Seminar für Sprachwissenschaft


Das Oberseminar bietet Vorträge von eingeladenen Referenten oder Kollegen aus der Abteilung an. Die Referenten stellen aktuelle Forschungsergebnisse zu allen für die allgemeine und theoretische Linguistik relevanten Bereichen vor. Jeder ist herzlich eingeladen. Studierende werden besonders ermutigt, teilzunehmen, um forschungsbezogene Vorträge von Spezialisten aus erster Hand zu erleben.

In diesem Semester findet das Oberseminar montags um 16:15 Uhr im Seminar für Sprachwissenschaft in der Wilhelmstraße 19, Raum 1.13 statt.

Aktuelle Veranstaltungen

12. November

George Walkden (Konstanz)

Title: Proto-Indo-European: a language without Merge?

Abstract: here

03. Dezember

Ekaterina Rakhilina, Tatiana Reznikova (National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow)

Title: Lexical typology: an introduction to the frame approach

17. December

Jakub Szymanik (University of Amsterdam)

Title: Ease of learning explains semantic universals

Abstract: Despite extraordinary differences between natural languageslinguists have identified many semantic universals – shared properties of meaning – that are yet to receive a unified explanation. We analyze universals in a domain of content words (color terms) and a domain of function words (quantifiers). Using tools from machine learning, we show that meanings satisfying attested universals are easier to learn than those that are not. Thus, ease of learning can explain the presence of semantic universals in many different linguistic domains.

Paper: Steinert-Threlkeld & Szymanik - Learnability and semantic universals  
              Steinert-Threlkeld & Szymanik - Ease of Learning Explains Semantic Universals


14. Januar

Ramon Ferrer i Cancho (Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya)

Title: An emerging theory of word order

Word order is a fascinating phenomenon. During decades, researchers have been collecting many word order regularities that have fed theory. Some of these regularities are the Greenbergian universals of word order, consistent branching or the low number of dependency crossings in the syntactic dependency structures of sentences. Here we will argue these regularities can be regarded as adaptations to the limited resources of the human brain with the help of an emergent theory of word order that provides a unified explanation to word variation and word order change. We will discuss the negative consequences of denying or neglecting the role of functional pressures for the construction of a parsimonious theory of language. 
An apetizer: here

28. Januar

Torgrim Solstad (ZAS Berlin)

Title: Predictive Language Processing: The View from Implicit Causality

Prediction in language (Kamide 2008; DeLong et al. 2014), whereby we understand the incorporation of possible (and likely) future information states into processing, still hasn't attracted much attention in theoretical linguistics despite the central status of prediction in human cognition (Bubic et al. 2010; Clark 2013). Bringing together insights from experimental and theoretical research for one particular phenomenon, Implicit Causality, I want to argue that much could be gained by attempting to bridge this gap.
Implicit Causality verbs (e.g. Garvey/Caramazza 1974; Brown/Fish 1983) have been at the core of psycholinguistic research on predictive processing. Selecting for two animate arguments, such verbs display a strong preference for an explanation focusing on one argument, as shown in numerous sentence continuation experiments:

(1) JOHN annoyed Mary because... HE was rude.

(2) John admired MARY because... SHE was clever.

Although there is good evidence as to the processing profile of Implicit Causality, its predictive nature is still insufficiently understood. Some important questions include:

- What is predicted: Is it a particular word (e.g. HE/SHE in (1)/(2)), a referent, or a type of explanation (e.g. a property of John's in (1), and one of Mary's in (2))?
- What triggers the prediction: Is it encoded in lexical semantics (annoy/admire in (1)/(2)) or part of world knowledge?

Based on a formal-semantic theory of Implicit Causality (Bott/Solstad 2014), results from previous experimental research (e.g. Koornneef/van Berkum 2006; Pykkönen/Järvikivi 2010; Featherstone/Sturt 2010) and recent insights into the nature of predictive processing in general (e.g. Kuperberg/Jaeger 2016; Yan et al. 2017), I will propose a framework for predictive processing of Implicit Causality. By bringing together insights from theoretical and experimental research, we can delineate more precisely the top-down and bottom-up processes generating and validating predictions: Which linguistic levels are involved and how do they interact?
Although limited to one particular phenomenon, I contend that approaching predictions in this manner has the potential to mutually benefit both psycholinguistics and theoretical linguistics. On the one hand, a number of aspects concerning prediction processes may be better understood if they are based on more elaborate theoretical linguistic analysis, if only for constraining the possible hypothesis space, thus allowing for more precise experimental predictions and better control of experimental design and materials. On the other hand, research on prediction extends an invitation to reconsider or expand theoretical linguistic assumptions to accommodate the results obtained in experimental research, potentially offering a broader empirical base for linguistic studies, connecting phenomena previously assumed to be unrelated.

Sommer Semester 2018

18. Juni

Katja Jasinskaja (Cologne)

Title: Attachment in syntax and discourse: Towards an explanation of the variable scope of non-restrictive relatives

Abstract: here

2. Juli

Susanne Dietrich (Tübingen)

Title: Processing of presuppositions during speech perception: a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study

Abstract: Discourse structure enables us to generate expectations based upon linguistic materials that has already been introduced. The present functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study addresses auditory perception of test-sentences in which discourse coherence was manipulated by using presuppositions (PSP) that either correspond or fail to correspond to items in preceding context-sentences. Thereby, in- and definite determiners referring to either (non-) uniqueness or (not) existence of an item were used as PSP triggers. Discourse violation within the (non-) uniqueness subset yielded hemodynamic activation within the pre-supplementary motor area (pre-SMA) and bilateral inferior frontal gyrus (IFG). Considering the existence subset, these regions occurred only, if subjects accommodated the discourse. These findings indicate involvement of (i) the working memory (IFG) referring the PSP to contextual information and (ii) a regulator (pre-SMA) managing the process of comprehension by signaling detected errors to the system. This enables the system to continue the process of comprehension, for example, by up-dating the context or tolerating slight errors.

9. Juli

Shirley-Ann Rueschemeyer (York) 


Title: Perspective taking during language comprehension

Abstract: Humans are constantly engaged in social interactions, and many of these interactions are supported by language. In this talk I will be presenting a series of studies investigating how language and social cognitive mechanisms interact in order to facilitate communication. I will start by showing that embodied lexical-semantic representations are activated by words in a flexible manner that reflects both linguistic and pragmatic constraints. Secondly, I will show the results of studies that suggest that when pragmatic constraints affect semantic processing, this is supported by interactions between neural language and mentalizing systems. Lastly, I will suggest that language comprehension is affected by assumptions we hold about other co-listeners as well as speakers. One key mechanism supporting perspective taking between co-listeners may be simulation. Together the studies presented in this talk provide insight into how high level language and social cognitive processes work in concert during successful communicative acts.