Spell-Out Blog

Week of October 12, 2015

Harvard Working Papers in Linguistics 13

The Department is excited to announce that the 13th volume of Harvard Working Papers in Linguistics (HWPL), edited by Andreea Nicolae (PhD 2013) and Gregory Scontras (PhD 2014), has now been published. The new issue is available here. Congratulations to all the contributors!

Scontras, Fuchs, and Polinsky appear in Frontiers in Psychology

The paper "Heritage Language and Linguistic Theory" co-authored by Greg Scontras (PhD 2014), Zuzanna Fuchsand Professor Maria Polinsky has been published in Volume 6 of Frontiers in Psychology.

Polyglot Hour

Wednesday, October 14 | 6:30 -8:30pm | Queen’s Head Pub (underneath Annenberg)

Harvard Linguistic Department is hosting its second annual undergraduate Polyglot Hour! Polyglot Hour will be time for anyone to come and meet other people who speak the language(s) they do in a casual setting. Please check the Facebook Event Page for more information.

Linguistics Department Fall Open House

The Linguistics Department Fall Open House for prospective concentrators will take place on Wednesday, October 21 from 5:15 to 7:00pm. Please check the event poster for more information.

Week of October 5, 2015

Linguistics Circle Workshop 

Ian Roberts (University of Cambridge) 
A Parameter Hierarchy for Passives
Joint work with Michelle Sheehan
Friday, October 9 | 4pm | Boylston 103

Polyglot Hour

Wednesday, October 14 | 6:30 -8:30pm | Queen’s Head Pub (underneath Annenberg)

Harvard Linguistic Department is hosting its second annual undergraduate Polyglot Hour! Polyglot Hour will be time for anyone to come and meet other people who speak the language(s) they do in a casual setting. Please check the Harvard Linguistics Facebook page for updates.

Linguistics Department Fall Open House

The Linguistics Department Fall Open House for prospective concentrators will take place on Wednesday, October 21 from 5:15 to 7:00pm. Please check the event poster for more information.

Week of September 28, 2015

GSAS Indo-European and Historical Linguistics Workshop

Laurence B-Violette (Harvard University)
The syntax of Hittite ma-phrases
Friday, October 2 | 5pm | Boylston 103

Xiang at UCL

Yimei Xiang gave a talk titled "Questions are higher-ordered: Solving the dilemma between uniqueness and mention-some" at University of College London (UCL) on September 21.

Harvard at EACL 9

The following talks and posters featured Harvard presenters at the 9th Conference of the European Association of Chinese Linguistics (EACL9) that took place in Stuttgart, Germany, September 24-26.

  • Yuyin HePossessive Clitic de and Separable Verbs in Mandarin
  • C.-T. James Huang & Jowang Lin (National Chiao Tung University)Quantificational Binding in Chinese
  • Yimei XiangMandarin 'Dou' as a Pre-Exhaustification Operator: Quantification and Free Choice

Harvard Linguistics Circle: Fall 2015

  • October 9: Ian Roberts (University of Cambridge)
  • October 30: Juliette Blevins (CUNY)
  • December 4: Claire Bowern (Yale University)

Week of September 21, 2015

Linguistics Department Fall Reception (Photo by Edwin Tsai)

Harvard at LAGB 2015

Yimei Xiang presented her work titled "Mandarin dou as a preexhaustification operator: Quantification and free choice" at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the Linguistics Association of Great Britain (LAGB), which took place at the University College London, September 15-18.

Ahn and Majer Win Teaching Award

Teaching Fellows Dorothy Ahn and Marek Majer have won the Harvard University Certificate of Distinction in Teaching from the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning for the following courses:

  • Dorothy Ahn: Ling 102 "Sentence Structure"
  • Marek Majer: Ling 107 "Introduction to Indo-European"

Week of September 14, 2015

Harvard at SLS 2015

Marek Majer presented his work titled "Šatrovački – the autosegmental status of vowel length and tone in a syllable switching argot" at the 10th Annual Meeting of the Slavic Linguistics Society (SLS), which took place at Heidelberg University, Germany, September 4-6.

