Meet the student workers of 2019!

The student workers of the Linguistics department work tirelessly to keep our department running smoothly. They’ve been kind enough to introduce themselves here to the department. So get to know a little about them, say hi when you see them, and thank them for their hard work!

Alicia Scruggs

Alicia is a senior double-majoring in Psychology and Informatics with an emphasis in Digital Forensics and a minor in Applied Computer Security; it is thanks to all of these programs that she’ll be around to work for the Linguistics Department for an extra year! She’s a local SoCal resident from the San Fernando Valley that enjoys cooking, playing video games, going for walks, and playing with her pets. After graduation, Alicia is looking to pursue a master’s in Health Informatics and put her skills to work storing, analyzing, and protecting data for a large hospital. A couple items on her bucket list include learning to draw and getting strong enough to do a pull up at least once in her life.

Hetal Patel

Hetal Patel is a sophomore studying Environmental Studies with a concentration in Sustainability, Energy, and Society. Hetal is also involved with USC’s Environmental Student Assembly, SCOutfitters, and works at the Department of Environmental Studies. Outside of USC, Hetal volunteers for a grassroots environmental organization, Future Frogmen, founded by Richard Hyman, a former Cousteau diver. Hetal spends much of her time outdoors and also enjoys photography. In the future, Hetal hopes to work on climate change mitigation efforts.

Ramie Khoury


Ramie Khoury is a junior from Chicago, IL majoring in Data Science and Cognitive Science. This past summer, Ramie was a TA for a data science lecture circuit in Beijing through the program AI Hub where he traveled all throughout the main cities of China and Hong Kong giving presentations and running data science competitions. Alongside Ramie’s job in the Linguistics Department at USC, he is also a part of the USC Varsity rugby squad. For two years, Ramie has worked as a software engineer intern for IBM where he worked on a project which utilizes high powered telescopes to find transient patterns in space. In his spare time, he loves to watch NBA games and solve different rubix cubes.



Welcome Linguistics grad cohort of 2019!

We are so happy to officially introduce the new Linguistics cohort of Fall 2019! Give a warm welcome to the new cohort when you see them around!

Samir Alam


I’m from San Jose and did my BA in Linguistics at UC Berkeley. I’m interested in Syntax, Semantics, and Information Structure. I like hiking and running.


Nicky Hoover


Hi, all! I’m Nicky. I’ve spent most of my life in northern California, but I did my undergraduate work in linguistics at the University of Arizona in Tucson. I also minored in Spanish and mathematics there. Aspects of all three of those showed up in my thesis, in which I described and implemented a minimal-input algorithm for automatic syllabification using a corpus of fixed-meter Spanish poetry. Aside from computational approaches and phonology, my linguistics interests include aspects of phonetics, semantics, and pragmatics (and particularly sound-meaning interface issues). I’m happy to be here at USC!

When not working on linguistics, I enjoy doing crosswords, playing tabletop games, tinkering with computers, reading and writing poetry, and spending time with cats. (Note: the cat in the photo is not mine.)

Elango Kumaran


Hi, I’m Elango Kumaran. I grew up in LA, went to UC Berkeley for undergrad, and am finishing up an MA at Queen Mary University of London. I’ve mostly worked on agreement, and am generally a boring person.


Jun Lyu


Hi fellow linguists! I’m Jun Lyu. I come from China and feel honored to be selected by the department to start my new academic life in LA. I graduated with a BA in Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language and an MA in Linguistics from Shanghai International Studies University. Interestingly, my MA adviser Dr. Fuyun Wu, also graduated from USC. My first trip to USC happened 4 years ago when I came here to attend CUNY-28, my very first academic conference. Four years later, here I am again, officially as a PhD student! Everything is meant to be.
My current research is mainly focused on the processing of pronouns. I look forward to breaking new ground in this line of research at USC under the supervision of Elsi. I also look forward to meeting everyone and getting to know them as colleagues, friends, and mentors. I’m new to the area, so please let me know any nice place to hang out and to feast on the amazing food in LA (so far my  favorite restaurant is Eastern Cafe. Hope I don’t look too pathetic to you :P)! Oh, I almost forgot. I am a big fan of Chibi Maruko-chan and Doraemon!

Yubin Zhang


Hi everyone! My name is Yubin Zhang. I come from Chengdu, China, which is the home of the giant panda and Sichuanese spicy cuisine. I spent four years in Beijing, China, studying Chinese linguistics and psychology, and then moved to Edinburgh, Scotland for another year of graduate study in phonetics. After graduation, I worked in a research position in Hong Kong for two years. I did some studies regarding the influences of orthographic knowledge on speech perception during these two years. My research concerns phonetics and phonology, sound change, speech production and perception. Specifically, I am interested in tonal and laryngeal phenomena. For my graduate studies in USC, I plan to explore these phenomena from the perspective of speech articulation and production. Besides language and linguistics, I love music, cooking, travelling, culture, and history. I love to immerse myself in a new environment and have profound conversations with people from different cultural backgrounds. That might be the reasons why I also love fieldwork (the non-academic part of it). I look very much forward to starting my new life here in LA and getting to know you all!

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.