Cornell Linguistics Circle


The Cornell Linguistics Circle is the graduate student organization of the Cornell Department of Linguistics. It provides a platform to represent the graduate student body at both the department and university level. The CLC also aims to encourage balance between academic and social life by coordinating graduate student events. We also host reading groups and curate an array of resources for linguistics graduate students, such as a library, a database of teaching materials, and a variety of useful links and information. The CLC has also been in charge of copyediting and publishing the proceedings of Semantics and Linguistic Theory (SALT) since its inception.

CLC Officers 2016-2017

President: Ryan Hearn
Treasurer: Eszter Otott-Kovacs
Junior Treasurer: Jing Gao
Speaker Series Coordinator (Senior): Eszter Otott-Kovacs
Speaker Series Coordinator (Junior): Nielson Hul
SALT Editors (Senior): Brynhildur Stefánsdóttir & Sireemas Maspong
SALT Editors (Junior): Katie Blake & Forrest Davis
GPSA Representative: Brynhildur Stefánsdóttir
Web Administrators: Jacob Collard & Forrest Davis
Librarian: Kevin Kwong
Social Committee: Brynhildur Stefánsdóttir (chair), Rachel Vogel, & Seung-Eun Kim
Colloquium Caterer: Joseph Rhyne
Outreach Liaison: Francesco Burroni

For more information, please contact Shohini Bhattasali at

CLC Colloquium Speakers

Each year CLC members invite selected linguists to come present and discuss their current research.
This speaker series is funded in part by the GPSAFC

Mark Hale (February 22, 2018)

Second Positions in Latin

The "second position" placement of clitics, a phenomenon explored extensively by Wackernagel (1892) and in much subsequent literature, is no longer for the most part attributed to the effects of a monolithic "Wackernagel’s Law", but rather to the interaction between syntactic and prosodic (i.e., phonological) operations of a (mostly) well-defined type. As with science generally, it turns out that what look, superficially, to be relevant aspects of the phenomenon (e.g., "second position") are not. Two of the three pillars of Wackernagel’s original exploration (Greek and Indo-Iranian) have properties that make superficial analysis seem relatively easy, and thus it is mostly superficial analyses that we have seen in the 125 years since. The third pillar, however, is Latin, and here things are generally much less clear. This lack of clarity has led to a much more complex set of theories --- some of them quite bizarre --- about the nature of clitic phenomena in Latin. However, this paper argues that this lack of superficial clarity is actually a boon to us, requiring that we ask questions about the nature of the phonological and syntactic operations involved, and the entities over which these operations compute, that could be (and have been) swept under the rug in the case of the other branches. When we approach the complexity of Latin not by wildly expanding our hypothesis space (and thus weakening the empirical content of our theories), but instead by insisting that we make the minimum necessary assumptions, we gain fundamental insights into “second position” phenomena in Latin that help us to see the seemingly straightforward Greek and Indo-Iranian data in a new light.

Jessica Coon (October 12, 2017)

Feature Gluttony and Hierarchy Effects

This paper offers a new take on a family of hierarchy-effect configurations, including (i) PCC effects (Anagnostopoulou 2005; Nevins 2007), (ii) dative-nominative configurations (Sigurdsson & Holmberg 2008), and (iii) certain copula constructions (Coon, Keine, & Wagner, to appear). Folowing previous work, we take these configurations to arise in contexts in which two accessible DPs are in the same domain as a single agreeing probe (Bejar & Rezac 2003; Anagnostopoulou 2005). We argue that these effeccts are better understood as arising from properties of probes. We offer a new account which captures commonalities and differences across these constructions, both in terms of the types and specifications of the features involved, as well as in the result of hierarchy violations and their possible repairs.

Edith Aldridge (March 23, 2017)

Case and Parameter Change in Chinese

This talk proposes an analysis of subject/object movement asymmetry in Late Archaic Chinese and its subsequent loss in Early Middle Chinese within the framework of C-T Inheritance. The talk shows that some languages lack C-T inheritance altogether, because C in these languages carries only a single feature deriving movement.

John Goldsmith (November 3, 2016)

Unsupervised Learning of Morphology, and What It Teaches Us about Learning and Explanation

This talk describes an unsupervised algorithm to acquire the morphology inherent in text from a language. It discusses the knowledge that the algorithm must have in order to learn a language and how this fits into the question of universal grammar.

Dan Jurafsky (October 20, 2016)

Discovering Laws of Semantic Change and Extracting Social and Pragmatic Meaning from Everyday Interactions: On applying Computational Linguistics to the Social Science of Language

This talk describes a computational model which uses vector semantics to describe changes in semantic menaing over time in historical corpora. The results suggest two laws: that the rate of semantic change scales with word frequency, and that polysemous words have higher rates of semantic change. The talk then describes cases of extracting meaning from everyday language, including how economic, social, and psychological variables are reflected in language.

Roger Levy (September 23, 2016)

Bayesian Pragmatics: Lexical Uncertainty, Compositionality, and the Typology of Conversational Implicature

This talk describes recent work within a Bayesian framework of interleaved semantic composition and pragmatic inference. Principles of Quantity Implictures and Informativeness implicatures fall naturally out of this approach.