Harvard at SuB20

The following talks and posters featured Harvard presenters at the 20th meeting of Sinn und Bedeutung (SuB20) that took place at the University of Tübingen, Germany, September 8-11.

  • Dorothy Ahn: NPI intervention of too
  • Andreea Nicolae (PhD 2013) & Uli Sauerland (ZAS): A contest of strength: "or" versus "either or"
  • Yimei Xiang: Complete and true: a uniform analysis for mention-some and mention-all questions

Polinsky Named LSA Fellow

Professor Maria Polinsky has been named a Class of 2016 LSA Fellow. Congratulations, Masha!

Language Universals Workshop: Fall 2015

  • Oct 16: Noah Goodman (Stanford)
  • Nov 13: Colin Wilson (Johns Hopkins)

For more information and updates, please check the Language Universals Workshop page.

Week of September 7, 2015

Department welcome picnic on Tuesday, September 1. (Photo by Edwin Tsai)

Ling 108: MW 11-12 in Boylston 303

The schedule for Linguistics 108: Introduction to Historical Linguistics has changed. The course is now scheduled for Mondays and Wednesdays 11am-12pm, in Boylston 303; the section will be on Fridays 11am-12am in Boylston 105 starting this Friday, Sept. 11.

September Events

  • Study Card Day: Thursday, September 10
  • Department Fall Reception: Thursday, September 17 5:00pm

Davidson Joins as Assistant Professor

The Department is excited to welcome Kathryn Davidson, who joined us as Assistant Professor of Linguistics on July 1.

Kathryn Davidson's research focuses on formal and experimental semantics and pragmatics, as well as language acquisition, trying to understand how we comprehend sentences we've never heard before, how these change in different contexts, and how both children and adults learn to do this. She's especially interested in linguistics from the perspective of visual language, including full natural sign languages like American Sign Language and co-speech gesture to spoken languages like English.

Kate began her linguistic studies at the University of Pennsylvania, majoring in math and linguistics. She received her PhD in Linguistics in 2011 from the University of California, San Diego, where she wrote her dissertation on "The Nature of the Semantic Scale: Evidence from Sign Language Research" under the direction of Ivano Caponigro and Rachel Mayberry. She's previously visited Harvard Linguistics as a graduate student in 2009, and later held a postdoctoral position in Linguistics at the University of Connecticut working under Diane Lillo-Martin on bimodal (sign and speech) bilingualism and most recently a joint postdoctoral appointment in Cognitive Science and Linguistics at Yale where she's advised students on projects related to semantic acquisition, bilingualism, and formal semantics in ASL.

Besides establishing her lab as a place that welcomes research on both formal and experimental approaches to language meaning and language modality, Kate looks forward to teaching and participating in the extremely active community of researchers interested in the mind at Harvard and the greater Boston area.

Welcome, Kate!

Congratulations, Dr. Bae!

Congratulations to Sun-Hee Bae who has successfully defended her dissertation, "The Syntax-Phonology Interface in Native and Near-Native Korean" on Wednesday, September 2, 2015.

Left to right: Maria Polinsky, Sun-Hee Bae, C.-T. James Huang.

Week of August 31, 2015

Welcome to the Fall 2015 semester!

Classes begin this Wednesday, September 2. Classes on this day will follow a Monday schedule. Please remember that Thursday, September 10 is Study Card Day. For more information, please check the 2015 Academic Calendar.

Welcome G1s!

The Linguistics Department is delighted to welcome this year's incoming students to the PhD program:

Lukas Kahl holds an MA (Cantab) in Philosophy from the University of Cambridge, a BA in Romance Studies and Classics from the University of Bonn, and an MA in Indo-European Studies from the University of Jena. His MA thesis is about origin and function of the Brythonic equative. He is most interested in the historical linguistics of Indo-European (especially the Anatolian and Celtic branches), the areal linguistics of the ancient Near East, as well as issues in language classification, reconstruction, and typology. He also enjoys music, poetry, and physical exercise.

