Be sure to check out the Department of Linguistics weekly newsletter, WHASC, for all linguistics-related announcements for UCSC.

S-Circle Presentation: Scales of Negativity

posted Jan 13, 2013, 3:47 PM by Matt Wagers

Speakers: Donka Farkas and Adrian Brasoveanu (in collaboration with
Floris Roelofsen)
Date/Time: Friday, January 18th, 4-5 pm
Location:  Linguistics Common Room

Title: Scales of Negativity

The basic question the work we report on addresses is how to detect
the presence of negation in sentences that is not as obviously
negative as (1):

(1) Anna didn't answer my letter.

In particular, all the sentences in (2) have been taken, since Klima
(1964), to have some negative element in them:

(2) a. Nobody answered my letter.
     b. Anna saw nobody.
     c. Anna rarely answered my letters.
     d. Anna answered few of my letters.

In the first part of the talk we present a new test for detecting the
presence of negation in a sentence based on the observation that
negative sentences license the particle 'no' in agreeing responses:

(3) a. A: Anna didn't answer my letter.
         B: Yes/No, she didn't.

     b. A: Anna answered my letter.
         B: Yes/*No, she didn't.

After providing experimental evidence that backs up this novel test we
present and discuss the results of an experiment that uses it to probe
for negativity in sentences like (2).  The results we obtain support
the view that sentence negativity is influenced by the semantic nature
and the syntactic position of the negative item.  Our results support
the conclusion that the parameters involved form the two interacting
scales in (4), the first essentially semantic, the second, syntactic:

(4) a. n-words >> Downward Entailing-items
     b. Su, Adv >> DO

We conclude by briefly discussing a third experiment that tests
negativity of a sentence based on the polarity of the tag questions it
anchors.  The results of this experiment support the results of the
previous one thus confirming the relevance of the scales in (4).

S-Circle presentation: Grammatical prediction in Chamorro

posted Oct 25, 2012, 4:13 PM by Matt Wagers   [ updated Oct 25, 2012, 4:16 PM ]

Sandy Chung and Matt Wagers will be discussing their recent sentence processing experiments in Chamorro at the S-Circle meeting, this Friday October 26 at 3:30pm in the LCR. See for further details.

Title: Grammatical prediction in Chamorro: WH agreement and real-time dependency formation

Abstract: In this talk, we will discuss some recent sentence comprehension studies in Chamorro. Chamorro is of great interest to the comprehension of filler-gap dependencies because it provides morphological cues to the gap site via its system of wh Agreement (Chung, 1982, 1998). In two experiments - self-paced listening and a variant of preferential looking - we examined the real-time comprehension of WH Agreement inflected extractions. Based on the detection of semantic anomalies, we find that presence of wh agreement morphology plays a strongly facilitative role in the completion of filler-gap dependencies. Based on patterns of reanalysis, we find that even in the absence of (optional) WH agreement morphology, gaps are projected but not synchronously interpreted. Additionally, as a side effect of our experimental design, we document an age-correlated decline in the availability of possessor extraction among Chamorro speakers.

The timecourse of comprehension in Chamorro highlights two important questions for psycholinguistic models: why are highly likely continuations sometimes ignored? And what is the relationship between syntactic prediction and semantic interpretation? We will discuss some potential answers to these questions and describe on-going work to address them using Chamorro’s person-animacy hierarchy.

WCCFL 30 Program Announced

posted Feb 10, 2012, 1:25 PM by Matt Wagers   [ updated Feb 10, 2012, 1:25 PM ]

Masaya Yoshida (NWU) to deliver this week's Linguistics Colloquium

posted Feb 2, 2012, 12:32 PM by Matt Wagers

His topic?

The real-time processing of Forward and Backward Sluicing

Three department projects accepted at CUNY

posted Feb 1, 2012, 10:37 PM by Matt Wagers   [ updated Feb 9, 2012, 4:36 PM ]

Three research projects from the Linguistics Research Center will be presented at the 25th Annual CUNY Human Sentence Processing conference, held this March 14-16, at the CUNY Graduate Center in NYC. These are:
  • Graduate student Nate Arnett:
    "Subject encoding and retrieval interference"

  • Undergraduate alumni Joseph King & Caroline Andrews:
    Do reflexives always find a grammatical antecedent for themselves?"

