Category Archives: Talks

UIC TiL: Fall 2012 Schedule

Mark your calendars and save these dates because the fall line-up for UIC Talks in Linguistics has been announced. All talks are scheduled on Fridays at 3 PM and will take place in University Hall 1750, located at 601 S. Morgan Street here in Chicago. We look forward to seeing you there for some interesting talks on a wide array of linguistic topics.

  • September 21: Masaya Yoshida, Northwestern (Psycholinguistics)
  • October 19: Kay González-Vilbazo, UIC (Code-switching)
  • November 2: Bernie Issa, UIC (SLA)
  • November 16: Craig Sailor, UCLA (Syntax)
  • November 30: Nicholas Henriksen, Michigan (Phonology)

Titles of the talks as well as abstracts will be announced closer to the dates listed for each.

UIC TiL: Marcel den-Dikken

Greetings everyone!

Next Monday April 23th Marcel den-Dikken from CUNY will be giving a talk at UIC Talks in Linguistics (UIC TiL) entitled ‘Of orphans and twins: Accounting for some peculiar patterns in code-switching’ (see abstract below).

The talk will take place in University Hall 1501 at 3 pm, and as always, light snackswill be provided.

Of orphans and twins: Accounting for some peculiar patterns in code-switching

González-Vilbazo & López (2012) note that in Spanish/German code-switching (CS) a switch at v from a Spanish light verb (inserted in v) to a VP lexified by German vocabulary items leads VO order thanks to the fact that the Spanish v dictates the syntax of the vP (see (1a), analysed as in (1b)). But they also point out that there are speakers for whom the Spanish v=hacer can be followed by a German VP with (German) OV order (as in (2a)). They argue that constructions of the type in (2a) involve what they call an ‘orphan’: a chunk of structure that is not integrated with the rest of the structure of the clause in the regular fashion. The analysis for (2a) that they propose is schematised in (2b), a structure in which there are two vPs, one from Spanish (spelled out as hizo) and the other from German (which is silent); it is the German v that takes the overt VP as its complement, and which causes the VP to be spelled out with (German) OV order.

(1) a.  Juan hizo verkaufen die Bücher Juan did sell the books
‘Juan sold the books’
b. [vP vSp=hizo [VP verkaufen die Bücher]]

(2) a.  Juan hizo die Bücher verkaufen Juan did the books sell
‘Juan sold the books’

       b. [vP vSp=hizo (…)] [vP [VP verkaufen die Bücher] vGe=i]]

González-Vilbazo & López point out that CS constructions with ‘orphans’ such as (2a) behave differently from run-of-the-mill Sp/Ge CS constructions such as (1a) with respect to a number of syntactic properties, including extraction (Worüber has hecho {Tlesen ein Buch/*ein Buch lesen}? ‘about what have you read a book’) and anaphoric dependencies (Juan se ha hecho {Tsehen sich selbst im Spiegel/*sich selbst im Spiegel sehen} ‘Juan saw himself in the mirror’). The ‘orphan’ status of the second vP in (2b) straightfor- wardly explains the fact that nothing can be extracted out of it. But as it stands, the proposal in (2b) leaves two things unexplained: (a) why the object of the OV-VP cannot be anaphorically bound to the subject of the clause, and (b) how the ‘orphan’ relates to the ‘(…)’ in the complement of the non-orphaned v, and what the nature of ‘(…)’ might be.

The problem with (a) is that, since the ‘orphaned’ constituent must be a vP in order for the German v to be able to dictate OV order inside it, and since vP is the locus of base-generation of the external argu- ment, it ought to be possible for the ‘orphaned’ vP in (2b) to have a (null) subject of its own, coreferential with the subject of the clause; an anaphor inside VP should then be able to be locally bound by the null external argument of the ‘orphaned’ vP, and binding should succeed. We will want to make sure that, even though the ‘orphaned’ constituent must indeed be a vP (for word-order purposes), it cannot house an instance of the external argument.

