Friday, February 24 at 1 PM: Adam Singerman (UChicago) – Joint with Morph&Syn

Please join us this Friday, February 24th at 1PM in Rosenwald 208 for a joint meeting of LVC and the Morphology & Syntax workshops. Our speaker will be Adam Singerman.

Finite embedding and quotation in Tuparí

Adam Roth Singerman
University of Chicago

Tuparí (Tupían; Brazil) has innovated a finite embedding construction that bears the structural hallmarks of an internal headed relative clause. What makes this construction typologically unusual is that it instantiates an apparent violation of the Final-over-Final Condition (a proposed universal discussed at length in recent work by Biberauer, Holmberg, Roberts, and Sheehan): the Tuparí configuration shows a left-branching syntactic projection dominating a right-branching one.

This talk will present the main descriptive and analytic generalizations concerning finite embedded clauses in Tuparí and will examine the implications for current theories of syntactic disharmony: Biberauer et al’s FOFC and Hawkins’s Performance-Grammar Correspondence Hypothesis. In particular, I will show that the Tuparí facts are more problematic for the PGCH than for FOFC (even if FOFC’s appeal to innate constraints in UG is not fully satisfactory as an explanatory mechanism). 

The talk concludes with an examination of the origins of finite embedded clauses in Tuparí. While such clauses transparently involve the grammaticization of a demonstrative third person pronoun as a clausal subordinator, there is evidence that the backwards syntactic dependencies visible in direct quotation have also played a role.


Winter 2017 LVC Schedule Changes

There have been some changes to the LVC schedule for this quarter.

  1. Adam Singerman’s March 10th talk has been cancelled due to other ongoing events in the Linguistics Department. Instead, please join us for a joint meeting of the LVC and Syntax&Morphology workshops this Friday, February 24th at 1PM, where Adam will talk about his work. Details to follow.
  2. Emmanuel Ngue Um’s visit has been delayed until the first week of March.
  3. Brian Joseph’s talk will take place on March 3rd as expected.

Winter 2017 LVC Schedule

The schedule for the rest of the quarter has more or less been finalized. Hope to see you there!

Friday, January 27 at 3:30 PM in Rosenwald 301 — Robert Lewis (UChicago)
Late February
(exact date TBD) — Emmanuel Ngue Um (University of Yaounde and CERDOTOLA)
Friday, March 3 at 3:30 PM in Rosenwald 301 — Brian Joseph (OSU)
Friday, March 10 at 3:30 PM in Rosenwald 301 — Adam Singerman (UChicago)


Friday, January 13 at 3:30 PM: Lilia Rissman (UChicago)

Welcome back to another exciting quarter of talks from the LVC workshop! We’re kicking things off with a talk from postdoc Lilia Rissman. So come join us in Rosenwald 301 this Friday, January 13th, at 3:30 PM. A light reception will follow the talk.

Consistency and variability in the mapping from event concepts to event semantics”

Lilia Rissman
University of Chicago

Developing language requires constructing mappings between concepts and linguistic forms. This talk addresses the structure of this interface across languages: whether event concepts map to semantic structures in similar ways, and whether some concepts are more likely to be expressed in language than others. I focus in particular on verbal meaning, causation, instrumentality and voice, integrating evidence from English, Spanish, Mandarin, child homesign and Nicaraguan Sign Language. Taken together, these studies point toward a conceptual/semantic interface in which conceptual knowledge drives cross-linguistic similarities, but some concepts are expressed more variably than others.

Friday, December 2 @ 3:30 PM: Jacob Phillips (UChicago)

Please join LVC this Friday, December 2 at 3:30 PM in Rosenwald 301. It will be our last meeting of the quarter and our speaker is our own Jacob Phillips. Hope you can make it!

Retraction in Action: Examining phonological and prosodic effects on /s/-retraction in the laboratory”
Jacob Phillips
University of Chicago

An ongoing sound change in American English is /s/-retraction, the process by which /s/ is articulated approaching /ʃ/ in the context of /r/. Speakers vary significantly in the degree of retraction observed, with all individuals exhibiting coarticulatory effects of /r/ in /sCr/ clusters and some individuals displaying an apparent sound change, with /s/ reanalyzed as /ʃ/ in /str/ clusters (Mielke et al., 2010; Baker et al., 2011). The present study uses experimental methods seeks to better understand the actuation of this sound change through a phonological and prosodic lens. College-aged students from across the United States read a series of sentences manipulating the phonological and prosodic environments of these sibilant. The results of this study demonstrate a retracted /s/ in the context of /r/ and phrase-intitially. While there was not a significant group-level effect for the interaction of prosodic position and phonological environment, the inclusion of by-subject random slopes for that interaction, which significantly improves model likelihood, suggests that individuals vary with respect to the effects of prosodic conditioning of /s/-retraction in different phonological contexts. These findings suggest a possible role of prosodic position in the actuation of sound change, both in production and possible effects in perception.


