There are also a LAVA-specific events page and a LAVA calendar.

Regular events, spring 2019

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

Every Tuesday, 12.15-14.00: CASTLFish seminar, led by Gillian Ramchand, in A3012.

Every Thursday, 12.00-13.00: LAVA Lunch, check the LAVA Lunch page for details and updates.

Every Thursday, 14.15-16.00, Graduate seminar in Phonology: Beyond OT, led by Martin Krämer, in E1004

Every Friday,, Phonology Reading Group, organized by Martin Krämer, A3012

Some Fridays 14.15-16.00 CASTL Colloquium, as announced, often in E0105, organized by Craig Sailor. See below under one-off events for specifics as they emerge.

One-off events

Spring 2019 

March 18-19: Mini-workshop with the Center for Language and Brain (HSE, Moscow). Monday, 09.30-15.30 in C1005; Tuesday, 09.30-12.00 in C1003

April 4-5: Uniting Gender Research workshop in Tromsø

May 7-9 GLOW in Oslo

May 20-21 Workshop on Crosslinguistic Influence in Tromsø

May 23-24 Kick-off event for the Multigender CAS project in Oslo led by Marit Westergaard and Terje Lohndal

Monday-Tuesday May 27-28: Workshop on “Thirty million theories of features”

Wednesday May 29: Guest lecture by Omer Preminger

Friday, May 31: Colloquium talk by Omer Preminger

June 3-4: AcqVA retreat in Tromsø

June 16-22: LingPhil Summer School on Svalbard

Fall 2019

September 2-3: Workshop on Capturing and Quantifying Individual Differences in Bilingualism in Tromsø

Previous events

Spring 2019

Friday, March 15 12.15-14.00 in SVHUM A3021: Natalia Kartushina (UiO) will present a guest lecture in the Phonology Reading Group:

The interplay between the native and foreign phonologies in second-language speakers: Insights from articulatory training and language-learning programs in immersion.


It is largely accepted that in bilinguals and second-language (L2) leaners the native (L1) and L2 sounds coexist in a common phonological space and constantly co-influence each other. The most known phenomenon is the L1 influences on L2 production, called having a ‘foreign’ accent in L2 speech. Generally, it happens when an L1 sound is used to produce a similar L2 sound(s) (e.g., the Japanese /r/ is used to produce the English /r/ and /l/ sounds). Accents is the most salient feature of L2 speech and might persist despite years of L2 experience and learning. While the effects of L1 on L2 production are well established, less is known about the impact of L2 learning and use on the production of native sounds. In the first part of the talk, I will present some recent techniques that have been developed to help second-language learners to get rid of their accents and will discuss the factors that contribute to better L2 sound learning. In the second part of the talk, I will present the results of recent studies on the influence of L2 learning and use on native sound production in novice learners and experienced L2 speakers immersed into an L2-speaking country. The results suggest position-sensitive and global interactions between native and non-native vowel systems and point out to malleability of native and foreign speech in adolescences and adults.

Friday, March 15, 14.15 in HUM E0105: Colloquium talk by Professor II Laura Downing:

Is Vowel Harmony a (P)Word phenomenon?


It is regularly asserted in surveys of vowel harmony systems that vowel harmony ‘canonically’ applies within the (P)Word. (See e.g.: Archangeli & Pulleyblank 2007, Hyman 2002, Kaisse 2016, Krämer 2003, Polgardi 2006, Rose & Walker 2011, van der Hulst & van der Weijer 1995.) That is, the domain is roughly the word but can be smaller than the word due to phonological conditions on harmony. The ‘word’ is usually taken to refer to the phonological word, not the grammatical word, since compounds are often disharmonic. Indeed, vowel harmony is said to rarely cross lexical word boundaries, either within compounds or within phrases.

However, if one focuses on African languages, one gets a different perspective on how closely the domain for vowel harmony matches the (P)Word. This talk will undertake a preliminary survey of vowel harmony domains from an Africanist perspective and present case studies from a variety of languages showing that it is relatively common for vowel harmony to apply in a domain that is either larger or smaller than the PWord. After introducing a sub-word system of harmony, Bantu VHH, the talk will focus on ATR harmony systems that take a phrasal domain and demonstrate that it is perhaps not as rare for vowel harmony to apply across word boundaries as has been asserted in the previous literature on this topic. The talk will end by raising the question:

• if phonologists had investigated ATR harmony systems first, would we have made the generalization that vowel harmony in general is a PWord-bound phenomenon?

