UConn Linguists at the LSA Annual Meeting

The 94th Annual Meeting of the Linguistic Society of America took place January 2nd-5th in New Orleans and UConn linguistics was well represented at the conference with talks by:

  • Corina Goodwin and Diane Lillo-Martin. Cross-linguistic influence in the morphological development of preschool-aged ASL-English bilinguals
  • Si Kai Lee. Tenselessness in Singlish: Lost in contact
  • Yoshiki Fujiwara. Licensing of Matrix Questions in Japanese and Its Implications
  • Diane Lillo-Martin, Ronice Müller de Quadros, Jonathan D. Bobaljik, Deanna Gagne (Phd 2017, UConn Psychology, now at Gallaudet University), Lily Kwok (MA 2019), Sabine Laszakovits, Marilyn Mafra, and Susanne Wurmbrand. Constraints on Code-blending: Evidence from Acceptability Judgments
  • Aida Talić (PhD 2017, now at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign). Syntactic complexity of Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian(BCS) long-form adjectives and their tone
  • Gísli Rúnar Harðarson (PhD 2017, now at University of Iceland). A unified approach to domains in word- and phrase level phonology
  • Elena Koulidobrova (PhD 2012, now at Central Connecticut State University) and Nedelina Ivanova. Acquisition of Phonology in Child Icelandic Sign Language: Some unique findings

… and posters by:

  • Christos Christopoulos and Stanislao Zompi. Weakening Case Containment: an argument from default allomorphs
  • Emma Nguyen. The predictive power of lexical semantics on the passive behavior in young children
  • Kathryn Montemurro, Molly Flaherty, Marie Coppola, Susan Goldin-Meadow, and Diane Brentari. The role of animacy and location in spatial modulation in two sign languages
  • Diane K Brentari, Rabia Ergin, Pyeong Whan Cho, Ann Senghas, Marie Coppola. How quickly does phonology emerge in a “village” vs. “community” sign language?

Sad news: Samuel David Epstein

We are very sad to relate the news that Sam Epstein died on November 29, 2019 at his home.  Epstein was the Marilyn J. Shatz Collegiate Professor of Linguistics and Cognitive Science at the University of Michigan. He obtained his Ph.D. from the Department of Linguistics at the University of Connecticut in 1987, writing a thesis titled, “Empty Categories and Their Antecedents.”  Epstein went on to become one of the most influential figures in modern syntactic theory. He produced a number of ground-breaking works which are considered to be classics of the field. This for example holds for his 1999 paper “Un-principled Syntax: The Derivation of Syntactic Relations”. C-command has always been considered to be one of the most fundamental syntactic relations. Until that paper, no one really knew why, which left the whole field in a rather uncomfortable position: there was an ever present relation that fundamentally affected almost all syntactic phenomena and we did not understand why that was the case. In the paper in question, Epstein proposed an amazingly elegant and simple deduction of c-command which also explained why c-command is so pervasive. It was, and still is, an example of syntactic theorizing at its best. That paper and Epstein’s work more generally (e.g., books A Derivational Approach to Syntactic Relations and Derivations in Minimalism) led to a fundamental change in the syntactic theory, with derivationality and derivational mechanisms being emphasized over representational mechanisms. The field simply would not have been the same without Epstein.



UConn Linguists at BUCLD

A number of UConn linguists presented their work at the 44th Boston University Conference on Language Development (BUCLD) on November 7th-10th, with a talk by:

  • Koji Sugisaki (PhD 2003, now at Mie University). The Ergative Subject Preference in the Acquisition of Wh-questions in Tongan. (with K. Otaki, M. Sato, H. Ono, N. Yusa, S. Kaitapu, Veikune, P. Vea, Y. Otsuka, and M. Koizumi)

… and poster presentations by:

  • Deborah Chen Pichler (PhD 2001, now at Gallaudet University) and Diane Lillo-Martin. Motivation for L2 ASL learning by hearing parents with deaf children.
  • Emma Nguyen. The predictive power of lexical semantics on the passive behavior in young children.
  • Shuyan Wang, Yasuhito Kido (Visiting Scholar 2017-18, now at Kobe University), and William Snyder. Adjectival Resultatives and Novel Compounds in Children’s English: Support for the Compounding Parameter.
  • Kazuko Yatsushiro (PhD 1999, now at Zentrum für Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft). The Acquisition of Argument-Roles in Nominalizations. (with A. Alexiadou) and Asymmetries in Children’s Negative Determiner Production. (with C. Bill and U. Sauerland)
  • Yoichi Miyamoto (PhD 1994, now at Osaka University) and Kazuko Yatsushiro. The relative scope of connectives and negation in Japanese children. (with S. Otani, A. Nicolae, and M. Asano)
  • Marie Coppola. Assistive listening technologies are not enough: Evidence from Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing children’s receptive vocabulary skills. (with E. Carrigan) and Characteristic heritage language use in an emerging language: Evidence from morphosyntax and syntax. (with D. Gagne, A. Senghas, and C. Flagg)

