Boston University Developmental Science Colloquia Committee Presents: “Behavioral and Electrophysiological Measures of the ‘Bilingual Advantage’ in Childhood Executive Function” by Srishti Nayak

Published: April 29th, 2015

The talk will be held at 3:30PM in room 150 of the Psychological & Brain Sciences Department (64 Cummington Mall) and refreshments will be provided.

In the last decade, there has been a proliferation of studies showing that bilingual children outperform monolingual children on a variety of executive function skills, such as attentional control and inhibition, filtering distractors from the environment, and switching rapidly between task demands. This ‘bilingual advantage’ holds up in the context of different tasks, cultures, and independent of SES effects, and it has most robustly been demonstrated in school-aged children’s inhibitory control skills (e.g. being able to focus on the color of an object while inhibiting attention to its shape). However, studies on the bilingual advantage have not considered the distinction between “cool” (cognitive) and “hot” (socio-emotional) inhibitory control skills. In our first study, we found that bilingual preschoolers showed an advantage on a Card Sort task employing “cool” inhibitory control skills, but not on a “hot” version of the same task. Furthermore, we found that for preschoolers, the advantage lay in how fast correct trials were completed, and not in the number of correct trials. In our second study, which has just started collecting data, we aim to explore the mechanism by which this advantage may exist, using event-related brain potentials (ERPs) in response to conflict trials on a non-verbal Stroop task. In particular we are interested in school-aged children’s neurophysiology while they actively inhibiting a pre-potent motor response. To our knowledge, no other studies have compared monolingual and bilingual children using this method. Taken together, our studies provide a more detailed look at the bilingual advantage in executive function, and provide a way to understand the potential mechanisms of this advantage.



MIT Phonology Circle Presents: How does circular chain shift tone sandhi evolve? by Chingting Chuang

Published: April 6th, 2015

Date: April 6 (M)

Time: 5 – 6:30

Location: 32D-831

Speaker: Chingting Chuang (National Tsinghua University)

How does circular chain shift tone sandhi evolve?

Penang Hokkien (PH) is a representative variety of Southern Min Chinese spoken by the descendants of emigrants from the Chinese province of Fuijian in Northern Malaysia. In previous studies (Chang & Chuang, 2012) and (Chuang, Chang, & Hsieh, 2013), it has been observed that the original tonal system remains intact among older speakers, especially the famous chainshift tone sandhi rules (see Chen 2000), while language change occurs among younger speakers. The goals of this talk are twofold: first, we examined an interesting phenomenon of synchronic reorganization of tonal inventories by obtaining data from more speakers and more age groups. Our results conform to previous results that tonal reorganization can be shown in three stages and the pace of sound change differs by syntactic position. Second, we are going to show that tonal variation in stage 2 (intermediate stage) is context-sensitive. Speakers are sensitive to the neighboring tones when they choose a variant such that the pattern of consecutive F tones is dispreferred by stage 2 learners.

MIT Phonology Circle Presents: Environmental shielding is contrast preservation by Juliet Stanton

Published: March 30th, 2015

Date:           March 30 (M)
Time:           5 – 6:30
Location:               32D-831
Presenter:      Juliet Stanton
Title:                  Environmental shielding is contrast preservation

The term “environmental shielding” refers to a class of processes where the phonetic realization of a nasal stop depends on its vocalic context. In Kaiwá (Tupí; Bridgeman 1961), for example, plain nasal stops are realized as prenasalized stops before oral vowels (i.e. /ma/ > [mba]) but as nasal stops before nasal vowels (i.e. /mã/ > [mã]). Herbert (1986:199) claims that the purpose of shielding is to protect a contrast between oral and nasal vowels. If Kaiwá /ma/ were realized as [ma], without the intervening [b], [a] would likely carry some degree of perseveratory nasal coarticulation and be less distinct from its nasal counterpart /ã/ as a result.

This paper provides several arguments that Herbert’s position is correct – that environmental shielding is contrast preservation, and that any successful analysis of shielding must make explicit reference to contrast. Results from a survey of over 150 languages reveal a stark asymmetry in the typology of shielding: all languages that exhibit shielding also license a contrast in vocalic nasality (see also Herbert 1986:219). In addition, further asymmetries within the typology mirror known cross-linguistic asymmetries in the direction and extent of nasal coarticulation. I propose an analysis referencing auditory factors that predicts these asymmetries, and show that its broader predictions, though not yet fully investigated, appear to be on the right track.

