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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Department of Linguistics

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This series is automatically populated with publications deposited by Berkeley Linguistics researchers in accordance with the University of California’s open access policies. For more information see Open Access Policy Deposits and the UC Publication Management System.

Predicate fronting in Yiddish and conditions on multiple copy Spell-Out


Predicate fronting with doubling (also known as the predicate cleft) has long been a challenge for theories of syntax that do not predict the pronunciation of multiple occurrences. Previous analyses that derive the construction via syntactic movement, including those attributing verb doubling to the formation of parallel chains (e.g., Aboh 2006; Kandybowicz 2008), are incompatible with remnant movement (Müller 1998), which does not give rise to doubling. This article presents data from the predicate fronting construction in Yiddish, in which verbs always double but complements never do. I argue that these seemingly contradictory pronunciation facts can be reconciled even if one assumes that phrasal movement and head movement are both syntactic. More specifically, the pronunciation of occurrences in Yiddish (doubled or not) follows from the general conditions on Spell-Out (or Transferpf) defined by Collins and Stabler (2016), modified only to accommodate syntactic head movement. Post-syntactic PF repairs are thus not required to account for the facts of the Yiddish predicate fronting construction. If such repairs are needed to generate doubling phenomena in other languages, they should be explicitly defined so as to modify or override the predictions of default Spell-Out conditions.

Cover page of Arawak Linguistics and Max Schmidt’s Account of Arawak Expansion

Arawak Linguistics and Max Schmidt’s Account of Arawak Expansion


The following is a piece that I wrote far back in 2008 as I was finishing my dissertation and starting up as an Assistant Professor at UC Berkeley. I was invited to write it as one of a number of commentaries for a new edition of Max Schmidt's 1917 work "Die Aruaken. Ein Beitrag zum Problem der Kulturverbreitung" [The Arawak: A Contribution to the Problem of Cultural Dissemination]. The volume ended up never being published, but over the years a number of people have asked me for this piece and it has been cited in a number of works on Arawakan history and ethnography. I've decided to make it publicly available for those who may be interested.

The processing of pseudoword form and meaning in production and comprehension: A computational modeling approach using linear discriminative learning.


Pseudowords have long served as key tools in psycholinguistic investigations of the lexicon. A common assumption underlying the use of pseudowords is that they are devoid of meaning: Comparing words and pseudowords may then shed light on how meaningful linguistic elements are processed differently from meaningless sound strings. However, pseudowords may in fact carry meaning. On the basis of a computational model of lexical processing, linear discriminative learning (LDL Baayen et al., Complexity, 2019, 1-39, 2019), we compute numeric vectors representing the semantics of pseudowords. We demonstrate that quantitative measures gauging the semantic neighborhoods of pseudowords predict reaction times in the Massive Auditory Lexical Decision (MALD) database (Tucker et al., 2018). We also show that the model successfully predicts the acoustic durations of pseudowords. Importantly, model predictions hinge on the hypothesis that the mechanisms underlying speech production and comprehension interact. Thus, pseudowords emerge as an outstanding tool for gauging the resonance between production and comprehension. Many pseudowords in the MALD database contain inflectional suffixes. Unlike many contemporary models, LDL captures the semantic commonalities of forms sharing inflectional exponents without using the linguistic construct of morphemes. We discuss methodological and theoretical implications for models of lexical processing and morphological theory. The results of this study, complementing those on real words reported in Baayen et al., (Complexity, 2019, 1-39, 2019), thus provide further evidence for the usefulness of LDL both as a cognitive model of the mental lexicon, and as a tool for generating new quantitative measures that are predictive for human lexical processing.

Cover page of Documents relating to the unnaming of Kroeber Hall

Documents relating to the unnaming of Kroeber Hall


This is a collection of five documents created at the University of California, Berkeley in relation to the unnaming of Kroeber Hall. The unnaming was proposed in 2020 and approved in 2021.

General adaptation to accented English: Speech intelligibility unaffected by perceived source of non-native accent.