  • Sandy Chung, Manny F. Borja, & Matt Wagers:
    "WH Agreement and the timing of unbounded dependency formation: a Chamorro perspective on predictive licensing and interpretation"
Congrats, all!

Corpus Linguistics Group now 'Language, Logic & Cognition Lab'

posted Feb 1, 2012, 10:30 PM by Matt Wagers

For some time, members of the department have been meeting as a Corpus Linguistics Group, organized by Adrian Brasoveanu. This endeavor is now evolving into the Language, Logic & Cognition (LaLoCo) lab. The overarching goal of LaLoCo is to the establish and solidify connections between a) detailed, formally sophisticated linguistic theories – formal semantics theories in particular, and b) modern methods of data analysis and cognitive models of learning and processing abstract, highly structured representations of the kind deployed in formal semantics and generative linguistics more broadly. To learn more and to stay posted on developments, go here.

WCCFL XXX @ UCSC: April 13-15, 2012

posted Aug 11, 2011, 11:32 AM by Matt Wagers   [ updated Aug 11, 2011, 11:33 AM ]

30th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics
April 13-15, 2012
University of California, Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz, CA, USA

The West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics, in its thirtieth installment. The conference aims to bring together papers and posters of the highest caliber in theoretical and formal linguistics. A proceedings will be published.

The conference will take place on the Santa Cruz campus April 13-15 2012. This year's invited speakers are:

Jeffrey Lidz (University of Maryland)
Christopher Potts (Stanford)
Kie Zuraw (UCLA)

WCCFL 30 is made possible by generous support provided by the Linguistics Research Center, and by the Institute for Humanities Research (both at UCSC). We look forward to welcoming you to the campus.

Call for Papers:

The Department of Linguistics and the Linguistics Research Center at UC Santa Cruz are pleased to invite abstracts for submission to the thirtieth instantiation of the West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics.

We invite abstracts for twenty-minute talks and for posters. Abstracts must be anonymous and must be at most two pages in length (including references and data), on letter sized (8.5 by 11) or A4 stock with one inch margins, set in a font no smaller than 11 points. Abstracts which do not adhere to these guidelines will not be evaluated for inclusion in the program.

Submissions are limited to one individual and one joint abstract per author, or two joint abstracts per author.

Authors should prepare their submissions in PDF format with all necessary fonts embedded and should submit them online at:

The submission deadline is October 31, 2011. Authors will receive notification about their submissions before the close of the calendar year.

For more information please visit the conference website at:

Additional questions may be directed to

Linguistics Undergraduate Research Conference, 2011

posted Jun 2, 2011, 4:43 PM by Matt Wagers   [ updated Jun 2, 2011, 4:50 PM ]

The 2011 Linguistics Undergraduate Research Conference (2011) features work from undergraduate lab members ...
- Devin Tankersly: "Floating tones? In my Chinese? It's more likely than you think: a Phonetic and Phonological Examination of Polar Questions in Shanghainese";
- and Joseph King and Caroline Andrews: "Binding at a Distance: On the Resolution of Non-Adjacent Anaphors in Sentence Processing".

The keynote will be delivered by undergrad alumnus Shigeto Kawahara  (Assistant Professor and director of the Phonetics Lab, at Rutgers).

Caroline Andrews on Implicatures

posted May 11, 2011, 2:12 PM by Matt Wagers   [ updated May 11, 2011, 2:15 PM ]

Implicature calculation and the pragmatics of experiments 

SLAB (Joint Semantics/Syntax Lab Meeting)

12 May, 2011

Stevenson 217, 1PM

Caroline Andrews will present work from her thesis, part of which she will also give as a poster at the 4th Biennial XPrag conference this June in Barcelona.

Theres Grüter: What's so hard about Romance object clitics?

posted Apr 29, 2011, 2:23 AM by Matt Wagers   [ updated May 4, 2011, 2:11 PM ]

We're pleased to have Theres Grüter (Center for Infant Studies; Department of Psychology; Stanford) give a talk at the May 5 Lab meeting:

What’s so hard
about Romance object clitics?

May 5, 1pm, 202 Humanities One

Object clitics emerge late in child language development, are difficult to master for second language learners, and present an area of particular vulnerability for children with language impairment. What is the reason for this difficulty observed across various learner populations? In this talk, I will present experimental evidence from two recent studies, on L2 French and L1 Spanish respectively, suggesting a critical role for processing/working memory limitations in the real-time production and comprehension of object clitic constructions.


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