Selected references

Archangeli Diana & Douglas Pulleyblank. 2007. Harmony. In Paul de Lacy (ed.), The Cambridge Handbook of Phonology. Cambridge University Press, 353-378.

Hyman, Larry M. 2002. Is there a right to left bias in vowel harmony? Paper presented at the 9th International Phonology Meeting, Vienna, November 1, 2002.

Kaisse, Ellen. 2016. What kinds of processes are postlexical? Ms., University of Washington. Krämer, Martin. 2003. Vowel harmony and correspondence theory. The Hague: Mouton de Gruyter. Polgárdi, Krisztina. 2006. Vowel harmony. LOT Dissertations.
Rose, Sharon & Rachel Walker. 2011. Harmony systems. In John Goldsmith, Jason Riggle & Alan C.L.

Yu (eds.), The Handbook of Phonological Theory, 2nd edition. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 240-290. Van der Hulst, Harry & Jeroen van der Weijer. 1995. Vowel harmony. In John Goldsmith (ed.), The

Handbook of Phonological Theory. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 495-534.

March 13–14 12.15-14.00 in TEO 4.402 (Wednesday) and SVHUM E2001 (Thursday): Laura Downing talks about Phonology-Syntax issues in Phonology 2 at the Master’s level

Friday, March 8, 14.15 in E0101: Colloquium talk by Sílvia Perpiñán, from the Institute for Multilingualism at the Universitat Internacional de Catalunya:

The Expression of Non-Personal Clitics in Catalan-Spanish Bilingualism


In this talk, I will present novel Catalan data from varying types of child and adult Catalan-Spanish bilinguals whose onset of acquisition to Catalan has been by age 3.  This cross-sectional study allows us to follow the development of several linguistic structures along childhood and observe the outcomes of prolonged language immersion in adulthood. By taking into account language dominance, measured through quantity and quality of input, onset of exposure, linguistic environment, and language identity, we want to contribute to the debate on the factors that characterize the outcomes of early bilingualism (Cornips & Hulk, 2008; Meisel, 2009, 2011; Perpiñan, 2017; Tsimpli, 2014; Unsworth, 2013, Unsworth, Argyri, Cornips, Hulk, Sorace & Tsimpli, 2014).

In particular, I will focus on the acquisition of Catalan non-personal clitics in three types of adult and child bilinguals: Spanish-dominant, Catalan-dominant and Balanced Bilinguals, from two different linguistic environments (Metropolitan area of Barcelona vs. Central Catalonia). Non-personal (or so-called ‘adverbial’) Catalan clitics enand hiare obligatory in Catalan to refer to partitive, locative, or oblique arguments. I will illustrate the phenomena with the partitive clitic.

The partitive clitic in Catalan can be the direct object of a transitive verb or the subject of an unaccusative verb. Focusing on transitive verbs, I investigate the use of partitive clitics for indefinite (1a), and quantified (1b) direct objects:

(1) a. La Clara és al.lèrgica als fruits secs, per això no *(en) menja.
The Clara is allergic to fruits dry,     that’s why no EN eats.
‘Clara is allergic to nuts, that’s why she doesn’t eat them’

b. Quants jugadors té un equip de futbol? *(En) té onze.
How-many players has a team of football? EN has eleven.
‘How many players does a football team have? It has eleven.’

Spanish does not have overt non-personal clitics, and this absence can be accounted for in two ways: 1- these forms are never generated in the syntax; 2- these forms are generated in the syntax but are phonologically lost in the spellout. These theoretical assumptions make different predictions as for the acquisition of these categories: do bilinguals need to create a new functional category or do they need to morphologically fill an already existing syntactic category? More generally speaking, we are interested in the mental representation of these categories in bilinguals whose languages vary in this respect.

 The results from an oral production task and an acceptability judgment task in over 300 bilinguals (children and adults) show delayed and partial acquisition, even in bilinguals who live in predominantly Catalan speaking areas. We find quantitative and qualitative differences depending on the clitic, and certain simplification of the system in the bilingual grammar. These results corroborate what has been found in other stable bilingual societies (Spanish-Basque by Ezeizabarrena, 2012; English-Welsh by Gathercole & Thomas, 2009) and raise questions regarding critical period effects in language development, and highlight the importance of quantity and quality of input received.

