Weekly digest — 04/05/2021

After a bit of a long pause, the weekly digest is back! Check out some of the department highlights for this upcoming week!


WCCFL 39, hosted virtually by the University of Arizona at Tucson, is happening this week: April 8-11. A few of our faculty and students will be representing the department.

  • Sarah Hye-Yeon Lee and Elsi Kaiser will be giving a talk entitled “(Not) shifting together: An experimental investigation of Korean anaphors and subjective predicates”.
  • Samir Alam and Elango Kumaran will be giving a talk entitled “Focus- sensitive restrictions on multiargument agreement in Maithili”
  • Colin Davis will be presenting a poster on “Evidence for Case Containment from Balkar Possessive Morphology”

For more details about the program, check the link. Registration is free in case you were wondering!

This week in the department’s virtual conference room

No meetings! Phonlunch and Syntax+ are not meeting since Wednesday is a wellness day. Psycholing lab will resume meetings after WCCFL.

Alumni news

Congratulations to Hayeun Jang (Ph.D. USC 2020) on her appointment as an Assistant Professor at Busan University of Foreign Studies!

Congratulations to Saurov Syed (Ph.D. USC 2017) who recently received tenure at the University of Auckland Department of Linguistics.

Breaking News: renaming Syntax+

Syntax+ is turning 19! And with this new coming of age, there comes a new name. Given the amount of increasing interest in the “+” side of syntax, there has been a discussion about renaming the syntax lab group. The aim is to give the interfaces the central role they deserve (after all, that is where variation resides). If you would like to contribute with suggestions to rebrand the group, please email Adam Woodnutt at woodnutt@usc.edu. Some of the potential candidates so far are S, and S-side story.

Weekly digest — 02/09/2021

Check out some of the department updates below!

SCAMS II at USC, 02/06/2021

USC hosted the second meeting of the Southern California Annual Meeting in Syntax (a.k.a. SCAMS). The meeting, organized by a group of grad students, was hosted virtually on Zoom this past Saturday. The workshop opened at 9am PST so attendees could mingle and catch up and continued until 5.30pm (of course there were breaks in between). There were three main blocks of presentations:

  1. Movement and Construction
  2. Featural Systems of The World’s Languages
  3. Form and Interpretation

Tommy Tsz-Ming Lee opened the workshop with an introductory speech and he was also the first speaker of the morning. Tommy gave a talk entitled Licensing VP movement and ellipsis in Mandarin and Cantonese.

Colin Davis gave also a talk in the first block. His talk was entitled The ban on fronting English possessive pronouns and its consequences for their morphosyntactic structure.

Daniel Plesniak presented part of his dissertation research on a talk entitled Binding Demonstrative Phrases.

Luis Miguel Toquero Pérez gave the last talk of the afternoon. The title of the talk was A seeming violation of the Monotonicity Constraint: evidence from Spanish verbal comparative.

We would like to thank everyone involved in the organization, the presenters and the attendees!

*Full disclosure: since the name SCAMS is a bit misleading, it was agreed that the next host would have the power to change the name of the workshop. Stay tuned for ideas or if you have them, get in touch with the organizers.

Roumi Pancheva at University of Frankfurt, 02/04/2021

Roumi Pancheva gave an invited talk at the Semantics Colloquium at the Department of Linguistics, University of Frankfurt, on February 4, 2021, on the topic of ”Temporal reference without tense” (joint work with Maria Luisa Zubizarreta).

Paper accepted at Linguistic Variation

Luis Miguel Toquero Pérez‘s paper Revisiting extraction and subextraction patterns from arguments has been recently accepted at Linguistic Variation. Check the final version of the manuscript on lingbuzz: https://ling.auf.net/lingbuzz/005183

This week at USC…

  • Syntax +, Wednesday 02/10 at 12pm PST, Muyi Yang (UConn) is giving an invited talk entitled Revisiting wh-questions in Sinhala.

No other lab meetings this week

Tea Time keeps on tea timing!

Tea time is still happening!

