Category Archives: News

Ren, Cohen Priva, and Morgan in Cognition

Our recent PhD graduate Jie Ren just published a paper in Cognition with Uriel Cohen Priva and Jim Morgan. They argue that the argument that the lexicon is underspecified is not robust enough to show in the task types they were using: Speakers were as willing to accept /t/ for /k/ as /k/ for /t/.

Cohen Priva and Sanker paper at LabPhon

Uriel Cohen Priva and Chelsea Sanker have just had their paper published in LabPhon. They show that the using difference-in-difference to measure convergence, though convenient and frequently used, should ultimately be avoided in most situations: Speakers whose performance is close to the mean of the distribution or to their interlocutors are likely to be seen as divergent, and speakers whose performance is far from the mean are likely to appear as convergent. Both effects can lead to finding false evidence for individual differences in convergence.


NSF grant to AnderBois

It was formally announced that Scott AnderBois and past LingLangLunch presenter Wilson Silva (University of Arizona) have received an NSF Documenting Endangered Languages grant for their research project Perspective taking and reported speech in an evidentially-rich language (official announcement here). The project continues the work of AnderBois and Silva’s team documenting A’ingae, an understudied linguistic isolate spoken in the Ecuadorian Amazon, collaborating with native speakers to collect and annotate audio/video materials. The grant aims specifically to investigate the grammar of reported speech in the language, including the language’s unique use of falsetto realized on a single syllable to signal perspective shifts in narrative.

AnderBois and Jacobson at SALT 29

SALT (Semantics and Linguistic Theory) 29 ( took place at UCLA May 17-19. Brown was amply represented with Polly Jacobson delivering the closing keynote of the conference, “Why we still don’t need/want variables: Two SALTy case studies”, and Scott AnderBois presenting a poster titled “At-issueness in direct quotation: the case of Mayan quotatives”. In addition to current faculty, Brown alum Simon Charlow (’07 Linguistics AB) delivered one of the three other keynotes, “GIVENness and local contexts”.

Collaborative JIPA paper appears!

In a paper originating in CLPS 1390 in Spring 2017, Scott AnderBois and Chelsea Sanker together with then-students Hugo Lucitante ’19, Chiara Repetti-Ludlow ’18, and Haoru Zhang MA ’18 published the first instrumental phonetic description of A’ingae (Cofán), an indigenous language of Amazonia, as part of the Journal of the International Phonetic Association‘s “Illustrations of the IPA”:

Didn’t AnderBois have a new paper on negative polar questions?

Didnt AnderBois have a new paper on negative polar questions? — A new paper by Scott AnderBois — “Negation, alternatives, and negative polar questions in American English” — has appeared in an edited volume, Questions in Discourse, in the Current Research in the Semantics / Pragmatics Interface:

New Paper in Cognition from Feiman and colleagues

Read all about it!

Do children understand how different numbers are related before they associate them with specific cardinalities? We explored how children rely on two abstract relations – contrast and entailment – to reason about the meanings of ‘unknown’ number words. Previous studies argue that, because children give variable amounts when asked to give an unknown number, all unknown numbers begin with an existential meaning akin to some. In Experiment 1, we tested an alternative hypothesis, that because numbers belong to a scale of contrasting alternatives, children assign them a meaning distinct from some. In the “Don’t Give-a-Number task”, children were shown three kinds of fruit (apples, bananas, strawberries), and asked to not give either some or a number of one kind (e.g. Give everything, but not [some/five] bananas). While children tended to give zero bananas when asked to not give some, they gave positive amounts when asked to not give numbers. This suggests that contrast – plus knowledge of a number’s membership in a count list – enables children to differentiate the meanings of unknown number words from the meaning of some. Experiment 2 tested whether children’s interpretation of unknown numbers is further constrained by understanding numerical entailment relations – that if someone, e.g. has three, they thereby also have two, but if they do not have three, they also do not have four. On critical trials, children saw two characters with different quantities of fish, two apart (e.g. 2 vs. 4), and were asked about the number in-between – who either has or doesn’t have, e.g. three. Children picked the larger quantity for the affirmative, and the smaller for the negative prompts even when all the numbers were unknown, suggesting that they understood that, whatever three means, a larger quantity is more likely to contain that many, and a smaller quantity is more likely not to. We conclude by discussing how contrast and entailment could help children scaffold the exact meanings of unknown number words.