Regular events, spring 2018

Every Monday 12.00-12.15: CASTL Coffee at the Espresso Bar in Teorifagbygget

Every Tuesday 12.15-14.00: CASTLFish seminar in E1004, organized by Gillian Ramchand.

Every Thursday 12.00-13.00: LAVA Lunch, in A3018, organized by Jorge González Alonso and the LAVA group.

Some Fridays 14.15-16.00 CASTL Colloquium, as announced, often in E0105. See below.

Most Fridays 10.15-12.00 Experimental semantics reading group, organized by Sergey Minor.

One-off events

August 23, 12.00: LAVA Lunch talk by Shigenori Wakabayashi, Chuo University

Multiple causes for missing -s and a single cause for overused be and do in L2 English

Many studies have tried to specify the right answer to a persistent epistemological inquiry for L2 learner behavior: Why do very advanced L2 learners have difficulty in using inflectional morphemes, typically substituting bare forms for inflected forms? Based on data from a series of studies by Wakabayashi and colleagues concerning 3rd person singular -s, it will be shown that the causes lie at multiple steps, namely, in feature selection in the Lexicon, derivation in Syntax, and mapping syntactic structure onto morphological forms in Morphology. In addition, data of overused be with unaccusative verbs (Oshita, 2000) and do in subject wh-questions (Fujii, 2017) will also be shown and discussed. Based on the description and explanation for these phenomena, it will be argued that L2 researchers should always refer to a general model of morpho-syntactic knowledge and its use when seeking to explain and describe L2 learners’ behavior.


August 24, 14.15: Colloquium talk by Shigenori Wakabayashi, Chuo University

Second language acquisition and use of grammatical rules: What underlies certain morphosyntactic asymmetries.

In this talk, we will see data from second language research concerning asymmetries between free and bound morphemes, between infinitive forms to V and gerund forms V-ing, and between small causes and tensed clauses; and also the effect of a lack of L1 transfer in certain properties of psych verbs. Based on the Minimalist Program (Chomsky, 1995) and on Distributed Morphology (Halle and Marantz, 1993), I will explain how interlanguage grammars are structured and used: First and second languages are both based on innate linguistic knowledge, but an L2-specific ‘economy principle’ is likely to operate in second language grammar.

Previous events

Wednesday May 23rd: Doctoral defense for Giellatekno’s Linda Wiechetek, whose thesis is entitled “When grammar can’t be trusted – Valency and semantic categories in North Sámi syntactic analysis and error detection”

June 6-8 Minicourse on Tense and Aspect semantics taught by Kjell Johan Sæbø

Session 1 – Aspect. Lexical aspect, in particular, telicity versus atelicity. Grammatical aspect, in particular, perfective versus imperfective, progressive.

Session 2 – Simple tense and temporal adverbials, in particular, past and positional adverbials.

Session 3 – The perfect, complex tense, the SOT parameter.

Monday–Wednesday June 11-13: Workshop on Experimental Approaches to Compositionality (Gillian’s Research Council Project) featuring talks by Sergei Tatevosov, Eva Wittenberg, Irina Sekerina and Atle Grønn, possibly also a visit by Kjell Johan Sæbø.

Tuesday May 22nd: Miriam Butt and Tina Bögel (Konstanz) guest lecture in the CASTL-FISH seminar slot (12.15-14.00, in E1004).


Title: Urdu/Hindi Questions at the Syntax-Pragmatics-Prosody Interface

Abstract: This talk reports on progress made on researching Urdu questions from
a perspective in which information structural concerns take center stage. The
research is conducted within Lexical-Functional Grammar (LFG), which provides
for a modular architecture of grammar. Components of grammar are assumed to be
independent in terms of representation and wellformedness conditions, yet also
interface with one another in a mutually constraining fashion. Recent years have
seen an increased discussion of the syntax-pragmatics-prosody interface in this

We situate our work within this context and present a combination of
experimental, corpuslinguistic and prosodic evidence in seeking to understand
the pragmatic functionality of the various word order possibilities with respect
to wh-elements in Urdu/Hindi. We show that a complete understanding of the
pragmatics and syntactic distribution of kya ‘what’ must necessarily include a
simultaneous integration of prosodic information. Our research to date has
particularly focused on the diverse roles that the wh-element kya ‘what’
plays. The evidence obtained so far points towards: a) postverbal positioning of
kya for reasons of secondary focus; b) an interaction between the wh-constituent
analyis of kya and a polar reading that can only be resolved via prosodic
information.; c) an analysis of polar kya as a focus sensitive operator.

