Number 11 | September 2008

(archive of online issues) Welcome to the first online edition of the UNC Linguistics Newsletter.

In This Issue

Departmental News


❖ Two long-time faculty members have moved on to other institutions. Craig Melchert is now the A. Richard Diebold Professor of Indo-European Studies and Professor of Linguistics at UCLA. Laura Janda, formerly of Slavic Languages and Literatures as well as Linguistics, is now Professor of Russian Linguistics at the University of Tromsø, Norway. We thank Craig and Laura for all they have done for Linguistics at UNC, wish them all the best in their new positions -- and hope they will come back to visit from time to time.

❖ We look forward to welcoming a new faculty member to the department in January 2009. Katya Pertsova, currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Cognitive studies at Tufts University, specializes in morphology, phonology, lexical knowledge, and the computational modeling of language acquisition.

❖ In a different kind of transition, the department has moved! We are now located in Smith Building, not too far from the Old Well. Although we miss our neighbors in Dey Hall, we like having more space. Also, Smith was built in 1901, so it has old-fashioned charm.


Linguistics Colloquium news:

The 2007 Linguistics Colloquium was held March 24. The keynote speaker, James McCloskey of the University of California at Santa Cruz, was unfortunately not able to attend, but his paper "A Language on the Edge: Irish and the Theory of Grammar" was presented by Randy Hendrick. Stanley Dubinsky of the University of South Carolina was the Underling guest speaker; he spoke on "Mediating the Syntax and Semantics of Control." Other speakers at the Colloquium were Marc Pierce (U. Michigan) with "On the resilience of Edgerton's Law," Daniel J. Smith (Clemson U.) and Manuel Morales (Bethel College) on "Second language acquisition of Spanish by morpheme type," Melissa Frazier and Eduardo Hugo Gil (both of UNC-CH) on "Language game evidence for prosodic principles and Output-Output Faithfulness," Charles B. Chang (Berkeley) on "Analyzing the Korean laryngeal contrast: Evidence from cross-linguistic perception," Alona Soschen (MIT) on "The third factor and properties of syntactic Merge," Tyler Kendall (Duke U.) on "Toward a variationist analysis of pause," and Kiyomi Kusumoto (Hirosaki Gakuin U.) on "A unified analysis of temporal and non-temporal made 'until' in Japanese."

The 2008 Linguistics Colloquium took place April 5. The keynote speaker was Joe Pater of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, who gave a talk on "Harmonic Grammar." The Underling guest speaker, Naomi Nagy of the University of New Hampshire, spoke on "A sociolinguistic grammar of Faetar." Other presenters were Carlos Molina-Vital (Duke U.) on "Generic singular definite nominal phrases in Spanish: a notional account," Jaeshil Kim (Liberty U.) on "Plural markings in classifier languages," Chunmei Yu (U. Virginia) on "The use of the Cooperative Principle and the Politeness Principle in Chinese," and UNC's own Peter Sherwood (Slavic Languages and Literatures) on "Nascent futures in Hungarian," Jen Smith on "[+wh] complementizers drive phonological phrasing in Fukuoka Japanese," and Lisa Domby on "Variations in sonority rankings: Gliding of fricatives."

The 2009 colloquium is in the planning stages. For more information please see

❖ A mini-conference on Mesoamerican linguistics and epigraphy was organized by David Mora-Marín in April of 2008, supported by funds from the Linguistics Department, the Center for Global Initiatives, and the Cognitive Science program. The speakers, other than David himself, were Melissa Frazier, John Justeson, Nicholas Hopkins, and Erich Foxtree.

Undergraduate Student News

❖ A number of students have graduated with Honors in Linguistics since the last newsletter.

December 2006: Colby Day, "The Sociolinguistics of Physician-Patient Interactions: Factors Affecting Communication and Access to Healthcare."

May 2007: Agnes Gucwa, "A Comparison of Narrative Abilities of Boys with Fragile X Syndrome and Boys with Down Syndrome," Kellin McKinney, "Expressive Morphosyntax in Boys with Fragile X Syndrome and Down Syndrome," and Eliot Raynor, "Spanish Borrowings and Code-mixing in Ch'orti' Discourse."