Coppola | Best Paper in Language Award

A paper co-authored by Marie Coppola, “The noun-verb distinction in established and emergent sign systems” (Language 95, no. 2 (2019): 230-267), has won this year’s Best Paper in Language Award.

Congratulations to Marie and her co-authors: Natasha Abner, Molly Flaherty, Katelyn Stangl, Diane Brentari, and Susan Goldin-Meadow!

Abstract: In a number of signed languages, the distinction between nouns and verbs is evident in the morphophonology of the signs themselves. Here we use a novel elicitation paradigm to investigate the systematicity, emergence, and development of the noun-verb distinction (qua objects vs. actions) in an established sign language, American Sign Language (ASL), an emerging sign language, Nicaraguan Sign Language (NSL), and in the precursor to NSL, Nicaraguan homesigns. We show that a distinction between nouns and verbs is marked (by utterance position and movement size) and thus present in all groups–even homesigners, who have invented their systems without a conventional language model. However, there is also evidence of emerging crosslinguistic variation in whether a base hand is used to mark the noun-verb contrast. Finally, variation in how movement repetition and base hand are used across Nicaraguan groups offers insight into the pressures that influence the development of a linguistic system. Specifically, early signers of NSL use movement repetition and base hand in ways similar to homesigners but different from signers who entered the NSL community more recently, suggesting that intergenerational transmission to new learners (not just sharing a language with a community) plays a key role in the development of these devices. These results bear not only on the importance of the noun-verb distinction in human communication, but also on how this distinction emerges and develops in a new (sign) language.



Sprouse | C.L. Baker Award

Jon Sprouse has been announced as the recipient of the LSA’s inaugural C.L. Baker Award, which is awarded to mid-career linguists honoring excellence for scholarship in syntax. Congratulations Jon!

The citation to accompany the award reads as follows: “Jon Sprouse is an experimental syntactician whose work is characterized by imagination, innovation, care, and respect for the facts. He has made methodological contributions of central importance, enabling syntacticians to base their theoretical work on a much more secure empirical foundation. He has also made contributions of central importance to some of the core issues in syntax and linguistic theory more broadly – concerning the nature of island-hood and (in collaboration with Lisa Pearl) the theory of learnability.”

Further information on the award can be found here.

UConn Linguists at NELS

A number of UConn linguists will be presenting at the jubilean Annual Meeting of the North East Linguistic Society (NELS 50), held at MIT from October 25th – 27th, 2019.

There will be talks by:

  • Paula Fenger and Gísli Rúnar Harðarson (PhD 2017, now at University of Iceland). One classy number: Linking morphemes in Dutch and German
  • Magdalena Kaufmann and Stefan Kaufmann. Talking about sources
  • Christos Christopoulos and Stanislao Zompì. Strong Case Containment is too strong: two arguments from defaults

… and a poster presentation by:

  • Renato Lacerda. Configurational Information Structure: Evidence from Brazilian Portuguese

UConn Linguists at JK

The 27th Japanese/Korean Linguistics Conference (JK27) will take place this year at Sogang University in Seoul on October 18-20, 2019. It will feature a number of presentations by UConn linguists, including an invited talk by:

  • Keiko Murasugi. The parallel route the Japanese- and Korean-acquiring children take to attain the adult grammar: An implication for the Minimalist Theory

… and posters by:

  • Shin Fukuda and Jon Sprouse. Islandhood of Japanese Complex NPs and the Factorial Definition of Island Effects
  • Yuya Noguchi and Shun Ihara. What sluicing tells about imperatives
  • Koji Shimamura (Ritsumeikan University, PhD UConn 2018). Neo-Davidsonian Event Semantics, Scrambling and Argument Ellipsis
  • Yuta Tatsumi. A semantic condition on pronominalization

Visitor | Nick Huang

Nick Huang is here as a visiting researcher, supported by a two-year fellowship from the National University of Singapore. At UConn, he will be working with Jon Sprouse. Nick received his PhD from the University of Maryland earlier this year. His interests are in cross-linguistic variation and learning, and he has worked on topics such as locality, modality, and linguistic illusions.