Yearly Digest – AY 2021-2022

It’s been a year of transition back into in-person department life, and this newsletter is just now catching up! Welcome back to everyone, and also welcome to our rebranded USC Linguistics weekly news: SCling Wrap, where we’ll keep up with what’s ✨fresh✨ at USC Linguistics.

With the academic year winding down, here’s a huge digest of news from this year! If you have news to share (or know of someone who has news to share), please submit your news for next week’s edition.

New Hires for AY 2022/2023

Welcome to 2 new junior tenure-track faculty who will be joining us over the course of the next two academic years: Travis Major, who is currently our postdoc and will be coming on board as faculty in next fall, and Canaan Breiss, who is currently a postdoc at MIT BCS and will be joining us in Fall 2023!


  • Many congratulations to Elsi Kaiser on her promotion to Full Professor this year!
  • Stephanie Shih has been promoted to Associate Professor with tenure, as of April 2022! Cheers! 🥂

All the Good News

  • Shri Narayanan is named a 2022 Guggenheim Fellow. Go Shri!
  • Elsi Kaiser has been awarded the General Education Teaching Award for her contribution to the GE Program in the Fall 2020 through Spring 2021 academic year with GESM 140g, Language in the Age of the Internet.
  • Stephanie Shih has received USC Dornsife’s Raubenheimer Award for junior faculty for research, teaching, and service.
  • Luismi Miguel Toquero Perez has been awarded the General Education Teaching Assistant Award.
  • Jina Song has been awarded the Gold Award for summer research.
  • Jina Song, Jun Lyu, and Luismi Miguel Toquero Perez have been awarded Graduate School Research and Writing Grants.
  • Our Linguistics Office Manager, Guillermo Ruiz, was recognized by Dean Amber Miller for his contributions to the department and university. So well deserved, Guillermo!
  • Recent grad Miran Oh received the 2021-2022 Stetson Award from the Acoustical Society of America.

Up and up

Congrats to everyone who has successfully defended their dissertations this year so far! (And the year’s not even over!): Sarah Harper, Betul Erbasi, Sarah Lee, Miran Oh, Daniel Plesniak, and Tommy Lee.

Our graduates and alum are doing awesome things!

  • Betul Erbasi has accepted a full-time position with Amazon as a Knowledge Engineer.
  • Sarah Hye-yeon Lee defended her dissertation in December 2021 and is starting an NSF post-doctoral research position at the University of Pennsylvania, working on event structure in language and cognition.
  • Miran Oh began a position as a Voice Building Engineer for Siri Text-to-Speech at Apple.
  • Sarah Harper has taken up a postdoctoral scholar position in the Department of Neurological Surgery at UCSF.
  • Alum Monica Do (Ph.D. 2018) has been promoted from postdoc fellow to Assistant Professor of Linguistics at the University of Chicago.

Super congrats to everyone in their next steps!

Welcome to Jack Thomas Guppy-Major

Congratulations to our incoming faculty member Travis Major and partner Kim Guppy on the birth of Jack Thomas Guppy-Major, who joined this world on 17 April 2022. Welcome to the Trojan Linguistics family!

Call for Papers: USC Working Papers in Linguistics

From Mete & Darby, for the organizational committee for USC Working Papers:

We are delighted to announce that we are (re-)starting publications of our annual departmental journal, USC Working Papers in Linguistics! For this year’s volume, we will be accepting paper submissions until the deadline, July 1, 2022

The idea behind this journal is to create an opportunity for our own graduate students to give and receive feedback on the research that is conducted in our department. So, each submission will be reviewed by our own graduate students, and feedback will be provided before the volume is published in the Fall. This is a great way to get feedback on your projects to develop them for journal publications in the future!

Please note that the publications in this journal are considered a work-in-progress, and publication in this journal does not preclude publication of the same work in a different journal.

You can find the call for papers with more information on submission requirements on our website. Submissions should be sent to

We look forward to your submissions! Please feel free to email us with any questions you might have!