I propose to ensure this by analysing the ‘orphan’ as an asyndetic specifier of the first vP, in a covert coordination structure of the type proposed in work by Koster (2000 et passim). This is a case of asyndetic coordination at the level of vP minus the external argument, which is merged outside the coordinate structure, and introduced by a relator that has the shared external argument as its specifier and the asyndetic coordinat- ion (annotated as ‘:P’, following Koster) as its complement, as in (3).

(3) [RP Juan [RELATOR [:P [vP1 vSp=hizo [VP ec]] [: [vP2 [VP die Bücher verkaufen] vGe=i]]]]]

Coordination/asyndetic specification must be at the level of vP because coordination of acategorial constituents (‘VP’) is impossible; moreover, vP must be present in the second conjunct in order to case- license the object of the German verb. But there is no need to introduce the external argument inside the individual conjuncts: having it be introduced by a relator outside the coordination is derivationally simpler because it involves fewer instances of External Merge (the external argument is merged just once, not twice) and it avoids Across-the-Board extraction of the external argument from the two conjuncts in parallel. (3) is thus the most economical structure for the ‘orphan’ construction — and moreover, it gives the ‘orphan’ an important function: it serves to specify the contents of the empty VP in the first conjunct.

An elliptical VP in the first conjunct thus fills in the ‘(…)’ in the structure in (2b). It must be an empty category because a multi-dominance approach to ‘orphan’ constructions is impossible: having the VP dominating die Bücher verkaufen attached simultaneously to the empty German v and to the Spanish v spelled out as hizo would impose irresolvably conflicting word-order demands upon the VP: since VP would serve simultaneously as the complement of a German and a Spanish v, the object inside VP would have to simul- taneously precede and follow the verb, which is of course impossible. For this kind of Right Node Raising, therefore, an analysis in terms of multi-dominance is out of the question.

Represented this way, the ‘orphan’ construction becomes an instance of a much broader pattern observed in CS constructions: so-called doubling. (2a) is in effectively a doubling construction: the v+VP part of the structure occurs twice, and v is spelled out in both conjuncts — albeit as a null morpheme in the second conjunct, which makes (2a) hard to recognise as a doubling construction. More readily recognisable doubling constructions are utterances such as those in (4), from English/Tamil CS (taken from Sankoff et al. 1990:93).

(4) a.  verb doubling
they gave me a research grant ko`utaa
they gave me a research grant gave.3.PL.PAST ‘they gave me a research grant’

       b.  auxiliary+verb doubling
            I was talking to oru orutanoo`a peesin`u iruntein
            I was talking to one person talk.CONT be.1.SG.PAST ‘I was talking to a person’

       c.  complementiser doubling
just because avaa innoru colour and race engindratunaale just because they different colour and race of-because
‘just because they are of a different colour and race’

I analyse all cases of doubling in CS as involving asyndetic specification, with the ‘shared’ constituent sandwiched between the doublets being the asyndetic specifier of an elliptical constituent in the first conjunct (as in (3)).

Doubling is by no means confined to CS — hence is not a ‘CS-specific’ phenomenon that would justify a separate ‘grammar of CS’. Doubling is found in utterances of monolingual speakers as well. An example occasionally discussed in the literature is complementiser doubling in sentences of the type in (5a) (from Spanish) and (5b) (from Dutch). These constructions are sometimes treated as cases of CP recursion or CP–TopP structures (the latter with a Top-head spelled out as a complementiser) in a strictly right- branching structure. I will present evidence, however, for the conclusion that these are, just like the construc- tions reviewed above, instances of asyndetic specification, with an elliptical TP in the first conjunct. Spanish and Dutch complementiser doubling in addition makes a case for the conclusion that the elliptical TP is a base-generated empty category (ec in (3)), not a PF-deleted full-fledged TP: the sandwiched topic must be base-generated in situ, and can never be followed (in a non-doubling construction) by a non-elliptical TP.

 (5) a.  dice que dinero que no tenía
            says that money that not had
            ‘(s)he says that (s)he didn’t have money’
        b. ik denk dat van brood alleen dat je daarvan niet kunt leven I think that of bread alone that you thereof not can live ‘I think that one can’t live on bread alone’
For more information, contact: Daniel Vergara, Sergio Ramos, or Bernie Issa. Feel free to keep up with past and present talks via the UIC TiL website.

