Friday, January 18: Michelle Yuan (UChicago)

Please join us for this quarter’s first meeting of the Language Variation & Change Workshop, this Friday, January 18 at 3:30pm, in Rosenwald 301. A light reception will follow.

On object shift, ergativity, and microvariation in Inuit
Michelle Yuan, UChicago

This talk investigates variation in the ergative system of the Inuit dialect continuum, for which the ergative pattern has been observed to be weaker in certain dialects than in others. I argue that the status of ergativity is systematically connected to another, seemingly independent point of variation: variation in object shift, i.e. whether the object raising to a structurally high position is a full DP or a pronoun (cf. Woolford 2017).

Evidence for this approach comes from novel fieldwork on the Eastern Canadian dialect group of Inuktitut—which, as I show, displays a number of previously unnoticed properties that make this correlation especially clear. From this, I present a novel analysis of ergativity across Inuit that reduces this correlation to variation in case competition for dependent ERG case assignment (Marantz 1991, Baker 2015). This captures the generalization that ergativity is intrinsically tied to the properties of the object, but more strikingly posits that ergativity need not directly reference any structural properties of the ERG case-bearing subject. More broadly, this talk offers a case study on how microvariation may be used as a lens into syntactic theory, and vice versa, by treating the Inuit languages as minimally-differing points along an otherwise gradient system.

Please also feel free to join us for any of our other talks this quarter.

Week 3 (1/25): Cherry Meyer (UChicago)
Week 4 (2/1): Betsy Pillion (UChicago)
Week 5 (2/8): Laura Horton (UChicago) + fieldworkers’ social at the Pub
Week 6 (2/15): Ella Karev (UChicago)
Week 8 (3/1): Sharese King (UChicago)
Week 9 (3/8): Maria Polinsky (Maryland)

Friday, December 7: Sofia Torallas-Tovar (UChicago)

Please join us for this quarter’s final meeting of the Language Variation & Change Workshop, this Friday, December 7 at 3:30pm, in Rosenwald 301. A light reception will follow.

In search for Greek-Egyptian lexicon: methodologies of analysis
Sofia Torallas-Tovar, UChicago

The sources we have for the Egyptian variant of post-classical Greek spoken and written in Egypt are fragmentary and problematic. This variant was spoken and written from the Hellenistic period down to the eighth century CE, in contact with the Egyptian language among others. Recent studies have tackled different linguistic aspects. I will present in this paper the methodologies to deal with the complexities and interpretation of these sources, followed by some lexicographical case studies.

Friday, November 30: Natalia Bermúdez (UChicago)

Please join us for a meeting of the Language Variation & Change Workshop, this Friday, November 16 at 3:30pm, in Rosenwald 301. A light reception will follow.

Ideophones…beyond expressiveness
Natalia Bermúdez, UChicago

In this talk, I look at the humorous use of ideophones in Naso (Chibchan, Panama) through a social lens, and show what it bears on theory of ideophony in relation to evidentiality (Dingemanse 2012, Michael 2008), intimacy/alignment (Nuckolls 2010, Webster 2015), and expressiveness.

Recent typological literature on ideophones takes an a priori approach to measuring expressiveness in terms of how closely an ideophone deviates from grammatical context (Dingemanse & Akita 2017). However, this approach cannot account for speakers’ naturally occurring humorous expressive productions and interpretations. I show how a social approach, where expressiveness is empirically qualified in terms of speaker intuitions, reactions, and choices, teaches us that speaker competence of expressivity is more complex than physical correlates; ideophones function in ways beyond a scale (“less expressive” to “more expressive”) of expressiveness. In particular, Naso data shows that ideophones are productively and commonly used humorously, and that they index social identifications.