Friday, February 22, Colloquium talk by Nanna Haug Hilton (University of Groningen) at 14.15 in E0105 on Sociolinguistics with Smartphones in Minority Language Areas


Sociolinguistics with Smartphones in Minority Language Areas: ‘Stimmen’

This paper presents a tool for citizen science and sociolinguistic research: the application ‘Stimmen’ (Voices in Frisian). Citizen science is an umbrella term for projects in which the public partakes as data collectors, data processors, analysts, educators or formulators of research questions (cf. Bonney et al. 2016). While sociolinguists have made use of citizen science for a long time, recent technological developments, such as smartphones, have made it easier than ever to involve the public in our research.

‘Stimmen’ is inspired by language documentation efforts that rely on the public as collectors of speech recordings and translations, but with the inclusion of gamified components.  To give users an incentive to use the app it contains a perceptual dialectology task that guesses where the user is from (within the Netherlands). Additionally, a picture naming task is available, designed specifically to collect speech data from lesser-used and oral languages. The picture-naming task consists of 88 different pictures (without text) that must be named by the user (in the language of their choice).

‘Stimmen’ was launched in late 2017.  More than 15,000 users have provided data so far, and more than 46,000 speech recordings have been made. This paper presents results from the perceptual dialectology task as well as the picture naming task. The discussion focusses on the Frisian data, and some changes within this minority language in the Netherlands. Two main findings are discussed: the fact that stereotypical regional features in Frisian have stable isoglosses; and that, in the ‘Stimmen’-data, language loss and regional dialect levelling cannot be sufficiently teased apart. The latter finding indicates that crowd-sourced data, e.g. from citizen science projects, must be enriched with additional qualitative methods, emphasising the importance of triangulation for investigations language change. I end with some comments about the value and future outlook of citizen science for studies of language variation and change.


Friday, January 25, at 14.15 in room E0105: Irina A. Sekerina (The City University of New York) will present a colloquium talk on the following topic:

Psycholinguistics, Experimental Syntax, and Syntactic Theory of Russian


Since the introduction of formal experimental methods to syntactic theory (Cowart, 1997; Schütze, 1996) implemented in experimental syntax (Myers, 2009; Sprouse et al., 2016), there is an ongoing debate about what experimental methods can tell us about syntactic theory. On the one hand, informal grammaticality judgments traditionally used in theoretical syntax are the necessary starting point for a systematic reflection on linguistic phenomena (Phillips, 2010). On the other, formal methods may be necessary to give us more precise and stable tools for developing the empirical basis of theories and thus significantly contribute to establishing these theories. However, a complete switch from informal judgments to formal experiments is costly in terms of time and money.

            In this talk, I will explore a potential contribution of formal experimental data from adult participants to morphosyntactic theories by applying Sprouse’s (2016) experimental syntax framework to Russian. In Study 1, Wh-Movement vs. Scrambling, I will compare a syntactic explanation of filler-gap dependencies with an explanation from another cognitive system. In Study 2, Genitive of Negation, I will discuss preliminary data from a factorial design experiment with a large sample that investigates constraints on usage of the genitive of negation in modern Russian.


Fall 2018

November 21-22:  Conference on Baltic Linguistics: New Perspectives and Methods (BLing), organized by Olga Urek

conference blurb

CASTL (Center for Advanced Study in Theoretical Linguistics) at UiT The Arctic University of Norway is pleased to announce the conference Baltic Linguistics: New Perspectives and Methods to be held in Tromsø on November 21-22, 2018. The main goal of the conference is to bring together researchers from around the world working on the Baltic languages within various theoretical frameworks and methodological perspectives. We welcome submissions in the following areas:

  •  Syntax
  • Phonology
  •  Morphology
  • L1/L2/Ln Acquisition
  • Historical linguistics
  • Experimental linguistics
  • Development of language resources

Keynote speakers:

Ineta Dabašinskienė (Vytautas Magnus University)
Juris Grigorjevs (Latvian Language Institute, University of Latvia)
Axel Holvoet (Vytautas Magnus University)


Wednesday, November 21: Colloquium talk by Gary Thoms, NYU, 13.00 in E0105 — this colloquium talk is scheduled to coincide with a break in the program for the Baltic Linguistics conference


Title: Variation and the amnt gap

This talk is concerned with “the amnt gap,” which refers to the absence of a negated form for the finite auxiliary am in most varieties of English. Bresnan (2001) notes that while the gap is persistent in the varieties of North America and England, things are interestingly different in Irish and Scots: in Irish English, amnt may be used in all syntactic contexts, and in Scots it may be used in inversion contexts (“amnt I coming with you”) but not in declaratives (“I amnt coming with you”). Using new data from the Scots Syntax Atlas, I show that the empirical picture in Scotland is more complex and develop an account of dialectal variation with amnt in terms of Yang’s (2016, 2017) Tolerance Principle, where it is the productivity of the negative affixation rule which is crucial.


