Sunday, September 16, 2012

Updates and News Now on Facebook Page

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

MUN Graduate Andrew Harvey at work in Africa

Recently, Andrew Harvey was featured on CBC's The St. John's Morning Show, talking about his linguistic work in Tanzania:

A young man from Mount Pearl is in the African country of Tanzania taking on an unusual challenge: Working on an alphabet for a community that uses an as-of-yet undescribed language. Andrew Harvey talks to John Furlong from Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania about his linguistic challenge. 

The entire interview can be heard on the CBC website here.

Congratulations to Andrew for his significant accomplishments! We wish him further success as he continues forward.

...and the FOG misses him too.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sara Johansson Wins CLA Student Paper Competition

A big congratulations to our MA student, Sara Johansson, winner of the 2012 Canadian Linguistic Association Student Paper Competition for her paper “Acquiring Northern East Cree verbal morphology: Evidence from inchoative verbs”.

France Martineau, president of CLA, relayed the following to Sara:

"This is a really wonderful achievement.  Your research was both original and ambitious, with your paper being characterized by outstanding treatment of interesting Northern East Cree data, methodological rigour, solid knowledge of issues in theoretical linguistics and language acquisition, and a thorough understanding of the relationship between your data and theory. Your presentation was strikingly articulate and matched by the quality of your handout. Congratulations!"

Monday, April 9, 2012

Seminar Series: final seminar

Our final seminar of the W12 semester will be held this Wed., April 11 from 2-3pm. We are pleased to have Ian Roberts from Cambridge University present his recent work with Theresa Biberauer. All are welcome.

The Significance of What Hasn’t Happened


Naturally enough, the focus of diachronic syntax – and, indeed of historical linguistics more generally – has been on documenting and analyzing recorded instances of change. In a parametric model, this means trying to observe, describe and explain cases of parametric change. However, if change is viewed as abductive reanalysis of Primary Linguistic Data (PLD) in language acquisition, which, in part, also involves resetting parameter values of the underlying grammar (Lightfoot 1979, 1991, 1999), we expect acquisition mostly to be convergent and, thus, that little will change. This is the Inertia Principle of Keenan (2002) and Longobardi (1994), which we can phrase in parametric terms as:

(1) Most of the time, most parameter values don’t change.

(1) is almost certainly true, perhaps a truism. But in order to seriously understand both change and the nature of parameters, we need to qualify both occurrences of most. In other words, which parameters change and when? Are certain parameters more amenable to change than others? If so, what can we learn about parameters more generally from these changes? These are the questions this paper

As we shall see, the cases where a given parameter does not change can be as revealing as those where it does.

A reception will follow in SN 3038. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Next and Final Seminar for Winter 2012


All are invited to our final seminar for the semester.

Ian Roberts (University of Cambridge)
will visit our Department on April 11 and will give a diachronic syntax talk called:

"On the Importance of What Doesn't Happen" 

When: April 11, 2:00-3:00pm
Where: SN 4063
Reception to follow. 

More info to come. 

Ian Roberts webpage can be found here:

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Seminar Series: Yvan Rose


Our next seminar is March 26. Yvan Rose will talk on: 

Categories in Phonological Development: A Case Study

Where: SN 3060
Time: 3:15pm
All are welcome!


Vihman & Croft (2007) propose a (radical) templatic approach to phonological development, whereby children build prosodic templates from phonetic evidence available in their target languages. At the centre of this proposal is an outright rejection of phonological features as independent categories in phonological representations. Building on earlier work by Levelt & van Oostendorp (2007), I argue for the need for features in phonological development. I investigate the parallel development of consonants and consonant clusters in data from one child, Dutch-learning Catootje (from the CLPF corpus, available through CHILDES/PhonBank). We observe the emergence of categorical behaviours, all of which can be captured appropriately in a theory that accepts the notion of phonological features. I take these observations as compelling evidence against Vihman & Croft's featureless approach to phonological representations.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Seminar Series: Johansson and Britain

On March 12 (MONDAY), Sara Johansson and Julie Brittain will present their talk on 

"East Cree verbs of emission: A unified analysis of the inchoative (-piyi)"

in SN 3060 from 3:15 to 4:15. All are welcome.


