The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, November 10th, 2008

Phonology Circle 11/12 - Hrayr Khanjian: “Formerly stressed vowels in Western Armenian”

This week’s Phonology Circle will feature a presentation by Hrayr Khanjian.

Title: Formerly stressed vowels in Western Armenian
Time: Wed 11/12, 5pm, 32-D831

In this talk, I examine the stressed and unstressed vowels of related forms of Western Armenian. Stressed high vowels [i] and [u] either change to [ə], as seen in (1) or delete, seen in (2) and a stressed diphthong [uj] changes to [u], as seen in (3), when stress shifts off of them. The rest of the vowels and diphthongs (mostly) are unaffected.

    • “letter” [kír] → [kər-él] “to write”
    • “lie” [súd] → [səd-él] “to make false”
    • “monkey” [gabíg] → [gabg-él] “to mime”
    • “clean”[makúr] → [makr-él] “clean”
    • “color” [kújn] → [kun-avór] “colorful”
    • “culture” [məʃagújt] → [məʃagut-ajín] “cultural”

Many languages exhibit phonological differences between stressed and unstressed vowels. There are languages, like Catalan, Bulgarian and Russian, where all unstressed vowels reduce. In another set of languages, like Palauan, Romanian and Armenian, only a certain set of vowels that once bore stress reduce when stress shifts.

Unlike Romanian and Palauan, Armenian has a phonological process of ə-epenthesis. I argue that the surface schwas that seem to be corresponding to the once stressed high vowels are also part of this epenthesis process. Without positing a new phonological mechanism to account for the high vowel disappearance, I incorporate the derived environment effect into the already present phonology of Western Armenian.

Language @MIT - 11/12 - Stephanie Seneff

This week is the kick-off installment of a new talk series, Language @MIT.

Title: Spoken Conversational Systems
Speaker: Stephanie Seneff, Spoken Language Systems group, CSAIL
When: Wednesday Nov 12, 3-4:30pm
Where: 26-310

The Spoken Language Systems group in CSAIL has been developing multimodal dialogue systems for over two decades. These systems typically provide information on a specific topic such as flight scheduling, weather, geographical information, calendar management, etc. Our goal has been to build systems that engage in natural spoken conversation, using a so-called “mixed-initiative” dialogue strategy. In this talk, I will first give a high level overview of system architecture and components. The main content of the talk will emphasize discourse and dialogue modelling, in the context of these spoken dialogue systems. I will also describe techniques used to stress test the system and guide system development, such as simulated dialogue interaction. I will mainly use the multimodal restaurant domain and the telephone-access flight scheduling domain as illustrative examples. Audio and video clips will be played to demonstrate system capabilities.

Ling-Lunch 11/13 - Claire Halpert

Please join us for this week’s Ling-lunch:

Claire Halpert
Thursday, Nov. 13
Room 32-D461

MIT went to NELS!

This week we welcome home our contingent of students who presented papers or posters at last weekend’s NELS conference at Cornell: Luka Crnic & Tue Trinh, Patrick Grosz, Jeremy Hartman and Gillian Gallagher. Recent alums with NELS papers this year included Julie Legate (PhD 2002), now on the faculty at Penn; Jon Gajewski (PhD 2005), now on the faculty at UConn (presenting a joint paper with his colleague Željko Boškovi?); and Ivona Ku?erová (PhD 2007), currently a post-doc at University College, London.

UMMM - 11/22 @ UMass

This year’s fall UMass/MIT Meeting in Phonology (UMMM) will be held on Saturday Nov. 22 at UMass (Amherst). Mark your calendars, and stay tuned for schedule and details!

NECPhon @Yale - 11/15

The second annual Northeast Computational Phonology meeting will take place this Saturday at Yale. The preliminary schedule (including talks by our own Giorgio Magri, and Jennifer Michaels) can be viewed at:


If you’re interested in attending but haven’t yet been in communication with Adam, please contact him ASAP for details.

¡Posicionales y Pasivos!

This week, Jessica Coon will be traveling from her temporary fieldwork home in Chiapas, Mexico to the Universidad de Sonora, where she will present a paper jointly written with Omer Preminger on Positionals and Passives in Chol at the  X Encuentro Internacional de Lingüística en el Noroeste.