Upcoming Talks

We have two really exciting talks coming up to close the semester, come have cookies and share interesting ideas with great professors!

Names and Predicates
With Delia Fara, department of philosophy, Princeton
TODAY, Friday December 9th, from 4-5:30
Hamilton 709

Tyler Burge convinced us that names are predicates in at least some of
their occurrences:

There are relatively few Alfreds in Princeton.

Names, when predicates, satisfy the being-called condition:
schematically, a name “N” is true of a thing just in case that thing
is called N. This paper defends the unified view that names are
predicates in all of their occurrences. I follow Clarence Sloat, Paul
Elbourne, and Ora Matushansky in saying that when a name seems to
occur bare in an argument position of a predicate, it is really
occurring in the predicate position of a definite description with an
unpronounced “the”. I call these “denuded definite descriptions”.
There are good linguistic reasons for defending the denuded-definites
view. For example, it explains why “the” cannot be dropped in a
sentence like the following:

The ever-popular Bill will be speaking this afternoon;
The taller Maria is downstairs.

The definite article occurring before a name doesn’t get pronounced
when it’s syntactically right next to the name. Denuded definite
descriptions with names are incomplete definite descriptions since
most names have multiple bearers. Incomplete definite descriptions are
in general rigid, though. So the view survives Kripke’s modal


Discourse Analysis and Music
Daniela Veronesi
Saturday, December 10th from 2-3:30
Hamilton 511

In recent decades, music making as a social practice has drawn specific interest in scholarly research, in that ethnomusicologists, sociologists, linguistic anthropologists and conversation analysts have started to explore the multimodal and collective nature of music practices and the role played by verbal communication and language use in the organization of music action and in the construction of musicians’ professional identity. Given the growing internationalization of music making, which affects ensembles’ composition and educational activities alike, an area of particular interest for linguists and conversation analysts is the study of interaction among musicians who do not share their linguistic repertoires: How do musicians, for instance, treat linguistic, cultural (and musical) diversity in such encounters? To what extent are linguistic resources – in the absence of a professional interpreter – made locally available and relevant for the organization of interaction? How does language use (lingua franca, code-switching, occasional translation) intersect with the intrinsic multimodal nature of music making in the accomplishment of different types of participation and courses of action?

After providing an overview of this new emerging field of research at the intersection between language and music, in this talk I will discuss some data from an ongoing study on ensemble music workshops held in Italy by US composer and conductor Lawrence D. “Butch” Morris; the workshops, attended by music students and professional musicians, focused on “Conduction®”, a practice developed by Mr. Morris based on a lexicon of gestural directives employed to activate music action mostly without notation. In particular, we will see examples of how in such an exolingual setting 1) occasional translation is organized and contributes to shaping interaction; 2) the conductor multimodally introduces new directives and provides correction of music action and 3) social actors’ roles and individual and collective identities (conductor, teacher, professional musician, music student, the ensemble as a group) emerge and are negotiated in the workshops.

The study adopts a multimodality oriented Conversation Analysis approach; methodological and pratical issues related to examining interaction from this perspective (for instance, data collection and transcription practices) will also be discussed.

On “Conduction®”: an interview with L.D. “Butch” Morris: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=19145728

Chris Barker on actions as semantic objects

Join us this Friday, September 23, from 3:40-5:40PM in Hamilton 717 for our first speaker of the year! Chris Barker, professor of linguistics at NYU, will be speaking on the pros and cons of viewing actions as semantic objects, as informed by the computational, logical and linguistic literatures.


On ontologically parsimonious approaches (Portner, Schwager), actions
are characterized indirectly, via propositions. Then an imperative
such as “Eat an apple!” places an obligation on the addressee to bring
it about that we inhabit a world in which an apple has been eaten.

On certain computational and logical approaches (Pratt, Harel,
Segerberg; Wikipedia topic Dynamic_logic_(modal_logic)), actions are
relations over worlds: eating an apple in world w changes it into
world w’. Then “Eat an apple!” is an instruction to change the world
in an apple-eating way. In this style of dynamic semantics, actions
update worlds (rather than updating discourse states, as in more
familiar dynamic semantics such as DPL). In the linguistics
literature, as far as I know, only Lascarides and Asher propose an
analysis of imperatives involving actions.

