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.

Richard 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.

Joanna Nykiel presented her study "Variation in preposition omission in English ellipsis" at the Spoken Syntax Lab on Monday, October 31, 2011.

Abstract: 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 grammar.

Jason 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.

Joan Bresnan gave a plenary talk ("Acquiring syntactic variation in English: A cross-constructional study") at ICLaVE 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 for typology?"

As part of the collaborative NSF project "The Development of Syntactic Alternations", Joan Bresnan met with Sali Tagliamonte in Palo Alto on March 26 and November 12, 2011, with Benedikt Szmrecsányi at FRIAS in Freiburg Jun 21-July 2, 2011, with Marilyn Ford, in Brisbane April 18-May 7, 2011 and in Hong Kong July 9-19, 2011, with Jen 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.