Foreign-accented speech commonly incurs a processing cost, but this cost can be offset when listeners are given informative cues to the speaker's purported ethnicity and/or language background. This study investigates the mechanism that underlies this facilitatory effect of top-down expectation, evaluating between general adaptation (an across-the-board relaxation of phonetic categorization criteria) and targeted adaptation (tuning in to accent-specific phonetics). In experiment 1, native speakers of American English completed a transcription-in-noise task with Chinese-accented English sentences. All listeners heard the same voice but were randomly assigned to one of four visual conditions: a blank silhouette, a European face, an East Asian face, or a South Asian face. Results showed that although there was no significant effect of visual condition, listeners who believed the speaker to be non-natively accented enjoyed significantly improved performance compared to those who reported hearing a native accent. Crucially, however, listeners who correctly perceived the speaker as Chinese-accented showed no additional benefit over those who heard some other foreign accent. This basic pattern held even when listeners were primed to expect congruent face-accent pairings (experiment 2). Overall, these results provide evidence for a general adaptation mechanism, rather than a targeted mechanism involving accent-specific phonetic adjustments.

Cover page of The Classification of South American Languages

The Classification of South American Languages


With some 108 independent genealogical units, South America is the linguistically most diverse region of our planet and presents a particular challenge to linguists seeking to understand the genealogical relationships among human languages. Recent years have seen a resurgence of interest in the internal classification of South American language families, and this article provides a critical overview of research in this very active area, focusing on the seven largest language families of the continent: Arawakan, Cariban, Jê, Panoan, Quechuan, Tukanoan, and Tupian. The strengths and weaknesses of major classification proposals are examined, and directions for future research discussed. Several long-distance relationship proposals that South Americanists are actively debating, including Tupi-Cariban, Pano-Takanan, Quechumaran, TuKaJê, and Macro-Jê, are also examined.

Cover page of Word Prosody in Lung'Ie: One System or Two?

Word Prosody in Lung'Ie: One System or Two?


Creole languages have generally not figured prominently in cross-linguistic studies of word-prosodic typology. In this paper, we present a phonological analysis of the prosodic system of Lung'Ie or Principense (ISO 639-3 code: pre), a Portuguese-based creole language spoken in São Tomé and Príncipe. Lung'Ie has produced a unique result of the contact between the two different prosodic systems common in creolization: a stress-accent lexifier and tone language substrates. The language has a restrictive privative H/Ø tone system, in which the /H/ is culminative, but non-obligatory. Since rising and falling tones are contrastive on long vowels, the tone must be marked underlyingly. While it is clear that tonal indications are needed, Lung'Ie reveals two properties more expected of an accentual system: (i) there can only be one heavy syllable per word; (ii) this syllable must bear a H tone. This raises the question of whether syllables with a culminative H also have metrical prominence, i.e. stress. However, the problem with equating stress with H tone is that Lung'Ie has two kinds of nouns: those with a culminative H and those which are toneless. The nouns with culminative H are 87% of Portuguese origin, incorporated through stress-to-tone alignment, while the toneless ones are 92% of African origin. Although other creole languages have been reported with split systems of "accented"vs. fully specified tonal lexemes, and others with mixed systems of tone and stress, Lung'Ie differs from these cases in treating African origin words as toneless, a quite surprising result. We consider different analyses and conclude that Lung'Ie has a privative /H/ tone system with the single unusual stress-like property of weight-to-tone.

Cover page of Sensorimotor adaptation of speech depends on the direction of auditory feedback alteration.

Sensorimotor adaptation of speech depends on the direction of auditory feedback alteration.


A hallmark feature of speech motor control is its ability to learn to anticipate and compensate for persistent feedback alterations, a process referred to as sensorimotor adaptation. Because this process involves adjusting articulation to counter the perceived effects of altering acoustic feedback, there are a number of factors that affect it, including the complex relationship between acoustics and articulation and non-uniformities of speech perception. As a consequence, sensorimotor adaptation is hypothesised to vary as a function of the direction of the applied auditory feedback alteration in vowel formant space. This hypothesis was tested in two experiments where auditory feedback was altered in real time, shifting the frequency values of the first and second formants (F1 and F2) of participants' speech. Shifts were designed on a subject-by-subject basis and sensorimotor adaptation was quantified with respect to the direction of applied shift, normalised for individual speakers. Adaptation was indeed found to depend on the direction of the applied shift in vowel formant space, independent of shift magnitude. These findings have implications for models of sensorimotor adaptation of speech.