This talk is based on joint work with Farhat Jabeen and Maria Biezma.

Friday, May 18th, 14.15 in E0105: CASTL Colloquium talk featuring Chris Golston, California State University Fresno: Grammatical categories are used in animal cognition


I show that thirty common grammatical categories are used in animal cognition and are in no way limited to humans or to communication. Based on this, I hypothesize that the semantics behind grammatical categories—including person, number, gender, tense and aspect—were fixed by the time of the human-chimpanzee split; that many go back as far as vertebrates; and that some are shared with plants.


Friday–Saturday 11–12 May: Workshop on Syllable Structure and Sonority, organized by Martin Krämer, featuring invited speakers Draga Zec, Janet Grijzenhout, Laura Downing, and Anna Daugavet. Please register to attend.

workshop description

In this workshop, we intend to investigate the role of sonority, the sonority hierarchy and the sonority sequencing principle in the internal organization of syllables. The current mainstream theory of syllable organization has often been challenged by language-specific instantiations of the sonority hierarchy or patterns that ignore sonority sequencing or other sonority-based principles of phonotactic organization. We would like to gather together researchers working on typological aspects of syllable phonotactics, its acquisition, and its loss in attrition, as in aphasia for example. The provisional program of the event is available HERE.

Monday–Friday 7–11 May: Visit by Laura Downing (Göteborg/Tromsø), including discussion sessions on Tuesday (in the CASTLFish slot) and Wednesday (starting at ten)

Friday April 27: Krzysztof Migdalski (Wroclaw) will present a colloquium talk starting at 14:15 in E-0105.

Tense Dependency of Second Position Effects

In this talk I aim to establish a grammatical property that decides about the availability of the generalized V2 and second position cliticization. I argue that both effects are TP-dependencies. In the Germanic languages, V2 affects verbs with poor or no agreement as long as they are tensed. In Karitiana, a non-Germanic V2 language, the TP-dependency is even more prominent: V2 orders are possible only with tense-marked verbs in main clauses, whereas in subordinate clauses, which do not contain tense markers, the verb is clause-final. The cliticization patterns attested in the Slavic languages seem to be strictly related to the availability of tense morphology as well. Synchronically, Bulgarian and Macedonian are the only languages with verb-adjacent clitics, and they are also the only ones with simple tense forms, aorist and imperfect. Diachronically, in languages such as Serbo-Croatian and Slovenian we observe a shift from verb-adjacent cliticization to Wackernagel cliticization, which as I will show was contemporaneous with the loss of tense morphology. I propose to capture this correspondence by postulating that TP, the projection that enables verb-adjacent cliticization, is available only in languages with tense morphology. I will also refer to an alternative generalization proposed by Bošković (2016), which attributes the availability of second position cliticization to the lack of DP.


Tuesday April 24: Krzysztof Migdalski (Wroclaw) will present in the CASTLFish slot starting at 12:15 in E-1004.