In this talk, I will consider some of the pros and cons of recognizing
actions as a legitimate kind of semantic object. On the pro side,
besides providing a simple and appealing picture of the meaning of
imperatives and related expression types, actions also provide a
natural account of the interaction of imperatives and deontic modality
with disjunction. This problem is known in the philosophical
literature as Ross’s paradox, and in the linguistics literature as the
problem of free-choice permission: from “John may eat an apple”, it is
not valid to infer “John may eat an apple or a pear”, despite the fact
that eating an apple entails eating an apple or a pear. On the action
view, since the composite action of eating an apple or eating a pear
is a larger relation than the action of eating an apple, no inference
is expected.

The cons include some difficulty seeing how to gracefully embed a
logic of action within a more general grammatical framework. At stake
is the proper conception of the basic logical operation of
disjunction, as well as the degree to which the various uses of
disjunction in natural language can be unified.


Linguistics Potluck
Saturday, October 16th at 7:30pm in Hogan 6D
This should be a really cool potluck- the idea is that you bring a dish reflective of the culture whose language you study (let’s interpret that loosely and not get into a Whorfian/language-identity-culture/colonialism debate). Desserts, main courses, salads, whatever you like. Homemade or store-bought (if anyone without access to a kitchen wants to cook, contact me and we can talk, maybe you can use my kitchen).

Daniel Kaufman, Director of the Endangered Language Alliance
Friday, October 22nd at 4pm in Hamilton 703 (room number is tentative)
Daniel Kaufman is an adjunct professor in the CUNY Graduate Center who works on projects documenting, maintaining and revitalizing some of the estimated 400 endangered languages spoken in New York City. Check out this recent NYT article about endangered languages in the city and the ELA:

Workshop on Meaning: Language and Sociocultural Processes
“Mapping Mechanisms of Cultural and Political Power in the Debates over Workfare in New York City, 1993-1999”
Wednesday, October 27th from 2-4pm at SIPA (room TBA)
Prof. JOHN KRINSKY, (Columbia PhD in Sociology and Chair, Political Science at CCNY) on his use of, and further plans for, an innovative form of linguistic analysis of media coverage applied in studying the social dynamics of urban political issues (welfare reform), and Prof. JOHN MCWHORTER, (Socio-linguist, currently teaching “Intro to Linguistics”  at Columbia) as commenter on the method and its potential. This session advances the Workshop on Meaning Series’ mission to promote inter-disciplinarity between social scientists and sociolinguists.

4/29: Language and Cognition Seminar

Language and Cognition
University Seminar #681
Meeting of April 29, 2010

“The relation(s) between linguistics and neurobiology”

David Poeppel
Department of Psychology and Neural Science
New York University

The enthusiasm for neurobiological research into the basis of language suggests that progress is being made regarding our understanding of how the brain computes with linguistic representations. Is this enthusiasm warranted? In which domains of brain-language relations is there credible progress? While there are grounds for optimism that we are beginning to understand where to look in the brain, we do not understand very much at all about how linguistic representations and computations are implemented — the putative goal of the overall research program. Recent experimental work using different brain imaging methodologies will exemplify how complex the (many) relations between brain organization and language architecture are (the ‘granularity problem’), and in which areas of inquiry there is hope for genuine interdisciplinary insight into the mechanisms that form the basis for language processing.

Place: Room 1512, Kellogg Center
School of International and Public Affairs
420 West 118th Street
Time: 4:00 PM

For directions to the School of International and Public Affairs, please refer to
this map.

RSVP: If you will attend the meeting on April 29, please send a note to:
Sara Maria Hasbun, rapporteur

If you will join Dr. Poeppel for dinner at the Faculty House after the meeting,
please indicate this in your note to Ms. Hasbun.

