Weekly Digest – April 22, 2019

This week, in the Linguistics department…

Today, Monday, at 3:30pm in the Conference Room: Syntax+! Madhumanti Datta will present a talk titled “Non-canonical copular constructions in Bangla.”

Tuesday (04/23) 9:30am in the Conference Room: Psycholinguistics Lab Meeting! Angela Xiaoxue He will present “Linguistic context in verb learning: less is sometimes more.”

Thursday (04/25) 12pm in the Conference Room: Phonlunch! Miran Oh will present.


Weekly Digest – April 15, 2019

Today we have our last colloquium of the year!

Today, Monday (04/15), at 3:30pm in the Conference Room: Argyro Katsika (UCSB) will present “The role of lexical stress in an integrated model of prosodic structure“, followed by a reception. Here is the abstract:

The role of lexical stress in an integrated model of prosodic structure 

Models of prosody have been considering boundaries, prominence, and rhythm as independent, and with boundaries, their temporal, tonal and pausal dimensions as also independent. Our work probes their integration, and reveals that lexical stress plays a pivotal role. Using kinematic data of Greek, we begin by assessing the effect of prominence in the coordination of temporal, tonal and constriction events at prosodic boundaries. We show that lexical stress, but not pitch accent, has a parallel effect on boundary lengthening and boundary tone coordination. Both events are initiated earlier within phrase-final words with non-final stress as opposed to final stress. The effect of stress extends to the articulatory configurations during inter-phrasal pauses, which reach their point of achievement later in words with final stress than in words with non-final stress and at a stable temporal distance from boundary tone onsets. Examining next the supralaryngeal kinematic control of prominence, we find that stressed articulatory gestures are longer, larger and faster than their unstressed counterparts, regardless of the accentual status of the former or the latter. Focusing on the durational dimension, we demonstrate that prominence-induced lengthening extends over a continuous stretch of speech, beginning before and ending after the stressed syllable. Importantly, its exact scope depends on the position of stress within the word and the position of the word within the phrase. This work brings linguistic attention to the ways that prosodic events and prosodic levels interact, and unites so far independently treated temporal, tonal and pausal events. The cross-linguistic dimensions of this account and its implications for theories of prosodic structure are discussed.

Weekly Digest – April 08, 2019

Several past and present USC linguists were at the Princeton Phonology Forum this past weekend: Rachel Walker gave a talk titled “Gradient feature activation and the special status of coronals”; Stephanie S Shih & Hayeun Jang gave a talk titled “Categoricity in gradience”; Caitlin Smith (PhD 2018) gave a talk “Partial Vowel Height Harmony and Partial Transparency via Gestural Blending”, and Sam Tilsen (postdoc 2009-11) presented “Motoric mechanisms for the emergence of non-local phonological patterns.” Also in attendance were Brian Hsu (PhD 2016) and Jason Shaw (BA 1999). Here are some pictures:


On April 4, Brooke Kidner presented “Gendered Registers in Lakota: An Updated Account” at ScienceTalk’19:



And this past Saturday, eight members of the department went hiking all day in Bear Canyon, San Gabriel mountains:


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This week, in the Linguistics department…

Today, Monday 04/08 at 3:30pm in the Conference Room: Colloquium! Ming Xiang (U Chicago) will present “Bridging the gap between parsing and interpretation through Bayesian pragmatic inferences“. Here is the abstract:

A great amount of sentence processing work has focused on revealing how the parser incrementally integrates each incoming word into the current linguistic representation. It is often explicitly or implicitly assumed that the representation preferred by the parser would determine the ultimate interpretation of the sentence. The current study investigates whether the interpretive bias in sentence comprehension necessarily tracks the parsing bias. Our case study, the Mandarin wh-in-situ scope dependencies, suggests a misalignment between the local parsing decisions and the global interpretative decisions. In particular, for Mandarin wh-in-situ constructions that involve scope ambiguity, eye movement reading measures and acceptability judgments both showed a locality bias in parsing, such that the local scope dependency was less costly than the non-local one. However, when interpretation was probed by a truth-value judgment task, there was an anti-locality bias, such that the interpretation compatible with the non-local scope was preferred. We propose a Bayesian pragmatic inference model to account for these findings, following the Rational Speech Act framework (RSA, Goodman & Frank, 2016). Under this model, the seeming conflict between parsing and interpretation will ultimately disappear because in the proposed model parsing preferences will be naturally embedded under the pragmatic reasoning process to derive the ultimate interpretation. The currently study therefore makes novel contributions, both empirically and theoretically, to address questions about the relationship between parsing and interpretation.

