Elizabeth Christie defends her doctoral dissertation

It is with great pleasure that we announce that Elizabeth Christie passed her doctoral defence today with minor corrections. Congratulations, Liz! Her dissertation is titled The English Resultative and was co-supervised by Ida Toivonen and Ash Asudeh.

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LLI Members win more convocation medals

Congratulations to LLI members Matthew Darling and Eric Spero for willing medals at the Fall 2014 convocation.
Matthew Darling won a University Medal in Cognitive Science and Eric Spero won a Senate Medal.

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LLI members win convocation medals

Congratulations to LLI members Dejan Milacic, Katie van Luvan and Rick Cheshire for winning medals at this year’s convocation.

Dejan won a University Medal in Cognitive Science.

Rick Cheshire won a University Medal in Arts.

Katie van Luven won a Senate Medal for Outstanding Academic Achievement.

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LLI Meeting: March 21, 2014

This week, Friday March 21st, 2014, we will have Linda Cochrane of Concordia University give a talk entitled, “Water is not H20″ (abstract below).

Linda Cochrane is a PhD candidate at Concordia University, with BA’s in mathematics and philosophy, a graduate diploma in computer science, and an MA in philosophy. Her dissertation is multidisciplinary combining philosophy, psychology, and linguistics.

We will meet at the usual date and location, this Friday, March 21st, at 1 to 2:30pm in VSSM5220.

Abstract: Water is not H2O
Plato famously wrote that real universals “carve nature at its joints”. A similar idea is widely supported today by many scientists, philosophers, and others in their claim that mind-independent, naturally-occurring categories (natural kinds) exist in the external world, there for us to discover. Extending this idea, linguistic philosophers claim that the meaning of words (at least of natural kind terms) is simply their real world reference, and many philosophers of mind claim that the content of the related concepts just is the external referent. While I am willing to accept the existence of a mind-independent world, I assert that the “externalist” position should be rejected and argue instead for an “internalism” which holds, in part, that we cannot know the world-as-it-is and that we construct a portrayal of the world. Noam Chomsky used the “poverty of the stimulus” argument to support the existence of an innate language acquisition device. Likewise, the poverty of the stimuli we receive through our sensory receptors is insufficient to support the “externalist” position. We thus require innate capacities and categories, along with our innate and acquired concepts, theories, and belief systems, to impose structure on what William James called “one great blooming, buzzing confusion.”  In arguing for my position, I present a model of a hybrid cognitive architecture which is, I deem, more consistent with the results of current biological and neuroscientific studies. As an illustration, I use the two, oft-used examples of natural kind concepts: WATER and H2O.

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LLI Meeting: March 7, 2014

This week, we have Prof. Erik Anonby presenting current research for Institute of Cognitive Science’s LLI Lab and Carleton’s French department in joint collaboration. His talk is entitled, “Qu’est-ce que découvrir une « nouvelle » langue? Enjeux et identités dans la documentation linguistique” or What’s it like to discover a “new” language? Issues and identities in language documentation”.

Please note that Erik’s talk will not be in the usual location, but rather in Canal Building 2202 from 1 to 2:30pm. Additionally, the talk will be given in French with discussion taking place in both English and French. Please see the abstract below for more information.


Les Causeries du Département de français
LLI : Language, Logic & Information Lab, Institute of Cognitive Science
ProfErik Anonby
Qu’est-ce que découvrir une « nouvelle » langue ? Enjeux et identités dans la documentation linguistique
What’s it like to discover a “new” language ? Issues and identities in language documentation
7 mars 2014, 13h
Salle 2202, Canal Building, Université Carleton
La présentation se tiendra en français
Discussion in French and English
Entrée libre, dans la limite des places disponibles
Café et muffins sur place

