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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LLI Meeting: Jan 24, 2014

On Friday, January 24th, Katie Van Luven will present her BA Honours research. The title of her talk is “The argument status of directional PPs”. Please feel free to personally contact Katie for more information regarding her research.

We will meet at 1 to 2:30pm in VSSM5220 on Friday afternoon.

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LLI Meeting: Jan 17, 2014

Our first presenter of the new semester is our very own Ehsan Amjadian.

Of the many diverse topics his research covers, Ehsan will talk to us about “Syntactic Pattern Recognition in Dynamic Data”. Please see below the abstract of the talk.

Abstract— It has been shown that syntactic patterns are useful in classification of visual data. For instance it has been shown that Context Free Trees can be used to preserve hierarchical structures in visual data, and HMM’s are beneficial in recording the linear order in dynamic visual data. Yet this talk introduces another way that syntactic patterns can be exploited to help the recognition task. The present work uses Stochastic Linear Formal Grammar to add real-time post-estimation capabilities to the pattern recognition task in a computationally efficient way.

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Winter 2014 Meeting time Announcement

After our holiday break, we are back in force. After consulting with group members, lab meeting chair Tabish has announced that Friday afternoons are the best option for the group.

LLI meetings will be held on Fridays from 1 to 2:30pm in VSSM 5220 (the same place as last term).

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Call for Papers: Ottawa Conference for Linguistic Undergrads

From Linguist List:

Short Title: OCLU
Location: Ottawa, ON, Canada
Start Date: 28-Feb-2014 – 01-Mar-2014
Contact: Dan Sachs
Meeting Description: Ottawa Conference for Linguistics Undergraduates (OCLU)

The Department of Linguistics, University of Ottawa is pleased to announce that it will be hosting its fifth Ottawa Conference for Linguistics Undergraduates (OCLU) on Friday, 28 February and Saturday, 1 March 2014. This conference aims to promote undergraduate research in linguistics. The conference provides a supportive environment in which undergraduates can disseminate their research findings; hone their presentation skills; and network with undergraduates and scholars who share their academic interests.

An ancillary aim of the conference is to provide potential graduate students with the opportunity to visit the Department of Linguistics; view its state-of-the-art facilities; discuss its graduate program; and meet with current undergraduates, graduates and professors.

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Call for Papers: 19th International Lexical Functional Grammar Conference (LFG14)

The 19th International Lexical Functional Grammar Conference (LFG14)
17 July – 19 July 2014
Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA

Conference website:  http://lfg-conference.org/
Conference e-mail (NOT for abstract submission): lfg2014 ‘at’ linguistlist.org
Abstract submission receipt deadline:  15 February 2014, 11:59 pm GMT
Abstracts should be submitted online using the online submission system at http://www.easychair.org/conferences/?conf=lfg14

LFG14 welcomes work within the formal architecture of Lexical-Functional Grammar as well as typological, formal, and computational work within the spirit of LFG’ as a lexicalist approach to language employing a parallel, constraint-based framework. The conference aims to promote interaction and collaboration among researchers interested in non-derivational approaches to grammar, where grammar is seen as the interaction of (perhaps violable) constraints from multiple levels of structuring, including those of syntactic categories, grammatical relations, semantics and discourse.

Further information about LFG as a syntactic theory is available at the following site:

The main conference sessions will involve 45-minute talks (30 min. + 15 min. discussion), and poster/system presentations. Contributions can focus on results from completed as well as ongoing research, with an emphasis on novel approaches, methods, ideas, and perspectives, whether descriptive, theoretical, formal or computational. Presentations should describe original, unpublished work.

As in previous years, we are hoping to hold a special session that will give students the chance to present recent PhD dissertations (or other student research dissertations). The dissertations must be completed by the time of the conference, and they should be made publicly accessible (e.g., on the World Wide Web). The talks in this session should provide an overview of the main original points of the dissertation; the talks will be 20 minutes, followed by a 10-minute discussion period. The students who present in this session will receive a subvention towards their conference costs from the International LFG Association (ILFGA).

Students should note that the main sessions are certainly also open to student submissions.

Deadline for abstracts:  15 February 2014
Acceptances sent out:  30 March 2014
Conference:  17 July – 19 July 2014

Abstracts for talks, posters/demonstrations and the dissertation session must be received by February 15, 2014. The language of the conference is English, and all abstracts must be written in English. All abstracts should be submitted using the online submission system. Submissions should be in the form of abstracts only. Abstracts can be up to two A4 pages in 10pt or larger type and should include a title. Omit name and affiliation, and obvious self-reference. Note: we no longer ask for a separate page for data and figures (c-/f- and related structures). They can be included in the text of the abstract, obeying the overall two-page limit. Please submit your abstract in .pdf format (or a plain text file). If you have any trouble converting your file into pdf please contact the Program Committee at the address below.

The number of submissions is not restricted.  However, the number of oral presentations per participant is limited. Each author can be involved in a maximum of three papers that are presented orally, and can only be the first author of a single paper. The program committee will have discretionary powers to vary these rules in particular situations as they see fit. There are no restrictions on poster presentations. Authors may want to keep this in mind when stating their preferences concerning the mode of presentation of their submissions.

All abstracts will be reviewed by at least three people. Papers will appear in the proceedings, which will be published online by CSLI Publications. Selected papers may also appear in a printed volume published by CSLI Publications.

If you have queries about abstract submission or have problems using the EasyChair submission system, please contact the Program Committee.

Program Committee (Email: lfg14 ‘at’ easychair.org)

Anna Kibort, University of Oxford
Ida Toivonen, Carleton University

Local conference organizers (Email: lfg2014 ‘at’ linguistlist.org)

Steven Abney, University of Michigan
Damir Cavar, Eastern Michigan University
Malgorzata Cavar, Eastern Michigan University
T. Daniel Seely, Eastern Michigan University

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Andrew Brook Distinguised Lecture: Dr. Susan Carey, Havard University

January 09, 2014, 1:00 – 2:30 PM
2203 Dunton Tower
A reception will be held for Dr. Carey immediately after the talk.

Title: The Origin of Concepts


Alone among animals, humans can ponder the causes and cures of pancreatic cancer or global warming. How are we to account for the human capacity to create concepts such as electron, cancer, infinity, galaxy, and democracy?

A theory of conceptual development must have three components. First, it must characterize the innate representational repertoire—that is, the representations that subsequent learning processes utilize. Second, it must describe how the initial stock of representations differs from the adult conceptual system. Third, it must characterize the learning mechanisms that achieve the transformation of the initial into the final state. I defend three theses. With respect to the initial state, contrary to historically important thinkers such as the British empiricists, Quine, and Piaget, as well as many contemporary scientists, the innate stock of primitives is not limited to sensory, perceptual or sensory-motor representations; rather, there are also innate conceptual representations. With respect to developmental change, contrary to “continuity theorists” such as Fodor, Pinker, Macnamara and others, conceptual development involves qualitative change, resulting in systems of representation that are more powerful than and sometimes incommensurable with those from which they are built. With respect to a learning mechanism that achieves conceptual discontinuity, I offer Quinian bootstrapping.

I take on two of Fodor’s challenges to cognitive science: 1) to show how (and in what ways) learning can lead to increases in expressive power and 2) to defeat mad dog nativism–the claim that all concepts lexicalized by mono morphemic words are innate. The key to answering both of these challenges is to show that and how computational primitives can be learned.

Original post: http://www5.carleton.ca/ics/cu-events/dr-susan-carey-distinguished-lecture

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