Kate Hodges graduated with a BS in neuroscience from King University and spent an additional year studying linguistics at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland. Her academic interests include formal semantics, the semantics-pragmatics interface, and psycholinguistics. In her spare time Kate enjoys exploring Boston, reading, cooking, and spending time with her dog, Baylie.
Gunnar Lund graduated from Boston College with a BA in Linguistics and Philosophy. There, he completed a thesis investigating the context sensitivity of gradable predicates. His main interests are semantics, pragmatics, and the philosophy of language, with further interests in computational linguistics and logic. In his spare time, he enjoys drawing, making experimental music, and watching baseball and weird movies.
Tsai-Heng (Tiffany) Yang graduated with a MA in Linguistics and a BA in Chinese Literature from National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan. Her MA thesis investigates the distributive readings of Mandarin Chinese. She is interested in syntax, semantics, and syntax-semantics interface. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, discovering new places, and watching NBA games of her favorite team, the San Antonio Spurs.

This Year's Visitors

The Department would like to give a warm welcome to the four visitors who will be joining the department this academic year:

  • Professor Wei Liu (Beijing Jiaotong University)
  • Professor Liying Zhou (Jiangnan University)
  • Jovana Gajic (University of Gottingen)
  • Fanjun Meng (Tsinghua University)

Thesis Defense

Sun-Hee Bae
The Syntax-Phonology Interface in Native and Near-Native Korean
Wednesday, September 2 | 7pm | Boylston 303

Lunch will be served September 3 at 12:30pm in the Boylston Hall 3rd Floor Lounge.

Summer 2015

Here are some news from the summer:

Harvard at LSRL45

Assistant Professor Isabelle Charnavel presented her work titled "Exempt Anaphors and Logophoricity in French" at the 45th Linguistic Symposium on Romance Languages (LSRL 45), which took place in Campinas, Brazil, May 6-9.

Harvard at MFM

Gašper Beguš presented his work titled Devoicing in intervocalic position? at the 23rd Manchester Phonology Meeting (mfm), which took place at the University of Manchester, May 28-30.

Harvard at ECIEC34

The following talks featured Harvard presenters at the 34th East Coast Indo-European Conference (ECIEC34), which took place in Vienna, Austria, June 4-7.

Harvard at TEAL10

The following talks and posters featured Harvard presenters at the 10th International Workshop on Theoretical East Asian Linguistics (TEAL10) that took place at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (TUFS) in Tokyo, Japan, June 13-14. In celebration of its 10th anniversary, the workshop also featured a speech by Professor C.-T. James Huang, one of the co-founders.

Harvard at ImPres

Yimei Xiang presented her work titled "Mention-all versus mention-some: Exhaustivity and sensitivity to false answers" at Experimental and crosslinguistic evidence for the distinction between implicatures and presuppositions (ImPres), a workshop that took place at ZAS Berlin, Germany, July 1-3. Also at the workshop was Jacopo Romoli (PhD 2012) who gave his invited talk titled "On the idea that some presuppositions are scalar implicatures: the view from acquisition and Broca’s Aphasia”.

Harvard at XPRAG 2015

Experimental Pragmatics 2015 (XPRAG 2015) took place from July 16 to July 18, at the University of Chicago. The following talks and posters featured Harvard presenters:

Harvard at EGG 7

Aurore Gonzalez's collaboration work with Elizabeth Heredia Murillo (University of Nantes) and Hamida Demirdache (University of Nantes) titled "Negative Coordination in Spanish vs. French" was presented at VII Encuentro de Gramática Generativa (EGG 7), which took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, July 29-31.

Harvard at SICOGG17

Jenny Lee presented her work titled "Null applicative in Ranmo" at the 17th Seoul International Conference on Generative Grammar (SICOGG 17) which took place in Seoul, South Korea, August 5-8.

Harvard at ESSLLI 2015

The 27th European Summer School in Logic, Language, and Information (ESSLLI 2015) took place at Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, Spain, August 3-14, 2015. Second-year Aurore Gonzalez and third-year Zuzanna Fuchs attended the summer school, and Assistant Professor Kathryn Davidson taught a course titled "The meaning of space: New advances in Sign Language Semantics" with Jeremy Kuhn. The following talks featured Harvard presenters:

Week of May 4, 2015

Spring Semester Ends

The Spring semester officially ends with the last day of Spring Examination Period on Saturday, May 16. Commencement will be on Thursday, May 28.

