Carstens | Linguistic Inquiry

Vicki Carstens’s article “Nguni bare nouns: licensing without Case” has just appeared online ahead of its print publication in Linguistic Inquiry. Congratulations, Vicki!

Abstract: Nguni bare or augmentless([–A]) nominals are licit only as strict negative dependents and wh-words. They may not appear in a preverbal subject position unless local to a negation-licensed [–A] complementizer of a subjunctive clause (Pietraszko 2021). This pattern motivates an analysis in terms of negative concord and a labeling theory approach to the Extended Projection Principle (EPP) (Chomsky 2013): [–A] nouns have uninterpretable negation features that thwart agreement and labeling in [XP, YP] configurations (see also Bošković 2019, 2020 on uninterpretable features and labeling problems) unless valued by interpretable negation in a syntactic Agree relation (Zeijlstra 2008, Haegeman and Lohndal 2010, Penka 2011). A cluster of further distributional restrictions on [–A] nominals are predictable from an independently motivated Nguni clausal topography of focus (Carstens and Mletshe 2016), eliminating any role for abstract Case in explaining the facts, contra Halpert 2015 and Pietraszko 2021. The analysis is inspired by and extends to parallel restrictions in Romance languages previously attributed to the Empty Category Principle and the EPP (Contreras 1986, Longobardi 1994, Déprez 2000, Landau 2007).

van der Hulst festschrift & NAPhCxii workshop

Harry van der Hulst was honored with a festschrift and special satellite workshop organized by Nancy Ritter at the Twelfth North American Phonology Conference (NAPhCxii), held at Concordia University, Montreal, Canada, May 14, 2023.

Harry also gave an invited presentation at the main conference titled What can stress tell us about the structure of synthetic compounds?


Presentations by current/former UConn affiliates included:

At the satellite workshop:

Aida Talic (PhD 2017, now at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign). Phases and accent assignment domains

Alexandre Vaxman (PhD 2016, now at University of Tours). Interaction of phonological and diacritic weight in hybrid accent systems

Rachel Channon. A new feature type: Functional features in sign languages

At the main conference:

Shengyun Gu, Diane Lillo-Martin and Deborah Chen Pichler (PhD 2001, now at Gallaudet). Phonological Development in ASL-Signing Children: Pseudosign Repetition


Photo: UConn affiliates at the workshop in person.

Front row: Shengyun Gu, Deborah Chen Pichler

Back row: Aida Talic, Alexandre Vaxman, Nancy Ritter, Harry van der Hulst, Diane Lillo-Martin

East Asian Sign Linguistics

The volume East Asian Sign Linguistics, edited by Kazumi Matsuoka (1998 PhD, now Keio University, Japan), Onno Crasborn and Marie Coppola, has been published by De Gruyter Mouton as part of their Sign Language Typology series. The volume is also available online.  The volume also contains the following chapters written by UConn linguists:

  • Shengyun Gu. Phonological processes in complex word formation in Shanghai Sign Language
  • Kazumi Matsuoka. Uiko Yano and Kazumi Maegawa. Epistemic modal verbs and negation in Japanese Sign Language



Lee | Glossa

Si Kai Lee’s article “On agreement-drop in Singlish: topics never agree” has just appeared in Volume 7 of Glossa, as part of the GLOWing papers 2021 collection of selected papers from the 44th Generative Linguistics in the Old World (GLOW) Colloquium. The paper can be accessed online here. Congratulations Si Kai!

Abstract: This paper examines the distribution and properties of agreement-drop constructions in Singlish, which are distinguished by the absence of overt subject agreement morphology. I demonstrate that these constructions are distinct from their minimally different fully-agreeing counterparts in that they (i) bleed object topicalisation, (ii) block the extraction of adjuncts which are lower in the structure, (iii) are scopally frozen, (iv) are unable to be embedded under regret-class predicates, and (v) impose a specificity condition on their subjects. I argue that these properties rule out prior characterisations of the alternation as the output of free variation in the PF. On the basis that agreement-drop constructions in Singlish consistently parallels topicalisation structures cross-linguistically, I sketch a syntactic account that unifies the two constructions within the syntax.