Mete & Darby

Look who’s talking

CUSP (UCLA, May 6):

  • Yasha Sapir & Adam Woodnutt. “On precisifiers”
  • Luis Miguel Toquero-Pérez. “There is no MEAS, only MUCH: the case of 3kg of NP”

WCCFL40 (Stanford, May 13-15):

  • Deniz Rudin will moderate the panel, “From WCCFL 1 to WCCFL 40 and beyond: Reflections on lingusitics and linguists–A conversation between Sandy Chung and Kiparsky.”
  • Colin Davis (Konstanz) and Luis Miguel Toquiero Pérez. “The significance of parasitic gap licensing by pronominal cliticization in Spanish.”
  • Tommy Tsz-Ming Lee and Victor Junnan Pan (CUHK). “Licensing VP movement and ellipsis in Mandarin and Cantonese.”
  • Hailin Hao, Jeannette Schaeffer (University of Amsterdam), and Marijn Van T’Veer (University of Amsterdam) (alternative speakers). “On the prosody of contrastive topic and contrastive focus in Mandarin Chinese.”
  • Elango Kumaran. “Mismatched number marking in Murrinhpatha as agreement with a subset of features”.

SALT32 (COLMEX/UNAM June 8-10):

  • Tommy Tsz-Ming Lee, Roumyana Pancheva and Maria Luisa Zubizarreta. “Genuinely tenseless: encoding time in Cantonese.”
  • Elsi Kaiser: “Referential effects on verb agreement: Finnish numeral-noun constructions.”
  • Alexis Wellwood: “Framing events in the logic of verbal modification.”

Upcoming Events


The North American Summer School in Logic, Language, and Information (NASSLLI) will be hosted at USC June 18-24, in person and synchronously online. Registration is free but required for USC faculty and students! Make sure to register by May 13, 2022 on the NASSLI page.

Department Events

  • Monday, 4/25, 12pm: Jessica Campbell at PhonLunch (via Zoom)

What’s new this week!

After Labor Day week, we are back with some interesting updates including a short bio on our new grad students! You sure don’t want to miss them.

Meet the new grad students in Linguistics!

This year we welcome a bigger cohort than usual: 7 new students + 3 who deferred their entrance last year. Find out a little bit of who they are in these blurbs.


Hello All! My name is Stacie! I am originally from Utah where I got my bachelors degree in Linguistics at the University of Utah in 2018. Afterwords, I took a year off to be an English as a Foreign Language teacher teaching adults from all over the world. As much as I loved teaching I really missed linguistic theory, so I moved to New York to do my Master’s degree at Stony Brook University and graduated in December of 2020. 

In my Master’s program I developed an alternative modeling system in phonology that uses formal logic to describe phonetic and phonological processes and using it to explore the world of Articulatory Phonology. I hope to build more on what I have already developed and refine my knowledge in other areas! I would especially love to learn more about Psycholinguistics and hopefully incorporate it more into my work. 

I always say it, and it will always be true, linguistics is the love of my life, however I do enjoy lots of other things outside of linguistics. I have been playing capoeira (an Afro Brazilian martial art) for 5 years now and while I may be out of practice, I’m hoping to start up classes again soon. I’m a giant nerd and I play a surprising amount of Dungeons and Dragons and other TTRPGs. I also love video games, movies, and music. Museums are one of my all time favorite things! Being born and raised in the mountains I love hiking, camping, and other outdoor activities as well.
I am so excited to meet all of you amazing and brilliant people!


Hi! I’m Darby and I’m from central Michigan. I received a B.A. in Japanese and linguistics, and an M.A. in linguistics – both from Michigan State University. My research interests are mostly focused on phonetics and phonology, as well as psycholinguistics and speech perception. My M.A. thesis investigated how speakers make phonotactic acceptability judgments. Specifically, the effects of lexical knowledge on phonotactic acceptability judgements and whether those judgments could be better modeled as gradient or categorical. I’m still interested in those topics, but I’m also looking forward to learning more about other subfields too! When I’m not doing linguistics, you can usually find me cooking or baking, planning trips that I can’t actually go on, or buying way too many houseplants. I’m super excited to get to know everyone at USC, and to start exploring the west coast! See you all soon!


