Fujiwara & Shimada | Language Acquisition

The article “Acquisition of overt and covert and: support for the semantic subset principle” by Yoshiki Fujiwara and Hiroyuki Shimada has just appeared as an online first article ahead of its print publication in Language Acquisition. Congratulations!

Abstract: The goal of this paper is to tease apart two approaches to the source of children’s consistent scope assignment in negative sentences containing logical connectives; the Semantic Subset Principle and the Semantic Subset Maxim. Previous developmental work has observed that four- to six-year-old children across languages have difficulty with disjunctive interpretations in these sentences and assign conjunctive interpretations. The results of our experiment however show that Japanese children can access the disjunctive interpretations when conjunctions are elided. This finding supports the idea that children are guided by the Semantic Subset Principle when determining the default value of any parameter associated with a logical connective.

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.

Jovović | Linguistic Inquiry

Ivana Jovović’s article “Condition B and Other Conditions on Pronominal Licensing in Serbo-Croatian” has just appeared online ahead of its print publication in Linguistic Inquiry. Congratulations Ivana!

Abstract: I argue that certain binding facts from Serbo-Croatian, analyzed as Condition B violations by Despić (2011, 2013), are best captured in terms of specific discourse constraints on coreferential pronouns and that such cases have no bearing on the categorial status of the nominal domain in Serbo-Croatian. I show that the availability of clitic and non-clitic pronouns that are coreferential with a possessor antecedent crucially depends on whether the antecedent is a discourse topic or new information focus; this leads me to conclude that such cases are not Condition B violations. I also observe that pronouns in English are subject to identical conditions and conclude that English also has clitic and nonclitic pronouns.