Monthly Archives: July 2019

Mitchley (2019) Agreement and Coordination in Xitsonga, Sesotho and isiXhosa: An Optimality Theoretic Perspective

ROA: 1357
Title: Agreement and Coordination in Xitsonga, Sesotho and isiXhosa: An Optimality Theoretic Perspective
Authors: Hazel Mitchley
Length: 206 pp
Abstract: This thesis provides a unified Optimality Theoretic analysis of subject-verb agreement with
coordinated preverbal subjects in three Southern Bantu languages: Xitsonga (S53), Sesotho
(S33), and isiXhosa (S41). This analysis is then used to formulate a typology of agreement
resolution strategies and the contexts which trigger them.
Although some accounts in the Bantu literature suggest that agreement with coordinate
structures is avoided by speakers (e.g. Schadeberg 1992, Voeltz 1971) especially when
conjuncts are from different noun classes, I show that there is ample evidence to the contrary,
and that the subject marker used is dependent on several factors, including (i) the
[ HUMAN] specification on the conjuncts, (ii) whether the conjuncts are singular or plural,
(iii) whether or not the conjuncts both carry the same noun class feature, and (iv) the order
of the conjuncts.
This thesis shows that there are various agreement resolution strategies which can be
used: 1) agreement with the [+HUMAN] feature on the conjuncts, 2) agreement with the
[-HUMAN] feature on the conjuncts, 3) agreement with the noun class feature on both conjuncts,
4) agreement with the noun class feature on the conjunct closest to the verb, and 5)
agreement with the noun class feature on the conjunct furthest from the verb. Not all of
these strategies are used by all languages, nor are these strategies interchangeable in the languages
which do use them – instead, multiple factors conspire to trigger the use of a specific
agreement strategy within a specific agreement featural context.
I show that these effects can be captured using Optimality Theory (Prince and Smolensky
2004). The analysis makes use of seven constraints: RES#, MAX[+H], MAX[-H],
DEP[-H], MAXNC, DEPNC, and AGREECLOSEST. The hierarchical ranking of these constraints
not only accounts for the confinement of particular strategies to specific agreement
featural contexts within a language, but also accounts for the cross-linguistic differences in
the use of these strategies. I end off by examining the typological implications which follow
from the OT analysis provided in
Type: Paper/tech report
Area/Keywords: Bantu, typology, Morphology, agreement, coordination

Biro (2017) Uncovering structure hand in hand: Joint Robust Interpretive Parsing in Optimality Theory

ROA: 1358
Title: Uncovering structure hand in hand: Joint Robust Interpretive Parsing in Optimality Theory
Authors: Tamas Biro
Comment: Acta Linguistica Academica Vol. 64 (2017) 2, 191-212. DOI: 10.1556/2062.2017.64.2.2
Length: 22
Abstract: Most linguistic theories postulate structures with covert information, not directly recoverable from utterances. Hence, learners have to interpret their data before drawing conclusions. Within the framework of Optimality Theory (OT), Tesar & Smolensky (1998) proposed Robust Interpretive Parsing (RIP), suggesting the learners rely on their still imperfect grammars to interpret the learning data. I introduce an alternative, more cautious approach, Joint Robust Interpretive Parsing (JRIP). The learner entertains a population of several grammars, which join forces to interpret the learning data. A standard metrical phonology grammar is employed to demonstrates that JRIP performs significantly better than RIP.
Type: Paper/tech report
Area/Keywords: Learning algorithms, Robust Interpretive Parsing, genetic algorithms, hidden structure, metrical stress

SCiL: Submission Deadline Aug. 7th, Formal language sessions

The submission deadline for the January 2-5 2020 meeting of the Society for Computation in Linguistics in New Orleans is in about two weeks, on August 7th. See the full call here

The organizers would also like to now announce that in addition to the plenary session on “Computation and Meaning,” SCiL 2020 will feature an NSF-funded workshop on “Formal Language Theory in Linguistics,” whose goal is to communicate to the participants of SCiL recent research in formal language theory as it applies to linguistic theory and natural language processing. The workshop will be conducted as a series of events throughout the conference, including a panel discussion and tutorial sessions.

Additionally, as part of the workshop, we are also accepting abstracts for a special ‘works in progress’ session. This will be a series of short presentations meant for work that might otherwise be deemed to be too preliminary for the existing computational/mathematical linguistics venues. Abstracts should follow the same two-page format as for the main session, but should be clearly marked for the works in progress session.



Journal of Phonology collection available

From Geoff Nathan

As part of downsizing after retirement I am thinning my journal collection. I have a virtually complete set of the journal Phonology (originally Yearbook of Phonology). It occupies about one standard box of 8 1/2 X 11 paper supplies. Does anyone want it, or have any suggestions of what I can do with it besides putting it in recycling?


Geoffrey S. Nathan
WSU Information Privacy Officer (Retired)
Emeritus Professor, Linguistics Program


Hussain et al. (2019) — Punjabi (Lyallpuri variety)

Punjabi (Western, ISO-639-3 pnb) is an Indo-Aryan language (Indo-European, Indo-Iranian) spoken in Pakistan and India, and in immigrant communities in the UK, Canada, USA, and elsewhere. In terms of number of native speakers, it is ranked 10th among the world’s languages, with more than 100 million speakers (Lewis, Simons & Fennig 2016). Aspects of the phonology of different varieties of Punjabi have been described in Jain (1934), Arun (1961), Gill & Gleason (1962), Singh (1971), Dulai & Koul (1980), Bhatia (1993), Malik (1995), Shackle (2003), and Dhillon (2010). Much of this literature is focused on Eastern varieties, and the phonology of Western Punjabi dialects has received relatively less attention (e.g. Bahri 1962, Baart 2003, 2014).

