The University of Michigan was well-represented at the Linguistics Society of America Annual Meeting just held last weekend (January 6-9) in Pittsburgh, PA.  Below are the names of presenters, along with the titles and abstracts of their talks:

Anthony Brasher
Nasal coarticulation in clear speech

This study uses aerodynamic (nasal and oral airflow) and acoustic measures to examine the effects of clear speech on the spatial and temporal extent of anticipatory nasal coarticulation in English. The targets of this study are English VCNvoiced (e.g. bend) and VNCvoiceless (e.g. bent) words spoken in either clear or citation speech modes. Enhancement strategies varied across talkers, suggesting that speakers are able to employ variable enhancement strategies that reflect (individual) production patterns and that these enhancement strategies may entail an increase in coarticulation. These results argue against models predicting a global reduction of coarticulation in clear speech.

Itamar Francez (University of Chicago/University of Michigan)
Andrew Koontz-Garboden (University of Manchester)
Property possession and comparison in Ulwa

Property concept (PC; Dixon 1982) words in Ulwa (Misumalpan) are formed from a root and the suffix –ka: yam-ka ‘good’ and suyu-ka ‘beautiful’. The same suffix marks nominal possession: Kim balauh-ka `Kim table-3SING.POSS’. Koontz-Garboden and Francez (2010) argue that the occurrence of –ka in both contexts is semantically motivated, with –ka uniformly contributing a binary possessive relation between individuals (cf. Barker 1995), and PC roots denoting properties qua individuals (Chierchia and Turner 1988). We highlight a problem this analysis encounters with comparison and measure, and present a solution that maintains the semantic explanation of –ka’s distribution.

Ezra Keshet
If most quantifiers were in this if-clause, they couldn’t escape

The if-clause of a conditional has long been considered an island for QR (although counterexamples have been proposed). This paper notes a new type of potential counterexample to if-clause islandhood, involving sentences like If most people see a homeless person, they just look the other way. I capture the meaning of this sentence by treating the NP people as a kind-denoting bare noun (which can license an E-type pronoun in the consequent), and scoping the quantifier most alone above the conditional, yielding a reading analogous to Usually, if people see a homeless person, they just look the other way.

Kevin B. McGowan
Are you experienced? Socio-indexical knowledge and naïve listeners

Much recent work points to listeners’ abilities to use socio-indexical knowledge during speech perception. I present the results of an accent identification and authenticity discrimination task intendedto establish experienced and naive listeners’ abilities to distinguish authentic accents. Experienced listeners are robustly more accurate than naive listeners when identifying authentic Mandarin-accentedEnglish. However, naive listeners rated an imitated Chinese voiceas authentic significantly more often. These results suggest that naive listeners systematically draw on stereotypical features when discriminating a foreign accent and require us to look carefullyat results reporting the use of socio-indexical knowledge without assessing listener experience.

Kevin B. McGowan
David J. Medeiros
Tongues don’t twist — mental representations do

We examine the relationship between phonological representations and articulatory planning, pursuing the hypothesis that speech errors during the production of a tongue twister are due not to motoric difficulty, but occur when dynamic aspects of planned proximal gestures overlap and interfere. We find that speakers produce relatively few errors when producing novel tongue twisters and comparatively more speech errors during subsequent productions in a masked self-paced reading task. This is consistent with the view that speech errors in a tongue twister task cannot be solely attributed to articulatory factors and supports a cascading activation model of speech production.

Christopher V. Odato
Experimentally assessing children’s grammatical knowledge and social beliefs about ‘like’

Results are reported of two experiments assessing children’s knowledge of grammatical constraints on like, used as a discourse marker/particle or quotative, and of the social beliefs that like is ungrammatical and associated with female speakers. Children 209 ages 5-10 evaluated sentences with and without like. All age groups exhibited awareness of grammatical constraints on like; older children, particularly girls, demonstrated a prescriptive stance toward like; only 9- and 10-year-olds were more likely to attribute sentences containing like to female speakers. The results suggest that children first acquire like as part of their knowledge of grammar, and social meanings are attached later.

Robin Queen
Conflict resolution

Managing and overcoming conflict is an unfortunate but real aspect of building an academic career. In this section of the panel, we will discuss ways to deal with conflicts that arise through the process of feedback and review as well as with conflicts that arise through our academic relationships. Conflicts that arise through the process of feedback and review can include informal comments on our work by other scholars; comments on work from supervising faculty; and reviews from journal, abstract and grant proposal submissions. Conflicts that arise through academic relationships include competitiveness with peers (perceived and actual); disagreements with faculty; classroom issues, particularly when interacting with undergraduates; and conflicts with our institutions. We will discuss proactive ways of decreasing the likelihood of such conflicts arising and of minimizing the personal and professional effects of them when they do.

Lauren Squires
Morphosyntactic perception and talker identity: Testing exemplar-theoretic sociolinguistic claims

This paper discusses experiments testing predictions of a socially-informed exemplar-theoretic model of grammar. A structural priming paradigm is used to investigate grammatical and social influences on the processing of subject-verb agreement patterns. Experiment 1 found that exposing participants to a nonstandard prime increased the likelihood of their interpreting a target sentence as nonstandard. Experiment 2 tests whether this grammatical priming is influenced by talker information, which is predicted if grammatical and social information are stored and activated in tandem. Finding that talker information biases structural preference will argue in support of models that account for both grammatical and social knowledge.

Joseph Tyler
Prosodic correlates of discourse structure

This study had participants read aloud a newspaper article whose discourse structure was annotated within a semanticallymotivated discourse theory (Segmented Discourse Representation Theory (SDRT)). Three structural measures (how closely related adjacent discourse segments are, how embedded a discourse segment is in the overall discourse, and coordinating vs. subordinating discourse relations) were correlated with three prosodic measures (pause duration, pitch maximum (f0max) and pitch minimum (f0min)). Results showed that more distantly related adjacent discourse segments had significantly longer intervening pause durations (F(1,732)=39.807, p<.001)), and that coordinating and subordinating relations correlated differently with pause duration (F(1,512)=7.489, p<.001) and f0min (F(1,581)=17.226, p<. 001).

Sarah G. Thomason

Linguistics at the University of Pittsburgh

The University of Pittsburgh is the western Pennsylvania’s leading institution for language study and for linguistics; as such, there is an interesting story to be told about the emergence of linguistics at this university. Accordingly, I trace here the history and development of the Linguistics program at the University of Pittsburgh, offering an insider’s view – based on more than two decades as a faculty member in the program – of what went into building and growing the program. In painting a picture of the program, I plan to touch on individual faculty members of note, on policies, on curricular matters, and on notable alumni of the program, as well as on problem areas.

In addition, the following notable alums presented:

Barbara Johnstone (Carnegie Mellon University, U of M alum) gave a plenary address, “Speaking Pittsburghese: The Social History of Pittsburgh Speech.”

David Lightfoot (Georgetown University, U of M alum, and new LSA President) gave his presidential address, “Linguists Leading and Lagging.”

Last, but not least, as announced previously, Andries Coetzee was awarded the first annual Early Career Award, and Marlyse Baptista — in her capacity as society president — presided over the Society for Pidgin and Creole Linguistics sessions.