2012 Fall Colloquium

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University of Arizona
Department of Linguistics

Fall 2012 Linguistic Colloquium, LING 495A/595A 

Coordinator and convener: Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini
(Linguistics, Cognitive Science and Psychology, University of
Assistant coordinator: Jorge Muriel (Linguistics, University of

Friday 3pm-4.30pm  in Communication 311 
Colloquia are every other week.



Friday,  August 31, 2012

Orientation for 1st and 2nd year students

Speakers: Diana Archangeli, Simin Karimi, Janet Nicol, Shayna Walker


In this orientation, we cover some of the nuts and bolts of being a graduate student at the
University of Arizona, for entering students in LING, NAMA, HLT, and ANLI. Topics
include but are not limited to a welcome from Simin Karimi, department head; discussion
of the progress to degree by Diana Archangeli, director of graduate studies; involving
human subjects in research by Janet Nicol, department committee on human subjects
protection; and dealing with bureaucracy, by Shayna Walker, graduate coordinator.


Friday September 14, 2012

Speaker: David Basilico, Associate Professor of English and Director of the

Linguistics Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Title: Noun Incorporation and the Syntax of Argument Structure


A core fact about the distribution of noun incorporation is that in transitive
clauses, direct objects can incorporate but subjects cannot (Mithun 1984, Baker 1988). In
this talk, I argue that the distribution of noun incorporation is even more restricted. In the
past twenty years, a number of researchers have posited that the ‘direct object’ position is
not a unitary one, in that some objects occupy a specifier position and hence are more
‘subject-like’, while other objects are complements of the verbal head (Larson 1988,
Basilico 1998, Ramchand 2006 and others). Ramchand (2006) has drawn a distinction
between ‘undergoer’ objects and ‘rhematic’ objects, with the former occupying a
specifier position and the latter occupying a complement position and contributing to “the
description of the predicate” (35). In this talk, I argue that noun incorporation is limited
to rhematic objects; undergoer objects do not incorporate. Apparent counterexamples in
which it appears that an undergoer object has incorporated involve a difference in
meaning from the unincorporated construction that indicates these objects are no longer


Friday September 28, 2012

Speaker: Diana Archangeli, Linguistics Department, University of Arizona

Title: Emergent Phonology: Evidence from English


This paper argues in favor of a serious consideration of Emergent Grammar,
the hypothesis that language is acquired with only minimal benefit of an innate languagespecific
endowment. After reviewing arguments in favor of Emergence based on the
challenge of mapping sounds to features and on highly individual (and sometimes) covert
articulatory patterns, we turn to an exploration of Canadian Raising and its interaction
with Flapping. The discussion demonstrates that an Emergent Grammar account of these
facts is possible and that it accounts for the patterns as effectively, if not more effectively, than a rule-based or a constraint-based alternative. It also provides a model for phonological and morphological analysis under Emergent Grammar.


Friday October 12, 2012

Speaker: Edward Stabler, department of Linguistics, University of California, Los


Title: Universals in parsing and learning


Many linguistic universals proposed in the last 50 years have been
disconfirmed, or revealed to be only tendencies. This talk explores some of the more
abstract computational proposals about universals that have fared somewhat better,
showing how they are leading to new perspectives on language processing and


Friday October 26, 2012

Speaker: LouAnn Gerken, departments of Linguistics, Psychology, and Cognitive

Science, University of Arizona

Title: What sort of language learner is a human infant?


What sort of learner generalizes better from fewer input examples than from
more? Associative accounts of learning, in which learners accumulate input examples and
generalize over these examples without forming an independent model of the input
perform better with more data. Nativist accounts, even those that use statistical inference
to select among innate models of the input (grammars) are at best neutral about the
number of input examples required for grammar selection. In contrast, model building
accounts, such as Bayesian inference, in which learners both generate hypotheses de novo
about the input and use statistical inference to select among these models predict that
learners generalize better from a handful of examples than from many more examples. In
my talk, I'll present new data showing that infants, in fact, do generalize better from
fewer examples and offer some thoughts about the origin of infants' hypotheses.


Friday November 9, 2012

Speaker: Trevor Harley, Chair of Cognitive Psychology and Dean and Head of the

School of Psychology at the University of Dundee.

Title: Intact and impaired phonological awareness in typical aging and Parkinson’s


We show that Parkinson’s disease (PD) and, to a lesser extent, typical aging,
affect people’s ability to manipulate language. Performance of people with PD was
significantly worse than typically aging older adults (TAO) on phonological awareness
tasks including rhyme detection, rhyme generation, phoneme deletion, and common-unit
identification. The TAO participants in turn performed significantly worse than healthy
younger adult participants (HYA) on some of these tasks. As the level of difficulty
increases, the PD and TAO groups respond more slowly and make more errors. We
propose that there is a relationship between high-level language functions such as
phonological awareness, working memory, and those frontal regions, specifically the
frontostriate loop, known to deteriorate with age.


Friday November 30, 2012

Speaker: Sigríður Sigurjónsdóttir of the University of Iceland and Joan Maling of the

National Science Foundation and Brandeis University

Title: Syntactic Change in Progress: The New Impersonal Construction in Icelandic.


A new impersonal construction has arisen in Icelandic in recent decades and
is gaining ground. The innovative construction is illustrated in (1a,b).

(1) a. Það    var beðið mig     að vaska upp.
itEXPL was asked me-ACC to wash up
Literally: it was asked me to do the dishes
Intended: 'I was asked to do the dishes' or 'they asked me to do the dishes'

b. Loks   var   fundið stelpuna     eftir mikla leit.
finally was found girl.the-ACC after great search
Literally: finally was found the girl after a long search
Intended: 'the girl was finally found after a long search' or 'they found the girl after a long search'

The New Impersonal (NI) appears to have passive morphology but differs from canonical
passives in that the verbal object remains in situ and gets assigned accusative case.
Scholars differ in their assessment of whether the NI is a passive or an active impersonal
construction. We argued in Sigurjónsdóttir & Maling (2001) and Maling &
Sigurjónsdóttir (2002) that the NI is a syntactically active impersonal which has its roots
in the reanalysis and gradual extension of the traditional impersonal passive of
intransitive verbs. Eythórsson (2008) and Jónsson (2009), on the other hand, challenge
the active analysis of the NI and maintain that the construction is an impersonal passive.
However, there is no disagreement about the fact that a major syntactic innovation is
taking place. This system-internal change is not the result of borrowing, nor is it the
result of any phonological change or morphological weakening in the language.
In this talk we discuss what features of Icelandic make this change possible, highlighting
the significant age-related variation observed in adults, which is exactly what would be
expected during a period of syntactic change. We focus on the occurrence of bound
anaphors. Impersonal passives of reflexive verbs are an innovation of Modern Icelandic,
first appearing about 100 years ago. We suggest that the reflexive passive is syntactically
ambiguous, depending on whether the reflexive pronoun is analyzed as an intransitivizing
"affix" or as an independent argument which needs a binder. Data collected in two
nation-wide surveys show that speakers who accept the NI also accept reflexive
impersonal passives, but not vice versa; many adult speakers accept reflexive impersonal
passives but do not accept the NI. These data also show that other effects on the
acceptability of the NI, like definiteness and volitional control/agentivity, are compatible
with our proposed account.