Save the date! 07-08 Feb, 2020. Phonological Representations: A Workshop of the Berkeley Linguistics Society.

ANNOUNCING the Berkeley Linguistic Society Workshop
“Phonological Representations: At the Crossroad between Gradience and Categoricity”

Date: 07-Feb-2020 – 08-Feb-2020
Location: Berkeley, California, USA

Meeting Description

Describing the sounds of language has always been a central concern of both linguistic phonetics and theoretical phonology. The central tension between informational abstraction and phonetic concreteness is resolved in ways that differ based partly on one’s theoretical aims. In some cases phonologists use continuously valued representations to derive categorical effects, while in other cases phonologists use categorical representations to derive gradient effects. Phoneticians, psycholinguists and neuroscientists are also concerned with whether representations that are useful in describing the information structure of language sound systems are also useful in capturing facts about the cognitive implementation of phonology.

Workshop participants will represent several different attitudes toward these questions, and one of the goals of the workshop is to discuss whether these different aims are fundamentally incompatible, or whether we can we find a system of description that is successful in both accounting for information structure and for the cognition of language use.

Confirmed speakers include Bruce Hayes (UCLA), Stephanie Shih (USC), Kevin Ryan (Harvard), and Katie Drager (Hawaii).

A full call for papers will be published in Sept. 2019.


Call for Papers: Journées FLORAL-(I)PFC 2019: French in the World

Since 2002, the international research programme PFC (Phonologie du français contemporain/ Phonology of Contemporary French,, which gathers an international panel of linguists working on French corpus phonology, yearly organises a conference in Paris. The objective of this meeting is to move forward French phonology in a welcoming and scientifically critical atmosphere. It is thus a meeting place for researchers, both junior and senior ones, who wish to discuss their ongoing work – whether it focuses on phenomena well-known or little known in the scientific literature. The PFC programme, primarily devoted to phonology, has in the last few years
been extended to cover other domains of linguistics, i.e. syntax and sociolinguistics, leading to a collaboration with the Laboratoire Ligérien de Linguistique de l’Université d’Orléans, and the creation of a research network on oral French: FLORAL (Français Langue Orale et Recherches Avancées en Linguistique/Oral French and Advanced Studies in Linguistics). PFC further focuses on interphonology and the pedagogical aspects of pronunciation through the daughter project IPFC (Interphonologie du français contemporain/ Interphonology of Contemporary French,
The conference “Journées FLORAL-(I)PFC 2019” is organised around two main topics:
  1. Francophonie and phonologies in contact
  2. Interphonology and didactics of oral French
The format of the contributions will be 20 minutes for presentation and 10 minutes for discussion. Other formats can be considered all depending on the number of abstracts received. We accept presentations in French and English.
The abstract (1 page including title and references) must be sent by email to Helene N. Andreassen (, Elissa Pustka ( and Isabelle Racine (
Submission deadline: Monday 16 September 2018.
Thanks for sharing this call for papers with other linguists you think might be interested. More information about the conference will be published at the PFC website:
Conference organising committee:
Helene N. Andreassen, UiT The Arctic University of Norway
Olivier Baude, Paris Nanterre University/HUMA-NUM
Marie-Hélène Coté, University of Lausanne
Sylvain Detey, Waseda University
Julien Eychenne, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
Elissa Pustka, University of Vienna
Isabelle Racine, University of Geneva

Shih & Rudin (2019) – On sound symbolism in baseball player names

On sound symbolism in baseball player names
Stephanie Shih, Deniz Rudin
direct link:
July 2019
Recent work has argued that sound symbolism plays a much larger part in language than previously believed, given the assumption of the arbitrariness of the sign. A slate of recent papers on Pokémonastics, for example, has found sound symbolic associations to be rampant in Pokémon names cross-linguistically. In this paper, we explore a real-world dataset that parallels Pokémon, in which human players similarly have physical attributes of weight, height, and power: Major League Baseball. We investigated phonological correlations between baseball player statistics and their given first names, chosen baseball-official first names, and baseball nicknames. We found numerous sound symbolic associations in player-chosen names and nicknames, where conscious design plays a role in choosing a name that may communicate an attribute. These associations were often mediated by language-specific hypocoristic formation processes. We conclude that sound symbolism occurs in real-world naming practices, but only when names are chosen agentively in cognizance of the relevant attributes.

Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/004689
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in:
keywords: sound symbolism; iconicity; names; onomastics; phonology; corpus linguistics; cognitive science; english; baseball, phonology

Myers (2019) – Précis of The grammar of Chinese characters

Précis of The grammar of Chinese characters
James Myers
direct link:
July 2019
The title of Myers (2019) [The grammar of Chinese characters, Routledge] is meant literally: Chinese characters really do seem to have a mentally active and productive grammar, with striking similarities to the morphology and phonology of signed and spoken languages. This paper simply sketches out the key points made in the book, one section per chapter. Section 1 outlines previous analyses of Chinese characters, which already reveal grammar-like properties. Section 2 argues that characters have morphological operations akin to affixation, compounding, and reduplication. Section 3 argues that characters also have phonology (of a silent sort, as in sign languages), which describes abstract formal regularities in strokes and overall character shape. Section 4 provides corpus-based evidence for the productivity of many of the above regularities, and Section 5 provides experimental evidence. Section 6 first considers possible explanations for character grammar and then sketches out how the idea might be useful beyond theoretical linguistics.

Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/004682
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Summary of book published by Routledge; more material at
keywords: chinese, orthography, writing, grammar, morphology, phonology