UIC TiL: Brady Clark

UIC Talks in Linguistics invite you to the next TiL this Friday the 13th.

Brady Clark from Northwester will be leading the talk entitled ‘Syntactic theory and the evolution of syntax’

As always, the talk will take place at UH 1750 at 3pm.

Again, this Friday April 13 at 3pm.

Here is an abstract of the talk,

Brady Clark
Northwestern University

Contemporary work on the evolution of syntax can be roughly divided into
two perspectives, the incremental view and the saltational view. The
incremental view claims that the evolution of syntax involved multiple
stages between the noncombinatorial communication system of our last
common ancestor with chimpanzees and full-blown modern human syntax. The
saltational view claims that syntax was the result of just a single
evolutionary development. What is the relationship between contemporary
theories of syntax and these two perspectives on the evolution of syntax?
Jackendoff (2010) argues that there is a dependency between theories of
language and theories of language evolution: “Your theory of language
evolution depends on your theory of language.” For example, he claims that
most work within the Minimalist Program (for background, Chomsky 1995) is
forced to the saltational view. My focus in this talk is the evolution of
syntax, and, in particular, the relation between syntactic theory and
perspectives on the evolution of syntax. I argue that there is not a
simple dependency relation between theories of syntax and theories of
syntactic evolution. The parallel architecture (Jackendoff 2002) is
consistent with a saltational theory of syntactic evolution. The
architecture assumed in most minimalist work is compatible with an
incremental theory.

See you there!

UIC TiL: Harriet Wood Bowden

Greetings everyone!

Dr. Harriet Wood Bowden from the University of
Tennessee will be giving a talk entitled “Native-like brain processing of
L2 in college learners: Evidence from event-related potentials (ERPs)”.
See abstract below.

The talk will take place in University Hall 1750 at 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday April 4th, 2012.

We hope to see everyone there!


Is it possible to attain native-like brain processing of a late-learned
second language (L2) as a typical college-level language learner? What is
the trajectory of lexical and grammatical neurocognitive processing in
such learners? I will present results from a study designed to shed light
on these questions. This study used event-related potentials (ERPs) to
examine the neurocognition of lexical and grammatical processing of L2
Spanish in two groups of college-level learners, as compared to native
(L1) Spanish speakers. The two L2 groups represented the beginning and
end-points of college-level learners. Results suggest that not only
experience and proficiency but also the type of grammatical structure in
question influence the attainment of native-like processing.Native-like
brain processing of L2 in college learners: Evidence from event-related
potentials (ERPs)

For more information, contact: Daniel Vergara (, Sergio
Ramos ( or Bernie Issa (

UIC TiL: Ji Young Shim

Join us at our next Talks in Linguistics (TiL)!

This Friday March 30th Ji Young Shim from the CUNY graduate center will be giving a talk entitled ‘A Minimalist Account of Word Order Variation in Code-switching’.

When: Friday March 30th at 3pm

Where: University Hall (601 S. Morgan Street, Chicago, IL 60607) 1750

We hope to see you there!

For more information, contact: Daniel Vergara (, Sergio
Ramos ( or Bernie Issa (

Here is an abstract from his work.

A Minimalist Account of Word Order Variation in Code-switching
Ji Young Shim; CUNY Graduate Center