May 2008: Kellen Carpenter, "Tracking Idiolectal Change Using Corpora: Tracing Style Changes in Newspaper Editorials," Karen Feagin, "Creation and Perpetuation of Linguistic Stereotypes as Presented in Disney Films," Brice Russ, "The Register of Facebook: Linguistic Features of a Prominent Social-Networking Site," and Katherine Studwell, "A Used in German Modifier: The Syntactic Position of the German Extended Modifier." Katherine also presented a version of her thesis at the 14th Germanic Linguistics Annual Conference at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Underling, the undergraduate linguistics club, had an active year in 2007-08. In addition to bringing Professor Naomi Nagy to the spring colloquium, Underling hosted a talk by Noah Savage, part of the undergraduate speaker series, about some advantages that constructed languages can afford their speakers. The club also held social dinners, with a large turnout of undergraduates and faculty, and two game nights that resulted in the drawing of some bizarre playing cards. 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.

❖ The recipients of the Marc Adam Eisdorfer Award for Outstanding Graduating Senior in Linguistics were Agnes Gucwa (now in the graduate program in Speech and Hearing Science at UNC-CH) for 2007 and Karen Feagin for 2008.

Graduate Student News

Ian Clayton has spent the last few months preparing the early stages of his dissertation, which will focus on isolating potential phonetic and cognitive explanations for the crosslinguistic typology of preaspiration. He spent much of the last summer in Scotland collecting data from Gaelic speakers and conducting preliminary experiments. In November, he'll be presenting a poster at NELS 39, which assesses both phonetic and phonological explanations for the typology of Scottish Gaelic preaspiration. In other news, Ian and his wife Tobie had a baby girl in June '07. Zoa May is now 14 months old and toddling about with great facility and enthusiasm. While her MLU is still quite low, her every utterance confirms a number of theoretical proposals about the acquisition of L1 phonology.

Melissa Frazier presented a paper at the SSILA annual meeting in January 2008 in Chicago ("Acoustic Analysis of Pitch in Yucatec Maya and Implications for Dialect Differentiation") and another paper at the Symposium on Mayan Languages and Linguistics in April 2008 in Chapel Hill ("The Phonetics, Phonology, and Phonologization of Glottalization in Yucatec Maya"). She has been awarded the UNC dissertation completion fellowship for this upcoming academic year.

Susannah Kirby spent a semester as a visitor at UCLA. She will be finishing her dissertation in May, so she is going on the job market this fall.

Jenn Renn received a 2008 Impact Award from UNC's Graduate Education Advancement Board, recognizing research by graduate students that makes a contribution to the state of North Carolina, for her project "Measuring Style Shift: A Quantitative Analysis of African American English." Jenn also presented "Operationalizing the measurement of style in language variation," co-authored with Mike Terry, at NWAV 36; presented an invited talk, "Style Shifting, Vernacular Variation, and Literacy in African American Middle School Students," with Joanne Roberts at the Minority Research Forum at UNC; was a co-author on a project at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute that was presented at ASHA (the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association); and received the 2007 Marc Eisdorfer Award for the Outstanding Graduate Teaching Fellow.

Faculty News

Misha Becker presented collaborative work with W. Garrett Mitchener (College of Charleston, SC) in August 2007 at the Workshop on Psychocomputational Models of Language, part of the annual Cognitive Science Society meeting. Their work concerns the development of a computational learning algorithm that models children's learning of the raising verb-control verb distinction. In January 2008 she gave birth to her very own data generator, named Olivia, and in February learned that she had been awarded tenure. So it was good news all around! Misha is very grateful for the generous maternity leave and is looking forward to coming back to the department this fall.

Randy Hendrick was awarded a three-year NSF research award in January, along with Peter Gordon in the Psychology Department. The title of the project is Relational Memory and Language Comprehension. It studies how anaphoric expressions of various types interact with frequency of use and syntactic structure to promote or inhibit certain kinds of inferences. He traveled to Palau (a group of islands in the Philippine Sea) this past summer, building on his earlier fieldwork in Samoan two years ago trying to find syntactic evidence from distributive expressions that some languages lack generalized quantifiers. On the social front, during the spring semester he hosted a reading group with faculty and students from Philosophy on tough-movement adjectives, and he has a draft of a paper on constructions like "This Bud is for you".