Why are ideophones so effective at deriving humor? I argue that ideophone humor is an effect of first-person perspective alignment with another entity, which creates experiential intimacy and induces humor through contrast with another competing identification (e.g. Naso [vs. Latino]; woman [vs. man]; and proper woman [vs. improper woman]), based on contextual use of the following ideophone data produced by two Naso women in conversation:

[kʰjuk kʰjuk] ‘the controlled sound of a fish biting at a line’
[ʃwap] ‘the sound of pulling a fish out of the water to land’
[pak] ‘the sound of a man kissing his wife, to her misfortune’; ‘the sound of a cow defecating’
[tʃas tʃas] ‘washing clothes in a controlled manner’
[pʰaw pʰaw] ‘washing clothes in a loud, obscene manner’

I analyze that the experiential value that ideophones encode derives from their depiction of sensory information. This perspective, when coupled with the sound symbolic connotations of ideophones, as well as their saliency as a unique lexical resource, creates a strong candidate for social indexicality. Speakers exploit and use ideophones to portray their own social identifications. This analysis predicts it is cross-linguistically common for speakers to use ideophones in socially indexical and humorous ways.

Friday, November 16: Jacob Phillips (UChicago)

Please join us for a meeting of the Language Variation & Change Workshop, this Friday, November 16 at 3:30pm, in Rosenwald 301. A light reception will follow.

Masculinity and coarticulation influence sibilant categorization in nonce words
Jacob Phillips, UChicago

Previous research has found that listeners shift category boundaries in response to both coarticulatory context and speakers’ social attributes. The present study integrates these questions, exploring sibilant categorization in a nonce word lexical decision task. The target words contained a potentially ambiguous sibilant onset in /sCr/ clusters, for example ‘sprimble’ or ‘shprimble’. The stimuli were paired with faces determined to be more or less masculine than average. The results of this study suggest a high degree of individual variability, both with respect to compensation for coarticulation in these clusters and in sensitivity to social attributes, with responses mediated by listeners relative endorsements of traditional masculine stereotypes.

Friday, October 19: Joanne Vera Stolk (University of Oslo)

On Friday, October 19, at 11:30am in Harper 141, LVC will be holding a joint meeting with the Morphology & Syntax workshop (please note the special time and place!). Joanne Vera Stolk (University of Oslo) will be presenting on non-standard spelling and morphology in Greek. Please find the abstract below:

Hearing Greek, writing Coptic? Explaining non-standard spelling and morphology in a historical language contact situation
Egyptian monks living in monasteries of Western Thebes during the seventh century CE left behind a substantial corpus of liturgical hymns written in Greek, containing a considerable amount of non-standard orthography and morphology. This provides us with an interesting corpus for linguistic study of the cognitive processes involved in the production of spelling and morphology by non-native writers. I apply an interactive dual-route model for spelling in order to explain how these non-standard forms could have been generated. By analyzing these innovative forms we can get more information about the scribe’s orthographic lexicon and their knowledge and use of orthographic and morphological patterns in their first and second language.

Friday, October 12: Fieldwork Recap

As has been tradition for the last few years, we’re kicking off the workshop this year with a recap of students’ fieldwork from the last year. Our presenters this time will be Ksenia Ershova, Hannah McElgunn, Kat Montemurro, Adam Singerman, and Jessica Kantarovich.
The meeting will be held on Friday, October 12th at 3:30 in Rosenwald 301. (That’s the usual time and place!) We’ll have some tasty snacks and interesting stories, so if you have any interest in fieldwork or just want to see what some of us have been up to this summer, we’d love to see you there!

Fall 2018 Schedule

Welcome back to another year of the Language Variation and Change Workshop!

This quarter’s schedule is below. All meetings will take place at 3:30 pm in Rosenwald 301, unless otherwise noted.

Week 2 (10/12): Fieldwork Recap

Week 3 (10/19): Joanne Vera Stolk (University of Oslo) — Joint with the Morph&Syn workshop (1:00pm in RO 208)

Week 7 (11/16): Jacob Phillips (UChicago)

Week 9 (11/30): Natalia Bermudez (UChicago)

Week 10 (12/7): Sofia Torallas-Tovar (UChicago)

Friday, May 25: Guglielmo Inglese (Pavia/Bergamo)

The final Language Variation & Change workshop meeting of the year will take place this Friday, May 25th at 3:30 pm in RO 301. Our speaker will be Guglielmo Inglese, a visiting student from the University of Pavia and the University of Bergamo. Please see below for more information.

“The middle voice in Hittite: between synchronic description and diachronic explanations”
Guglielmo Inglese (University of Pavia & University of Bergamo)

Research middle voice in Hittite has mostly focused on morphological issues, such as the shape and the distribution of the middle endings, both from a synchronic and a diachronic perspective. Much less attention has been paid to the function of the middle voice. In this talk, I will present some preliminary results on an up-to-date description of the syntax and semantics of the Hittite middle voice.

Based on the exhaustive analysis of middle verbs occurring in original Old, Middle, and New Hittite texts, I will provide a thorough treatment of the various functions performed by this morphological marker. On the one hand, I will address the issue of media tantum, i.e. middle verbs lacking an active counterpart, including transitive deponent verbs, and suggest possible motivations for their idiosyncratic behavior. On the other hand, I will focus on verbs showing diathesis alternation, and investigate the meanings associated to oppositional middles. These are passive, reflexive, anticausative (decausative), and reciprocal. The description of each function will be framed in current trends in the typology of valency changing operations. As I will show, the middle voice behaves as a verb-sensitive valency reducing strategy, as the semantic interpretation of middle forms is partly constrained by the semantics of the individual predicates.

Finally, I discuss how synchronic approaches largely fail in providing a satisfactory description of the middle voice, and show that much of the attested synchronic variation can be better understood in diachronic terms. In doing so, I briefly illustrate how the various functions are diachronically related, and provide a tentative sketch of the development of the middle voice in the attested history of the language.

Friday, May 18: Andrew Ollett (UChicago)

There will be a meeting of the Language Variation and Change Workshop this Friday at the usual time and place (3:30 in RO 301). Our speaker is Andrew Ollett, a visiting professor in the SALC department. Please see below for details. Hope to see you there!

“The Disappearing iti: Clausal Complements in Middle Indic
Andrew Ollett (University of Chicago)

Clausal complements work differently in Sanskrit than they do in modern Indic languages like Hindi, Marathi, and Bengali. What happened in the thousands of years that separate these stages? Texts in Middle Indic languages, which represent a stage between Sanskrit and the modern languages, reveal a shift away from the direct construction with the complementizer iti. This talk will lay out the different strategies of complementation that are used in Sanskrit and Middle Indic, their distribution in and across texts, and how changing strategies of complementation interact with the changing role of the particle iti. I argue that the use of iti as a complementizer is well-established in early Middle Indic, but over time, it is used less often for clausal complements than it is for clausal modifiers, whether adnominal or adverbal. These tendencies only take us part of the way to the situation in modern languages, but they reveal important patterns of syntactic change that operated across the Indic languages.

Friday, May 11: Robert Lewis (UChicago)

There will be a meeting of LVC this Friday, May 11th at 3:30 pm, in Rosenwald 301. Please see below for details.

“Additivity in Potawatomi”

Robert Lewis (UChicago)

Potawatomi has a relatively rich inventory of additive particles — six in total. This inventory is sensitive to three distinctions: (i) a distinction between simple and scalar additivity, (ii) a distinction between upward and downward entailing environments, (iii) a distinction within downward entailing environments based on polarity which separates a negative downward entailing environment from a non-negative downward entailing environment. These three distinctions have been shown to be cross-linguistically common (Köing, 1991; Giannakidou, 2007; Gast & van der Aurwera 2011, 2013) and had been postulated to be reducible to the following semantic entailment relation: simple additive < upward entailing < negative downward entailing < non-negative downward entailing. However, Potawatomi’s additive particle seems to contradict this entailment relation (Gast & van der Aurwera, 2013). While may be used for simple additivity, in upward entailing environments, and in downward entailing environments, it only appears as a scalar additive particle in non-negative downward entailing environments. In negative downward entailing environments, it’s a concessive. Beyond additivity, an additive particle can also achieve a variety of other functions as has been shown throughout the literature. Of these functions, recent typological findings suggest that the contrastive topic and topic sift functions of additive particles are more prevalent cross-linguistically than previously thought (Forker, 2016). Potawatomi adds credence to this claim, as well as displaying a topic continuation function.