Alex Pfaff to UiO

Alexander Pfaff, who defended his University of Tromsø thesis on Icelandic Noun phrases a little while back, will be starting in a Post-doc position at the University of Oslo in September, working with Kristin Bech among other people.The project is ‘Constraints on syntactic variation: Noun phrases in early Germanic languages’ — a perfect match for Alex’s research interests!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A very positive external evaluation of CASTL research groups

The Research Council of Norway assembled a big group of external teams to evaluate the humanities at all the Norwegian institutions of higher learning. A panel consisting of linguists with a wide range of specialties evaluated, among other things, 11 research groups   across Norway in linguistics and the Nordic languages, including both AcqVA and CASTL-Fish. They looked at the record for the past five years.

You can read the reports yourself here. The Panel 2 report is the one I discuss most here.

Both AcqVA and CASTL-FISH were given stellar reviews and a top score of 5 for research productivity and quality — only one other linguistics research group in all of Norway was awarded a 5 for research productivity and quality in this evaluation, and that was MultiLing, a Center of Excellence! There was also an “overall” score, and here AcqVA received a 4, despite the structural challenges of being the only research group in the study spread across two institutions, while CASTL-FISH got a perfect score of 5.

There is much praise for both groups. AcqVA is singled out on page 16 as a model of cross-institutional collaboration to be emulated by others. CASTL-FISH is mentioned on the same page as a “star group” with international prominence.

In general, Tromsø comes out of this evaluation quite well (overall evaluation on pp. 29-32 of the Panel 2 report) — it is noted, for example, that UiT produced more publication points in linguistics during the evaluation period than any other institution in Norway (p. 65: 27% of the national total), even UiO with a much bigger department and a CoE.

The eleven groups, in order of numerical ratings, were:

CASTL-FISH (UiT) and MultiLing (UiO), both with a perfect score of 5-5

AcqVA (UiT/NTNU) and Interdisciplinary Writing (NTNU), 4-5 and 5-4

Giellatekno (UiT), Syntax & Semantics (UiO), LaMoRe (computational, UiB), and Historical Sociolinguistics (UiA), 4-4

LALP (Acquisition & Processing, NTNU), 3-4

Multimodality & Learning (UiA) and Norwegian as a second language (Hedmark), 3-3

The numbers should obviously be taken with a grain of salt, as always. The written evaluation is much more informative. Smaller research groups like the sociolinguistic group LAIDUA and projects like ScanDiaSyn/NORMS were evaluated differently (and partly in a different document).

In case you’re curious, the Panel 2 members were: Jasone Cenoz and Karin van der Worp (chair and secretary, respectively; University of the Basque Country), Rogier Blokland (Uppsala), Gunnlög Josefsson (Lund), Paul Kerswill (York), Johan van der Auwera (Antwerp), Martin Volk (Zurich), and Bencie Woll (UCL) (buried on page 77 of the report).

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Graduate Student Conference in Oslo in February 2018

The University of Oslo is hosting the third sesquiennial Norwegian Graduate Student Conference in Linguistics and Philology (NoSLiP):

The first was held in Tromsø in January of 2015, and the second at NTNU in October of 2016.

One page abstracts are solicited, from researchers who have not yet defended their PhD theses, by September 1st.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Six Commandments

This week, CASTL-LAVA’s Professor II Jason Rothman organized a major event in Reading featuring Chomsky and several other speakers, including two of our other Professor II’s, Terje Lohndal and Tanja Kupisch.

The event was a major success, and Chomsky did a convincing impersonation of Moses coming down from Mt. Sinai with the Commandments, which in this case were six in number:

  1. Thou shalt have no other adequacy before Descriptive Adequacy

2. Remember the Strong Minimalist Thesis, to keep it holy

3. Thou shalt not squander Computational Resources

4. Thou shalt not fail to apply an operation if its structural conditions are met (Determinacy)

5. Thou shalt not be incoherent (Coherence: something can’t refer to Mary in line 1 and to John in line 3)

6. Thou shalt not be inaccessible (Recursion: Every object is accessible to further operations)

Continuing the impersonation of a stern messiah tasked by an even sterner diety to whip the masses into line, Chomsky pretended to be furious with Parallel Merge, who was breaking about three or four of the Commandments, which was Unacceptable! He also banished into eternal darkness such apostates as Sideways Merge, Triggered Merge, the elimination of Internal Merge by recasting movement as External Merge, and Crash-Proof Grammar.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Colloquium: Positioning Kinande phrasal harmony in phonetics, phonology, and syntax

On Friday, April 21st, Laura Downing and Martin Krämer will present joint work on

‘Positioning Kinande phrasal harmony in phonetics, phonology, and syntax’

In the CASTL colloquium slot, E-0105 at 14.15.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Laura Downing on Tone, Accent, and Intonation

Our CASTLFISH professor II Laura Downing is holding a minicourse again this term, this time on tone, accent and intonation, which will take place on Wednesday the 19th (2-4) and Thursday the 20th (10-12 and 2-4):

  • 19.04. 14.15-16.00 in room E1004 and
  • 20.04. 10.15-12.00 and 14.15-16.00 in C1006.

Here is what Laura promises:

Typological Issues in Tone and Accent

The course will be divided into 3 parts: Tone (why it’s different), Tonal Accent, and Intonation.

1. Tone- why it’s different

As Hyman (2011) has argued, tone can do everything that other features can do — and more. This part of the course will survey the autosegmental properties of tone highlighted in Hyman (2011) and other recent work, like Downing (2005, 2006) and Gordon (2016, chapter 7). The lecture will focus on tonal mobility, tonal inflections and tonal morphemes, the autosegmental properties that seem to be the most tone-specific and most understudied by non tone specialists.