Friday, November 11 @ 3:30 PM: Nicole Rosen (UManitoba)

Please join the Language Variation and Change Workshop this Friday, November 11th at 3:30 PM in Cobb 116, for a talk from our invited speaker, Nicole Rosen. Details below.

“Nominal Contact in the Michif Language”

Nicole Rosen
University of Manitoba

Michif is an endangered Metis language with its roots in the Fur Trade in Canada, where it arose through the intermarriage of Cree and French people in Canada’s Red River Valley. It is considered a contact language, mixing Plains Cree and French. Michif has received considerable attention in the language contact literature due to its seemingly unusual syntactic and phonological patterns arising from the French-Plains Cree contact situation in which it was created. Bakker (1997) described the language as being formed through a process called language intertwining, resulting in a mixed language posited to have an NP/VP split, where French lexical items pattern like French and Cree lexical items pattern like Plains Cree. Since this time, the accepted view of the language is that the French-source DPs behave like French, while the Cree-source VPs behave like Plains Cree. In this talk I will argue against this received view, showing that this analysis of Michif holds only at a very superficial level. Once we examine the constituency of the DP and investigate the underlying structure in a more rigorous manner, the picture becomes quite different. Using evidence from gender, number and DP constituency, I show that the Michif DP in fact shows very little structural similarity to its parent French DP. As a result, with the one domain said to be French no longer looking French-like, we are left with a language which follows regular Algonquian-type syntax and semantics, with some particularities to allow for the introduction of French elements and some resulting Michif-specific innovations. Although it may be useful to historical linguists to describe its creation as V-N language mixing, I argue that this designation holds little insight into synchronic patterning of the Michif grammar, and that there is little motivation for this exoticization of the language, which patterns according to structures already available cross-linguistically.

Thursday, November 3 at 4:30 PM: Semiotics Workshop (Perry Wong, UChicago)

LVC is cosponsoring a meeting of the Semiotics Workshop, on November 3 at 4:30 PM in Haskell 101, which will touch upon language contact in Mesoamerica.

“Notes on Mesoamerican ‘fashions of speaking’”
Perry Wong

with a brief addendum by Chris Bloechl


For a copy of the paper, please email Perry Wong at or Briel Kobak at
For the full schedule and other information, visit our website at: with disabilities who believe they may need assistance, please contact Perry Wong at or Briel Kobak at

Monday, October 31 @ 12 PM: Denny Moore (Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi)

NOTE: The location of this talk has changed! It will now take place in Foster 505.


LVC is very pleased to welcome Denny Moore, who is here for a CLAS workshop, Linguistic and Other Cultural Exchanges across Brazilian History, and has graciously agreed to talk to us about his extensive fieldwork in Brazil.

Denny Moore’s talk will take place in Foster 505 on Monday, October 31st at 12 PM. Lunch will be provided.

“The situation of the indigenous languages of Brazil and their documentation: overview, tales of infamy, rays of hope, projects”

This talk will be about the situation of the indigenous languages of Brazil, their study and their documentation.  These matters will be considered in the context of Brazilian scientific politics, which influence research and practical measures to benefit native groups.  (It is useful for graduate students to understand the political aspects of research.)  One current documentation project, supported by the Endangered Languages Documentation Project, will be described, “Encyclopedia digital of the traditional language and culture of the Gavião and Suruí of Rondônia, Brazil”.

Thursday, October 27 @ 12:00 PM: Fieldwork Recap Session Part 2

Please join us for the second part of this year’s Fieldwork Recap Session, which will take place in the Landahl Center on Thursday Oct 27 at 12 noon. We will be hearing from Betsy Pillion (discussing her planned fieldwork in Africa), Natalia Pavlou (Cypriot Maronite Arabic), Robert Lewis (Potawatomi), and Hannah McElgunn (Hopi).

As always some light refreshments will be served. Hope to see you there!

Finalized Fall Workshop Schedule

Here is the complete schedule of the remaining Language Variation & Change workshop meetings for the rest of this quarter:

October 27, 12 PM in the Landahl Center — Fieldwork Recap Session Part 2 (Betsy Pillion, Natalia Pavlou, Robert Lewis, Hannah McElgunn)

October 31, 12 PM in Haskell 101 — Denny Moore (Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi)

November 11, 3:30 PM in Cobb 116 — Nicole Rosen (UManitoba)

December 2, 3:30 PM in Rosenwald 301 — Jacob Phillips (UChicago)

Hope to see you there!