Spell-Out will resume its weekly postings in September. If you have news you would like to share during the summer, please contact the blog manager Dorothy Ahn. The Harvard Linguistics Facebook page will be updated on a regular basis.

Polinsky Lab Meeting 

Lena Borise (Harvard)
Is it a stress shift? Evidence from a Belarusian dialect (FASL practice talk)
Wednesday, May 6 | 4:15pm | 2 Arrow Street (4th floor)

Polinsky Lab Meeting 

Joel Dunham (Concordia University)
LingSync: Software for Collaborative Linguistic Fieldwork
Wednesday, May 6 | 5:15pm | 2 Arrow Street (4th floor)

Congratulations, Dr. Tsai!

Congratulations to Cheng-Yu (Edwin) Tsai who has successfully defended his dissertation, "Toward a Theory of Mandarin Quantification" on Tuesday, April 28, 2015.

Left to right: Isabelle Charnavel, Shigeru Miyagawa, Edwin Tsai, Maria Polinsky, C.-T. James Huang

Harvard at FASL24

The 24th annual meeting of Formal Approaches to Slavic Linguistics (FASL24) will be held at New York University, May 8th-10th, 2015. Professor Maria Polinsky will be giving an invited talk titled "Molchanie zoloto: Some remarks on silent categories in Russian", and second year Lena Borise will be presenting her work titled "Intensity Peak Shift as a Precursor of Stress Shift?" at the conference.

Week of April 27, 2015

Spring 2015

The last day of Spring classes is Wednesday, April 29. The semester ends with exciting events at the Department this week:

Linguistics Department Spring Reception
Wednesday, April 29 | 5:15pm to 7:15pm | 3rd floor Boylston
All undergradates, graduates, faculty, and visitors are invited!

Department of Linguistics Visitas Open House
Monday, April 27 | 10:00am-11:30am | Boylston 303
The Department of Linguistics is inviting current and incoming freshmen to our Open House. Join us for breakfast to learn more about linguistics via language games, five-minute lectures, and other entertainments.

Senior Thesis Colloquium
Thursday, April 30 | 3:00pm-5:00pm | Boylston 105
See program for more information.

Whatmough X Lecture

Jonathan D. Bobaljik (University of Connecticut)
Morphological Universals: Comparatives and Beyond 
Monday, April 27 | 4:00-6:00pm | Sever Hall 113

A reception will take place after the talk at the Harvard Faculty Club on Quincy Street.

Thesis Defense

Cheng-Yu (Edwin) Tsai
Toward a Theory of Mandarin Quantification
Tuesday, April 28 | 5pm-7pm | Boylston 303

Refreshments immediately following the defense in the Boylston Hall Lounge

Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Science of Language

Thursday, April 30th | 5:30-7pm | Yenching Auditorium


  • Dr. Jesse Snedeker (Psychology)
  • Dr. Gennaro Chierchia (Linguistics)
  • Dr. Gina Kuperberg (Cognitive Neuroscience)
  • Dr. Meredith Rowe (Education)

Moderator: Dr. Alfonso Caramazza

GSAS Indo-European and Historical Linguistics Workshop

Jeffrey Bourns (Harvard University)
Cyberinfrastructure for Indo-European linguistics
Friday, May 1 | 4:00pm | Boylston 103

Harvard at CLS

The following talks featured Harvard presenters at the 51st annual meeting of Chicago Linguistics Society (CLS 51) that took place on April 23-25.

12th Annual Undergraduate Linguistics Colloquium at Harvard

The 12th Annual Undergraduate Linguistics Colloquium at Harvard took place this past weekend in the Science Center. Some of our own concentrators presented as well as undergraduates from elsewhere in the U.S., Canada, and even Germany. The program can be found here.

Clemens, Coon, Mateo Pedro, Morgan, Polinsky, and Tandet appear in NLLT

The paper "Ergativity and the complexity of extraction: a view from Mayan" co-authored by Polinsky Lab members Lauren ClemensMaria Polinsky, and Gabrielle Tandet '13 and former lab members Jessica CoonPedro Mateo Pedro, and Adam Milton Morgan has been published in Volume 33, Issue 2 (2015) of Natural Language and Linguistic Theory.