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

Learning to Generate Understandable Animations of American Sign Language

Join CLS at 4:30pm on Thursday, November 17th in Hamilton 306 for a talk by Matt Huenerfauth, entitled “Learning to Generate Understandable Animations of American Sign Language”. Refreshments will be provided. Hope to see you there!

A detailed abstract follows:

A majority of deaf high school graduates in the U.S. have a fourth-grade English reading level or below, and so computer-generated animations of American Sign Language (ASL) could make more information and services accessible to these individuals.  Instead of presenting English text on websites or computer software, information could be conveyed in the form of animations of virtual human characters performing ASL (produced by a computer through automatic translation software or by an ASL-knowledgable human scripting the animation).  Unfortunately, getting the details of such animations accurate enough linguistically so that they are clear and understandable is difficult, and methods are needed for automating the creation of high-quality ASL animations.

This talk will discuss my lab’s research, which is at the intersection of the fields of assistive technology for people with disabilities, computational linguistics, and the linguistics of ASL.  Our methodology includes: experimental evaluation studies with native ASL signers, motion-capture data collection of an ASL corpus, linguistic analysis of this corpus, statistical modeling techniques, and animation synthesis technologies.  In this way, we investigate new models that underlie the accurate and natural movements of virtual human characters performing ASL; our current work focuses on modeling how signers use 3D points in space and how this affects the hand-movements required for ASL verb signs.

About the Speaker:

Matt Huenerfauth is an assistant professor of computer science and linguistics at the City University of New York (CUNY); his research focuses on the design of computer technology to benefit people who are deaf or have low levels of written-language literacy.  He serves as an associate editor of the ACM Transactions on Accessible Computing, the major computer science journal in the field of accessibility for people with disabilities.  In 2008, he received a five-year Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation to support his research.  In 2005 and 2007, he received the Best Paper Award at the ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility, the major computer science conference on assistive technology for people with disabilities; he is serving as general chair for this conference in 2012.  He received his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in 2006.