Linguistics Related

The idea to celebrate International Mother Language Day was the initiative of Bangladesh. It was approved at the 1999 UNESCO General Conference and has been observed throughout the world since 2000.

UNESCO believes in the importance of cultural and linguistic diversity for sustainable societies. It is within its mandate for peace that it works to preserve the differences in cultures and languages that foster tolerance and respect for others.

Linguistic diversity is increasingly threatened as more and more languages disappear. Globally 40 per cent of the population does not have access to an education in a language they speak or understand. Nevertheless, progress is being made in mother tongue-based multilingual education with growing understanding of its importance, particularly in early schooling, and more commitment to its development in public life.

Multilingual and multicultural societies exist through their languages which transmit and preserve traditional knowledge and cultures in a sustainable way.

Learn more:

The Smithsonian’s Mother Tongue Film Festival celebrates cultural and linguistic diversity by showcasing films and filmmakers from around the world, highlighting the crucial role languages play in our daily lives. This year, the festival will be hosted entirely online.

Since 2016, the annual festival has celebrated International Mother Language Day on February 21. The sixth annual festival will take place via a monthly online screening series from February 21 to May 2021.

More information:



Drawing from his newly released book, The Politics of Translingualism: After Englishes, Professor Jerry Won Lee discusses the politics of evaluating language, including different Englishes, at a moment of unprecedented linguistic plurality worldwide. He argues for an ongoing need to confront the metadiscourse of plurality and difference in Englishes and to reevaluate not “different” Englishes themselves, but to reevaluate the very epistemologies of evaluation in the first place.

Professor Jerry Won Lee

Assistant Professor of English, Anthropology,

East Asian Languages & Literatures, and Asian American Studies at University of California, Irvine.


2:15 p.m.-3:40 p.m., 500 Hall of Languages

CART service will be provided

Professor Lee will also be offering a teaching workshop entitled “Translingual Dispositions” on Wednesday, October 25, from 10 a.m.-11:30 a.m. in Newhouse 3, room 141. Space is limited; please RSVP to Kristen Krause at by October 18. Include any requests for accessibility accommodationsThis event is supported by the SU Humanities Center and the Department of Writing Studies, Rhetoric, and Composition. Co-sponsors: Democratizing Knowledge, School of Education, Department of Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics, Composition and Cultural Rhetoric Graduate Program

The Department of LLL, the Linguistic Studies Program, and the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University are pleased to announce two talks by: Professor Carol Neidle, Professor of French and Linguistics BOSTON UNIVERSITY

“American Sign Language (ASL) and its Standing in the Academy” Tuesday, April 22,  11:00 a.m. Tolley 304

A recent survey by the Modern Language Association (MLA) of foreign language enrollments in the United States showed a dramatic increase in American Sign Language (ASL) enrollment since 1990. By 2009 ASL ranked as the 4th most studied foreign language in the United States, behind Spanish, French, and German. American universities have, in increasing numbers, come to accept ASL in satisfaction of their foreign language requirements. In this presentation, I will discuss some of the considerations relevant to such policy decisions, focusing on the linguistic properties of ASL, but also touching upon its cultural context and literary art forms. The study of American Sign Language, in part through the large collection of video materials now accessible to students, expands their horizons. It provides a valuable perspective on the nature of human language and reveals rich cultural and literary traditions generally unfamiliar to those outside of the Deaf community. It has the added benefit of enabling communication with those in the US and parts of Canada who use ASL as their primary language; as well as with Deaf people from elsewhere who have also learned ASL.

“Crossdisciplinary Approaches to Sign Language Research: Video Corpora for Linguistic Analysis and Computer-based Recognition of American Sign Language (ASL)” Tuesday, April 22,  2:00 p.m. Tolley 304

This talk will present an overview of collaborations between linguists and computer scientists aimed at advancing sign language linguistics and computer-based sign language recognition (and generation). Underpinning this research are expanding linguistically annotated, video corpora containing multiple synchronized views of productions of native users of ASL. These materials are being shared publicly through a Web interface, currently under development, that facilitates browsing, searching viewing, and downloaded subsets of the data.