David Mora-Marín attended a conference on the indigenous languages of the Americas in October of 2007 at UT-Austin, where he presented a paper on the identification of an inchoative morphological marker and an inverse voice construction in ancient Mayan writing. The following month he was invited to present a paper on pre-Columbian historical connections between the Mayan and Costa Rican peoples at the Denver Art Museum. In May of 2008 he was invited to present a paper, which dealt with the social and political information that can be gleaned from the study of the earliest Mayan texts (ca. 400 BC-AD 200), at a conference on anthropological studies of ancient and contemporary Mesoamerica at the State University of New York at Albany. Lastly, he organized the mini-conference on Mesoamerican linguistics and epigraphy described under "Departmental News" above. With regard to his writing activities, several of David's papers were accepted for publication: one dealing with the analysis of the reading format and direction of the recently discovered Olmec script, dating to ca. 900 BC, in Latin American Antiquity; one on the definition of two classes of hieroglyphic sign that have not been thoroughly discussed in the past with regard to ancient Mayan writing, namely, semantograms (semantic classifiers and semantic determinatives), in Ancient Mesoamerica; one on the sociolinguistic geography of the Maya lowlands during the Classic period (A.D. 200-900), in the International Journal of American Linguistics; and one on the historical reconstruction of the demonstrative/independent pronouns of Proto-Ch'olan-Tzeltalan and Proto-Ch'olan, in the Transactions of the Philological Society of America. During the fall of 2008, David will enjoy his research leave, during which he hopes to complete a couple of works in progress, one pertaining to the history of ancient Mayan writing, and the other to the reconstruction of nominal and verbal morphology of Proto-Ch'olan-Tzeltalan, the hypothetical language that was probably spoken by the innovators of the script during the first century of the Late Preclassic period, ca. 400-300 B.C.

Elliott Moreton taught a graduate seminar on first-language acquisition in the fall, and the undergraduate "Human Language and Animal Communication Systems" course in the spring, in addition to the undergraduate phonology and graduate phonetics core courses. His past year's research has focused on comparing the learning difficulty of different phonotactic patterns by adult learners in the lab as a way of testing hypotheses about the origins of typological asymmetries in natural language. He presented some of the results at the Symposium on Phonologization at the University of Chicago in May -- his fifth conference trip to Illinois since coming to UNC in 2003, which just goes to show the value of central location. Elliott is also the advisor for a dissertation project by Ian Clayton on the phonetics and phonology of preaspiration in Scottish Gaelic.

Paul Roberge was appointed Professor Extraordinary of General Linguistics at the University of Stellenbosch in 2007. He was there for two weeks this summer to give a lecture series on language genesis and to do research on the history of Afrikaans. He has written two articles on pidgins and creoles as a possible window on the origin and evolution of human language and is also investigating the reconstruction of language contact in prehistoric Germanic.

Jen Smith began the summer of 2007 with the happy news that she would receive tenure. She has been working on an analysis of question intonation in the Fukuoka dialect of Japanese, and was invited to speak on this topic at the Workshop on Prosody, Syntax and Information Structure III at Indiana University last fall and at the College of William and Mary in the spring. She has also been investigating how phonological processes traditionally known as lenition (weakening) and fortition (strengthening) can be analyzed in the phonological framework of Optimality Theory; this project has led to a paper in a forthcoming book called Lenition and Fortition and a poster presentation at the 2008 LSA. Jen enjoyed having the chance to teach a course on morphology in Spring '07, and has been able to make "Structure of Japanese" a permanent course that will be offered about once every two years.

Mike Terry has spent most of the year pursuing a number of projects in the area of African-American English (AAE), among them continuing work with Randy Hendrick on the influence of AAE on mathematical reasoning tasks. He taught a short course on AAE at the UMass Center for the Study of African American English's 2007 Summer Dialect Research Project, and recently presented a paper at the Workshop on Locating Variability held there as well. In addition to the papers coming out of these projects, he is happy to be working with Jennifer Renn on a paper that looks at how linguists can operationalize the notion of style. This semester he is teaching "Introduction to Semantics" and "Language Deficits," and enjoying both.

Alumni News

Jeff Adams-Davis (MA '82) reports that after 24 years at UNC Charlotte, 17 of which have been spent as Director of the English Language Training Institute (the University's intensive English program), he is retiring and moving to Orange County, California, hopefully to teach ESL and related subjects -- or maybe just learn to surf.

Hans Boas (PhD '00) is organizing the Fifth International Conference on Construction Grammar (ICCG-5), to be held at UT Austin in September 2008. More information is available at

Amanda Byrd (BA '07) has been managing two research labs in the Psychology department at Duke University since graduation -- the Language Development Lab headed by Dr. Reiko Mazuka and the Reading Lab headed by Dr. Gary Feng. These labs run studies with subjects ranging from 4 months to 22 yrs old, looking at things such as infant and adult speech perception (e.g. infants' ability to distinguish between Japanese syllables with different pitch accents), adults' reading eye movements (e.g. ability to compensate when regressions (backtracking) cause the screen to flash), prereading children's understanding of the units of language, and prereading children's theory of mind. This was great experience with linguistics research! In the Fall '08 semester, Amanda will begin the master's program in Speech-Language Pathology at UNC-CH. She hopes to continue to the PhD level so she can get back to her true passion, research.

Mary Dresser Taffet (BA '81) lost her mother to Alzheimer's in October of last year, and her mother-in-law, also to Alzheimer's, in March of this year. She and her husband celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary with a Caribbean cruise, traveling to Key West, Grand Cayman and Jamaica. Their son will start his senior year at Stony Brook University on Long Island in September. Mary reports that she has lost probably 60 pounds in the last year and a half; she takes a variety of fitness classes and has gotten back into biking, riding her Trek 7.3 FX as often as possible -- and she is trying to incorporate her brand new Wii Fit into her fitness routine as well. Mary still works at TextWise, LLC in Syracuse, NY, and has been very busy recently working with semantic dictionaries and relevance testing. She was a member of the team behind the production and recent release of Gyzork.

Kirk Hazen (PhD '97) is now (full) professor in the Department of English at West Virginia University. He has been in Morgantown, WV, for ten years now, where he can still bike or walk to work. He has recently received an NSF grant to figure out some of the sociolinguistic basics for English in Appalachia. He has also recently published in some collections, American Speech, and The Journal of English Linguistics. Besides playing soccer, Kirk and Kate now have three children to occupy their free time.

Emily (Keys) Innes (BA '91) and her husband still live in the Boston area. Emily started her own interior design firm in 2005, and she began teaching classes in design and decoration this spring in affiliation with a local museum. She has just started a blog called DesignConversation covering practical aspects of good design and intends to add a little analysis of the industry (nothing like a degree in Linguistics to teach you how to analyze!). She and her husband are both active in their local community.

Linda McIntyre (MA '86, PhD '92) and her husband, Chris Culy, moved in July 2008 from Vancouver, BC to Italy, where Chris is the Language Technologies Technical Officer at the Institute for Specialized Communication and Multilingualism at the European Academy in Bolzano, Italy. While Chris works on linguistic software for multilingual research, Linda will be working on studying Italian, as well as researching the finer points of the Italian cafe lifestyle.

Brice Russ (BA '08) is taking a year off before grad school -- he plans to apply to several schools, notably Penn, for sociolinguistics -- and is trying to simultaneously relax and make money during that time. He continues to pursue various positions related to the private space industry. He will be working as the Public Relations/Marketing intern for 4Frontiers Corp. this fall (via telecommute), and working with an aerospace company next spring at a location TBD, most likely in Philadelphia. In the meanwhile, he will be staying in Chapel Hill, exploring some job opportunities (the 4Frontiers internship is unpaid) and writing quizbowl questions for NAQT (National Academic Quiz Tournaments). Brice concedes, "I'm not sure how well I'm going to do on the 'relaxing' part, but at least it'll be easier than writing my honors thesis."

Hayden (Stack) Lindsey (MA '04) and her husband Mark welcomed their first child, a son named Oren Silas Lindsey, on November 19, 2007. Oren is now 8 months old; he is crawling and keeping his parents very busy! He's working on mastering English, Spanish, and ASL. So far, his only utterances are "hey" and the ASL sign for milk. Other than that, Hayden continues to teach part-time at The College at Southeastern in Wake Forest, NC, and will be teaching History of the English Language this fall.

James Saunders (PhD '77) has recently returned from six months in Baghdad as an advisor to the US Embassy and Multi-National Forces on various security issues. Personal highlights included frequent interaction with top-level Iraqi government officials and, especially, serving as a member of the US delegation to last August's Trilateral Security talks with Iran and Iraq. This was his sixth tour in Iraq and presumably the last. Previously, he had worked with US and Iraqi officials setting up the Iraqi Higher Tribunal (IHT) and the war crimes trials of former regime officials. He spent much time sharing prison food with former Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz and others at Camp Cropper.

Jorge Valdes (BA '01) has completed an M.A. in Hispanic Linguistics at Penn State University and will continue on with the PhD program starting this fall. One of his co-advisers is Chip Gerfen, who was a linguistics professor at UNC until 2001. Jorge has received an honorable mention for the Ford Foundation Diversity Fellowship. Finally, he is truly honored to share that he has been awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship in the discipline of linguistics, one of 5 which were awarded this past year.

Kara VanDam (PhD '07) and Patrick Obregon (MA '01) recently celebrated their second wedding anniversary. Kara serves as the Dean of Faculty for Kaplan University's College of Arts & Sciences, but has kept up her linguistics research, and won the President's Prize at the 2008 LACUS conference held in Quebec City. Patrick has completed the first year in his doctoral program at Ohio State's School of Education in the field of Quantitative Research, Evaluation, and Measurement in Education, and is the recipient of the Director's Award for the 2008-2009 school year.

Justin Watt (BA '02 Ling, MS '04 Information Science) reports that in the more than two years since his last update, a lot has happened: "I met a girl, I started a new job, and I moved to San Francisco." Stephanie Soleil is a dual French and American citizen raised in France, and "she's bilingual, so lots of fun linguisticky goodness there." In June 2006, Justin started a new job working as a web application developer for a blog advertising company called Federated Media. That meant an hour plus commute to Sausalito, so he and Stephanie moved down to San Francisco from Santa Rosa. Eventually Justin sold his unused car and bought a Vespa, because he can park it anywhere. He used to ride it over the Golden Gate Bridge to work every day, but in mid-August, Federated Media, the little Sausalito startup that had less than 15 employees when he joined and now has over 70, relocated to shiny new office space in San Francisco. Justin still chronicles his adventures on his blog,, and invites everyone to check it out.

Rosemarie (Whitney) Ostler (MA '80) reports that her book, Let's Talk Turkey: The Stories Behind America's Favorite Expressions, came out in June with Prometheus. She also got her website up and running. She is still living in Eugene, Oregon.

Theses/Dissertations 2007-08

Jeff Conn (MA). "The Greek prothetic vowel and the Sanskrit long-reduplicant perfect: A statistical evaluation of the Indo-European laryngeal theory" (directed by C. Melchert).

Eduardo Gil (MA). "The Turkish partitive as simple nominal phrases: Evidence from incorporation and specificity" (directed by R. Hendrick).

Jenna Mory (MA). "Verbal Acquisition in L2 Spanish" (directed by M. Becker).

Jenn Renn (MA). "Measuring style shift: A quantitative analysis of African American English" (directed by M. Terry).

Hang Zhang (MA). "A phonological study of second language acquisition of Mandarin Chinese tones" (directed by J. Smith).

Eunsuk Lee (PhD). Types of scrambling in Korean syntax (directed by R. Hendrick).

Yu Li (PhD). Differential acquisition of phonemic contrasts by infant word-learners: Does production recapitulate perception? (directed by E. Moreton).

Kara Van Dam (PhD). A study of language identity and shift: The Calvinist Dutch of West Michigan (directed by C. Eble).

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