it easy for the user to keep track of progress, and a global text search utility allows for the retrieval of all notes and observations.


OTWorkplace is entirely open source: all code is present and user-accessible. Scripted in VBA and Ruby, a user can easily modify and expand it for specific research purposes. Basic system requirements are Windows, any version, and Excel, any version. The Installer Package contains everything else that is needed, including Graphviz, Ruby, RUBOT and the master OTWorkplace xlsm file itself.


OTWorkplace was written by Alan Prince, Bruce Tesar, and Nazarre Merchant, with additional programming by Luca Iacoponi and Natalie DelBusso. It is maintained by Prince and Merchant. Queries and observations may be sent to



GDRI Phonological Theory Agora: International network 3rd meeting on Phonology and Lexicon

GDRI Phonological Theory Agora: International network

3rd meeting on Phonology and Lexicon


The Phonological Theory Agora (PTA) aims at being a platform for debate on theoretical issues. We do so (among other things) by organizing yearly venues where phonologists can meet to discuss recent advances as well as issues in phonological theory. We are not devoted to any specific theory and welcome contributions from any theoretical stance.

This 2016 venue will take place in Tours (France) on October 14th and 15thThere will be two days divided into three sessions.

Day 1: The symposium will be devoted to the relation between Phonology and the Lexicon, featuring Ricardo Bermúdez-Otero and Donca Steriade as keynote speakers. Presentations will be short (5-10 minutes), and discussion after those relatively long (25-20 minutes). Potential speakers are invited to only (a) make a claim, and (b) give some key arguments for it. Although it is not impossible to support the position with empirical material, the emphasis should be on the implications for phonological theory at large. In the morning of the first day, there will be a tutorial by Ricardo Bermudez-Otero and Donca Steriade on Phonology and the Lexicon.

Day 2: There will be a workshop whose goal is to promote discussion and theory-oriented debate in an original way: a data set will be defined that everybody works on to show how it could be analyzed in different theories. This year’s topic is height harmony in German.


Andersson (2016) – Sieves and Herrings: For Distinctive Vowel Length in Swedish

Sieves and Herrings: For Distinctive Vowel Length in Swedish
Samuel Andersson

direct link:
September 2016

In this article, I reexamine the question of vowel and consonant length in Swedish, a hotly debated topic since at least Elert (1955). Vowel and consonant length depend on, and mutually predict, each other, so it’s difficult to tell which is phonemic. I look at the traditional arguments used in the literature, but also introduce internal and external evidence that’s never previously been discussed. The evidence favours Vowel Theory, where vowel length is distinctive. I’ll also show that all major assumptions of Consonant Theory are false. I do this using evidence like minimal pairs for vowel length, previously claimed to be logically impossible in Swedish. I’ll conclude that it’s difficult to keep believing in underlying consonant length, and that an analysis with vowel length is better.

Format: pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/003136
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Stockholm
keywords: swedish, standard central swedish, length, quantity, vowel length, consonant length, phonology, morphophonology, phonology