Two sub-projects will be highlighted:
Linguistic modeling used to enhance computer vision based recognition of manual signs. Statistics emerging from an annotated corpus of about 10,000 citation-form sign productions by six native signers make it possible to leverage linguistic constraints to make sign recognition more robust.

Recognition by computer – based on state-of-the-art face and head tracking, combined with machine learning techniques – of grammatical information expressed through complex combinations of facial expressions and head gestures marking such things as topic/focus, distinct types of questions, negation, if/when clauses, relative clauses, etc. This modeling is also being applied to creation of more natural and linguistically realistic signing avatars. Furthermore, the ability to provide computer-generated graphs illustrating, for large data sets, changes in eyebrow height, eye aperture, and head position (e.g.,) over time, in relation to the start and end points of the manual signs and phrases with which nonmanual gestures co-occur, opens up new possibilities for linguistic analysis of the nonmanual components of sign language and for crossmodal comparisons.

The research reported here has resulted from collaborations with many people, including Stan Sclaroff and Ashwin Thangali (BU), Dimitris Metaxas, Mark Dilsizian, Bo Liu, and Jingjing Liu (Rutgers U.), Ben Bahan and Christian Volger (Galludet U.), and Matt Huenerfauth (CUNY Queens College) and has been made possible by funding from the National Science Foundation.

Cornell University Colloquium Talk: Omer Preminger, Syracuse Univ, Feb 27th.

Professor Omer Preminger from Syracuse University will be giving a talk on Feb 27th at 4:30 PM in Morrill 106. The Colloquium Series Talk is entitled “Beyond Interface Conditions.”


Beyond Interface Conditions

In this talk, I show that the obligatoriness of agreement cannot be accounted for within a theory that relies solely on interface conditions to enforce the occurrence of operations in the course of the syntactic derivation (cf. Chomsky 1995; and in particular, Chomsky’s 2000, 2001 ‘uninterpretable features’ system). The relevant data come from agreement in the Agent-Focus construction of the Kichean languages (Mayan). To adequately model agreement, I argue, requires a syntactic operation that is obligatorily triggered whenever a head with unvalued phi-features is merged, but whose successful culmination is crucially not enforced by the grammar.

Edouard Machery, Professor of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh
Public lecture: “Experimental Philosophy and White Male Intuitions”
Thursday, February 13, 4:00 p.m.
The Kilian Room, Hall of Languages, Room 500
The talk will be followed by a small reception.

Abstract: Contemporary philosophers often assess their theories by consulting their intuitions about hypothetical situations. For instance, philosophers of language often assess their theories about proper names by examining intuitions about what proper names would refer to in imaginary situations. But what if these intuitions vary across groups? What if only a tiny fragment of humanity, perhaps white educated men, share the intuitions philosophers have relied on? Indeed, early work in experimental philosophy explored intuitions about reference in Westerners and East Asians, and found striking differences, and more recent work has confirmed these findings. Examples of striking variation will be presented, and the implications for the practice and future of philosophy will be examined.

Mini-seminar “Experimental Philosophy and Theories of Reference”
Friday, February 14, 12:00 p.m.
Tolley Humanities Building, Room 304

Description: This session will focus on written work by Edouard Machery (and others) that delves into the topic of experimental philosophy and semantics in more depth than the lecture the previous evening. Readings will be available in advance for anyone interested. The session will be held over lunch and will be conversational in nature. For more information and to register, please contact Kevan Edwards (

Note: students traveling from SU would get travel expenses, excluding hotel, reimbursed. Please also contact Jaklin Kornfilt <> for information on overnight crash space.