2. Tonal Accent

Traditionally, prosodic systems have been divided into 3 categories: stress, tone and pitch accent (or tonal accent). However, Hyman has written a number of papers arguing that tonal accent is not a coherent, canonical prosodic category. To understand his point of view, we will critically discuss two recent papers of his: Hyman (2012, 2014).

3. Intonation

Very little work has been done on the typology of intonation, as noted in Zerbian (2010). We will survey this topic from an Africanist perspective, highlighting what recent work on intonation in African languages (like Downing & Rialland  2017 and Rialland & Aborobongui 2017) contributes to our understanding of how — or whether — intonation reliably signals sentence type (affirmative vs. declarative), syntactic structure (both XPs and clauses) and focus.


– Downing, Laura J. 2005. The Emergence of the Marked: Tone in some African reduplicative systems. In Bernhard Hurch, ed. (in collaboration with Veronika Mattes). Studies on Reduplication. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 87-108.

– Downing, Laura J. 2006. Compounding and tonal non-transfer in Bantu languages. Phonology 20, 1-42.- Downing, Laura J. and Annie Rialland. 2017. Introduction. LJ Downing & A Rialland (eds), Intonation in African Tone Languages. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

– Gordon, Matthew. 2014. Disentangling stress and pitch-accent: a typology of prominence at different prosodic levels. In Harry van der Hulst (ed.), Word Stress: Theoretical and Typological Issues. Cambridge University Press, 83-118.

– Gordon, Matthew. 2016. Phonological Typology. Oxford: OUP. – chapter 7 only

– Hyman, Larry M. 2011. Tone: is it different? In the 2nd edition of the Handbook of Phonological Theory.

Prepublication version available at this link:

– Hyman, Larry M. 2012. In defense of Prosodic Typology. Linguistic Typology 16, 341–385.

– Hyman, Larry M. 2014. Do all languages have word accent? In Harry van der Hulst (ed.), Word Stress: Theoretical and Typological Issues. Cambridge University Press, 56-82.

– Rialland, Annie & Martial Embanga Aborobongui. 2017. How intonation interacts with tone in Embosi. In Downing & Rialland. Intonation in African Tone Languages.

– Zerbian, Sabine. 2010. Developments in the study of intonation typology. Language and Linguistics Compass 4/9, 874-889.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Friday Colloquium: Bożena Rozwadowska

Bożena Rozwadowska, University of Wrocław, will be presenting on:

Aspect-related properties of Polish nominalizations

Polish is a language which has a variety of derived nominalizations. In addition to the so called deverbal nominalizations (similar to derived nominals in other languages, including English and Russian) it also has the so called verbal nominalizations, which have an external nominal distribution and which realize their satellites in the genitive and not the accusative case, yet inherit grammatical aspect and other verbal properties from the base verb. In particular, they preserve the imperfective/ perfective contrast. I will discuss the aspectual properties of Polish nominalizations in relation to the lexical verb classes they are derived from. I will compare action nominalizations to psych nominalizations with the purpose of evaluating the claim (proposed for other languages) that psych nominalizations are stative, independently of the aspectual characterization of the base (cf. Fábregas and Marín (2012) and Fábregas, Marín and McNally (2012)).

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Three discourse referents under a certain assignment walk into a bar…

On March 23rd, Sergey Minor defended his thesis, Dependent Plurals and the Semantics of Distributivity. Most linguists have learned about the difference between cumulative and distributive readings in examples like:

Two opponents posed twelve questions.

On the distributive reading, each of the two opponents asked twelve questions; there would have been twenty four distinct questionings involved. If a question along with its answer lasts ten minutes, then this event would take at least four hours (setting aside the possibility of simultaneous questions).

On the cumulative reading, two opponents are involved in questioning, and a total of twelve questions get asked, and the reading is compatible with different combinations of opponents posing different questions, for example they might have each posed six questions, in which case the event could have been over in two hours, or one might have posed one question and the other eleven.

Quantifiers like both and most allow the distributive reading but not the cumulative one.

Both opponents posed twelve questions.

If there were a cumulative reading, it would allow for a scenario in which twelve questions together were posed by the pair of opponents. No such reading is available.

However, quantifiers like both and most do allow what has come to be known as the dependent plural reading.

Both opponents posed questions.

For this sentence, there is a distributive reading in which the two opponents each posed questions, in the plural; hence this would take at least forty minutes. But the bare plural questions also has a dependent plural reading here. On the dependent plural reading, both opponents were involved in questioning, and multiple questions were posed, but each opponent may have only posed a single question.

Dependent plurals may also be dependent on non-quantificational referents, but not on singular (strongly distributive) quantifiers like each and every. In the following sentence, unlike the previous one, only a distributive reading is possible, and each opponent must have posed multiple questions.

Every opponent posed questions.

Minor shows in his thesis that dependent plurals are more interesting than you ever imagined, and develops an account for different ways of expressing that more than one object is present in a situation. He adopts a modified version of the framework of Plural Compositional Discourse Representation Theory, or PCDRT, adapting it with the addition of a type for events as well as operators for exhaustivity and distributivity.

I leave it as an exercise to the reader to compute the readings in the following:

Four analyses are applied to three types of determiners interactive with three types of plurals on five hundred pages.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Gillian Ramchand featured on Linguist List

Our own Gillian Ramchand, world’s northernmost Trinidadian Scot, is featured on the LINGUIST list – her mini-autobiography is a great read.



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Upcoming PhD students at CASTL

LAVA just scored another CASTL PhD position, which will be advertised later this year. This will be in addition to the three students coming this summer: Sigríður Björnsdóttir (LAVA), Maud Westendorp (CASTL-FISH), and Natalia Jardon (CASTL-FISH).



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment