Number 12 | September 2009

Welcome to the UNC Linguistics Newsletter. Past online issues are also available.

This year's newsletter includes photos! Please click on any photo to see a larger version.

In This Issue

Departmental News


❖ The department is delighted to welcome new faculty member Katya Pertsova, who joined us in January. Katya specializes in questions related to computational models of learning morphology, complexity metrics of linguistic patterns, lexical storage and organization, and language evolution. She received her PhD from UCLA in 2007, and before coming to UNC, she was a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University.


Linguistics Colloquium news:

The 2009 Linguistics Colloquium took place March 21. We were pleased to welcome back two former UNC linguists as invited speakers -- the keynote speaker was Craig Melchert, now of UCLA, who gave a talk on "The Development of Split Ergativity in Hittite," and the Underling guest speaker was Laura Janda, now of the University of Tromsø, with a talk entitled, "Can Complementary Distribution be a Gradient Phenomenon? Near-Allomorphy Among Russian Verbs Meaning DO X ONCE." Other presenters were Marisa-Isabel Martinez-Mira (U. Mary Washington) on "Iconicity and the processing of Spanish temporal clauses," Ana Paula Huback (U. Oklahoma) on "English verbs in Brazilian Portuguese: Frequency effects," Seiki Ayano (Mie U.) on "Prenominal adjectives in Japanese and their interpretations," Jay Stallings (U. Virginia) on "Two types of segmentation for prenasalized consonants in a Grassfields Bantu language," Anne-Michelle Tessier (U. Alberta) on "Peer pressure, phonological constraints and slips of the tongue," and Sun-Woong Kim (Kwangwoon U./U. Maryland ) on "Postposition/case marker stranding, phase extension, and recoverability."

The 2010 colloquium is in the planning stages. For more information please see

Undergraduate Student News

❖ A number of students graduated with Honors in Linguistics in 2008-09. Congratulations!

❖ UNC Linguistics undergraduates were active at conferences once again this year. Mason Chua co-presented a paper on "A Smuggling approach to tough movement" with faculty member Randy Hendrick at the Linguistic Society of America annual meeting in San Francisco. Melissa Farr co-presented a paper entitled "Getting rhythm: A methodological comparison of quantitative speech rhythm analyses" with graduate student Mary Kohn at the Southeastern Conference on Linguistics (SECOL) in New Orleans.

❖ The recipient of the Marc Adam Eisdorfer Award for Outstanding Graduating Senior in Linguistics in May 2009 was Scott Horton.

Underling, the undergraduate linguistics club, had an active year in 2008-09. In addition to bringing former UNC Professor Laura Janda to the Spring Colloquium, the club hosted a variety of linguistics-related events, including social dinners, game nights, and open discussions of various topics in linguistics, all of which attracted a large turnout of undergraduates and faculty. It also continued to offer its "undergraduate speaker series," the program through which many students arrange to present original research before a body of peers and faculty. Underling is always interested in hosting language-related talks from students (or alumni). To join the club or arrange hosting for your talk, contact the club officers.

Graduate Student News

Ian Clayton reports that the last year has been a busy but good one. In addition to making progress on his dissertation, he has presented papers at the 6th OCP in Edinburgh ("Biases in phonology: explaining variation in Scottish Gaelic preaspiration") and at LASSO 2009 at BYU ("The preaspirated stop: a perceptually suboptimal phonological structure?"). A poster is in the works for this year's LSA in Baltimore.

Melissa Frazier filed her dissertation in June: The Production and Perception of Pitch and Glottalization in Yucatec Maya. She has started a job as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Linguistics at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Melissa will be giving a poster presentation at the LSA, on "Anti-Paninian rankings of articulatory constraints at the phonetics-phonology interface."

Susannah Kirby graduated and got a job! Now a Presidential Post-Doctoral Teaching & Research Fellow at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, she is teaching syntax and acquisition of syntax (both advanced undergraduate courses) this term and will be teaching the intro to linguistics course in the spring. (And hopefully doing some more research soon, though she's not entirely sure what it will be...)

Mary Kohn has published a paper in American Speech with Hannah Franz, entitled "Localized patterns for global variants: The case of quotative systems of African American and Latino speakers." She also presented a number of papers over the past year: "Getting Rhythm: A methodological comparison of quantitative speech rhythm analyses" with Melissa Farr at SECOL 76 in New Orleans; "The diversity and stability of vocalic variation among bidialectal and bilingual children" with Janneke Van Hofwegen at the American Dialect Society conference in San Francisco; and "An exploratory study of front vowels in Raleigh, NC" with Robin Dodsworth at NWAV 37 in Houston. Mary is also a co-author on a paper that will be presented by Robin Dodsworth at NWAV in Ottawa this October.

Jenn Renn has recently had a paper, co-authored with Mike Terry, accepted by American Speech. She is looking ahead to a busy fall and winter, since she will be giving two talks at NWAV, one at ASHA, one at ADS, and a poster at the LSA.

Hang Zhang gave a presentation, "A Phonological Study of Second Language Acquisition of Mandarin Chinese Tones," at the ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) 2008 annual convention in Orlando, FL, in November. Her talk was awarded the Walton Presentation Award by CLTA (the Chinese Language Teachers' Association).

Faculty News

Misha Becker spent this past year learning how to juggle both motherhood and professorhood. On the professorhood side, she focused on teaching: she taught the large section of Introduction to Linguistics and undergraduate Language Acquisition in the fall, and Language and Mind and the graduate level Language Acquisition course in the spring. Over the summer she jumped back into her research, getting geared up on three different projects. One is a continuation of her previous work with Garrett Mitchener (Mathematics, College of Charleston) on a computational model of learning the raising/control distinction. A second project involves joint work with new faculty member Katya Pertsova on an artificial language learning experiment looking at the learning of morphological paradigms. Her third project involves joint work with Bruno Estigarribia, a new Research Assistant Professor in the Psychology department, on the linguistic factors that influence the learning of raising verbs.

Randy Hendrick and Mason Chua, an undergraduate linguistics major and distinguished president of Underling, presented a paper on tough movement adjectives at the Linguistic Society of America meeting in San Francisco in January of 2009. Randy also received the John L. Sanders Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and Service in 2009. In March he presented an invited lecture to the Formal Approaches to Celtic Linguistics conference at the University of Arizona on negative polarity items, scope of quantification, and phases in Breton.

David Mora-Marín was on leave for research during Fall '08. He focused on two projects, Historical Reconstruction of Ch'olan-Tzeltalan Lexicon and Grammar and A Grammar of Mayan Writing, and hopes to finish each one by May of 2010. Also during Fall '08, David received peer reviews and proofs for four articles. Three of those articles have already come out: one on the orthographic conventions of Mayan writing ("Full phonetic complements in Mayan writing," Ancient Mesoamerica); another on the historical linguistic reconstruction of the independent demonstrative/personal pronouns of Ch'olan-Tzeltalan and its descendants ("Reconstruction of the Proto-Ch'olan demonstrative pronouns, deictic enclitics, and definite articles," Transactions of the Philological Society); and one on the linguistic history of the languages represented in Mayan texts during the Classic period ("A test and falsification of the Ch'olti'an hypothesis: Evidence from three morphological markers," International Journal of American Linguistics). The fourth article, dealing with Olmec writing ("Early Olmec writing: Reading format and reading order of the Cascajal block"), is due out soon in Latin American Antiquity. During his research semester, David also had the chance to spearhead the proposal for a new, highly interdisciplinary Cluster Program in Mesoamerican Studies, which is debuting in Fall '09. It incorporates several departments and programs, each with a representative faculty member: Linguistics (Mora Marín), Anthropology (McAnany), Romance Languages (del Valle Escalante), and Art History (Douglas). David also organized a conference session on "Recent Topics in Mayan Linguistics" at the American Anthropological Association meeting in San Francisco on November 22, 2008. The session was well attended and covered a variety of subfields of linguistics.

In the summer of '09, David co-taught the Chapel Hill stage of the Summer Yucatec Maya program, and has begun a new introductory textbook of the language, together with Miguel Gómez Pineda and Miguel Óscar Chan Dzul. They hope to have a full draft by May of 2010 in order to try it out on the students from the 2010 Summer Program. This September, David attended the Foreign Language Association of North Carolina meetings, and participated in two four-hour long workshops. He is currently teaching Language Variation and Change and Mesoamerican Writing Systems, the second one finally a new course of its own at UNC, and is looking forward to assisting Elliott Moreton and Paul Roberge with the Language Evolution course in Spring '10, when he'll also be teaching Mesoamerican Languages and Linguistics.

Elliott Moreton has spent much of the past year analyzing lab data on short-term phonotactic learning, and working on ways to explain it formally and to connect it to phonological typology in natural language. In July and August, he taught a three-week class on these and related matters for the LSA's Linguistic Institute, which was at Berkeley this year. He became a tenured associate professor in the spring. Elliott is also the advisor for Ian Clayton's dissertation on the phonetics and phonology of preaspiration in Scottish Gaelic.

Katya Pertsova arrived at UNC in January 2009 and taught Honors Introduction to Language during her first semester here. In March, she presented a paper at the European chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL) in a workshop on Grammatical Inference. This semester, she is teaching Morphology and Mathematical Linguistics, and she is about to start running some pilot experiments on learning paradigms.

Paul Roberge delivered a plenary lecture to the joint meeting of the Forum for Germanic Language Studies (Great Britain, FGLS 8), the Germanic Linguistics Annual Conference (GLAC 15), and Studies in the History of the English Language (SHEL 6), which was held in Banff, Alberta, Canada, hosted by the University of Calgary. The title of the lecture was "The 'creativist' account of creole formation."

This past August Paul was in South Africa again in his capacity as Extraordinary Professor of General Linguistics at the University of Stellenbosch. He lectured on creole formation and did research in the Special Collections Department in the University's J. S. Gericke Library. This photo was taken, by Johan Oosthuizen of the University of Stellenbosch, at the tomb (foreground) and mosque (background) of the kramat (shrine) of Sheikh Yusuf (d. ca. 1699), which is in Macassar, near Cape Town. Sheikh Yusuf was an important figure in the establishment of Islam at the Cape of Good Hope. The Islamic Cape Malay were very important in the creolization of Dutch at the Cape and the formation of Afrikaans. Pictured are (from left): Paul, Hans den Besten (University of Amsterdam), and Rashid Begg (University of Stellenbosch).

Jen Smith has been pursuing research into how phonological constraints are defined and how they interact with other aspects of the linguistic system. She wrote a chapter on syllable structure and sonority in Korean for a forthcoming book on prosodic structure, as well as an overview article on phonological differences between nouns, verbs, and adjectives for a five-volume reference series called Companion to Phonology. Jen is also working to develop the empirical and experimental aspects of her research program with a project on the intonation of the Fukuoka dialect of Japanese and its implications for theories of the syntax-phonology interface. She was invited to Stony Brook University in Fall '08 to give a colloquium talk on this topic, and she has been awarded a Carolina Asia Center Faculty Travel Grant to spend a month in Japan during her research leave in Fall '09, when she will collect production and perception data from native speakers of the Fukuoka dialect. During 2008-09, Jen taught Honors Introduction to Language, Linguistic Phonetics, Phonology, and Structure of Japanese.

Mike Terry has enjoyed a year of research and teaching that has allowed him to work collaboratively with a number of students and fellow faculty in the department. He continues to work with Randy Hendrick researching how dialectal difference may influence performance on standardized tests of mathematics. He and Lisa Domby have redesigned key portions of Ling 547, Language Deficits and Cognition. Lisa serves as the Graduate Research Consultant for that class. Mike has also continued work with Jennifer Renn investigating how linguists operationalize the notion of style. They recently had a paper on the topic accepted for publication in American Speech.