The Force behind Movement to Second Position

This talk will address two second position effects: Wackernagel (second position) cliticization attested in some Slavic languages and the V2 rule in continental Germanic. Specifically, I will refer to a number of studies that view V2 placement as a way of overtly manifesting the illocutionary force of a clause. I will show that the alleged relationship between Force marking and the second position effects is not uniform. In the case of Slavic, the clitics that express Force occur in second position on a par with pronominal and auxiliary clitics. However, they exhibit independent diachronic developments, target a different position in the structure, show distinct syntactic and prosodic properties, and may impose special syntactic and categorial requirements on their hosts that are not observed among pronominal and auxiliary clitics. Moreover, I will relate to the analyses of the emergence of the V2 grammar in Old High German that attribute this development to the decline of sentential particles, and I will also look into the distribution of different types of second position clitics in Sanskrit. I will argue on the basis of these observations that Force-related V2/clitic placement and generalized V2/Wackernagel cliticization involve two different syntactic mechanisms that are independent of each other even though they may give rise to the same linear position of the clitics or the verb in the structure.

Thursday–Friday April 19–20: Transdisciplinary Approaches to Language Variation (TALV) Workshop featuring invited speakers Roberta D’Alessandro, Wolfram Hinzen, Kleanthes Grohmann, Itziar Laka, and Meredith Tamminga.

Monday–Friday April 9–13: Visit and talks by Roumyana Slabakova (U. Southhampton/Tromsø).

Tuesday–Friday April 3–6: Charles Yang week. He will present a popular lecture on Tuesday (see above) and then participate in a Grill on Wednesday and Thursday (10-12 and 13-15 both days; in C1007 on Wednesday and in TEO1.317 on Thursday), and have meetings with students on Friday. The Grill in this case will be eight hours of open discussion of his 2016 MIT Press book The Price of Linguistic Productivity.

Tuesday April 3: Lecture by Charles Yang, ‘Counting to Infinity’ 12.15-14.00 in UB Auditorium.


Everyone knows counting goes on infinitely but of course no one can actually count to infinity. There must be a tipping point at which we, when we are young children, figure out the patterns of counting, and that natural numbers can go on forever.  Strikingly, and it has been empirically known for decades, for English-speaking children, the tipping point is around 72. In fact, it is very difficult to find children in experimental studies who could only count to, say, 80, without going all the way to 100. 

The study of counting, like many other instances in linguistics and cognitive science, suggests that the mind is like a machine, and can thus be understood by formulating precise and mechanistic principles. In this talk, I discuss research on how children learn rules of language. Like counting, linguistic rules are formulated from a finite sample of experience but are generalized to an infinite range of expressions. A surprising consequence is that the tipping point of 72 for English-learning children is mathematically predictable. For languages such as Chinese, which has a simpler counting system, the tipping point is about 40, which has also been known for decades but remains unexplained. (For Norwegian, it ought to be around 80: feel free to check with your children!) Along the way, we arrive at a much more concrete understanding of the relationship between language and number, which has intrigued philosophers and scientists alike for centuries. 


Thursday–Friday March 15–16: L2/L3 Acquisition PhD seminar

Friday March 16: Colloquium talk by Holger Hopp (Braunschweig)

Friday March 2: Colloquium talk by Patrik Bye, Nord University, Bodø: Linguistic Poetics, Recurrence and the Biological Code. In E-0105 beginning at 14.15.


Linguistic Poetics, Recurrence and the Biological Code

Through Generative Metrics phonologists have made lasting contributions to the study of metrical verse, but have been largely absent from discussions of prosody in non-metrical (‘free’) verse, despite a growing interest from literary scholars in incorporating insights from phonology (see e.g. Rumsey 2000, Gerber 2015). I will argue that this is a niche ripe for phonological exploitation, and that the failure to do so thus far is not arbitrary, but issues from the misleading analogy between rules of the generative grammar and the regulated correspondences of metrical verse (Halle and Keyser 1966, Kiparsky 1975, 1977, Hayes 1983, 1988). Proceeding on this analogy, Generative Metrics has greatly improved our understanding of the limits to metrical variation in the corpora of individual poets and poetic traditions. Taken too literally, however, it obscures what is artful about language art — a point made in the earliest critique of Halle and Keyser’s seminal work (Wimsatt 1970). 

