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 – September 9, 2019

This week, in the Linguistics department…

Today, Monday, at 10am in the Conference Room: Phonlunch! Rachel Walker will present “Coronal unmarkedness and gradient symbolic representations”.

After that, today at 11:30am in the Conference Room, we will have our Welcome Back Luncheon!

Later at 2pm in the Reading Room: Syntax+! Tommy Tsz-Ming Lee will present “Sentence-initial modals and focus” (Joint work with Ka Fai YIP (CUHK)).

Tuesday (09/10) 9:30am in the Conference Room: Psycholinguistics Lab Meeting! Jun Lyu will talk about “Recency or locality: A story of two Chinese reflexives”.


And some continued summer updates:

Tommy Tsz-Ming Lee presented “Quantifier-Raising a head” presentation at GLOW-in-Asia XII and SICOGG 21.

Tommy also presented “Two classes of doxastic attitudes verbs” oral presentation at The 2nd Forum on Cantonese Linguistics (FoCaL-2) [joint work with Ka Fai Yip].

He also presented “Strength in possibility modals: From weak necessity to strong possibility” at The 27th Annual Conference of International Association of Chinese Linguistics

Tommy also attended the LSA Summer Institute at UC Davis, where he presented the poster “Cyclic Linearization and verb doubling”.

A number of USC Alumni put together a volume published by Cambridge University Press in honor of Maria Luisa Zubizaretta entitled “Exploring Interfaces“.

Weekly Digest Summer Update 2019

Hello everyone! Welcome back for the 2019-2020 school year! We’re going to start the school year with a large collection of summer updates. If you haven’t sent in a summer update, but would like to share any updates, please submit at the link on the top of this website.

USC Linguistics was well represented at Phonetics and Phonology in Europe (PaPE 2019) in Leece, Italy. Sarah Harper presented a talk “Intrasegmental gestural timing for American English /ɹ/ in isolated and connected speech”; and Miran Oh, Dani Byrd, Louis Goldstein, and Shrikanth Narayanan presented a talk “Vertical larynx actions and larynx-oral timing in ejectives and implosives.” Yifan Yang, Rachel Walker and Alessandro Vietti presented a poster “Variation of sibilants in three Ladin dialects”. Mairym Llorens Monteserin presented a poster “Phonetics and distribution of Tourette’s verbal tics produced during active speech”, which won Best Student Poster

In July, Sarah Harper attended the Articulatory Phonology workshop (of which Louis Goldstein was one of the organizers) in Monterey, California.

Sarah Harper also gave a talk, titled “The relationship between gestural timing and magnitude for American English /l/ across speech tasks“, at the 19th ICPhS (International Congress of Phonetic Sciences) in Melbourne, Australia in early August, for which she received both an IPA Student Award and the conference’s Best Student Paper award.

Andrew Simpson was an invited speaker at a conference on “Language Diversity, Contact and Change” held at the University of Chicago Center in Beijing June 14-16.  His talk was on Analyzing head-initiality, head-finality and mixed headedness.

Betul Erbasi presented a talk titled ‘Evidence Alternatives in Attitude Verbs‘ in SICOGG XXI & GLOW in Asia XII in Seoul, Korea, which was between Aug 6th-9th.

Eight USC faculty, students and alumni (all now linguistics faculty in Taiwan and Hong Kong) presented at the Workshop on Theoretical East Asian Linguistics held in Macau in July: Audrey Simpson, Andrew Li, Haley Wei Wei, Roger Liao (2011), Iris Wu (PhD 2014), Candice Cheung (PhD 2008), Shu-ing Shyu (PhD 1995), and Miaoling Hsieh (PhD 2001).
Audrey Li presented the keynote talk “Determining Structures without Morphological Clues: Chinese Adverbial Phrases with Apparent Clausal Complements” (joint work with Wei Wei) and Andrew Simpson presented the keynote talk “Classifiers are for what? Revisiting the structure of nominal projections in East Asian languages.”
Hayley Wei Wei also presented “The semantics and pragmatics of contradicting “you” in Chinese.

USC Linguists and Alumns at TEAL 12


Sandy Disner has been named an Associate of the Speaker Recognition Subcommittes of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). This group is mandated by the U.S. Department of Commerce to provide guidelines for forensic analysis. Sandy attended the annual meeting of NIST’s Digital and Multimedia Scientific Area Committees in Orlando, Florida in July.

Deniz Rudin taught a course, “The Semantics-Discourse-Pragmatics Interface: Theory and Applications”, at the Eastern Generative Grammar (EGG) summer school in Wroclaw in August

Betul Erbasi visited the Department of German Language and Literature at the University of Cologne in Germany as a visiting researcher under the supervision of Prof. Klaus von Heusinger from May 21st to July 11th, where she worked on a project to develop experiments on familiarity in German prepositional phrases.

Roumyana Pancheva taught a joint class with Paul Portner on “The Speaker and Addressee at the Syntax/Semantics Interface” at CreteLing.


Maria Luisa Zubizarreta (PI) & Roumyana Pancheva (co-PI) received a three year National Science Foundation  grant, “The Evidential-Temporal Connection in a Tense-less language


Binh Ngo defended her dissertation “Vietnamese pronouns in discourse“, and Maury Courtland defended his dissertation “The role of individual variability in tests of functional hearing“. Congratulations to them both!

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.