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.

Wednesday, May 2: Ricardo Etxepare (CNRS)

Our visiting syntax guru, Ricardo Etxepare, will be speaking at LVC this Wednesday, May 2nd at 12 pm in Foster 103. Lunch will be served.

Details about his talk can be found below, and you can learn more about his research at his website:

Hope you can make it!

“Economy governed microparameters: a view from Basque dialects”
Ricardo Etxepare (CNRS, IKER UMR 5478)

The general question:

The general question I would like to address in this talk is the following: what can we learn about mental properties, more particularly about language as a cognitive system, from the spatial distribution of linguistic variables? I would like to show that correlated variation (that is, correlative distribution patterns involving syntactic phenomena), can help us understand formal relations between pieces of I-language, and uncover certain basic aspects of the acquisition device that go beyond UG. The geolinguistic information used for this work is of the traditional sort, based on data gathered from elicitation methods, and mapped into cartographic resources.

More concretely:

The phenomenon: The presentation will be devoted to examine the syntactic distribution of auxiliaries in Basque, which is subject to significant variation along the west-east axis.

The microparameter: In eastern varieties, the auxiliary can behave as a semi-lexical or light verb, and then has the same distribution of so-called “synthetic verbs” in Basque, which possess a lexical root. In central dialects, the auxiliaries correspond to the lexicalization of purely functional material, probably of T/Agr (Arregi and Nevins, 2012). This microparameter has effects in other areas of the grammar, particularly in the left periphery of the clause.

The historical background: This variation has its diachronic source in the emergence or verbal periphrases from biclausal structures (Mounole, 2011), and their varying grammaticalization into monoclausal structures. Basically, the process can be seen as one going from lexical restructuring to functional restructuring (Wurmbrandt, 2014 amongmany others).

Beyond the microparameter: When looking beyond the auxiliary domain into the domain of finite copulas, however, we realize that issues other than lexicalization are at stake. The contrasting distribution of copulas and auxiliaries across the Basque varieties examined here points out to a principle of representational economy that governs the distribution of marked and unmarked values of a micro-parameter. This principle must be part of the learning algorithm (as in Roberts, 2007; Holmberg and Roberts, 2010; Biberauer and Roberts, 2012; Roberts, 2016; and Roberts and Roussou, 2003; also Van Gelderen, 2011).

Friday, April 20: Ashwini Deo (OSU)

LVC is pleased to be hosting Ashwini Deo of the Ohio State University this week. (You can learn more about her work at her website:

Her talk will take place this Friday, April 20th at 3:30 pm in Rosenwald 301. Please see below for more information.

I hope you can make it!

“Case syncretism patterns in Indo-Aryan diachrony: Evidence from the Bhili dialect continuum”

Ashwini Deo (Ohio State University)

Indo-Aryan ergativity is aspectually conditioned: the transitive subject, if marked, is marked only in perfective clauses, and verb agreement in most (but not all) such cases, is not with the subject but rather determined by case-marking on the direct object. Existing research has amply noted language-specific variability in overt marking of ergative case on the subject, overt marking of accusative case on the object (differential object marking (DOM)), and concomitant effects on verbal agreement. While Hindi-Urdu presents the best studied system, the systems obtaining in Marathi, Punjabi, Gujarati, Kutchi Gujarati, Nepali, and several dialects of Marathi have also been analyzed (Mahajan 1990, Mohanan 1994, Mistry 1997, Patel-Grosz 2012, a.o. for individual systems, with a comparative treatment in Deo & Sharma 2006).

In this talk, I examine the patterns found in several case-marking systems in the Bhili dialect continuum. Three properties of the relevant paradigms are worth considering:

a. In several systems, there is syncretism between ergative and oblique marking in much of the pronominal and nominal inflectional paradigms (1pl, 2pl, 3sg, 3pl).

b. In some systems, the bare oblique is further used to mark possessors in lieu of a dedicated genitive case (with num-gen-case features) seen in standard languages like Hindi and Gujarati.

c. In other systems, the bare oblique is additionally used to mark direct objects (DOM) in parts of the pronominal paradigm.

One diachronic implication of the observed synchronic patterns is that the Middle Indo-Aryan (MIA) ancestor system must have transitioned to across-the-board contrastive postpositional marking for ergative and accusative (DOM) cases via a stage in which such a contrast failed to exist for the majority of the nominal paradigm. The hypothesis is that the oblique form was recruited for marking agents in perfective, transitive clauses as well as patients with high animacy/referentiality properties for those cells in the paradigm that lacked distinct inflectional ergative and accusative marking. The Bhili languages reflect strong traces of this archaic system as dedicated accusative and genitive markers are gradually rendering the correspondence between abstract case functions and morphosyntactic cases more more transparent.

I take the first steps towards explaining these synchronic/diachronic patterns by appealing to a constrained interface between abstract and morphosyntactic case of the sort assumed in Kiparsky (2001). On this approach, abstract case features function as constraints on morphosyntactic case and the assignment of morphosyntactic case marking to abstract structural roles is determined by optimizing featural correspondence between the two.

Friday, April 13: Emily Smith (UChicago)

LVC will have another talk this Friday, April 13th at 3:30 pm in Rosenwald 301 (back in the usual room). Our speaker will be Emily Smith. Please see below for her abstract. Hope to see you there!

“Reflexivity and Middle Voice in Old and New Hittite”
Emily Smith (UChicago)

The Hittite middle voice and the reflexive particle –za have both been linked to active/middle distinctions, transitive/intransitive alternations, and reflexivity. While previous studies have compared their use in Hittite to other Indo-European languages, an analysis of their diachronic distribution within Hittite is still needed.

In this talk I will show that in Old Hittite /Old Script texts (ca. 1650–1450 BCE) the reflexive and the middle voice are separate phenomena. The use of middle voice morphology seems to correlate to stative and change-of-state predicates, while the use of –za is associated with various valency-changing operations. This is in sharp contrast to New Hittite (ca. 1350–1190 BCE), where the reflexive and middle voice can overlap, and middle voice is at times used interchangeably with active voice. A full account of this development will require a more detailed description of the intermediate Middle Hittite stage.