Hi! I’m Haley. I am from Northern Mississippi (about 10 min south of Memphis, TN). I did my undergrad at USC, where I got a BA in Linguistics, Mathematics, and Russian. At USC, I gained research experience at our language processing lab and as a Research Assistant in the Department of Linguistics. Additionally, I was awarded a Provost’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship, for which my research focused primarily on humor and discourse complexity. Broadly speaking, my primary research interests are on phonetics and psycholinguistics. Outside of academia, I enjoy doing theatre and playing board games. I am also a huge cartoon enthusiast and quite possibly the world’s biggest Scooby-Doo fanatic!I’m incredibly excited to continue my studies at USC and to meet everyone (in-person!!) in the Fall!


Hello, all! My name is Mary Kathryn Kennedy, but I usually go by my nickname, Katie. I completed my undergraduate (majoring in Chinese and English with a Concentration in Linguistics) and Master’s (majoring in Linguistics and Applied Linguistics) at Arizona State University. My passion in linguistics is syntax, and my Master’s thesis studied the effects of pause placement on perceptions of fluency in native and non-native speakers of Chinese. While I am always ready to geek out over sentence structure, I look forward to exploring the other disciplines of linguistics and how they interface with syntax, so chat me up about your area of research! I can’t wait to see what everyone’s working on!

I’ve lived most of my life in the 110° weather of Arizona, so I’m looking forward to life in the the much more temperate LA area! I’m keen on exploring all the city has to offer—especially its food! In my downtime at home, I love painting and watching science documentaries, so if anyone ever wants to watch a dinosaur, nature, geological, or space documentary, count me in!


Hi, I’m Mete. I got my BA degree in Foreign Language Teaching at Middle East Technical University, in Turkey, and I obtained my MA degree in Linguistics at the University of Calgary. My research interest is Experimental Syntax and Psycholinguistics with a focus on issues in Turkish, which is my native language. For my MA thesis I worked on raising structures in Turkish (focusing on Copy-Raising structures) under supervision of Dr. Dennis Ryan Storoshenko. In addition, I am interested in negation, copula verbs, and indexical shift in Turkish. You can find some more details about my work on my website.Other than linguistics, I’m interested in some sports like motorsports and soccer!


My name is Ruoqi, but I also go by RQ! I’m interested in semantics and pragmatics, and my hobbies include hiking, painting/drawing, and crocheting.  


Hi! I am Nelly. I am from Armenia, but I have been living in the US since 2008. I did my BA in Armenia (major: English, Minor: Spanish). I got my MA from California State University, Northridge. My main research interest is Syntax. My research at CSUN was mostly concentrated on PRO distribution and case assignment in small infinitival clauses. I am also really interested in syntax-semantics interface and in Morphology to the extent that it relates to Syntactic derivation. 

Besides Linguistics, I really enjoy travelling. My favorite destination is Europe although I like exploring other continents too. I also like reading classic literature and spending time with my friends. Currently, am also trying to learn Japanese. 

I am very excited to join 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.

Hailin Hao


Hi, 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


Hi, 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

This week in the department

Psycholing lab meeting — Tuesday 14th, 9.30-10.30am

Zuzanna Fuchs will talk about “Quantifying the effort of listening in your non-dominant language: A Dual Task approach.”

The meeting will take place on zoom. Email Elsi Kaiser for link if interested.

Phonlunch — Tuesday 14th, 12-1pm

Professional Development: CV review day

The meeting will take place on zoom. Email Stephanie Shih for link if interested.

S-Side Story — Thursday 16th, 2-3pm

Short talks round #1: Daniel Plesniak, Elango Kumaran, Deniz Rudin, Luismi Toquero Pérez

The meeting will take place on zoom. Email Luismi Toquero Pérez for link if interested.

Tea Time is back!

It’ll take place at 1:00pm on Thursday under the tents by the GFS parking lot. Food won’t be serves, but feel free to bring your own! Masks are required if you are not eating.

Last week

Luismi Toquero Pérez at Sinn und Bedeutung 26 (09/08-10)

Luismi gave a talk entitled “A seeming violation to the Monotonicity Constraint: Evidence from Spanish verbal comparatives” at SuB26 held online and hosted by the Univeristy of Cologne in Germany. Click on the title of the talk to access the OSF platform in case you want to watch the recording or download a copy of the handout.

Welcome (back) Linguists!

Welcome everyone — new students, and old students; new faculty and old faculty! After some very needed break from the zoom world, we are now slowly transitioning into a new phase of in-person/zoom instruction and conferences. Let’s be optimistic and hope that sooner rather than later we can all be in socializing as we used to.

