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.

It’s happening this week…

This week our department is being represented at two major international conferences: Sinn und Bedeutung and AMLaP (you can click on the headings to check their programs).

Sinn und Bedeutung 25 (09/03-09)

Sarah Lee & Elsi Kaiser are giving a talk entitled “When evidentiality meets subjectivity: Generalizability of opinions“.

*Registration is free!

AMLaP (09/03-05)

Many of us USC psycholinguists are presenting posters at AMLaP:


*Registration is free!

Good luck to those presenting! 🙂


Summer Highlights

Welcome back everyone! As we all know this summer has been bizarre, to put it mildly.  From USC Linguistics we hope that you and your family were safe and are looking forward to spending a whole new semester together.

Choya cacti from Luismi’s garden

Despite all the difficult circumstances, we have managed to find some joy, happiness and productivity this summer. Here are some of the summer highlights from the USC Linguistics community. If you want to share your summer highlights, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Stephanie’s Zine

Stephanie Shih produced a short-run home cooking zine, What We’ve Been Eating, to raise donations for LA Food Bank. (Deniz Rudin contributed serious dishwashing efforts, and also a recipe).


Elsi’s high school zoom reunion

Elsi Kaiser participated in a ‘zoom reunion’ with people from her high school, many of whom she had not seen for decades: “It was fun to catch up with everyone, and it was somehow reassuring that most people still looked very similar to how they looked in high school — everyone was very recognizable. My old math teacher was also there for the zoom meeting. He was a great teacher and managed to get me to understand calculus – and he is still teaching now, decades later!”

Roumi’s invited talk and minicourse

Roumi Pancheva gave an invited talk entitled Two types of synthetic comparatives in Slavic, Athens semantics group, June 25, 2020. Link below: https://sites.google.com/view/semanticsgroup 

She also taught a mini course on numerals with Rajesh Bhatt (UMass) at the (virtual) NYI summer school in St. Petersburg, July 20-31, 2020

Luismi’s miscellaneous events

Luismi presented gave a talk entitled The syntax and semantics of Spanish comparatives: a uniform account at LSRL50, hosted by UT Austin on zoom: http://sites.utexas.edu/lsrl50/.

Outside of linguistics, he has taken refuge in preparing nice and healthy foods, specially for breakfast. He has also enjoyed learning how to prepare espresso and making good coffee; social distance picnicking; and his time in Baltimore, MD. He also went to IKEA for the first time in his life and drove a 220 inches long Ford van.


Welcome Colin Davis!

We are very happy to introduce our new syntactitian. Colin Davis who recently graduated from MIT will hold a postdoc position at USC Linguistics! Let’s all give him a very nice and warm welcome. Here’s a little blurb about Colin:

Colin Davis


I was born in Colorado, but I’ve lived in many places. I received a BA in linguistics from the University of Minnesota, and a PhD in linguistics from MIT. I specialize in syntax, as well as morphology and fieldwork. Much of my research is driven by a desire to understand the many ways in which the constituents of a sentence can be dragged around and torn apart. You can learn more about my work on my website: https://sites.google.com/view/colinpbdavis/home.

External to linguistics, I enjoy fountain pens, cute animals, Scotch whisky, and bad jokes. I look forward to getting to know the linguistics community at USC, and you should consider me available to talk about anything anytime.

Welcome Linguistics grad cohort of 2020 (and 2021)

We are so happy to officially introduce the new Linguistics cohort of Fall 2020 (and 2021)! Give a warm welcome to the new cohort when you see them on zoom!  We are so looking forward to meeting all of you in person as soon as possible.

Jessica Campbell

Jessica CampbellHi! I’m Jessica. I’m from and currently reside in Northern Virginia (right by Washington, DC), so catch me sleeping in when the west coasters have early classes! I got a BA from William & Mary in 2018. W&M actually just became the first school in Virginia to offer a bachelor’s degree in linguistics (until now, it’s been “interdisciplinary studies with a concentration in linguistics,” which means the same thing, but just makes me sound annoying), but I was two years too late! Broadly, my research focuses on phonetics and its interfaces with phonology and psycholinguistics. My honors thesis focused on perception of stress by second language speakers, though I plan to move into production and away from L2 acquisition. I would particularly like to work with clinical populations. Though I’m a p-side gal through and through, I’m excited to learn more about other fields of linguistics, too!

