News & Updates
Ed King will present "Syntactic probability affects
pronunciation: The genitive alternation" at the Spoken Syntax Lab
on Monday, November 28, 2011. He will also present this work as a
talk at the 2012 Annual Meeting of the LSA on
Sunday, January 8, 2011.
Abstract: Probabilistic factors at the
phonological, word, and syntactic levels all condition phonetic
reduction in speech production, and accounts of these effects have
been proposed within both speaker-internal and listener-oriented
theories. This paper extends the documentation of probabilistic
reduction to a novel syntactic construction, the genitive alternation
("the building's" vs. "of the building"). I present results of
multivariate regression showing reliable effects of syntactic
construction probability on the duration of the word "of" in the
of-genitive. I further discuss how the contributions of individual
regression factors (especially possessor animacy) lend support to a
speaker-internal account of probabilistic reduction.
Futrell will present his joint paper
with Michael Ramscar "Grammatical gender
contributes to communicative efficiency"
at the Spoken Syntax Lab on Monday,
November 14, 2011. He will also present this work as a talk at
the 2012 Annual Meeting of the LSA on Friday,
January 6, 2011.
Abstract: I present an
information-theoretic functional motivation for grammatical gender,
testing the theory initially in German. By making nouns more
predictable in context, grammatical gender allows German speakers to
encode more information into the channel without increasing demands on
the hearer. I will first demonstrate that German speakers take
advantage of this function: German nouns in the context
Determiner-Noun, where gender information is available, are more
lexically rich than nouns in the equivalent English contexts. These
results are replicated in Spanish and French. Next, I show how
semantic (ir)regularities in German gender assignment facilitate the
prediction of nouns, in that frequent nouns which are likely to
co-occur are assigned to different genders.
Nykiel presented her study "Variation in preposition
omission in English ellipsis" at
the Spoken Syntax Lab on Monday, October 31, 2011.
The pattern of preposition omission in English elliptical
constructions has not enjoyed much attention. Deletion-based
approaches to ellipsis predict that a language with the option of
preposition stranding in non-elliptical clauses should allow
ellipsis remnants to optionally omit prepositions. These
approaches, however, fail to capture the distribution of remnants
with and without prepositions in naturally-occurring data. Drawing
on corpus and psycholinguistic evidence, I argue that there is no
empirically observable relationship between preposition placement
in non-elliptical clauses and variation found in preposition
omission in elliptical constructions. My evidence suggests instead
that the factors inﬂuencing this variation are processing
constraints, and hence, should be located outside a competence
Grafmiller presented his dissertation work on the
role of animacy and agency in argument realization and
transitivity alternations at the Spoken Syntax Lab on Monday,
October 17, 2011. A portion of this work will be presented as a
poster at the 2012 Annual Meeting of the LSA on
Friday, January 6, 2011.
Jason also delivered a talk in Helsinki on joint
work with Stephanie Shih---"New Approaches to End Weight" at the
conference Variation and Typology: New trends in Syntactic Research
on August 26, 2011.
Bresnan gave a plenary talk ("Acquiring syntactic
variation in English: A cross-constructional study")
6 on June 29, 2011 in Freiburg, followed by two
lectures as part of the City University of Hong
Kong's Distinguished Scholars in Linguistics Lectures (1:
"Is grammatical `competence' probabilistic?", and 2: "Do children
acquire probabilistic syntactic variation?") on July 16-19, 2011.
On August 26, 2011, she gave a plenary lecture
in Helsinki at the conference Variation and
Typology: New trends in Syntactic Research about "The development
of syntactic variation in the individual: Are there implications
As part of the collaborative NSF project "The Development of
Tagliamonte in Palo Alto on March 26 and November 12, 2011, with
Szmrecsányi at FRIAS in Freiburg Jun 21-July
Ford, in Brisbane April 18-May 7, 2011 and in Hong
Kong July 9-19, 2011,
Hay in Christchurch, NZ December 3-13, 2010.
On December 8-10, 2010 Joan Bresnan and Tom
Wasow were Spoken Syntax Lab delegates to the inaugural
workshop of the New Zealand Institute for Language, Brain, and
Behavior, Christchurch, NZ. Bresnan presented a
short talk on the project topic of children's productions of
dative and genitive syntactic alternations: "Do children acquire
probabilistic syntactic variation?" based on work with Gayle
McElvain, Marie-Catherine de Marneffe, and others.