I argue that the answer to Wimsatt’s critique already lies within current linguistic theory, and that a linguistically informed approach to language art in general, not just metrical verse, stands to gain significantly by an elaboration of Jakobson’s Linguistic Poetics (Jakobson 1960). Kiparsky (1987) has already proposed a revision of Jakobson’s program by incorporating inferential pragmatics (e.g. Sperber and Wilson 1995). In this talk I will argue that the program should be further augmented by incorporating the biological code of Gussenhoven (2004), who draws on earlier work on the form-function fit in biological signals by Moreton (1977), Ohala (1984) and many others. In the same way that the Frequency Code has been found to underlie much human sound symbolism, I will argue that the poetic function entails exploiting some biological code. As Jakobson (1960) has already shown, the poetic function must also involve the recurrence or repetition of some linguistic same. Since it increases the signal-to-non-signal ratio, repetition is also correctly understood as a biological signal whose form stands in a non-arbitrary relation to its function (cf. Mehr and Krasnow 2017). Its function in language art is to draw attention not to the “message itself”, but to some biological code operating within it.

I will give several empirical demonstrations of the interaction between Jakobsonian recurrence and biological codes in free verse. First, I will consider how typographic arrangement may cue prosodic structure and intonation in the work of Walt Whitman and H.D., arguing that the organization of the utterance into intonational and phonological phrases itself constitutes a biological code. Second, I will explore the biological codes proposed by Gussenhoven and illustrate the role they play in well known poems by William Carlos Williams, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Robert Creeley, drawing on evidence from recitations by the poets themselves (made publically available through the PennSound Archive and Woodberry Poetry Room at Harvard). If there is time, I will briefly look at prosodic structure and intonation in chanted nonmetrical verse, showing how Ezra Pound’s incantatory recitation style can be described phonologically and identifying the biological code involved. 

I will conclude by considering how the view of language art that emerges from these explorations may help shape our understanding of the kind of ability that human artfulness is, linking to contemporary discussions of where art fits into human evolution (e.g. Davies 2015).

Davies, Stephen. 2015. The Artful Species. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gerber, Natalie. 2015. Intonation and the Conventions of Free Verse. Style 49(1). 8–34.
Gussenhoven, Carlos. 2004. The Phonology of Tone and Intonation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 
Halle, Morris, and Samuel Jay Keyser. 1966. Chaucer and the Study of Prosody. College English 28 (3): 187–219. 
Halle, Morris, and Samuel Jay Keyser. 1971. Illustration and Defense of a Theory of the Iambic Pentameter. College English 33 (2): 154–176. 
Hayes, Bruce. 1983. A Grid-Based Theory of English Meter. Linguistic Inquiry 14: 357–393.
Hayes, Bruce. 1988. Metrics and Phonological Theory. In Frederick J. Newmeyer (ed.) Linguistics: The Cambridge Survey. II Linguistic Theory: Extensions and Implications, 220–249. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Jakobson, Roman. 1960. Closing Statement: Linguistics and Poetics. In Thomas A. Sebeok (ed.) Style in Language, 350–449. The MIT Press.
Kiparsky, Paul. 1975. Stress, Syntax, and Meter. Language 51: 576–616.
Kiparsky, Paul. 1977. The rhythmic structure of English verse. Linguistic Inquiry 8: 189–247.
Kiparsky, Paul. 1987. On theory and interpretation. In N. Fabb, D. Attridge, A. Durant, and C. MacCabe (eds.) The Linguistics of Writing: Arguments between Language and Literature, 185–198. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Mehr, Samuel A. and Max M. Krasnow. 2017. Parent-Offspring Conflict and the Evolution of Infant-directed Song. Evolution and Human Behavior. doi:
Morton, Eugene S. 1977. On the Occurrence and Significance of Motivation-Structural Rules in Some Bird and Mammal Sounds. The American Naturalist 111·981:855–869.
Pilkington, Adrian. 1992. Poetic Effects. Lingua 87. 29–51.
Rumsey, Lacy. 2000. Rhythm and Intonation in Free Verse Form. University of London PhD thesis.
Sperber, Dan and Deirdre Wilson. 1995 [1986]. Relevance: Communication and Cognition. 2nd edition. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.


