etap3–deadline this monday!

Experimental and Theoretical Advances in Prosody (ETAP) 3: Prosody and Variability

Date: 28-May-2015 – 30-May-2015
Location: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA
Call for Papers

Deadline: January 11 2015

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Tools for Linguistic Fieldwork and Experimentation

Tomorrow at the LSA Meeting in Portland, there’ll be a tutorial on LingSync and ProsodyLab-Aligner: Tools for Linguistic Fieldwork and Experimentation. If you plan on attending and would like to try out the Prosodylab-Aligner while being there, you should try to install the aligner beforehand. You’ll find it here:


The aligner has just undergone some revisions, and we currently only have installation instructions for the new aligner for Mac users:

Prosdoylab-Aligner: Installation Instructions for Mac Users

Please keep tuned for updates in the coming week, since we’re still finalizing the documentation of the new features and changes. In the meantime, if you’d like to use the old aligner (compatible with the video tutorial below), then you can still install that here:

Prosodylab-Aligner, Previous Version

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recent work

McClay, Elise & Michael Wagner (in press). Accented Pronouns and Contrast. To appear in the Proceedings of the 50th Meeting of the Chicago Linguistics Society in 2014. [paper]

Abstract: Both the lack of accentuation on a referring expression and the choice of a pronoun over a full noun phrase have been tied to a higher accessibility of the referent. Why, then, would a pronoun ever be accented? We consider three perspectives: Kameyama’s (1999) Complementary Preference Hypothesis, Smyth’s (1994) Parallel Function view, and Rooth’s (1992) Alternatives Theory of Focus, and present experimental evidence in favour of the focus view. We conclude by noting issues with respect to the definition of contrast that arise when considering cases of multiple foci as in the data of our experiments.

Wagner Michael (in press). Phonological Evidence in Syntax? In: Tibor Kiss and Artemis Alexiadou (Eds.): Syntax – Theory and Analysis. An International Handbook. Handbooks of Linguistics and Communication Science. 42. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2015 [paper]

Abstract: Linguistic constituents that encode salient information are often prosodically reduced. Recent studies have presented evidence that higher contextual accessibility of referents results in lower prosodic prominence. Accounts of reduction in terms of accessibility set out to explain a range of phenomena that include those that are in the domain of linguistic theories of focus and givenness. The tacit assumption is that more general and independently motivated accessibility factors will be able to supplant the more specialized grammatical accounts of prosodic prominence. This paper reviews previous results and finds that existing accessibility accounts cannot explain a range of data easily captured by the alternatives theory of focus, and that various experimental studies motivating the accessibility view actually fail to distinguish between the two accounts. New experimental data is presented that teases apart the effects of accessibility and linguistic focus.

Wagner, Michael & Jeffrey Klassen (in press). Accessibility is no Alternative to Alternatives. To appear in Language, Cognition and Neuroscience. [paper]

Abstract: Linear precedence is one of the key sources of evidence for the syntactic structure of complex expressions, but other aspects of the phonological representation of a sentence, such as its prosody, are often not considered when testing syntactic theories. This overview provides an introduction to the three main dimensions of sentence prosody, phrasing, prominence and intonational tune, focusing on how they can enter syntactic argumentation.

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prosody and constituent structure

The conference eti3: Prosody and Constituency at McGill (co-organized by Emily Elfner, Jessica Coon, Lisa Travis, and myself) is now over. Thanks everyone for participating!

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accented pronouns

Handout for the talk we’ll be presenting at CLS today:

Elise McClay & Michael Wagner: Accented unambiguous English pronouns: Complementary Preference, Parallel function, or Focus?

Comments welcome!

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two papers on intonational tunes

… to be presented next week at semdial:

Daniel Goodhue, James Pickett and Michael Wagner. English reverse prosody in re- sponses to yes-no questions. Proceedings of Semantics of Dialogue (Semdial). [paper]

Wagner, Michael, Lauren Mak and Elise McClay. Incomplete Answers and the Rise- Fall-Rise Contour. Proceedings of Semantics of Dialogue (Semdial). [paper]

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Dorit Abusch and Mats Rooth Talks

Dorit Abusch and Mats Rooth will give talks as part of a special issue of the Semantics Reading Group this Thursday, October 10, Leacock 738.

2.30-3.45pm Mats Rooth (Cornell University): Focus over new, farmer sentences, and directionality in focus licensing.

3.45pm Refreshments

4.00-5.15pm Dorit Abusch (Cornell University): Anaphoric relations in sequential and conflated pictures

Everybody is welcome.

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Prosodylab Aligner Demo Pt 2

Next in our series of tutorial videos is how to use the options available through the Prosodylab Aligner, like using a different phonetic dictionary or training new models. Take a look if you’re interested & want to know more!

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Prosodylab Aligner Demo

For those of you who are interested in using the Prosodylab Aligner and are new to using Unix and/or Terminal on your computer, we’ve started making a series of video tutorials to show you how to use this software on your own. The videos will cover some basics and not-so-basics, from how to run the Aligner through Terminal to how to clean and prepare your data for training the Aligner on new models.

First in the series is an intro to the Aligner: what is it, what does it do, and how can you run it?

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linguistics olympiad

This year, we are once again organizing a session of the North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad, to be held at McGill on January 31. This is a fun competition that is a great way for us get some high school and cegep students (up to 12th grade) exposed to the field of linguistics. If you know of anyone who’d be interested, please forward this message.

Participation is free. No previous knowledge is required. More information and many practice problems are posted at the naclo website.

If you know any students at high schools or cegeps in the Montréal area who might be interested, please forward them this information. Students can register online until January 30 at 3pm, and we also accept walk-ins on the day of the contest.

The first round of the contest will take place on Thursday, Januar 31, from 10am to 1pm at McGill University (sign in starting at 9:15am; directions can be found at our website (see below). Students who perform well on the first round will be invited back for a second round, to take place on March 13. The winners of the invitational round will be eligible to represent North America at the International Linguistics Olympiad.

Check out the McGill Website for more information, or contact us at

Note: Currently the North American Olympiad is only held in English. If you are interested in developing materials in French for future years, we can put you in touch with the organizers of NACLO, who expressed interest in trying to make materials available in French as well.

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