When? Thursday 02/11 3.30-4.40pm PST

Where? the zoom tea room (ask Deniz Rudin for the link)

Weekly Digest –– 01/26/21

Welcome back! Happy 2021 to everyone. We hope that you had a nice and restful break, and most importantly, that you are safe and sound!

Are you ready for some interesting updates? Check them out!!

Congratulations to NSF recipients!

Congratulations to Sarah Lee (5th year PhD) for being awarded a Dissertation Research Improvement Grant from the National Science Foundation, for her project entitled Processing the Dynamicity of Events in Language. Fantastic achievement Sarah!

Congratulations also to Cindy Chiang for being awarded a Dissertation Research Improvement Grant from the National Science Foundation. Cindy is a PhD student in the Psychology Department at USC who works with Dr. Toby Mintz at the USC Language Development Lab. That is excellent news!!

USC at the LSA

The 95th meeting of the Linguistic society of America took place on 01/07-01/10 and our department was very well represented in all areas: from syntax and semantics to psycholinguistics and language acquisition/bilingualism to phonetics. Find a list of the talks and posters, including a plenary lecture, presented by USC faculty and students:

Roumyana Pancheva at NY-St Petersburg Institute of Linguistics

Study abroad programs are scare these days. But one of the few that is happening is The V-NY-St Petersburg Institute of linguistics, January 18-29, organized by John Frederick Bailyn (Stony Brook University). And we are happy to announce that our department is very well represented!

Roumyana Pancheva is teaching an invited mini-course on Tenselessness at NYI, held virtually in St. Petersburg, January 18-29, 2021.

Luis Miguel Toquero Pérez is serving as ZA (Zoom Assistant) for Rob Pasternak’s (ZAS Berlin) course Semantics: A teaser.

Weekly Digest — 11/12/20

As we get towards the end of the last week of classes, there are a couple of updates that you wouldn’t want to miss. Check them out below:

USC Linguistics Virtual Colloquium with Anne H. Charity Hudley (UC Santa Barbara)

The USC Linguistics colloquium series was happy to announce the third and last colloquium speaker of this semester: Anne H. Charity Hudley, UC Santa Barbara. Thank you to everyone who joined us on Monday, November 9, 2:30pm PDT. Find the abstract and title of the talk below:

Talking College: A Community Based Language and Racial Identity Development Model for Black College Student Justice  

Critical knowledge about language and culture is an integral part of the quest for educational equity and empowerment, not only in PreK-12 but also in higher education. The Talking College Project is a Black student and Black studies centered way to learn more about the particular linguistic choices of Black students, while empowering them to be proud of their cultural and linguistic heritage. Students take introductory educational linguistics courses that examine the role of language in the Black college experience. One key question relating to the Project is: how does the acquisition of different varieties of Black language and culture overlap with identity development, particularly intersectional racial identity development? 

Based on information collected from our research, it is evident that Black students often face linguistic bias and may need additional support and guidance as they navigate the linguistic terrain of higher education. Our findings serve to help us create an equity-based model of assessment for what educational linguistic information Black students need in order to be successful in higher education and how faculty can help to establish opportunities for students to access content about language, culture, and education within the college curriculum. We address the work we need to do as educators and linguists to provide more Black college students with information that both empowers them raciolinguistically AND respects their developing identity choices. 

Congratulations to our new Doctors!

Charile O’Hara successfully defended his dissertation on October 30, 2020. The title of the dissertation is “Soft Biases in Phonology: Learnability Meets Grammar”. CONGRATULATIONS Charlie!! We are happy to have you with us for one semester more, and we wish you the best of luck in your job search (fingers crossed!).

Lisa Jo, our program specialist, also defended and passed her dissertation this week in the department of Education at USC. CONGRATULATIONS Lisa Jo!!

USC in NELS 51, 11/05-08/20 at UQAM

The 51st edition of the North Eastern Linguistic Society conference took place last weekend at the University of Québec in Montréal. Our department was very well represented. Here’s a list of the talks given by USC faculty, students, and alumni:

Elsi Kaiser gave a flash talk entitled “Shifting shades: A study of granularity effects with basic- and subordinate-level color terms”. Click here to see the abstract.