Résumé (English version follows)
On compte de par le monde de nombreuses langues en voie de disparition.  De fait, plus de la moitié des 7 000 langues vivantes aujourd’hui connues risquent de disparaître d’ici cent ans. Or on n’en continue pas moins à documenter de « nouvelles » langues. Où, et comment, découvre-t-on ces nouvelles langues ? Comment les documente-t-on ? Qui détermine si ces variétés devraient se classer comme langues ou comme dialectes ? Enfin, de l’État-nation à l’Ethnologue, comment les autorités politiques mais aussi savantes établissent-elles les listes de langues qu’elles sanctionnent ?
Dans cette communication, le professeur Anonby s’appuiera sur les recherches qu’il a menées sur le terrain en Afrique nord-centrale, en Arabie et en Iran. Il abordera également la politique linguistique dans la francophonie en se référant à l’histoire du français et aux enjeux d’identité linguistique dans des sociétés francophones modernes.
Erik Anonby est professeur de linguistique française à l’Université Carleton. Son travail couvre les domaines de la documentation linguistique, de la phonologie et de la sociolinguistique. Il est auteur de A Grammar of Mambay (Köppe, 2011), Adaptive multilinguals: Language on Larak Island, Iran (avec Pakzad Yousefian, Uppsala, 2011) et Dictionnaire mambay-français (KWEF, sous presse).

Many of the world’s languages are dying out, and up to half of the 7000 known languages spoken today may be gone a century from now. But at the same time, “new” languages are still being documented. Where, and how, are these new languages “discovered”? How should we document them? Who decides whether these varieties should be treated as a languages, or as dialects? And how do nation-states – or even academic sources such as the Ethnologue – arrive at their seemingly authoritative lists of languages?
In this talk, Prof. Anonby will draw on his experiences in fieldwork in north-central Africa, Arabia and Iran. He will also on politics of language in the French-speaking world, referring to the history of French and to issues of language identity in modern francophone societies.
Erik Anonby is professor of French Linguistics at Carleton University. His work spans language documentation, phonology, and sociolinguistics. He is the author of A Grammar of Mambay (Köppe, 2011), Adaptive multilinguals: Language on Larak Island, Iran(with Pakzad Yousefian, Uppsala, 2011), and Dictionnaire mambay-français (KWEF, in press).

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LLI Meeting: Feb 28, 2014

This Friday Elizabeth Christie will be presenting more of her doctoral research on the English Resultative. Her informal discussion will include the latest grammaticality judgement surveys she had designed, followed by a short presentation on the resultative and a discussion of experimental design, as well as a discussion of the relevant stimuli.

We will meet at the usual time and place: Friday at 1 to 2:30pm in VSSM5220.

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LLI Meeting: Feb 14, 2014

This week we have Dr. Raj Singh presenting to us his research on “Implicature and free-choice signatures: embedding, processing complexity, and child development”. Please see the abstract below.

We will meet this Friday, Feb. 14th, at 1 to 2:30pm in VSSM5220.

Abstract: Scalar implicatures are inferences that strengthen what is sometimes called the “basic meaning” of the sentence:

(1) John ate some of the cookies
(1a) Basic Meaning: that John ate some, possibly all, of the cookies
(1b) Scalar Implicature: that John did not eat all of the cookies
(1c) Strengthened Meaning: that John ate some but not all of the cookies (BM + SI)

This strengthening has been shown to generate various detectable “signatures,” some of which are highlighted in (2):

(2) SI Signatures
(2a) SIs tend to disappear in DE environments (e.g., the restrictor of “every”).
(2b) SIs are detectable, but not very robust, in non-DE environments (e.g., the scope of “every”).
(2c) SIs are processed slow: (1a) is processed faster than (1c) (cf. Bott & Noveck, 2004; and much work since).
(2d) SIs show up late in acquisition: There is a stage of development at which children behave as if they assign (1a) to (1) but do not assign (1c) to (1) (cf. Noveck, 2001; and much work since).