Tuesday (04/09) at 9:30am in the Conference Room: Psycholinguistics Lab Meeting! Yijing Lu and Cindy Chiang will talk about “Effects of discourse status on representational complexity and structural integration.”

Wednesday (04/10) from 11am to 2pm at the Tutor Campus Center Ballroom: the USC Undergraduate Research symposium. Come support our undergrads doing language science!

Thursday (04/11) at 12pm in the Conference Room: PhonLunch! Mairym Lloréns will present “Different speech tasks, different types of planning: Hypotheses tested with the corpus of speech and ticking in Tourette’s.”



Weekly Digest – April 01, 2019

Congratulations to Professor Shrikanth Narayanan, who as been inducted as a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering for his “pioneering contributions to behavioral informatics and applications to mental health, and to real-time magnetic resonance imaging of speech production.”



USC was well represented at this past weekend’s 32nd CUNY Conference on Human Sentence Processing in Boulder, Colorado! Sarah Hye-yeon Lee presented “How do repeated result states fare in sentence comprehension and production?” (with Elsi Kaiser) and “Generalizing subjective opinions: evidence from two classes of perspectival adjectives” (Elsi Kaiser and Sarah Hye-yeon Lee); Jesse Storbeck presented “Gender mismatch and possession type effects on interpretation of VP ellipsis” (with Elsi Kaiser); Ana Besserman presented “Implicit objects in discourse: Likelihood of reference and choice of referring expression” (with Elsi Kaiser); Binh Ngo presented “Implicit causality: A comparison between English and Vietnamese verbs” (with Elsi Kaiser); Samantha Gordon Danner presented “Co-speech movement behavior at floor exchanges and interruptions” (with alumna Jelena Krivokapic and Dani Byrd); Elsi Kaiser also presented “Perspectival plurality: interpreting multiple perspectival elements in one domain.” Alumna Monica Do (UPenn) gave a talk titled “Discourse Effects on the Source-Goal Asymmetry” (with Anna Papafragou and John Trueswell);  alumna Mythili Menon (Wichita State University) presented “Comprehension of agreement mismatch errors in language transfers to non-congruent musical preferences” (with Drew Colcher); and alumna Barbara Tomaszewicz (Universität zu Köln) presented “World knowledge and the interpretation of relative and absolute adjectives” (with Petra B. Schumacher).
Here are a few pics:

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Reminder: Next week, on April 08 at 3:30pm in the Conference Room, Ming Xiang (University of Chicago) will give a colloquium talk titled “Bridging the gap between parsing and interpretation through Bayesian pragmatic inferences.”

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This week, in the Linguistics department…

Monday (04/01) at 3:30pm in the Conference Room: Syntax+ Writing Session!

Tuesday (04/02) at 9:30am in the Conference Room: Psycholinguistics Lab Meeting! Silvia Kim will present “Spanish in contact with Korean: New insights into language switching.”

Thursday (04/04) at 12pm in the Conference Room: PhonLunch! Miran Oh will present.



Weekly Digest – Mar 25, 2019

Last week, Brooke Kidner, Reed Blaylock and Tanner Sorensen presented their research at the SACNAS Research Pairing Mixer at USC.

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This week, in the Linguistics department…

Tuesday (03/26) at 9:30am in the Conference Room: Psycholinguistics Lab Meeting! Practice presentations for CUNY 2019 in Boulder, CO.

Thursday (03/28), at 12pm in the Conference Room: PhonLunch! Yifan Yang will give a presentation.

Weekly Digest – Mar 19, 2019

Caitlin Smith (PhD USC 2018) has accepted a position as a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Cognitive Science at Johns Hopkins University, to begin this spring after she completes her position as Lecturer in the Department of Linguistics at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Congratulations, Caitlin!