Tommy Tsz-Ming Lee gave a flash talked entitled “Movement of quantificational heads”. The handout is available here.

Colin Davis gave a talk entitled “On parasitic gaps in relative clauses and extraction from NP”. The handout is available here.

Brian Hsu (PhD 2016) gave a talk entitled “Harmonic Grammar in phrasal movement: an account of probe competition and blocking”. Find the handout here.

Happening this week on zoom

Syntax+, Thursday 12th from 2-3pm PDT, Colin Davis will be showing us some data on parasitic gaps that he has been working on for some time. Email Luismi Toquero – toquerop@usc.edu for zoom details.

Phonlunch, Thursday 12th from 4-5pm PDT, Aaron Kaplan , University of Utah, is giving an invited talk entitled “Exploring Serial NHG with Eastern Andalusian Harmony”. Email Rachel Walker – rwalker at usc dot edu for zoom links.

Tea Time

The Linguistics Department Tea Time is happening from 3:30-4:30pm on Thursday 12th. Join us for what might be the last official tea time of the semester before the break! If you want but don’t have the link, email Deniz Rudin – drudin@usc.edu.

Weekly Digest — 10/26

It’s incredible how time is flying, right? We are in the 10th week of classes and last week of October. And there’s a lot happening! Check it out:

USC Linguistics Virtual Colloquium with  Virginia Dawson (Western Washington University)

The USC Linguistics colloquium series is happy to announce the second colloquium speaker of this semester: Virginia Dawson, Western Washington University. Please join us on this Monday, October 26, 2:30pm PDT. Email Yijing Lu (yijinglu@usc.edu) for the zoom link. Find the abstract and title of the talk below:

Disjunctions, alternatives and scope: The view from Tiwa

Tiwa, a Tibeto-Burman language of northeast India, has a disjunction particle ba which must take narrow scope with respect to any operator higher in the structure. In this talk, I present a novel argument from phrasal comparatives against a Boolean approach to Tiwa’s ba disjunction, and develop an analysis that treats disjunction as alternative-denoting (following Simons 2005, Alonso-Ovalle 2006, Aloni 2007, a.o.). I consider how ba‘s obligatory narrow scope can be derived within this framework, and the larger question of where the locus of variation in scope-taking lies (i.e. how to rule out a scope mechanism that seems to apply in one language, but not another).

Roumi Pancheva at MIT, 10/14-16/2020

Our colleague Roumi Pancheva gave an invited mini-course at MIT on “Temporal reference without tense” (reporting on joint work with Maria Luisa Zubizarreta), Oct 14-15. She also gave an invited colloquium on “Numerals and number features”, Oct 16.

This week’s labs

Psycholinguistics lab meeting, Thursday 29th from 9-10am PDT, Ian Rigby is giving a presentation entitled “Processing of Sound Symbolic Associations”. Email Elsi Kaiser -emkaiser AT usc DOT edu for the Zoom link.

Syntax+, Thursday 29th from 2-3pm PDT, Zhuo Chen (UCLA) is giving an invited talk entitled “Mandarin conditionals: the external syntax, order preservation and cyclic linearization”. Email Luismi Toquero – toquerop@usc.edu for zoom details.

Phonlunch, Thursday 29th from 4-5pm PDT, Andrew Cheng (UC Irvine) is giving a talk entitled “Regional dialect shift after relocation: Longitudinal evidence from YouTube”. Email Rachel Walker – rwalker at usc dot edu for zoom links.

Tea Time

The Linguistics Department Tea Time is happening from 3:30-4:30pm on Thursday 29th. Are you interested in goofing off for some time, see friends, catch up and share stories and have a good time? If so, join us! If you want but don’t have the link, email Deniz Rudin – drudin@usc.edu.

Weekly Digest

Want to know what’s going on in the department this week? Check it out below!!

USC Linguistics Virtual Colloquium with Colin Davis (USC)

The USC Linguistics colloquium series is back for the fall. The first colloquium speaker of this semester is our new colleague Colin Davis. Please join us on this Monday, October 12, 2:30pm PDT. Email Yijing Lu (yijinglu@usc.edu) for the zoom link.