Workshop on Suspended Affixation

October 26-27 2012

Department of Linguistics, Cornell University, in cooperation with Linguistics, Syracuse University

Friday, Oct. 26

Morrill B-11

10:00  Greetings


Prof. Judith Aissen, Emerita, UC Santa Cruz

Suspended affixation in Tzotzil

Prof. Hilda Koopman, UCLA

Morpheme Ordering, and the Syntax Phonology Interface



Morrill 106



Moderator: TBA


Prof. Aaron Broadwell, SUNY Albany

Lexical integrity and lexical sharing: An approach to suspended affixation




Prof. Jorge Hankamer, UC Santa Cruz

Ad-Phrasal Affixes and Turkish Suspended Affixation



Moderator: Draga Zec, Cornell University


Dinner, Banfi’s


Saturday, Oct. 27

Morrill 106




Prof. Kunio Nishiyama, University of Tsukuba

Syntactic vs. Lexical Inflection and Projecting vs. Non-projecting Morphemes

Prof. Rolf Noyer, UPenn

Title TBA

Prof. James Yoon, University of Illinois

Lexical Integrity and Suspended Affixation in Two Types of Denominal Predicates in Korean



Moderator: Jaklin Kornfilt, Syracuse University & John Whitman, Cornell University


End of workshop

  • 23.959, Confs: Language Documentation/USA

1) From:      Joyce McDonough <>
Subject:   Language Documentation Workshop for Undergraduates/Graduates


  • Dr. Omer Preminger

Post-Doctoral Teaching Associate, MIT, and Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Harvard University

Date and time: Tuesday, February 21, 2012; 3:30 p.m.
Location: 107 Hall of Languages
“Kichean meets Zulu: A case study in agreement and scales”
Since at least the work of Silverstein (1976) and Wierzbicka (1980), one finds appeals to scales in accounts of certain grammatical phenomena. Such scales are typically comprised of elements whose existence extends beyond language and into the real world, such as [animate], [inanimate], [human], [natural force], [speech-act participant], and so forth. On the other end of the explanatory spectrum is the idea of (strong) modularity: that each cognitive module performs a distinct kind of computation, and makes use of a distinct elementary vocabulary (e.g. Fodor 1983).
In this talk, I present an empirical case study of agreement in Kichean (Mayan) and Zulu (Bantu) that is meant to evaluate these two approaches.
I begin by exploring predicate-argument agreement in the ‘Agent-Focus’ construction of Kichean. This empirical domain seems, at first glance, to be well-suited for an account in terms of a “salience” hierarchy or scale — of the form [1st/2nd-person>3rd-plural>3rd-singular]. It turns out, however, that there are Kichean-specific facts that cast doubt on such an approach. Building on these facts, a more syntactically-oriented, “probe-goal” account is proposed.
Next, I turn to the distribution of ‘nominal augment’ in Zulu, a particular vowel that precedes the noun-class marker in most but not all environments. Building on recent work by Halpert (2011), I show that this pattern can be explained using the exact same “probe-goal” account put forth for Kichean. Crucially, a scales-based approach to the Zulu facts — one that would parallel the original salience-based approach to Kichean — would require a scale comprised of entirely arbitrary morpho-syntactic categories with little to no real-world relevance (namely, the presence or absence of a particular vowel in the nominal form). This, despite the fact that Zulu does morphologically distinguish among the different categories comprising the original Kichean scale (1st/2nd/3rd-person, singular/plural) — and yet the latter play no role in the Zulu pattern. This is rather unexpected if the relevant factor in determining this grammatical behavior were real-world salience.
These results recall the work of Ritter & Wiltschko (2009), who show that the real-world properties associated with finite verbal inflection are not always tense/aspect-related, but can be location-related (in Halkomelem (Salish)) or person-related (in Blackfoot (Algonquian)). The Kichean and Zulu patterns discussed here, I argue, instantiate the same general pattern: a single formal apparatus whose mapping onto substantive properties is subject to cross-linguistic variation.