We would also like to share an update on Arthur Santana, who was a visiting exchange scholar from the University of São Paulo (USP), Brazil during the 2017-2018 academic year, working with Rachel Walker. Arthur defended his dissertation in February on the topic of Unstressed Vowel Neutralization in Brazilian Portuguese. The dissertation is currently available in Portuguese, but Arthur is working on generating an English version for his website: https://arthurpsantana.github.io

Arthur is currently working as an Associate Linguist for Google Brazil in São Paulo, and he is continuing to pursue his research in phonology. Congratulations, Arthur! Come visit soon!

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This week, in the Linguistics department…

Monday (03/18) at 1pm in GFS212: Binh Ngo will give a talk in preparation for the Penn Linguistics Conference, entitled “Implicit Causality: A comparison of English and Vietnamese verbs.”

Thursday (03/21) at 12pm in the Conference Room: PhonLunch! Sarah Harper will give a talk.

Pets of Linguistics

I hope everyone has been enjoying their Spring Break – it’s about to get better! I present to you: the adorable pets of linguistics. Happy Friday, and make sure to tune in next Monday for exciting ling news!

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Here is Betul’s playful Jale: “balloon maniac, also likes visiting neighbors”. I have seen videos and can attest: No one likes balloons more than this kitty.


Roumi has shared pictures of a handsome fella you may have had the pleasure of meeting before: Leo! I have heard Leo really enjoys his night time strolls through the neighborhood…


Sung sent us Kong, 9 years old – and Kong is 100% charming in either summer or winter! Here’s definitive proof:


Speaking of pups who look their best regardless of the season: Sarah is sharing with us pictures of Cookie, her 12-year-old brown miniature poodle. “Yes, these two pictures are of the same dog. He just looks a lot different with short/long hair.”  DOUBLE CUTENESS!


Elsi sent us pictures of a small tiger, I mean, cat: “this is Hammie, a 19 year old cat who has moved with us from Philadelphia, PA to Rochester, NY to Los Angeles! He loves snacks, freeze dried chicken and snuggles.” And he deserves all of it!

Barry is sharing with us lovely Hershel Hershlowitz (1994-2008), who has the best name and looks absolutely snuggly.

Screen Shot 2019-03-15 at 11.18.29 AM.png


Jesse is gracing us with a picture of drop-dead gorgeous Lucinda, age 10, who enjoys “sleeping on top of the bookshelf, begging for meals and chasing hair ties.”

Angela is cheering our Friday with delightful pictures of her cat, Potato! Potato looks like he wants to play and will not take no for an answer. That’s okay because no one would say no to you, Potato!

Andrew is giving us the best of both worlds: “This is my hiking buddy, Demon, who sometimes needs a little help, but is always happy to be out on the trail.”

“This is Ninja, who wakes me up every morning at 6.00 by tapping his paw on my nose, asking to be fed.  He then goes back to sleep for the day.”

Ninja 2
“This is Smoky, who is a snuggler and a loud snorer, so we always know where he is.”
Smokey 1


Silvia is sharing with us her lovely 6 years old Pomeranian, Mango! “Interesting fact about him: Mango sings only when I play the piano, he ignores the rest of my family members when they try to play to make him sing.” Mango cannot be fooled. What a cutie:



Rachel sent us handsome Federico, “a lovely stray that we recently adopted after he chose us and our yard as his home.” I am not a fan of extreme sports but 10/10 would try to pet that belly:



Miran sent us her good-looking, hard-at-work Kahncho, who likes to micromanage her while she works. Keep doing a great job, Kahncho! #worldsbestboss


Hajime is sharing with us his beautiful cat, named QE. “She is a very good hunter although you cannot tell that from this photo.” Look at those eyes – I believe it!



Haley sent us pictures of Tito and Cosmo, both of which seem to know just how cute they are (VERY cute!). “Cosmo is 13 years old and enjoys long naps on the couch, begging for treats, and staring at people until they become uncomfortable. Tito’s full name is Zapatito because of the little shoes on his paws. His talents include knocking things on the floor and then hiding them under the couch.”


And these are Ana’s Buffy Bunny-Cakes Prince 92 (belly up) and Blade The Beast Maron (weirdo next to her). “They spend evenings looking for vampires, which unfortunately seems to require making a mess and breaking things. This is the price you pay if you want a vampire-free household, I’m afraid.”

You might remember seeing baby Tito and Blade in the department; here’s a throwback:


(the other two kittens also found a good home!)

Have a great weekend!