Lectures by Prof. Kjell Johan Sæbø (UiO and UiT)

Monday 19th November 1015-1200  in E 1004

Recent developments in formal pragmatics, I and II: Optimality theory and the Grammatical theory, part 1

Tuesday 20th November 1215-1400 in B1003

Recent developments in formal pragmatics, II and III: The Grammatical theory, part 2, and Game and Decision theory

Wednesday 21st November 0915-1200 E1004

Subjunctives in extensional contexts


Friday, November 16: Colloquium talk by Andrew Weir, NTNU, 14.15 in E0105

Verbal that-anaphora in Norwegian and (dialects of) English


Many Germanic languages use demonstrative pronouns as (what appears to be) verbal anaphora, such as German das (López & Winkler 2000 a.o.) and mainland Scandinavian det (Lødrup 1994, 2012, Houser et al. 2007, Bentzen et al. 2013 a.o.): Har du sunget? – Jeg har det ‘Have you sung? I have that’. English seems like the odd man out in Germanic in not making such free use of demonstratives as verbal anaphora; the closest equivalent to e.g. Norwegian det in English seems to be verb phrase ellipsis (‘Have you sung? I have.’).

This talk places a spotlight on data from English varieties which do appear to have verbal that-anaphora. Many speakers allow what appears to be a verbal-anaphoric use of that – but only if that is fronted: John can make curry really well – That he can. And a few dialects of English allow that to appear in post-auxiliary position: John can make curry really well. – He can that! These structures make English look like less of an odd man out among Germanic varieties; however, it turns out that they show subtle differences from each other, and from Norwegian det, in terms of syntax, semantics, and prosody. The talk aims to give an overview of how variation between the different English thats, and between English that and Norwegian det, might be accounted for – in the process trying to answer some mysterious lingering questions about the distribution and interpretation of det.


October 26th: Workshop in UB 244 featuring talks by Prince, Alber, Trotzke, and Schumacher from the two minicourses. The workshop schedule is as follows:

10.00-11.00: Alan Prince, Rutgers. ‘Why patterns? From microstructure to macrostructure in OT’ Abstract

11.00-12.00: Birgit Alber, Verona. ‘Typological analysis in OT: A basic typology of truncation’ Abstract

12.00-13.00: Lunch

13.00-14.00: Andreas Trotzke, Konstanz. ‘The syntax-emotion interface: A new approach to exclamatives’


In this talk, I propose a new approach to exclamative sentences (i.e., sentences such as “What a nice city Tromsø is!”). I claim that exclamatives can denote both truth-conditional and expressive content, and that they should therefore be analyzed as multidimensional semantic objects. According to many current approaches, the descriptive content that ‘Tromsø is a nice city’ is presupposed and not asserted; the exclamative thus contributes merely an emotive stance and lacks assertive force. I will first present and discuss recent experimental evidence contradicting this view and supporting the idea that the descriptive content of exclamatives is ‘at-issue’. In particular, I will demonstrate that the often-cited infelicity of certain reactions to particular exclamation forms (e.g., strong denial in the context of wh-exclamatives) is actually a very subtle matter. I will then turn to the issue to what extent exclamatives can serve as responses to questions, and I will discuss cases that suggest that some of the response uses can in fact count as assertion speech acts.

14.00-15.00: Petra Schumacher, Köln. ‘The dynamic construction of prominence in discourse: Insights from personal and demonstrative pronouns’


In this talk I will first present the notion of “prominence” as an organizational principle of language (Himmelmann & Primus 2015) and then illustrate how this applies to reference. In the following the discourse functions of personal and demonstrative pronouns will be investigated. These pronouns are used to convey different discourse functions and thus shape the ‘prominence profile’ that organizes referents in discourse representation in particular ways. First, they refer to different entities available in discourse; second, they contribute to discourse progression by indicating maintenance or shifting of the prominence profile. The talk presents experimental data on the comprehension of personal pronouns and two types of demonstrative pronouns in German that illustrate how prominence profiles are dynamically constructed.