Friday February 23rd: Workshop in celebration of Marta Velnić’s defense, starting at 09.45 with coffee, tea and fruit in E-0105, and featuring talks by Tihana Kras, Bernhard Brehmer, Björn Lundquist, Kristine Bentzen, and Marit Westergaard. RSVP to Merete Anderssen.

Thursday February 22nd: Doctoral defense for Marta Velnić.

Wednesday February 21st: Guest lecture by María J. Arche, U. Greenwich, on ‘The meaning of aspect’ in B1004 10.00–12.00.

Thursday, February 15th: Jerry Fodor memorial event ‘Language, Thought, and Explanation’ organized by Michael Morreau (Philosophy). Starts at 11.15 in TEO H1, 1.512, with talks by Peter Svenonius (Linguistics, 11.15, on the Language of Thought), Torsten Martiny-Huenger (Psychology, 12.45, on Symbolic representations vs. embodied cognition), and Raul Primicerio (Biology, 13.45 on Natural selection).

Mon-Fri January 22–26: Visit and lectures by Jason Rothman, Reading/UiT.

Mo-Tu December 4-5, LAVA retreat

Th-Fr November 30-December 1, PhD seminar with Jason Rothman, Reading/UiT, on Adult heritage language acquisition

Th-Fr November 2-3, PhD seminar with Marit Westergaard on DP phenomena and word order in bilingual acquisition and attrition

We-Th October 25-26, Workshop on Structural and Developmental Aspects of Bidialectalism, featuring talks by Lisa Green (UMass Amherst), Leonie Cornips (Meertens), Raphael Berthele (Freiburg), and Laura Wagner (OSU) and others.

Friday October 20, 14.15, Colloquium talk by Roni Katzir, Tel Aviv: Comparing theories of UG using compression-based learning. E0104.


Comparing theories of UG using compression-based learning

I will discuss an approach to learning — compression-based learning — and show how it can help us choose among competing grammatical architectures in some cases where adult judgments alone are insufficiently informative.

Compression (or the principle of Minimum Description Length) considers both the size of the grammar and that of the description of the data given the grammar and attempts to minimize their sum. By doing so, compression guides the learner to hypotheses that balance between generality and the need to fit the data. Compression appears to match subjects’ generalization patterns in a variety of tasks, and it has yielded working learners for realistic linguistic theories in different domains.

I will review these properties of compression-based learning and show how we can use it to compare between competing architectures with two case studies, one in phonology and one in semantics. The phonological case study concerns constraints on underlying representations (also known as morpheme-structure constraints), which were central to early generative phonology but rejected in Optimality Theory. Evidence bearing directly on the question of whether the grammar uses constraints on URs has been scarce. I will show, however, that if children are compression-based learners, then they will succeed in learning patterns such as English aspiration if they can use constraints on URs but run into difficulties otherwise. In semantics, I will discuss two architectures for the representation of quantificational determiners: building blocks and semantic automata. While both choices support the representation and learning of quantificational determiners, I will show a specific domain where they predict different learning paths.

Thursday October 19th, 12.00: Special LAVA lunch session with Roni Katzir in C1004 on compression-based learning:

An adequate simplicity metric for learning grammars


I will review three notions of simplicity that have been used in work on grammar learning: simplicity of grammar (as in early Generative Grammar), simplicity of accounting for the data (as in the Subset Principle), and compression-based simplicity, balancing between generality and the need to fit the data (as in Minimum Description Length and Bayesian approaches). I will discuss evidence showing that the choice among these notions of simplicity matters and that it is the third, compression-based version that is the most adequate for the induction task. I will then show how this notion of simplicity can serve as the basis for a learner that handles several different learning challenges.

Th-Fr October 12-13, Minicourses by Kjell Johan Sæbø, UiO/UiT, on (i) semantic and information-structural perspectives on ellipsis and (ii) the embedding of speech acts.