Abstract: In this presentation, I will discuss some new developments and remaining questions regarding the syntax of possessor extraction in colloquial English. Such extraction is permitted by many (though by no means all) English speakers, as reported in Davis (2019, a.o.):  1. % Mary is the author [who1 they said [CP [DP t1’s new book] is good]].  In previous work, I have shown that this phenomenon is subject to a number of intricate restrictions, and argued that once those restrictions are properly understood, such extraction reveals a new argument for the successive-cyclicity of movement from some constituents – most notably CP, commonly taken to be a phase. In this presentation, I summarize the relevant findings of Davis (2019, a.o.) as a basis for exploring some remaining puzzles and further implications of this phenomenon. A primary topic will be this construction’s significance as a diagnostic for successive-cyclicity, and hence theories of cyclic syntax. This presentation will also deal with phenomena such as relativization, extraposition, and sub-extraction from DP more generally.


Psycholinguistics lab meeting, Thursday 15th from 9-10am PDT, Jina Song is giving a presentation entitled “Forward-looking effects in English pronoun interpretation”. Email Elsi Kaiser -emkaiser AT usc DOT edu for the Zoom link. 

Syntax+, Thursday 15th from 2-3pm PDT, Tommy Tsz-Ming Lee will be leading the discussion of Martin Haspelmath’s “General linguistics must be based on universals” (to appear in Theoretical Linguistics). Email Luismi Toquero – toquerop@usc.edu for zoom details.

Phonlunch, Thursday 15th from 4-5pm PDT, Jessie Johnson is giving a talk entitled “Height and backness are unequally distributed in the spectrum”. Email Rachel Walker – rwalker at usc dot edu for zoom links.

Tea Time

The Linguistics Department Tea Time is happening from 3:30-4:30pm on Thursday 15th. Are you interested in goofing off for some time, see friends, catch up and share stories and have a good time? If so, join us! If you want but don’t have the link, email Deniz Rudin – drudin@usc.edu.

Weekly digest — 09/28

We are half way through the semester. Can you believe that? We have a couple of interesting things happening this week. So stay tuned! But before any of that, we have very good news!!

Congratulations Hayeun Jang (PhD 2020)

Congratulations to our recent alumna, Hayeun Jang (PhD 2020), who will be starting a position as a Postdoctoral Fellow at Seoul National University this fall!

Stephanie Shih on (conference) tour!

Stephanie Shih gave these colloquiua:

  • 9/23/2020 “How sound symbolism contributes to phonological theory: On Pokemon and baseball”. at National University of Singapore, Department of English Language and Literature.
  • 9/28/2020 “Gradience for lexically-conditioned phonology”.  at UIUC, Department of Linguistics.

She is also giving one more this Friday:

  • 10/2/2020 “How sound symbolism contributes to phonological theory: beyond arbitrariness and categoricity.”  at The University of Melbourne, ARC Centre of Excellence for Dynamics of Language.

This week over zoom

Psycholing lab meeting is happening on Thursday (10/01) at the usual schedule: 9-10am PDT. Jun Lyu is giving a talk about “Evaluation of Kuno’s speech act empathy and topic empathy constraints on the Chinese reflexive ‘ziji’ “. Email Elsi Kaiser (emkaiser@usc.edu) for the zoom link. 

Syntax + is back on zoom this Thursday (10/01) 2-3pm PDT. Elango Kumaran is presenting “Extending the Person–Case Constraint to gender: Agreement, locality, and the syntax of pronouns” by Foley and Toosarvandani to appear in LI. Email Luismi Toquero (toquerop@usc.edu) for the zoom link.

Phonlunch is also back on zoom this Thursday (10/01) 4-5pm PDT. Reed Blaylock is presenting his ongoing research on “Beatboxing beats”. Contact Rachel Walker (rwalker@usc.edu) for the zoom link.

