This week’s colloquium: Rajiv Rao

Our next departmental colloquium takes place this Friday, May 8, at 3:00pm in Curtin 309. All are welcome! Details:

Rajiv Rao (UW-Madison, Spanish & Portuguese)

“Experimental observations on the segmental and intonational phonology of heritage speakers of Spanish”

Asian Faculty & Staff Award for Ho Eun Park

Linguistics doctoral student Ho Eun Park has received the 2015-16 Asian Faculty & Staff Award. This competitive cash award is given to UWM students who demonstrate exceptional academic success and service to their communities. Congratulations, Ho Eun!

Pycha selected for Kavli Scientist-Writer Workshop

Anne Pycha, Assistant Professor of Linguistics, is one of twenty academics from the U.S. and Europe selected to participate in the Kavli Scientist-Writer Workshops for 2015. Sponsored by the Kavli Foundation and led by Gary Marcus, Professor of Psychology at New York University, the week-long workshop aims to train scientists to develop their writing skills, communicate with the public, reach colleagues, and cross disciplinary boundaries.

Pycha, Perley present at CLS

This weekend the University of Chicago hosts the 51st Annual Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society. UWM will be well represented: Anne Pycha presents a talk on Saturday entitled “Using false memories to characterize lexical representations: A test case from Spanish”. And our colleague Bernard Perley (UWM Anthropology) is giving an invited talk on Friday entitled “Inside jokes: Anomalous utterances and the ironies in ‘Language endangerment'”.

This week’s colloquium: Byron Ahn

Our next colloquium takes place this Friday, April 24, at 3pm in Curtin 309. All are welcome!

Byron Ahn, Boston University

“What prosody reflects about reflexivity”

Abstract: In this talk, I analyze novel data, in which focus accents in English occasionally occur in unexpected places. Compare the placement of focus in the two question/answer pairs below.

(1) Q: Who embarrassed Jenna? (Agent Question)
A: DANNY embarrassed Jenna. (Sole Narrow Focus on Agent)

(2) Q: Who embarrassed Jenna? (Agent Question)
A: Jenna embarrassed HERSELF. (Sole Narrow Focus on Reflexive)

This pattern in (2), in which a reflexive anaphor bears the focus accent, is striking: WH questions about the agent typically require a focus accent on the agent in the answer (e.g. Halliday 1967, Krifka 2004, among many others). Critically, this pattern only arises in certain syntactic contexts. Exploration where it is (un)available indicates that syntactic derivations must directly influence prosodic representations.

This research leads to three important conclusions. First, there are at least two types of reflexives in English, though they appear morphologically identical. Second, English reflexivity involves hidden structures that resemble more obvious structures in other languages. Third, and most broadly, the distribution of focal stress (and prosody in general) can be used by theoreticians, learners, and hearers as cues for abstract syntactic structures.