Before grad school, I worked as an activity coordinator at a resort and a singer at a restaurant. When I’m not doing linguistics, I like to sing, play guitar (I learned during quarantine!), read thrillers, analyze dialects on The Great British Baking Show (read: watch The Great British Baking Show), and play sports non-competitively. I’m super excited for this next chapter of my life, and to turn linguistics from a passion into a profession!


Adam Woodnutt

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Hi everybody! I’m Adam. I’m from San Diego, did my undergrad in Psychology and Linguistics at USC, then went to Edinburgh for my Master’s. Most of my focus during my Master’s was on the relationship between different types of syntactic movement, and my thesis involved looking into the relationship between ATB-movement and multiple-wh-movement. Right now, my focus is still on syntax, but I also really want to go further with semantics and the syntax-semantics interface. I also really like linguistic trivia!

Outside of linguistics, I really like walking/hiking and playing board games! I really like folk stories, especially ghost stories, and I’m trying to get more into cheesy classic movies, so I’m always looking for recommendations. I’m looking forward to being back at USC!


Muxuan He


Hi! My name is Muxuan He. I come from China and I have lived and studied here for 23 years. The four years of my B.A study were spent on English language and literature, and it might surprise you that I did not know linguistics exist as a scientific subject until the very last year. But it was love at the first sight. Later, I spent another three years at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, where I started my linguistic research and earned a master’s degree. Much of my research in the past focused on the syntax-semantics interface of Chinese negation. I tried to explain the differences between two primary negators in the syntactic distribution that cooperates with their semantic features. I investigated whether Korean-speaking L2 learners of Chinese were able to acquire the word order variation with Chinese negation involved. I also tried to determine how the two primary negators might differ in influencing comprehenders’ attention. I have had a marvelous time with negation and I want to explore more topics while I study at USC.

To be honest, there is not a time when I am not doing linguistics. I think about it all the time, either consciously or subconsciously. But I do other things too. I like to discover beauty with my eyes by travelling and capture it through a camera lens. I am a big fan of swimming. I also write prose and poems when my muse comes to me.

Technically speaking, I am a 21Fall student. I look forward to meeting you in person next Fall. See you then!


Hailin Hao

Hao_picHi, I’m Hailin Hao, and I come from a small town in the center of China. I received my BA in Linguistics from the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. I’m mostly interested in sentence processing, syntax and pragmatics. Recently I started to think about how communicative efficiency and human cognitive constraints have shaped our grammars and grammar universals. Outside of linguistics, I enjoy biking (as everybody else does in the Netherlands!), travelling, doing yoga and meditation, and watching old movies and series over and over again. I’m very excited about my new research life at USC Ling and to explore Los Angeles, though it’s a shame that I cannot join you now. I’m looking forward to meeting you all next year!

Ariela Ye

IMG_6691Hi, all!
I am Ariela Lu Ye from China. I obtained my B.A. from Beijing Language and Culture University with English as my major and Teaching Chinese as A Foreign Language as my minor. The four-year studies led me to have tasted into the mystery of logic and linguistics that eventually made semantics my coveted field of study. Then I moved to Shanghai to do my M.A. in formal linguistics at Fudan University. At my MA studies, I was rewarded with intriguing semantic jewels hidden in daily humdrum. As a budding researcher, I still have a long way to go but I know for sure that rigorous semantics is not for the faint-hearted or the weak-willed. The interface between semantics, pragmatics and syntax remains one of the most intricate challenges in formal linguistics, and is the Everest that I aspire to surmount.
Outside of academia, I enjoying travelling, along the journey I can experience different cultures. I am also into swimming, practising calligraphy and playing the Ukulele, which for me serve as a way to relax.
I am really looking forward to meeting you all in person at USC!


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.