Alumni News

Lisa D. Bennett (BA '00) moved back to her hometown of Chapel Hill in February of 2009 after five or so years living in Berkeley, CA. After college she earned MAs from two different graduate programs: Anthropology at Tulane and Linguistics at UC Berkeley. She's not doing a whole lot with her linguistics training at the moment, but she has been tutoring ESL for a few months and really enjoys that. She also teaches in an after-school program at an elementary school, plays and coaches soccer, and does a little writing (when she does not have the dreaded writer's block). She is also looking into getting a teaching license and she has a dream to make linguistics and anthropology part of the high school curriculum, since that is what she is most qualified to teach -- and she thinks it's so important!

Hans Boas (PhD '00) published two articles in late 2008: "Towards a frame-constructional approach to verb classification," Revista Canaria Estudios Ingleses 57: 17-47, and "Determining the structure of lexical entries and grammatical constructions in Construction Grammar," Annual Review of Cognitive Linguistics 6: 113-144. In March 2009 his book The Life and Death of Texas German got published by Duke University Press (Publications of the American Dialect Society). In July 2009, he published an edited volume with Mouton de Gruyter, Multilingual FrameNets in Computational Lexicography: Methods and Applications. In April, he gave an invited plenary lecture at the Annual Meeting of the Linguistic Society of Belgium in Antwerp entitled "The structure of cross-cultural semantic frames." In May, he gave an invited plenary lecture at the Third Annual Meeting of the French Cognitive Linguistics Association in Paris, entitled "Methods for finding proper types of constructional generalizations."

Donald R. H. Byrd (PhD '73) retired from CUNY several years ago and became a professor emeritus of linguistics from Hunter College (CUNY) and the CUNY Graduate School. He is now restoring an old plantation -- soon to be a bed and breakfast -- in Ansonville, NC, and writing textbooks still. He is also raising two energetic Weimaraner siblings.

Kate Cowan (BA '07) graduated with a Masters in Speech-Language Pathology from UNCG in May. Since then, she has moved to Charlotte and taken a job at a skilled nursing facility in Matthews where she does speech/swallowing/cognition therapy with some really awesome patients. She works with people who have brain injuries, brain tumors, dementia, etc. She's loving it! Kate reports that Speech-Language Pathology is a great way to apply linguistics -- and that it's kind of amazing to FINALLY be out of school.

Mary Dresser Taffet (BA '81) was quite surprised this spring to find herself directly impacted by the recession when she was laid off by her previous employer (TextWise LLC) at the end of March. She spent several months searching for a new job, and quite fortunately managed to find one, in her field (computational linguistics) no less. She began her new position as a Grammarian/Linguist at Janya Inc. in July. She works four days a week telecommuting from her home in Syracuse, NY, and one day a week she drives 155 miles each way to the corporate headquarters in Amherst, NY, just outside of Buffalo. She is currently in the process of applying for a top-secret security clearance so that she can assist with tasks involving classified data and/or that need to be completed onsite at the Air Force Research Laboratory in Rome, NY. Mary reports that her home was broken into during the wee hours of August 7th, as she and her husband were sleeping upstairs, along with two other homes on their street. They now have a brand new alarm system and a brand new puppy as a result. Her son Michael is starting his 5th year at Stony Brook University on Long Island and has been living on Long Island since the beginning of the summer.

Aaron Kaplan (BA '02) and Abby (Shoun) Kaplan (BA '05) report that Graham Shoun Kaplan was born on August 3 at 7 pounds 5 ounces and 19 inches long. He's very alert and likes to look around; he's clearly practicing for head-turning experiments. Aaron expects Graham's first three words to be go, tar, and heels!

Anna (Kemp) Ray (BA '01) married her high-school sweetheart in May 2007. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband Charlie and her dog Bandit, when she's not traveling for work. She gives workshops for teachers and helps them implement reading and comprehension programs in schools.

Stephanie Mitchell (BA '09) is now located in Soria, Spain. She will be there for an academic course, from September 2009 to June 2010. She is now an assistant English teacher at a high school named IES Antonio Machado. At the moment, she is helping all children from ages 13 to 18 enhance their English speaking skills, and is proposing a Pen Pal program to connect English learners and Spanish learners. Stephanie is also giving private English lessons, and will be doing a private language acquisition investigation to see how her students learn and what their errors are, in order to form some theory or conclusion that will show a relation to their learning.