But before we get the semester updates rolling, here are some summer fun facts and news that our fellow linguistis wanted to share with everyone:

Elsi and Deniz at ESSLI

Deniz and Elsi co-taught a class on the semantics and psycholinguistics of subjective predicates at ESSLLI 2021, the 32nd European Summer School in Logic, Language and Information  (held virtually in July).  As Elsi likes to suggest, if you shuffle the letters a little bit, it’s almost as if she is named after the summer school, or the summer school is named after her!!

Sarah Harper at PaPE

Sarah gave a talk entitled “Idiosyncratic articulatory variability as evidence for individual differences in segmental representation” at PaPE 2021 in June.

Jessica Campbell’s road trip

Jessica took a road trip from Virginia to Florida to meet my baby cousin on his first birthday! Here’s him giggling because he got the dog to lick food off his hand!

Adam Woodnutt’s recent adoption

Adam and his partner got a kitten from Andrew this summer! His name is Professor Plum, he’s about 4 months old, and he’s super sweet and playful.

Other news…

USC at AMlaP

Some of psycholinguists are presenting at AMLaP (Sep 2-4, Université de Paris, France)!

Short talks

Sarah Hye-yeon Lee & Elsi Kaiser: “Integrating Real-world Event Knowledge and Grammatical Aspect Information during Event Comprehension”

Jesse Storbeck & Elsi Kaiser: “Discourse-level representation of possessed and adjective-modified referents”

Ian Rigby & Elsi Kaiser: “Effects of Sound Symbolism on Shape-Based Ambiguity”

Ian Rigby: “Factors of Source-Word Ordering in English Name Blends”

Yaning Yan (Renmin University of China) & Jun Lyu (University of Southern California): “Syntactic priming of verb copying constructions in (non-)native Chinese speakers”

Elsi Kaiser, Ramida Phoolsombat (University of Southern California), Pritty Patel-Grosz (University of Oslo) & Patrick Grosz (University of Oslo): “Taking reference resolution beyond the third person: Using emoji to refer to speakers and addressees”

Long talk

Elsi Kaiser: “Effects of linguistic manipulations on the comprehension of COVID-19 health messages”

New faculty and post-docs!

We are very glad to have new people among us. Click on their names to check their websites!

Zuzanna Fuchsnew assistant professor in psycholinguistics

Zuzanna Fuchs is joining the department as an Assistant Professor. Prior to coming to USC, Zuzanna obtained her PhD from Harvard University and subsequently served as an Assistant Professor of Linguistics at the University of Iowa. Her work focuses on the psycholinguistics of heritage bilingualism, with a particular emphasis on the structure and processing of the noun phrase. Zuzanna has worked on Spanish, Polish, Georgian, and the Bantu language family. In her free time, she enjoys reading and learning to play the piano, and she is looking forward to exploring the food and arts scenes in LA.

Travis Major teaching postdoc in syntax

Travis Major earned his PhD at UCLA. His formal research is focused on syntax and its interfaces with semantics and prosody. He is also a fieldworker who specializes in both Turkic (Uyghur, Tatar, and Turkish) and Niger-Congo (Avatime and Ibibio) languages families.  His dissertation research is centered around speech reports, direct vs. indirect quotation, clausal complementation, case/agreement, and event structure and how data from understudied languages inform our understanding of these topics.

Sam Zukoffteaching postdoc in phonology

Sam received his PhD from MIT in 2017 with a specialization in theoretical phonology. Since then, he has held positions at MIT, Princeton, and Leipzig University. Sam’s work focuses on phenomena at or near the phonology-morphology interface, including reduplication, infixation, nonconcatenative morphology, and morpheme ordering, with the goal of understanding the grammatical architecture responsible for these and similar phenomena. Outside of linguistics, he is a big fan of sports, beer, scotch, animals, and national parks.

We also have new grad students in our community! Stay tuned for their biographical blurbs soon!

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 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:

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 – 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 –

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 ( 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 – 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 –

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 ( 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 – 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 –

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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( for the link. Here’s a picture of a tea time two weeks ago.

collaborative tea time art, 09/17/2020