October 23-25 LingPhil minicourse on The Syntax-Pragmatics Interface: Bridging Theory and Experiment, featuring Andreas Trotzke and Petra Schumacher; organized by Tanja Kupisch and Jason Rothman.

October 22-24 LingPhil minicourse on Analyzing Linguistic Typologies with OTWorkplace and Property Theory, featuring Alan Prince, Birgit Alber, and Nazarré Merchant; organized by Martin Krämer

October 12, 14.15: Colloquium talk by  Aditi Lahiri, ‘Journey of Words.’ NB: Room B1003.

October 5: Colloquium talk by Coppe van Urk (QMUL); from 14:15 in E0105


VP-fronting in Imere and the stranding problem

Coppe van Urk (QMUL)

It has been argued for a number of languages that basic word order is derived through an operation of VP-fronting (e.g. Kayne 1994; Massam 2001). However, many such analyses face an overgeneration problem: not all VP-internal material can appear in the fronted VP and must apparently always be stranded (Chung 2005; Massam 2010). This paper first provides novel evidence for VP-fronting in an SVO language, the understudied Polynesian outlier Imere (Vanuatu), also known as Mele-Fila. This VP-fronting analysis is motivated by the placement of postverbal adverbial particles, which appear between the verb and its objects but take scope right-to-left. VP-fronting of a phrase containing the verb and all particles provides a constituent within which these particles can be right-attached, accounting for inverse order. But this analysis too suffers from the stranding problem: VP-fronting cannot drag along any DPs, PPs, and CPs. At the same time, Imere otherwise has a familiar SVO VP, with no evidence of vacating movements or an unorthodox base-generated structure. Instead, I propose that VP-fronting is accompanied by an operation of distributed deletion (Fanselow and Cavar 2000), giving rise to the appearance of stranding. I suggest that distributed deletion is driven by a constraint that favors realizing only the verb, since it contributes the feature driving movement  (e.g. Massam and Smallwood 1997; Coon 2010). Evidence for this approach comes from the observation that adverbial particles have a discontinuous scopal domain, exactly as predicted by distributed deletion: particles scope over other particles to the left, but over all objects to the right. To answer the question of why some material can appear in the fronted VP alongside the verb, I examine the stranding problem in seven other VP-fronting languages, from four different language families. In all of these languages, dependents that front with the verb are always either a structurally reduced noun or an adverbial particle. Building on Clemens (2014), I argue for a constraint that requires elements that are in a selectional relationship and are spelled out in the same phase to form a prosodic phrase.

September 28: Workshop on Second Language Acquisition: Linguistic and Pedagogical Practices, featuring Roumyana Slabakova, Kira Gor, Heather Marsden, and Tomas Shaw Rankin; organized by Yulia Rodina and others.

Monday, September 10, Colloquium talk by Byron Ahn, Princeton: Mapping OUT- argument structure, 14.15 in E0105


In this talk, I explore the productive ‘out-PRED’ phenomenon in English (e.g. out-sing, out-do, out-run, out-smart), in which a prefix ‘out-‘ can affix to (a sub-class of) predicates (‘PRED’s), interacting with PRED’s argument structure in a surprising way.  I draw the following novel generalizations about this phenomenon:

(1) out-PRED inherits all of PRED’s morphophonological irregularities
(2) none of PRED’s internal arguments can surface in out-PRED
(3) if the interpretation of PRED depends on its internal argument, out-PRED is impossible
(4) out-PRED can always be passivized, even when PRED cannot be

Together, these indicate that out– prefixation creates an argument structure that is syntactically distinct from that of PRED. I pursue an analysis in which out– merges with PRED before any of its internal argument(s) can merge, and the newly formed out-PRED projects its own argument structure with its own Voice-related properties such as passivizability. A core component of this analysis is that internal arguments of PRED-type predicates must be severed from the lexical predicate (i.e., introduced in a syntactic position outside of √P/VP). This adds to a growing literature that converges on the result that syntax transparently encodes Neo-Davidsonian semantic argument structure; i.e., all arguments in a predicate are introduced by individual semantic functions, which each in turn map onto individual functional projections in the syntax.

August 24, 14.15: Colloquium talk by Shigenori Wakabayashi, Chuo University, in room E0105.

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.


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.

Events in Spring 2018

Events in 2017

Events in 2016