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.



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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).



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Gillian Ramchand is chair of GLOW

The organization Generative Linguistics in the Old World has been promoting generative linguistics in Europe and elsewhere for about 40 years. The highlight every year is the annual spring ‘colloquium’ featuring about twenty hour-long talk slots by speakers selected through a highly competitive double-blind abstract selection process. It was held in Tromsø in 2007, and before that in 1995.

The 2017 colloquium was in Leiden, where Tromsø was represented by Martin Krämer at the Prosody-Melody workshop, Terje Lohndal and Tanja Kupisch in the Heritage Language workshop, and by Laura Downing, who co-organized a workshop on the Syntax-Phonology Interface.

In 2018 GLOW will be in Budapest, and after that it will be held in Oslo in 2019, and in Rabat in 2020.

At this year’s colloquium, our very own Gillian Ramchand was tapped to serve as chair of the GLOW board. That’s a great honor so congratulations are in order!

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Tromsø among the top 100 linguistics departments worldwide

QS World University Rankings is one of the most thorough attempts to quantify quality at the world’s universities. I don’t know how accurate they are but I know I like this result: Once again this year, Tromsø is ranked among the top 100 linguistics departments in the world.

The ratings are based on a combination of field-specific citations and h-indices and survey results of the institutions’ reputations (university-wide), both academically and as employers. So a great university-wide reputation like that of Oxford or Harvard can help push a department higher up on the list, while a department at a weaker university has to stand out with highly cited publications in its field to make it onto the list. In the case of Tromsø, the university itself is only in 377th place, so it seems that the department’s strong showing must be due to our producing work which gets cited.

Of course any such worldwide quantification of quality has to be taken with a grain of salt but most of the great linguistics departments seem to be on the list so in this case it seems most prudent to go with it.

Tromsø’s Medicine, Archaeology, and Biology departments are also highly ranked, but no other department at the University of Tromsø – The Arctic University of Norway is in the top 100 in its field, making us by one measure the best department at the University!

In linguistics (as in much else), MIT and Harvard are at the very top of the QS list, along with UMass Amherst; Stanford is not far behind. In fact, MIT, Harvard, and Stanford are the top three universities overall, according to the QS list. In linguistics, some University of California campuses jostle with Penn, Maryland, NYU and Chicago for top places.

Eleven European linguistics departments are also among the top 50, including Cambridge, Edinburgh, UCL, Manchester, Amsterdam, and Humboldt in Berlin, all of which we have regular interactions with. Two strong universities also figuring in the top 50 on the list are Oxford and Lomonosov in Moscow, both of which we have occasional interactions with. Helsinki is number 46, perhaps because of their strong presence in language technology. Lancaster and Birmingham are also among the top 50, though their specialties appear not to overlap substantially with ours (I couldn’t have named a single linguist at Lancaster before I checked their website).

Tromsø didn’t make it into the top 50 but is in the unordered bottom 50 of the top 100, along with 21 other European linguistics departments. They are: in Scandinavia, Lund, Stockholm, and Oslo (sorry, NTNU!); in the UK, Queen Mary, SOAS, Newcastle, York, King’s College London, and Nottingham; in the Netherlands, Utrecht, Leiden, and Radboud; in Germany, Potsdam and Freie Universität Berlin; in Spain (er, Catalonia), Barcelona and Pompeu Fabra; and in the rest of Europe, Paris IV, KU Leuven, Vienna, Zurich, and Saint Petersburg State University.

In addition to the 33 European and 31 US linguistics departments in the top 100, there are 22 departments in Asian countries, 7 in Australia, 5 in Canada, and one each in New Zealand and Mexico.

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Exploring the semantics of Dance

A guest talk by Patrick Grosz and Pritty Patel-Grosz from the University of Oslo, who will present their recent research on form and meaning in the Indian dance form Bharatanatyam in the CASTL colloquium on Friday at 14.15 in E0105.

The talk “Exploring the Semantics of Dance” (see abstract below) will be  followed by a social gathering at the blue sofa group with food and wine. They will also give a talk on pronouns and demonstratives on Monday — more details to follow shortly.
Exploring the Semantics of Dance
Pritty Patel-Grosz, Patrick Grosz, Tejaswinee Kelkar and Alexander
Jensenius (University of Oslo)

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).


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HiOA applies to become a university

Our erstwhile director Curt Rice, now the head honcho at the Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences, has tendered an application for his new institution to become Norway’s ninth university.

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One. Million. Kroner

How does that sound to you? Not bad? Well, this is exactly how much the Tromsø Research Foundation has granted to the project Bilingual Immigrant Children in North Norway: The Norwegian Welfare Society and the Language of Russian-Norwegian Children; from the CASTL side, it involves postdoc Yulia Rodina, professor II Antonella Sorace, Senior Researcher Marit Westergaard and affiliate Tore Nesset. Congratulations! (see the full announcement here, in Norwegian)

In other news, congratulation to CASTL PhD student Sandhya Sundaresan, whose poster A plea for syntax: monsters, agreement and de se has been accepted to the prestigious SALT conference, which takes place at Rutgers this year. Way to go!

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And for some less orthodox events….

Well, let’s start with some more, ahem, orthodox news: CASTL post-doc Roksolana Mykhaylyk is going to present Change in Prosody as an Alternative: Evidence from Acquisition at the 35th Penn Linguistics Colloquium in Philadelphia in March. So be there!

Anyway, here are some more hot news. First, congratulations to the CLEAR research group, which includes CASTL affiliates Laura Janda, Tore Nesset and Svetlana Sokolova, who have successfully launched their database of Russian verbal prefixes, which you can find here. It is an excellent resource for both researchers and students of Russian, who have to grapple with the complexities of Russian aspect, so be sure to check it out.

Meanwhile, CASTL senior researcher Michal Starke has been in Barcelona, participating in an event called New Paths in Linguistic Theory, where he has defended the nanosyntax framework in a debate with Cedric Boeckx. Here is what it should have looked like according to the organizers.

[vimeo w=400&h=320]

Spot New Paths in Linguistic Theory from sintaxi de butxaca on Vimeo.

PS- Michal is alive and well.

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February news: DGfS, nominations

Right, just because somebody at CASTL Blog HQ sometimes forgets to press the “Publish” button doesn’t mean nothing is going on. Here’s a recap of (relatively) recent news:

  • CASTL was prominent on the program of the 2011 edition of the annual conference of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Sprachwissenschaft, which took place in Göttingen. On the program were CASTL senior researcher Marit Westergaard with colleague Anita Røreng (Word order and scrambling in double object constructions in German), researcher Øystein Vangsnes (Rolling up the North Germanic noun phrase) and postdoc Kristine Bentzen (Introduction to object shift), as well as PhD students Alexander Pfaff (Position Matters, not Form!) and Sandhya Sundaresan (Monstrous agreement, de se attitudes, anaphora: evidence from Tamil)
  • Congratulations also to Øystein Vangsnes and CASTL affiliate Laura Janda, who have been nominated to receive the University’s annual prizes for popularization and outstanding research for 2011. We’ll be sure to let you know of the results, which are due in late March
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Congratulations to Kaori Takamine!

It is always sad to see good friends leave us, but we are also happy to see them move to pastures new. So congratulations to CASTL alumna and part-time Higher Executive Officer Kaori Takamine, who has beaten off ferocious competition to land a post-doctoral scholarship down (or, well, “up” for most of you out there) in Trondheim at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, where she will work on a project entitled Adpositional modifiers: the hierarchy and its mapping to clause structure. Good luck, Kaori!

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