Events in Spring 2018

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.

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.

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”

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.