Brice Russ (BA '08) spent last fall working as a jack-of-all-trades for the Orange County Board of Elections (processing registration forms, setting up early-voting stations, meeting Oliver Smithies, alphabetizing 50,000 ballots by precinct, etc.) before going up to Philadelphia to serve as a volunteer for Representative Chaka Fattah (PA-02) and his GEAR UP educational initiative. This summer he returned to Governor's School to serve as the Teaching Assistant/Counselor for the Natural Science department for the second year. He brought back his elective series on linguistics, which once again got a great turnout -- given the number of GSE alums who go to UNC, Brice hopes that some of his GSE08 students are starting to show up in classes there. He also continued his work with 4Frontiers, the National Space Society, and a few other space organizations. This fall, Brice will be joining Ohio State's PhD program in linguistics; he's currently planning to continue his studies in sociolinguistics, but he hasn't yet ruled out computational linguistics or a few other fields, either.

Donna Salisbury (PhD '05) had been teaching linguistics part time at UNC Greensboro until Spring 2009. Unfortunately, UNCG has closed its linguistics program. This was actually a choice made by the permanent faculty of that interdisciplinary program before the economic meltdown, but Donna figures she would have been cut with the budget anyway. She continues to earn a paycheck with benefits as a physical therapist, and works 20 hours a week doing that. Her hope is that she will now have more time for linguistics (since class prep and grading have been removed from her schedule).

Teresa Schubert (BA '09) is now enrolled in the PhD program in Cognitive Science at Johns Hopkins. At this point she is just taking classes, but she intends to do psycholinguistics research with normal individuals (perhaps some fMRI work) as well as neuropsychological research with patients with language deficits. Her advisor is Brenda Rapp, but she may also end up working with Barbara Landau.

Jeremy Snyder (BA '97) reports that after a year and a half in Germany, he has moved on to a center of ethnic and linguistic diversity, Singapore. He is still working on the online space. His girls are learning Mandarin, and they are all enjoying Southeast Asia.

Charlotte Stewart (BA '03) graduated from UNC's School of Education last year with an MA in Culture, Curriculum, and Change. She has just finished a year as an AmeriCorps Volunteer at the Durham Literacy Center, where she provided training and support for volunteer ESOL tutors. She also designed and piloted a Basic Literacy ESOL summer class for refugees from Burma, Bhutan, and Iraq. She is now an ESOL instructor for the DLC's family literacy program, Escuela da la Familia, as well as the office manager for the Student Coalition for Action in Literacy Education (SCALE). Charlotte notes that the linguistic background she gained at UNC has been indispensible in the past year, as even basic knowledge of phonemic awareness allows the tutors she trains to better understand the linguistic challenges their students face when learning English.

Theses/Dissertations 2008-09

Inma Gómez-Soler (MA). "The morphosyntax-lexicon interface breakdown: An aspectual account of the L2 acquisition of ser and estar by L1 English speakers" (directed by Misha Becker).

Melissa Frazier (PhD). The Production and Perception of Pitch and Glottalization in Yucatec Maya (directed by Jen Smith).

Susannah Kirby (PhD). "Semantic Scaffolding" in First Language Acquisition: The Acquisition of Raising-to-Object and Object Control (directed by Misha Becker).

How to Make a Gift to the Linguistics Department

❖ Gifts to the Linguistics Department help support student research, as well as travel to conferences where students can present the fruits of their research to linguists and the broader community; help us bring Spring Colloquium keynote speakers and other invited speakers to the department; support workshops and events; and make possible our departmental awards for undergraduate excellence and for graduate-student teaching.

If you would like to make a gift to support undergraduate and graduate education and research in Linguistics at UNC, please visit the Online Gift Form for the College of Arts and Sciences. After you enter your personal and contact information, there is a section for "gift designation"; to ensure that your gift is directed to us, please select "other" from the drop-down menu, then type in the blank space "Linguistics Department."

Thank you!

Department of Linguistics
CB #3155, 128 Smith Bldg.
UNC Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3155

Newsletter edited by Jen Smith (jlsmith at email dot unc dot edu) -- comments or suggestions welcome