So-called “free-choice” inferences, exemplified in (3), have been shown to also disappear in negative environments. Taking this to be one of the signatures of an SI (cf. (2a)), it has been argued that free-choice inferences should be derived in the cognitive system that computes SIs (e.g.,Kratzer & Shimoyama, 2002; Schulz, 2005; Alonso-Ovalle, 2005).

(3) John may eat the cookies or the pie
(3a) Basic Meaning: that John is allowed to eat one, and possibly both, of the cookies and the pie
(3b) Free-Choice: that John is allowed to eat the cookies and he is allowed to eat the pie

In stark contrast with the SI in (1), however, free-choice (3b) is not processed slower than (3)’s basic meaning (3a) (cf. (2c); Chemla & Bott, 2014), and free-choice (3b) is preferred to the basic meaning (3a) in positive embeddings, such as in the nuclear scope of “every” (cf. (2b); Chemla, 2009).

In this talk, I present evidence that free-choice and SIs also have diverging developmental signatures (cf. (2d)). Specifically, I present evidence that children (3;9-6;4, M = 4;11) compute conjunctive free-choice SIs for disjunctive sentences (reporting on joint work with Ken Wexler, Andrea Astle, Deepthi Kamawar, and Danny Fox). Our finding replicates earlier results showing that children often interpret disjunctions as if they were conjunctions (Paris, 1973; Braine and Rumain, 1981), and extends this to embedding in the scope of “every.” We argue that this conjunctive SI follows from: (i) Katzir’s (2007) theory of alternatives in the steady state, (ii) the assumption that children differ from adults by not accessing the lexicon when generating alternatives, and (iii) Fox’s (2007) mechanism for free-choice computation in the steady state. We further provide evidence that children at this stage of development share the adult preference for free-choice SIs in matrix and embedded positions.

These data raise the challenge of explaining why free-choice and SIs both disappear in negative environments but differ with respect respect to developmental trajectories, embeddability, and processing complexity (see Chemla & Singh, 2014 for generalizations to other scalar items). I will explore strategies for addressing this challenge.

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Workshop on unbounded dependencies: July 20, 2014

The LFG 2014 conference will be followed by the Workshop “The Syntax and Information Structure of Unbounded Dependencies” in the same venue. More information at http://lfg-conference.org/program/workshop/.

The Syntax and Information Structure of Unbounded Dependencies
The University of Michigan
Sunday, July 20, 2014

9:30 Introduction: Ron Kaplan, Nuance
10:10 Discussion

10:20 Simplifying the syntactic representation of unbounded dependencies in LFG: Alex Alsina, Universitat Pompeu Fabra
11:00 Response: Dag Haug, University of Oslo
11:20 Discussion

11:30 break

11:50 Psycholinguistics: Philip Hofmeister, University of Essex
12:30 Response: Mary Dalrymple, University of Oxford
12:50 Discussion

1:00 lunch

2:00 A view from Minimalism: Rajesh Bhatt, University of Massachusetts-Amherst
2:40 Response: Ash Asudeh, University of Oxford/Carleton University
3:00 Discussion

3:10 break

3:30 Issues in the Representation of Information Structure: John Lowe and Louise Mycock, University of Oxford
4:10 Response: Tracy Holloway King, eBay
4:30 Discussion

4:40 General discussion

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LLI Meeting: Jan 31, 2014

CANCELLED: Unfortunately, this meeting is cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances.

Original notice:
This Friday, January 31st Dr. Raj Singh will be presenting to a practice talk that he will be giving at MIT soon. Title and abstract are forthcoming.
We will meet at the usual time/day/location: at 1 to 2:30pm, Friday, January 31st, in VSIM5220.

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Dissertations now available on the LLI site

We now have a page which lists undergraduate and graduate theses completed in the LLI Lab, as well as links to the complete pdf file where permission has been given.

Anyone who has completed their Honours BA work, MA work or (eventually) PhD work from our group will have their name and project title on the dissertations page.

Feel free to go check it out!

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