Tea time! the Linguistics Department Tea Time, is also on Thursday from 3:30-4:30pm PDT. You want to come and share virtually your drinks and afternoon snacks? You are more than welcome. Email Lisa Jo Keefer (LisaJo@usc.edu) for the link. Here’s a picture of a tea time two weeks ago.

collaborative tea time art, 09/17/2020

Weekly Digest

Check out what’s going on in the department this week:

Thursday (09/24) at 9am PDT on zoom, Psycholinguistics Lab Meeting! Cindy Chiang is giving a practice talk for BU (aka the Boston University Conference on  Language Development) entitled “Going against verb bias: Toddlers shift parsing strategies when encountering disfluencies”. Please email emkaiser AT usc DOT edu for the Zoom link. 

Friday (09/25), Phonlunch meeting!

Tea time is also happening this week! Join virtual tea time 3.30-4.30pm PDT on Thursday (09/24). If you want to attend, email lisajo@usc.edu for the link.

*Syntax+ is not meeting this week

USC at AMP 2020, UC Santa Cruz last weekend

Charlie O’hara had a poster with Caitlin Smith (USC PhD 2018) called ”Learnability of Derivationally Opaque Patterns in the Gestural Harmony Model”. You can check out their poster here.

Elango Kumaran had a poster called ”The existence of three-syllable stress windows does not favor HG over OT”. You can check out his poster here.

Weekly Digest

Don’t miss out on what’s happening this week at USC Linguistics: student and faculty talks/posters at ELM

Experiments in Linguistic Meaning at UPenn, 09/16-18

Some students and faculty are presenting at the first ELM conference held at UPenn:

*About the conference*: The conference is dedicated to the experimental study of linguistic meaning broadly construed, with a focus on theoretical issues in semantics and pragmatics, their interplay with other components of the grammar, their relation to language processing and acquisition, as well as their connections to human cognition and computation.” Registration is free!  

Alexis Wellwood and Sarah Lee at Events and Event Structure at the Limits of Grammar at Oxford (UK), 09/15-16

Alexis presented at the Oxford workshop, Events and Event Structure at the Limits of Grammar— the pre-recorded short talk can be viewed here. The title of the talk was “Exploring the analogy between objects and events” and is joint work with Susan Hespos (NU) and Lance Rip (UN). According to Alexis, “the conference used an unusual format where my variety of talk (which would have been a poster had it been in person) was to be viewed before the session, and then there was 1 hour of “shared discussion” for 3 talks”.

Sarah gave a talk entitled “Does hitting a window break it?: Going beyond lexicalized event structure during sentence processing” (joint work with Elsi Kaiser).

Phonlunch, Psycholing lab and Syntax+ are not meeting this week.

Weekly Digest

This week in the linguistics department (All times are in Pacific Time). For some reason, everything is happening on Thursday this week!

Thursday (09/10), 9am on Zoom, Psycholinguistics Lab Meeting! Jesse Storbeck will give a practice talk entitled “Discourse behavior of possessives reflects the importance of interpersonal relationships”. This is a practice talk for Experiments in Linguistics Meaning (ELM https://www.elm-conference.net), to be held at UPenn next week. Email emkaiser AT usc DOT edu for the Zoom link. 

Thursday (09/10), 2pm on Zoom, Syntax+ Meeting! One of our new students, Ariela Ye, will be presenting some of her research on semantics-pragmatics entitled “On the Semantics of the Post-sentential Then at the Discourse Level”. For a Zoom Syntax+ lab meeting invitation, please e-mail Luis Miguel Toquero Perez toquerop@usc.edu.

Thursday (09/10), 4pm on Zoom, Phonlunch Meeting! Reed Blaylock, Sarah Harper and Miren Oh will be talking about “Presenting and participating at an online conference”. Contact Rachel Walker – rwalker at usc dot edu for the Zoom link.

Tea time’s back!!

Attention every linguist—

Tea Time is back! Drop in on Thursdays from 3:30-4:30 to say hi, chat about whatever, and drink delicious beverages (BYO) and snack on luscious pastries (supplied by yourself). Hope to see you there! If you want the link, email the program specialist Lisa Jo Keefer: LisaJo@usc.edu.