Under the assumption that monolingual and bilingual grammars are subject
to the same principles, the present study aims to provide a principled
account of word order variation in code-switching (CS). Cross-linguistic
CS data show that not only can a switch occur between languages with
different canonical word orders, such as an OV language (e.g., Japanese,
Korean) and a VO language (e.g., English), but the internal order of a
code-switched constituent may also vary, exhibiting either order of the
two languages involved in CS. One immediate question arises as to how
these different word orders are distributed and derived. The present study
employs three different experimental tasks, which are tested against
Korean-English and Japanese-English bilingual speakers’ introspective
judgments of the CS patterns that are presented to them in the form of a
The statistical results from 34 Korean-English bilinguals show that both
the distinction between light and heavy verbs within a code-switched
constituent and the difference between literal and non-literal/idiomatic
meaning of the phrase play a role to derive different word orders in CS,
which reveals that syntax alone cannot account for the various word order
patterns in CS, but both syntax (particularly, the syntax of light verbs,
which differs from language to language) and meaning (the semantic
compositionality of a phrase) contribute to OV-VO variation in CS. We also
found that there is a correlation between the preferred word order and the
syntactic flexibility of a code-switched constituent.
Based on the findings of the tests, the study proposes a syntactic account
of OV and VO derivation in Korean-English and Japanese-English CS in the
framework of Minimalism. The present talk focuses on Korean-English CS
data, and the findings from a small set of Japanese-English CS tests will
be also discussed for the purpose of comparison.

UIC TiL: Shane Ebert

Come join us at our first Talks in Linguistics (TiL) session of 2012! This friday February 17th, Shane Ebert will be leading a presentation entitled “Why Simple Wh phrases are Not So Simple: Evidence from Inversion in Spanish English Code switching”

When: Friday 17th, 2012 at 3pm

Where: UH 1750 (601 S. Morgan Street, Chicago, IL 60607)

Light refreshments will be provided.

Here is a preview of the presentation:

“Why Simple Wh phrases areNot So Simple: Evidence from Inversion in Spanish English Code switching”

There are two particularly salient properties of wh questions in both
Spanish and English: fronting of the wh phrase and inversion of either the
subject and verb (Spanish) or the subject and auxiliary (English).  In the
case of inversion, this is not a unitary phenomenon, as evidenced by the
matrix embedded asymmetry of English and the argument adjunct asymmetry of
Spanish, and the ultimate motivation for the inversion is not clear.  The
question is why it is possible in those contexts and not in any others.
For example, what makes the process of inversion in Spanish sensitive to
the thematic status of the wh phrase?  In fact, this sensitivity can offer
clues about how inversion proceeds in the two languages. In this
presentation, I review several other types of sensitivity beyond those of
the previously mentioned asymmetries and explore their implications for
the underlying mechanisms behind the phenomenon of inversion using
evidence from Spanish-English code-switching.

For more information, contact: Daniel Vergara (, Sergio
Ramos ( or Bernie Issa (




UIC TiL: Spring 2012 Schedule

The graduate students of Hispanic Linguistics at the University of Illinois at Chicago are proud to announce the Spring 2012 schedule of talks.

UIC Talks in Linguistics (TiL) offers students, faculty, and invited-guests the opportunity to present ongoing work and get comments and ideas as well as the chance for critical and constructive discussion of their work.

The talks on the program for this spring:

17 February: Shane Ebert and Bernard Issa-UIC

30 March: Ji Young Shim-CUNY

13 April: Brady Clark-Northwestern

23 April: Marcel den Dikken-CUNY

For more information, contact: Daniel Vergara (, Sergio
Ramos ( or Bernie Issa (

Feel free to keep up with past and present talks via the UIC TiL web site:

Talk: When “foreign” languages aren’t foreign – Heritage speakers in the United States

The Latin American and Latino Studies Program and the Department of Hispanic and Italian Studies present:

When “foreign” languages aren’t foreign: Heritage speakers in the United States

Presented by: 
Kim Potowski
Associate professor of Hispanic Linguistics at UIC
October 12, 2011,  12:00 p.m.
Rafael Cintrón-Ortiz Latino Cultural Center
Lecture Center B2, University of Illinois at Chicago, East Campus
“You’re in America Speak English.”
“Multilingualism threatens our national unity.”
“Today’s immigrants are not learning English as quickly as those of the past.”
These myths regarding language are fairly prevalent in the U.S. at the beginning of the 21st century.  Approximately 20% of the U.S. population speaks a language other than English at home, yet several mainstream currents portray this linguistic diversity as a problem – with repressive and sometimes illegal  results. But there have been growing countercurrents of awareness that heritage languages are in fact both a right for the communities that speak them and a resource for the nation generally, along with the understanding that there are good ways (and not so good ways) of promoting English language learning.   Several cities have enacted initiatives to protect people’s right to maintain their heritage language without being accused of rejecting mainstream U.S. society, and several K-8 educational models teach other languages to our nation’s English monolingual children. This talk explores these issues making frequent reference to Spanish in the U.S. and to Chicago more specifically.
Kim Potowski is Associate Professor of Hispanic linguistics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she directs the Spanish for Heritage Speakers Program. Her research focuses on Spanish in the United States, and her book Language Diversity in the U.S. (Cambridge University Press 2010) profiles the 12 most commonly spoken heritage languages in the nation.  She is currently completing a book about “MexiRicans” in Chicago.
Bring your brown bag lunch and refreshments will be provided  –   this event is free and open to the general public.   For more information call LALS office at 312. 996.2445.