The intransitive verb final -piyi in Cree-Montagnais-Naskapi (CMN) combines with roots to yield both unaccusative and unergative predicates (Hirose, 2003; Brittain, in press); unaccusatives have an internal (patient) argument while unergatives have an external argument. Brittain’s study of ROOT+piyi verbs in Quebec Naskapi identifies three broad semantic classes: (i) spontaneous unaccusatives (80% of data); (ii) unergative “vehicle verbs” (10%); and (iii) verbs of emission (10%), the syntactic status of which was not investigated. Brittain accounts for the fact that -piyi derives both unaccusatives and unergatives by extending to Naskapi Davis & Demirdache's (2000) Event Foregrounding Hypothesis: -piyi suppresses Process and foregrounds State in the Lexical Semantic Representation (LSR) of the root with which it pairs, yielding an unaccusative; -piyi fails to suppress Process if the root bears the feature [spatial], yielding an unergative. Root semantics thus determine the syntactic representation. In this paper, we present new data on verbs of emission in Northern East (NE) Cree, in order to develop a unified account of the entire morphological class of verbs derived by -piyi.[1]

We take verbs of emission to be verbs denoting the emission of sound, light, substance or smell, following Levin & Rappaport Hovav (1995), including English examples such as jingle, flash, ooze, and reek. We consider only the subset of NE Cree verbs of emission derived by -piyi. Consistent with Johansson & Ritter's (in press) study of verbs of emission in Blackfoot (Algonquian), we find evidence that these verbs take non-agentive external arguments, or “internal causers” (cf. Harley & Folli 2008, Levin & Rappaport Hovav 1995). In other words, the external argument of a verb of emission may be an inanimate entity, but it must have the internal capacity to generate the event: bell can be predicated of the verb ring, but whistle cannot. Verbs of emission constitute a third distinct syntactic class of piyi-derived verb: like unaccusatives, they are incompatible with agent-oriented adverbs such as ûshit 'deliberately' (1). Like unergative vehicle verbs, they are compatible with purpose clauses (2).

(1)     * ushit wî-shashwâwâ-pîyi-u âh    nîmit

purposely desid-jingle-inch-iin.3s pvb dance:cin.3s

Intended: 'She jingles on purpose while she dances.'

(2) kuishkushi-pîyi-u utâpan âh nitûmikuyin

whistle-inch-iin.3s train pvb call.for:cin.2s

'The train whistles for you to come.'


Vehicle verb

Verb of emission

Agent-oriented adverb




Purpose clause




We propose that NE Cree verbs of emission have a non-agentive external argument, as in

Blackfoot (Johansson & Ritter 2008), and suggest that this is because (like vehicle verbs) such roots bear the feature [spatial], resulting in the foregrounding of Process. We take NE Cree as further evidence for the notion of internal cause: both emitters and sentient agents are permissible external arguments as both are internal causers.


2 – 2nd person; 3 – 3rd person; cin – conjunct indicative neutral; desid – desiderative;

iin – independent indicative neutral; inch – inchoative; pvb – preverb; s – singular


Brittain, Julie. In press. Root semantics as a determinant of syntactic representation: Evidence from Cree-Montagnais-Naskapi. In Rand Valentine and Monica Macaulay, eds. Papers of the 42nd Algonquian conference. New York: SUNY Press.

Davis, Henry & Hamida Demirdache. 2000. On lexical verb meanings: Evidence from Salish. In Carol Tenny and James Pustejovsky, eds. Events as grammatical objects: The converging perspectives of lexical semantics and syntax, pp. 97-142. Standford: CSLI.

Folli, Raffaella & Heidi Harley. 2008. Teleology and animacy in external arguments. Lingua 118:190-202.

Hirose, Tomio. 2003. Origins of predicates: Evidence from Plains Cree. New York: Routledge.

Johansson, Sara & Elizabeth Ritter. In press. Determinants of split intransitivity in Blackfoot: Evidence from verbs of emission. In Rand Valentine, ed. Papers of the 40th Algonquian conference. New York: SUNY Press.

Levin, Beth & Malka Rappaport Hovav. 1995. Unaccusativity: At the syntax-lexical semantics interface. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Speas, Margaret J. & Carol Tenny. 2003. Configurational properties of point of view roles. In Anna Maria di Scuillo, ed. Asymmetry in grammar, pp. 315-344. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

[1] Note that we re-elicited Brittain's (forthcoming) Naskapi data in NE Cree, and found no departures in speaker judgments across the two dialects.