Mo-We October 9-11, LingPhil course on eye-tracking with Sol Lago, Potsdam, and Akira Omaki, Washington. 10-12 MTuW and 2-3 MTu, with an optional lab session 1-2, in TEO 5.502.

Mo-Tu October 9-10, Workshop on the Emergence of Semantically Interpretable Formal Features, featuring talks by Anna Papafragou (Delaware), Daniel Harbour (Queen Mary London), Theresa Biberauer (Cambridge/Stellenbosch), and others.

Friday, October 6, Colloquium talk by Roksolana Mykhaylyk, Amazon and Harvard University. 14.15 in E0105.

Machine Language Acquisition, and Why Speech Technology Needs More Linguists.


It is hard to imagine our life before the advent of speech technology.  We now take for granted getting directions from the GPS voice in our cars, searching for information by talking to our smartphones, or communicating with personal smart home assistants. This presentation will focus on the role of linguistic and language knowledge in Natural Language Understanding, Automated Speech Recognition, and Text-to-Speech product development. As an example, I will demonstrate how Google Translate and Amazon Echo are able to “speak” and explain in the most basic terms how machines “learn” various languages. I will also suggest some ways through which linguists can enter the IT job market.

We-Th October 4-5, PhD seminar with Tanja Kupisch, Konstanz/UiT, on Cross-linguistic influence in heritage bilinguals. E-1004 on Wednesday, C-1002 on Thursday.

Friday, August 25th, 13.00-14.30, E0104: CASTL semester kick-off. This event will feature short talks by the three incoming post-doctoral fellows, Rachel Klassen, Evelina Leivada, and Craig Sailor. It will be followed by a reception with tapas and drinks in the X-bar.

Friday, May 12th: Colloquium talk by Nazarré Merchant: “Sonority and Stringency: Property Analysis using the Holographic Principle.” E0105 at 14.15.

May 4: MSCA workshop (extended LAVA lunch) – Gustavo Guajardo (San Diego) and Serkan Uygun (Istanbul) will present their projects and there will be short presentations of ongoing work by other LAVA members.

April 28, 14.15–about 16.00, E0104: Two incoming CASTL PhD students present their work.

  • 14.15-14.55: Maud Westendorp will be speaking on “Development and variation of non-V2 order in Norwegian wh-questions.” abstract
    Across Norwegian dialects wh-questions show variation with respect to word order possibilities, with many dialects allowing non-V2 word order (e.g. Ka du ha jorrt?). The acceptance of non-V2 order differs considerably across dialects and further depends on the complexity and function of the wh-element. In this study, findings from both synchronic and historical data are combined to show that non-V2 word order first occurred in simplex non-subject wh-questions which are most frequent and subsequently spreads to other, less frequent, types of questions. Furthermore, emergence of non-V2 order is linked to the loss of the present tense marker on the finite verb opening up the possibility for other elements to lexicalise the verb-second position resulting in the emergence of non-V2 word order. 
  • 15.00-15.40: Natalia Jardon will be speaking on “Structural configurations inside Spanish event nominals.” abstract

    In this talk I present a configurational analysis of nominalizations that accounts for the limited distribution and the different interpretations of three types of Spanish event nominals: miento (e.g. movimiento ‘movement’), do/da (lavado ‘washing’) and quema-type nominals (e.g. arresto ‘arrest’).

    The traditional characterization of these nouns as derived forms is taken here to be the result of embedding some verbal structure under a nominal head. Such a head will be sensitive to two types of syntactically relevant information inside the verbal domain: category and index features (Ramchand, 2008).

    Specifically, I propose that the underlying verbal structure of do/da and quema-type nominals identifies a sequence [init_i, proc_i], where subjects are interpreted as thematic Actors. This correlates with the absence of miento and the impossibility of reflexive readings in the corresponding nominals (e.g. lavado ‘the washing /*of oneself/, cierre ‘the closing /*by itself/).

The usual reception will be held afterwards with light refreshments.