UIC TiL: Frank Savelsberg

This Friday October the 7th, Frank Savelsberg will be presenting a talk at UIC TiL entitled ‘La periferia izquierda “alta” y “baja” y la estructura informativa en las variedades iberorrománicas medievales’.

Join us at 3 PM in 1750 University Hall (601 S. Morgan St. Chicago, IL 60607) for the talk, and as usual, light refreshments will be provided.

We hope to see everyone there!

La periferia izquierda “alta” y “baja” y la estructura informativa en las variedades iberorrománicas medievales

Frank Savelsberg, Freie Universität Berlin

La intervención se centrará en variantes del orden de palabras en las variedades iberorrománicas medievales que divergen de modo significativo de los posibles tipos de organización de constituyentes en las lenguas actuales en cuestión. En el Español moderno, por ejemplo, predomina el orden de sujeto – verbo – complemento y es la organización no marcada en oraciones con verbos transitivos:

(1)            María come la manzana.

Si uno desplaza el complemento directo a la periferia izquierda de la oración en el Español moderno la repetición a través de un pronombre clítico es indispensable:

(2)            La manzana la come María.

Contrario a ésto, en el Español medieval pueden encontrarse estructuras como en (3a-b):

(3)            a.            E esto fiz yo porque tomases exiemplo. (Juan Manuel, Conde                                  Lucanor)

b.            […] que aestos dos procuradores fuese dado, por mi mandado, poderio por las çibdades e villas […] (Anonym, 1432)

En el primer caso se trata de un complemento directo dislocado al margen izquierdo de la oración, en el segundo caso de un complemento indirecto. En ambos casos, el Español moderno exige la repetición de los complementos dislocados a través de un clítico.

La intervención también se dedicará a estructuras como las siguientes:

(4)            a.            E pues que la Emperadriz ouo esto fecho murio. (Gran Conquista de Ultramar)

b.            […] e hauemos por experiencia visto […] (Anónimo, 1414)

En ambas frases se encuentran formas perifrásticas para expresar el pasado y entre el verbo auxiliar y el participio se hallan constituyentes interpoladas. Esta construcción no es posible en el Español moderno, la vecindad inmediata del verbo auxiliar y del participio es obligatoria.

Las observaciones y los análisis de la intervención quieren dar unas primeras respuestas a las preguntas siguientes: ¿Qué función cumplen los complementos dislocados en las variedades iberorrománicas medievales respecto a la estructura informativa? ¿Los elementos interpolados entre auxiliar y participio están marcadas en cuanto a la estructura informativa? ¿Qué función cumplen en el discurso?

UIC TiL: Fall 2011 Lineup

Mark your calendars!

UIC Talks In Linguistics (TiL) is pleased to announce this semester’s lineup:

Frank Savelsberg, Freie Universität Berlin

La periferia izquierda “alta” y “baja” y la estructura informativa
en las variedades iberorrománicas medievales (Spanish)

David Heap, The University of Western Ohio

Non-standard Spanish clitic sequences:
data from the Atlas Lingüístico de la Península Ibérica

Ming Xiang, University of Chicago


MaryAnn Parada and Shane Ebert, UIC


Please join us at UIC TiL Fridays at 3 p.m. in University Hall 1750, at the University of Chicago Eastern Campus.

Stay tuned for more information!