On Thursday, July 23rd, Matt Tyler successfully defended his PhD dissertation. The defense, which was held virtually on Zoom, presented Matt’s dissertation entitled Argument Structure and Argument-Marking in Choctaw, supervised by Jim Wood. The committee members were Raffaella Zanuttini, Bob Frank, and Aaron Broadwell. Congratulations, Matt!
Field Linguistics & Language Documentation
Claire Bowern was a panelist recently discussing remote fieldwork, community support, and ethics, as part of the University of Melbourne’s “Linguistics in the Pub” series. Approximately 100 participants from all over the world got together to listen to reflections about Covid-19 based changes to field practices, what linguists can do to most effectively support the communities they work with, and the additional ethical challenges that arise when working remotely. The panelists discussed a range of field situations.
Linguistics faculty member Claire Bowern recently appeared on the linguistics podcast “Distributed Morphs.” The podcast is aimed at linguistics undergraduate and graduate students and discusses different aspects of morphology. Claire talked about morphology and language change, along with rapid (and not so rapid) change in the verb morphology of Bardi, an Indigenous Australian language from northern Australia.
Starting in 2021, Yale will co-sponsor two meetings of the African Linguistics School (ALS, link to ALS website), an organization focused on training young African linguists in theoretical linguistics, on the basis of the large number of languages spoken in Africa.
The Yale linguistics department is well-represented at the coming Annual Meeting of the LSA, January 2-5, 2020 in New Orleans. But apart from the many current members of the department who will be attending, we are also hoping to connect with previous department members. A meet-up will be organized, with more information below:
At the 50th meeting of the North East Linguistic Society at MIT, PhD candidate Josh Phillips presented some of his work on privatives in Australian languages. Josh’s poster, entitled ““Privative case” : displacement & renewal in the negative domain”, discusses forms with a meaning like ‘without’ or ‘-less’ in several Australian languages.
Recent alumnus Luke Lindemann has published a paper entitled “When Wurst comes to Wurscht: Variation and koiné formation in Texas German.” Luke’s paper was published in the latest issue of the Journal of Linguistic Geography. It discusses dialect emergence and leveling, and focuses on the variation between [s] and [ʃ] (sh) sounds in certain contexts in Texas German.
Many students, faculty, and alumni of Yale linguistics, as well as colleagues from nearby Haskins Laboratories, presented their work at the International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS) in Melbourne, Australia, earlier this month. They contributed at least 14 talks and posters to the conference and enjoyed a full week of presentations about phonetics, connecting with colleagues and friends from all over the world.
Rikker Dockum and Claire Bowern have a new paper in the open access journal Language Documentation and Description, entitled “Swadesh lists are not long enough: Drawing phonological generalizations from limited data.” They look at the amount of data (e.g. number of words in a wordlist) required to accurately recover phonological inventory distributional generalizations and show that the typical 100-word or 200-word Swadesh lists frequently used by linguists are not usually sufficient.
The most recent issue of Studia Linguistica includes an article by PhD candidate Matthew Tyler. The paper is entitled “Choctaw as a Window into the Clitic/Agreement Split”. In this paper he draws on original fieldwork he has been conducting in Mississippi on Choctaw in connection with his dissertation work. He develops a series of tests, some specific to Choctaw, to argue that most “agreement” morphemes on the Choctaw verb are really clitics (essentially pronouns like I/you/we/etc. that are attached to the verb).
Claire Bowern adds an article on the origins of Pama-Nyungan to The Conversation.
Members of the Pama-Nyungan lab recently published a write-up of their results on forced alignment algorithms. Their paper on “A Robin Hood approach to forced alignment: English-trained algorithms and their use on Australian languages” was recently published in the proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Linguistic Society of America. They show that for some purposes, English-trained models can be used without crucial loss of accuracy.
2018 marked the 20th anniversary of the publication of the article by Nikolaus Himmelmann, which introduced the distinction between “language documentation” and “language description” (or analysis). In this Open Access special publication in the journal Language Documentation and Conservation, linguists reflect on the changes to the field, to fieldwork practices, and to the state of language records and endangerment across the world.
Many members of the Yale linguistics department made a mass exodus to the the recent LSA annual meeting in New York City, where they gave 19 oral and poster presentations at the main meeting, workshops, and sister society meetings. These included:
Ph.D. candidate Matthew Tyler has recently published two journal articles concerning his work on clitics in Choctaw (Muskogean). One, published in Natural Language & Linguistic Theory, is titled “Absolutive Promotion and the Condition on Clitic Hosts in Choctaw”; this article proposes a morphosyntactic analysis of Choctaw clitics.
PhD candidate Rikker Dockum presented at the 28th meeting of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society (SEALS), where he discussed his fieldwork on Khamti, a language spoken in Myanmar and India. Rikker has spent a substantial amount of time in the region documenting various languages, as he conducts his dissertation research on tone systems in Tai-Kadai, a family of languages that includes Khamti and Thai.
As a Presidential Visiting Fellow, Stephanie has spent the past year at Yale teaching the Mohegan language and raising interest in language revitalization.
Based on field research and a translation of the Bible, Joshua’s paper investigates the difference between the first-person pronouns ai and mi.
Sixteen presentations and posters from current and former Yale faculty and students were showcased at the annual meeting of the LSA.
Claire and Rikker showcased their results from the Pama-Nyungan Laboratory at the Association for Linguistic Typology.
Rikker talked about how tonal systems change over time, using statistical analysis on a large dataset he compiled to identify a strong phylogenetic signal.
Scholars from a wide range of institutions and disciplines came to Yale to discuss the cognitive foundations of variation and change in meaning.
Luke spent the summer at the University of Texas at Austin, working on the Texas German Dialect Project.
We are delighted to welcome Samuel Andersson, Sigríður Sigurðardóttir, and Randi Martinez to our department!