April 25th, 12.00, E0105: LAVA guest Savithry Namboodiripad, from UC San Diego, will present work on syntactic change in Malayalam and its relationship with language contact:  Towards a motivated model of contact-induced syntactic change: Flexible constituent order and beyond.

April 21: CASTL colloquium talk featuring Laura Downing and Martin Krämer on ‘Positioning Kinande phrasal harmony in phonetics, phonology, and syntax.’ 14.15 in E0105.

April 21: LAVA lunch presentation featuring Dianna Walla presenting work from her MA thesis on code mixing in bilingual language acquisition. The title of the presentation is ‘Code mixing in early bilingual acquisition: Dominance, language modes, and discourse strategies.’ 12.00 in E2004.

April 19–20: Minicourse by Laura Downing on typological issues in tone, accent, and intonation

Minicourse details
  • 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.
  • Readings:
  • – 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.

Friday, April 7: Colloquium talk by Bożena Rozwadowska, University of Wroclaw

Wednesday, April 5: Special Lava Lunch meeting with guest Tiffany Judy from Wake Forest University, presenting on The Syntax-Semantics of Adjectival Distribution in Argentine Spanish-Polish speakers. E.1004, 12.00-13.00.

Tuesday, March 28: CASTL-FISH presentation by Bożena Rozwadowska, University of Wroclaw

Tuesday, March 28th: Jakub Dotlacil on Interpreting pluralities: Syntax and the lexicon, in the CASTL-FISH slot (12.15–14.00, TEO 5.402)

Friday, March 24th: A workshop featuring talks by Jakub Dotlačil, University of Amsterdam, Donka Farkas, University of California at Santa Cruz, Kjell Johan Sæbø, UiO/UiT, and Alexander Pfaff, UiT.

  • 1215-1300  Donka Farkas (UCSC). The semantics and discourse effects of declaratives and interrogatives
  • 1300-1315  break
  • 1315-1400 Kjell Johan Sæbø (UIO/UiT). How verbs are conceived and born: three theories.
  • 1400-1415 Coffee break with waffles and fruit
  • 1415-1500 Jakub Dotlačil (University of Amsterdam). Cognitive modeling of syntax.
  • 1500-1515 break
  • 1515-1600 Alexander Pfaff (UiT). ​ When Strong Articles lose their Denotations – A Nanosemantic Exploration into Definite Description​

Friday, March 24th, 11.30–12.15: A guest presentation at Lava Lunch by Roumyana Slabakova, University of Southampton, on Object pronoun reference in second language acquisition: Effects of computational complexity. Room E.2004.

Thursday, March 23rd, all day: Sergey Minor defends his PhD thesis Dependent Plurals and the Semantics of Distributivity.

10.15-11.00: Trial lecture on ‘The dynamics of plural interpretation – cases when morphologically singular DPs antecede plural pronouns’

11.15–15.00: The defense. The first opponent is Dr. Jakub Dotlačil, University of Amsterdam, and the second opponent is Professor Donka Farkas, University of California at Santa Cruz.

Tuesday, March 21st, 12.15-14.00: Kjell Johan Sæbø on ‘Subjective Content at Sole Issue’ in the CASTL-FISH seminar. Room TEO 5.402.

Friday, March 17, 14.15–16.00: CASTL colloquium with Pavel Caha

Deriving Blansitt’s generalization by overlapping decomposition


In this paper, I provide a Nanosyntactic account for the so-called Blansitt’s generalization (Blansitt 1988). The generalization says that in the linear sequence dative-allative-locative, only adjacent functions may be marked the same. In previous work, such patterns have been taken as one of the hallmarks of feature cumulation. However, Blansitt observes that in the case of datives, allatives and locatives, the allative (which is in the middle) tends to be composed of the dative and the locative, so the classical account does not work.

The present paper thus argues for a different representation of the underlying categories, namely as containing (abstractly) the features A, AB and B respectively. I refer to this as the “overlapping“ decomposition.