4/30: Oscar Lee Symposium

Also on Friday the 30th:

OSCAR LEE SYMPOSIUM OF UNDERGRADUATE EAST ASIAN STUDIES: A half-day conference featuring undergraduate research and discussion on East Asia

Friday, April 30
1-4 PM
KENT 403


1:15 PM – (Mis)Communication: Media and Audience in Japan and China

  • Mia Lewis, “”Painting Worlds with Word: Ateji in CLAMP’s Manga”
  • Sayuri Shimoda, “Thought Control in the Meiji and Taisho Periods: A Methodology to Examine the Effect of the 1883 Decree and 1909 Press Law”
  • Daniel O. Kanak, “Changes in Chinese Consumer Behavior: Repercussions of Sino-Japanese Political Conflict and Negative Country Image (CI) and Japanese Business Response”

2:10 PM – Language and Identity in Central Asia

  • Christine Kwon, “Reading the Signs: Language Policy and Change in Post-PRC Tibet”
  • Arfiya Eri, “The Fourteenth Ethnicity or Disappearing Ethnicity? Bilingual Education and Uyghur Identity in 21st Century Xinjiang”
  • Grace Zhou, “Essentialist Legacies and Shifting Identities: Language in Central Asian Nation-Building”

3:05 PM – Community Narratives in Contemporary China

  • Chris Morales, “Neighborhood Change and the Social Construction of Community Identity in Weigongcun, Beijing”
  • Tania O’Conor, “Finding a Voice on the Web: A Case Study of a Naxi Online Community”
The Symposium is made possible by generous contributions from the Arts Initiative (Gatsby Charitable Foundation), Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, Columbia College Student Council, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture (Hiroshi Nitta Fund), Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Study Center, Center for Korean Research, Student Government Association of Barnard.
We are co-sponsored by AAA, APAAM, CJS, CSC, SGB, SoC, and VSA.

4/30: William Labov

Dr. William Labov, widely regarded as the founder of the discipline of variationist sociolinguistics, is coming to speak this Friday, April 30th! He has been described as “an enormously original and influential figure who has created much of the methodology” of sociolinguistics.

“Formation of Consensus in the Speech Community”

William Labov, PhD

Professor of Linguistics, UPenn

Lerner Hall C555 Friday 4/30, 3:15pm

Study of linguistic variation began by charting social differentiation of speakers of New York City dialect. We now recognize the pattern as part of a consensus that unifies more than divides the speech community. Recent mappings of linguistic change across North America show uniform directions in regional populations as large as 90 million. Correlating changes with local social networks and communities of practice does not account for such large-scale uniformities. A search for driving forces behind these trends calls for exploring settlement patterns and cultural histories. Most remarkable has been finding that dialect boundaries coincide with the Blue States/Red States division in recent presidential elections.
William Labov received his PhD from Columbia in Linguistics (back when the department really existed…) He is employed as a professor in the linguistics department of the University of Pennsylvania, and pursues research in sociolinguistics, language change, and dialectology.” He is famous for the “department store study” and the “Martha’s Vineyard study”, as some of you may recall. This event is co-sponsored with the Workshops on Meaning Series… it’s the big event of the spring, so come! (And you’d also be missing on a really phenomenal opportunity if you don’t come).
PLEASE RSVP if you haven’t yet done so (especially if you don’t have a CUID so that you can get into Lerner Hall)!

TOMORROW: Robert Remez

“I would know that voice anywhere!” – Robert Remez on phonetic sensitivity

TOMORROW Monday, April 19, 2010, 4pm, 709 Hamilton

Robert Remez, professor of psychology, joined the faculty of Barnard in 1980. His teaching focuses on the relationships among perception, cognition and language. Since 1985, Professor Remez’s research has been supported by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders under the project “Sensory and Perceptual Factors in Spoken Communication.” One line of his research examines the perceptual organization of speech and seeks to explain how listeners can follow speech amid the sounds that strike the ear. In a second line of research, he studies the perceptible differences between individual talkers and the phonetic and qualitative aspects of these indexical properties