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Linguistic happenings in Europe

Date: 13 September 2017

It’s been a busy week for CoEDL members attending the 50th Annual Meeting of the Societas Linguistica Europeae (SLE), held at the University of Zurich in Switzerland.

CoEDL Director Nick Evans delivered a plenary on 'Grammar, talk and social cognition: a cross-linguistic study'. His talk was about the SCOPIC project, which is being run at CoEDL through the Shape program, and which is co-led by postdoc Danielle Barth.  The project targets the fundamental question of how differences in language evolve, by looking at different frequencies with which people talk about similar topics in different speech communities. This project aims to produce an annotated corpus of over 20 languages from every continent of the world, representing a wide typological spectrum that can be used for cross-linguistic study of how social cognition is represented and managed. Of course this is just a tiny subset of the world's languages, and Nick said one very positive result of the plenary session is that researchers working on languages in West Africa, the Amazon, Central Asia and Iran all expressed interest in using the same methods to extend the corpus with languages from those regions.

Also present at the SLE conference were CIs Alan Rumsey, Rachel Nordlinger, and Felicity Meakins, PIs Grev Corbett (University of Surrey) and Rena Torres-Cacoullos (Pennsylvania State), postdoc Samantha Disbray (presenting in photo below), PhDs  Kyla Quinn, Carlo Dalle Ceste (in photo at top, who took out 2nd prize for best conference paper for doctoral researchers), and Amanda Hamilton, as well as a number of CoEDL PhD graduates now on postdocs in Europe: Jill Vaughan (now in Norway), Matt Carroll (now at the Surrey Morphology Group in Guildford) and Stef Spronck (about to start a second postdoc in Helsinki after completing a first one in Leuven).  Samantha Disbray presents at the Societas Linguistica Europeae, held at the University of Zurich


Also of interest within the program was a workshop on 'Engagement' – a new grammatical category. Alan Rumsey and Stef Spronck presented as part of the workshop and Nick Evans was a discussant. An article on the topic is due to be published shortly in the journal Language and Cognition, authored by Nick Evans, ANU alumnus Lila San Roque (now at Nijmegen) and Henrik Bergqvist (Stokholm).

The image at the top of this story is of Carlo Dalle Ceste presenting at the conference. It was his confererence paper 'Reconstructing early Western Oceanic: what do preverbal subject markers tell us?' that saw him awarded his conference prize at the closing session. You can find more photos on the SLE Facebook page:

While in Europe, CoEDL team members Nick Evans, Rachel Nordlinger and Erich Round also attended and presented at a workshop celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Surrey Morphology Group (SMG). The SMG is a research centre, directed by CoEDL PI Grev Corbett, dedicated to language diversity and its theoretical consequences, especially in morphology, combining the investigation of grammatical categories in a wide variety of languages with explicit formal and statistical frameworks for expressing typological and theoretical generalizations. It is based at the University of Surrey, Guildford

And on a less serious note, the portrait of Nick below was done by the child of one of the participants in a Russian linguistics summer school, held prior to the Zurich conference and not at all connected. The school is called TyLeX - International Summer school in Typology and Lexicon. Nick’s course was on the topic of 'The Lexical Typology of Kinship'. He said of the special linguistic atmosphere, “It was amazing to field questions from second or third year undergraduates who had already read their way deep into the literature.” Nick was also impressed with the way parents could bring their children to the lecture. “Maybe that's why there are so any second-generation or even third-generation Russian linguists,” said Nick.

Nick Evans proudly displays a portrait done by children at the TyLex International Summer school


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