Tuesday, March 14th, 12.15–14.00 (CASTL-FISH seminar slot): Pavel Caha (joint work with Markéta Ziková):

Phonological processes in Czech prefixed verbs

The paper looks at the phonological processes that take place in prefixed verbs in Czech. Specifically, I look at vowel zero alternations and length alternations in order to determine the constituents of the verbal cluster over which such processes operate. The complete inventory of such processes leads to contradictions which are resolved by proposing that verbal prefixes move from a root attached position to a stem attached position, hence supporting the phrasal movement approach to Slavic prefixes proposed in Svenonius (2004).


Monday, March 13th, 11.00–12.00 in C-1004:
Pritty Patel-Grosz, Patrick Georg Grosz, ‘Revisiting pronominal typology: On the syntax and semantics of personal and demonstrative pronouns’

The goal of this talk is to shed new light on the debate of whether pronouns (she/he/it) generally have the syntax and semantics of definite descriptions (the woman/the man/the thing) or that of individual variables (see Elbourne 2013 for a recent discussion). As a case study, we investigate the differences between personal and demonstrative pronouns in German (e.g., Wiltschko 1998). We argue that the two types of pronouns have the same core make-up (both contain a null NP and a definite determiner), but demonstrative pronouns have additional functional structure that personal pronouns lack. This analysis is shown to derive both their commonalities and their differences, and it derives the distribution of demonstrative vs. personal pronouns by means of structural economy constraints (in line with Cardinaletti & Starke 1999 and Schlenker 2005).​ 


Friday, March 10th, 14.15-16.00, E0105: Colloquium presentation by Patrick Georg Grosz and Pritty Patel-Grosz of UiO, on “Exploring the semantics of dance,” joint work with Tejaswinee Kelkar, and Alexander Refsum Jensenius


Recent linguistic research has extended the application of formal syntactic and semantic methodology to non-linguistic phenomena such as music (Lerdahl & Jackendoff 1983, Katz & Pesetsky 2011, Schlenker 2016) and dance (Napoli & Kraus 2015, Charnavel 2016). The overarching goal of such research programs is to understand the underlying cognitive building blocks that language shares with other aspects of human cognition. Our own ongoing research on the semantics of dance focuses on Bharatanatyam, a narrative dance form. By virtue of video and motion capture recording, we explore the possibilities of encoding co-reference and disjoint reference in this dance form. We take as our point of departure recent work such as Abusch (2013), who explores co-reference outside of spoken language in comics without text. Our pilot production study shows that disjoint reference involves more complexity than co-reference, in the sense that a larger-level group boundary (cf. Charnavel 2016) is introduced. Furthermore, in addition to a manual gesture for “a different (man/woman)”, the dancer encodes disjoint reference by means of mirroring of orientation, direction and posture. We propose to account for this difference (between a manual gesture and global mirroring) in terms of an at-issue vs. non-at-issue distinction, which is reminiscent of phenomena such as speech-accompanying gestures (Ebert & Ebert 2014, Schlenker 2015).


Friday, March 3, 14.15-16.00 in E0105: Colloquium presentation by Alexandra Spalek, University of Oslo, presenting joint work with Louise McNally, Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona): ‘The logical semantic underpinnings of cross-linguistic variation in ‘figurative’ uses of verbs’


Formally-oriented linguists have paid comparatively little attention to ‘figurative’ uses of verbs
(e.g. (1-b) or (1-c) in contrast to e.g. (1-a)).

a. […] the knife cut through the meat.
b. His words cut with the sting of an obsidian sliver.
c. a bipartisan plan to cut the deficit

Our ongoing contrastive study of English and Spanish shows that while examples like (1-b) may fall under familiar theories of conceptual metaphor that are independent of grammar (e.g. Lakoff and Johnson 1980), examples like (1-c) vary across languages in ways that reflect fundamental grammatical differences in lexical aspectual systems. In this talk we maintain that examples like (1-c) constitute evidence that should not be ignored in debates about the analysis of verb meaning and the grammar/meaning interface,  such as that concerning Manner/Result complementarity (Levin and Rappaport-Hovav 1991).