MIT Ling Lunch Presents: Restricting the antecedent domain using focus: New evidence from English DPs by Cassandra Chapman

Published: March 30th, 2015

Speaker: Cassandra Chapman (McMaster University/ MIT)
Title: Restricting the antecedent domain using focus: New evidence from English DPs
Date/Time: Thursday, April 2, 12:30-1:45
Location: 32-D461

“In this talk, I investigate a previously overlooked use of the English morphological form one, which occurs with the definite determiner and an overt noun, i.e. the one dress. I show that these constructions have a distinct interpretation from numeral one constructions and definite descriptions. Similarly to a subset of definite descriptions, the referent in the one N constructions must have an antecedent in the context. However, they differ from definite descriptions because the context cannot restrict the domain to a set that contains only one individual. I also show that in the one N constructions, either one or a modifier, e.g. blue, must be Focus-marked. I argue that the English data provide empirical support for a covert restrictor variable, R (Bartošová, accepted; von Fintel and Heim, 2011), in the DP structure. I propose that R ensures that there is a salient antecedent in the common ground, in a similar way to Rooth’s ~ operator. Unlike Rooth’s ~ operator, which requires a propositional antecedent, I argue that R is of a flexible semantic type (cf. Schwarzschild 1999’s compositional notion of givenness). Specifically, I propose that R adjoins to Focus-marked maximal projections, and that its type depends on the semantic type of its sister. I argue that the introduction of a covert restrictor variable into the structure of English DPs not only allows us to provide a unified analysis of the different anaphoric readings of one but that it may also shed light on how we might understand Rooth’s ~ operator, and how we might relate Rooth’s theory of focus to Schwarzschild’s theory of givenness.”

BU Linguistics Association Presents: Professor Laura McPherson

Published: March 3rd, 2015

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Harvard GSAS Workshop on Indo-European and Historial Linguistics Presents:

Published: March 2nd, 2015

Speaker: Sam Zukoff (MIT)

Title: “Repetition Avoidance and the Exceptional Reduplication Patterns of Indo-European”

Date: Wednesday, March 4 at 5:00 p.m., Boylston Hall 303


See abstract link below for more information.

Sam Zukoff Harvard IE Workshop abstract

MIT Phonology Circle Presents: A foot-free approach to Nanti stress

Published: March 2nd, 2015

Date:           March 2 (M)
Time:           5:00 – 6:30
Location:               32D-831
Presenter:      Naomi Francis
Title:                  A foot-free approach to Nanti stress

Nanti (Kampa, Peru) has an intricate stress system that is sensitive to syllable weight, syllable shape, and vowel quality. Crowhurst and Michael (2005) capture this complex system in a foot-based framework. In light of recent work (e.g. Gordon 2002) that has demonstrated that it is possible to derive a wide range of quantity-insensitive stress patterns without making use of feet, I will attempt to extend this foot-free approach to account for Nanti’s stress system.

Ling Lunch at MIT presents: Byron Ahn

Published: February 23rd, 2015

Speaker: Byron Ahn (Boston University)
Title: Giving Reflexivity a Voice
Date/Time: Thursday, February 26, 12:30-1:45
Location: 32-D461

“Reflexive anaphora is not a homogeneous category whose members are licensed in a single uniform way. This talk highlights the formal properties of Local Subject-Oriented Reflexivity (LSOR), in which a reflexive anaphor’s antecedent must be the local subject. In languages across the world, LSOR is subject to a number of syntactic constraints, and is expressed differently from other types of reflexivity.

I show that the attested range of morphosyntactic configurations for LSOR arise from the same basic structural source. In particular, LSOR derivations involve two atoms of reflexivity:

(i) a semantic reflexivizer (associated with a unique grammatical Voice head, REFL), and
(ii) a reflexive anaphor which syntactic movement (triggered by that same REFL Voice)

Moreover, the same two atoms are reflexivity are active in English. For this reason, English also exhibits the same LSOR/non-LSOR split, though the difference manifests in the prosodic component: LSOR anaphors in English do not bear phrasal stress (while non-LSOR anaphors do). This is derived with a Nuclear Stress Rule based upon syntactic hierarchy (and not linearization) that is couched in a multiple spell-out architecture of grammar (e.g., Cinque 1993 and Zubizarreta 1998).