Gu, Pichler & Lillo-Martin | Frontiers in Psychology

The article “Phonological development in American Sign Language-signing children: Insights from pseudosign repetition tasks” by Shengyun Gu, Deborah Chen Pichler (PhD 2001, now at Gallaudet University), L. Viola Kozak and Diane Lillo-Martin has just been published online in Frontiers in Psychology. Congratulations!

The full article can be accessed here.

Abstract: In this study, we conducted a pseudosign (nonce sign) repetition task with 22 children (mean age: 6;04) acquiring American Sign Language (ASL) as a first language (L1) from deaf parents. Thirty-nine pseudosigns with varying complexity were developed and organized into eight categories depending on number of hands, number of simultaneous movement types, and number of movement sequences. Pseudosigns also varied in handshape complexity. The children’s performance on the ASL pseudosign task improved with age, displaying relatively accurate (re)production of location and orientation, but much less accurate handshape and movement, a finding in line with real sign productions for both L1 and L2 signers. Handshapes with higher complexity were correlated with lower accuracy in the handshape parameter. We found main effects of sequential and simultaneous movement combinations on overall performance. Items with no movement sequence were produced with higher overall accuracy than those with a movement sequence. Items with two simultaneous movement types or a single movement type were produced with higher overall accuracy than those with three simultaneous movement types. Finally, number of hands did not affect the overall accuracy. Remarkably, movement sequences impose processing constraints on signing children whereas complex hands (two hands) and two simultaneous movement types do not significantly lower accuracy, indicating a capacity for processing multiple simultaneous components in signs. Spoken languages, in contrast, manifest greater complexity in temporal length. Hearing children’s pseudoword repetition still displays high levels of accuracy on disyllabic words, with complexity effects affecting only longer multisyllabic words. We conclude that the pseudosign repetition task is an informative tool for studies of signing children’s phonological development and that sheds light on potential modality effects for phonological development.

Magdalena Kaufmann | Linguistics Vanguard

Magdalena Kaufmann‘s paper with John Whitman, “Conditional conjunctions informed by Japanese and Korean” has just appeared online ahead of print in Linguistics Vanguard. Congratulations Magda and John!

Abstract: Many languages assign additional conditional interpretations to apparently regular sentential conjunctions (conditional conjunctions, CCs). Following previous ideas (Kaufmann, Magdalena. 2018. Topics in conditional conjunctions. Invited talk at NELS, vol. 49. Cornell University; Starr, Will. 2018. Conjoining imperatives and declaratives. Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 21. 1159–1176), we provide additional support for the hypothesis that CCs involve topicalized first conjuncts. We argue that Japanese and Korean, which appear to lack CCs, in fact mark them quite transparently. Both languages combine sentential conjunctions with topic markers: Japanese -te=wa (standardly considered one of the language’s conditional connectives) and Korean -ko=nun (occurring naturally, not discussed in the literature). We show that Japanese conditional =to fits into the pattern of CCs as well: it is derived by topicalization of conjunctive =to. Conjunctive =to is normally restricted to NPs, but it can coordinate finite clauses so long as the finite verb does not precede =to (Koizumi, Masatoshi. 2000. String vacuous overt verb raising. Journal of East Asian Linguistics 9(3). 227–285). We argue that this requirement can be met in a topicalized clause carrying default tense; the resultant configuration is the conditional connective =to. Semantically, CCs are known to be more restricted than if-conditionals in not readily realizing epistemic conditionals. The elements -te=wa,=to, and -ko=nun are all subject to exactly this restriction, which we refine to exclude only non-predictive epistemics. Following the transparent structure in Japanese and Korean, we interpret CCs by predicating the regular conjunction distributively of the set of (contextually salient and epistemically accessible) situations described by the topicalized first conjunct. We argue that apparent cases of focus on or within the first conjunct of CCs constitute contrastive topics or corrections.