Local Subject-Oriented Reflexivity is implicated as a central aspect of reflexivity, across languages, and when such a distinction is not entirely (morphologically) apparent, closer investigation can elucidate it. Finally, LSOR, its grammatical properties, as well as its possible morphosyntactic instantiations, simply fall out from the general architecture of Language.”

GSAS Workshop on Indo-European and Historical Linguistics at Harvard University

Published: February 6th, 2015

Dear Friends of the GSAS Workshop on Indo-European and Historical Linguistics,

This is a reminder concerning tomorrow’s talk:

Speaker: Christina Skelton (Harvard University)

Title: “Pamphylian: Language and Dialect Contact in Ancient Greek”

Date: Friday, 6 February at 4:00 p.m., Boylston Hall 104

Abstract of the talk:

Among the Greek dialects, Pamphylian is odd– it seems to represent a mix of several different Greek dialect groups, with influence from the neighboring Anatolian languages.  In this talk, I argue that we can reconstruct the early settlement history of Pamphylia using sociolinguistics to study these patterns of language and dialect contact. Specifically, I argue that Pamphylia was initially settled by a small number of Greek speakers who were outnumbered by native Anatolian speakers who learned Greek as a second language, and that the initial mix of settlers were mainly speakers of Cretan, but also included speakers of Cypriot and Lesbian.  Finally, I consider an important but rarely considered question in Greek dialectology:  why does Pamphylian show so much influence from the native languages, when Cypriot and the other dialects of Asia Minor– where Greeks also colonized originally non-Greek-speaking areas– do not?

Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow!

Gasper Begus
Workshop organizer

18th Annual Workshop on American Indigenous Languages

Published: February 3rd, 2015

Full Title: 18th Annual Workshop on American Indigenous Languages
Short Title: WAIL2015

Date: 08-May-2015 – 09-May-2015
Location: Santa Barbara, CA, USA
Contact Person: Kayla Eisman
Meeting Email:
Web Site:

Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics; Historical Linguistics; Language Documentation

Call Deadline: 15-Feb-2015

Meeting Description:

18th Annual Workshop on American Indigenous Languages (WAIL 2015)
Santa Barbara, CA
May 8 – 9, 2015

The Linguistics department at the University of California, Santa Barbara announces its 18th Annual Workshop on American Indigenous Languages (WAIL), which provides a forum for the discussion of theoretical, descriptive, and practical studies of the indigenous languages of the Americas.

We are pleased to announce that our keynote speaker for this year will be Patience L. Epps (University of Texas, Austin).

General Information:

Santa Barbara is situated on the Pacific Ocean near the Santa Yñez Mountains. The UCSB campus is located near the Santa Barbara airport. Participants may also fly into LAX airport in Los Angeles, which is approximately 90 miles southeast of the campus. Shuttle buses run between LAX and Santa Barbara.

2nd Call for Papers:

Anonymous abstracts are invited for talks on any topic relevant to the study of indigenous languages of the Americas. Talks will be 20 minutes, followed by 10 minutes for discussion. Abstracts should be 500 words or less (excluding examples and/or references).

Individuals may submit abstracts for one single-authored and one co-authored paper. Please indicate your source(s) and type(s) of data in the abstract (e.g. recordings, texts, conversational, elicited, narrative, etc.). For co-authored papers, please indicate who plans to present the paper as well as who will be in attendance.

Abstracts should be submitted in .pdf format through the EasyAbs system found at the address below:

Hard copy submissions will be accepted from those who do not have Internet access. Please send four copies of your abstract, along with a 3×5 card with the following information: (1) your name; (2) affiliation; (3) mailing address; (4) phone number; (5) email address; and (6) title of your paper.

Send hard copy submissions to:

Workshop on American Indigenous Languages
Attn: Kayla Eisman or Morgan Sleeper
Department of Linguistics
University of California, Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, CA 93106

Deadline for receipt of abstracts: February 15, 2015

Notification of acceptance will arrive by email no later than March 8, 2015.

For further information, please contact the conference coordinators, Kayla Eisman or Morgan Sleeper, at or check out our website, .

LINGUIST List: Vol-26-672