Martin Hackl (April 7, 2016)

On the Role of Question Answer Congruence, Scalar Presupposition, and the Structure of Alternatives in the Acquisition and Processing of "Only"

This talk discusses the asymmetry in the comprehension difficulty of "only" in children in comparison to adults and argues against the traditional view, based on the results from a series of experiments with English speaking adult and children, to present a broader and also more nuanced view.

Keith Johnson (March 3, 2016)

Adventures in Phonetic Neuroscience

This talk presents results from recent investigation into phonetic neuroscience. Johnson discusses findings from three studies, the implications from the findings, and the broader implications of neuroscience for linguistics.

Judith Tonhauser (October 8, 2015)

Projection variability

This talk presents empirical evidence from naturally occurring data and experiments that challenges the standard account that VP implication of evaluative adjectives is projective and supports an alternative, discourse-based account of the projectivity of the VP implication. Tonhauser develops a variant of Barker's (2002) analysis of evaluative adjective sentences by which the VP implication is not conventionally specified to be projective but rather projects when it is entailed by the current question under discussion (cf. Simons et al 2010, Simons et al ms).

Alan Yu (September 10, 2015)

The United States Supreme Court oral arguments as a sociophonetic corpus

This talk introduces the SCOTUS Project, a joint venture between the Chicago Phonology Lab and the Center for Law and Economics at ETH Zurich, which aims to analyze the speech patterns of the SCOTUS justices and the lawyers before the court using the audio and transcripts from the OYEZ corpus. To illustrate the versatility of this corpus, I present findings of two recent sociophonetic studies focusing on (1) the vowel characteristics of the supreme court justices and (2) the general vocal characteristics of the lawyers arguing in front of the SCOTUS.

Mandy Simons (April 16, 2015)

How questions and answers cohere

This talk discusses the interpretation of the question/answer sequence involves establishing a particular coherence relation, Direct Answer, between the question and answer; and that this coherence relation has semantic consequences: specifically, it requires that discourse referents in the answer be treated, as far as possible, as anaphoric on the question; and that some content in the answer provide information about the wh-variable introduced by the question.

Paul Kiparsky (April 9, 2015)

Syntactic drift and convergence

This talk discusses that change is driven not just by learners’ errors, but by a specific bias: a preference for the most probable language consistent with what has already been learned. This idea is implemented in a model of change using Optimality Theory and this model is applied to three syntactic drift trajectories: from pronominals via long-distance anaphors to local anaphors, from SOV to SVO, and from ergative to nominative-accusative case marking.

Patricia Keating (March 19, 2015)

Linguistic voice quality

This talk presents several results concerning the production and perception of voice quality (phonation type), from a larger interdisciplinary project at UCLA. Keating compares the acoustic properties of phonation type distinctions in several languages, and discusses the relation between phonation and lexical tone.

Jason Merchant (February 19, 2015)

Joint selection

This talk explores a set of data that are problematic for the claim that selection is always local; the data comes from categorially nonuniform selection in English, diptotic prepositions in German, and nonlocal contextual allomorphy in the Greek verb. Merchant suggests that joint selection exists, but that joint selectors must from a single span: any contiguous set of terminals in an extended projection. The talk concludes with a discussion an apparent problem from pseudopassives and the systematic absence of pseudomiddles.


The CLC hosts a number of recurring and one-time workshops throughout the academic year.

Workshops for 2017-2018

  • 3/1/2017 - How to Build a Website: By Jacob Collard
  • 10/26/2017 - LaTeX for Linguists: By Mia Wiegand, Carol-Rose Little, and Jacob Collard.

Workshops from 2016-2017

  • 9/29/2016 - LaTeX for Linguists: By Todd Snider, Zac Smith, and Mia Wiegand
  • 12/1/2016 - How to build your Webpage 101: By Zac Smith and Jacob Collard

Workshops from 2015-2016

  • 9/25/2015 - Profession development workshop: By department faculty.
  • 10/6/2015 - Natural Language Processing with SpaCy: By Jacob Collard
  • 10/29/2015 - LaTeX for Linguists: By Todd Snider & Zac Smith
  • 10/29/2015 - How to build your webpage 101: By Zac Smith & Todd Snider

We have also held on-time workshops on parsing, developing grammars for NLP, and writing abstracts, among other topics.

Social Events

The CLC organizes a variety of social events every year, including ski trips, movie nights, and picnics.

Recurring Events

  • Weekly Coffee & Cake Hour
  • Welcome Back, Year End, and Summer BBQ Picnics
  • Holiday Party
  • Prospective Students Weekend
  • Apple Picking
  • Skiing

Pictures of Past Events

Reading Groups

The primary aim of the CLC reading groups is to foster informal discussion of a wide range of topics. Members can also present their own research projects at various stages of development, from ideas just starting out to polished conference talks.

Syntax Circle

Syntax Circle meets weekly to discuss papers chosen by the participants or to hear presentations from members. Topics range from formal grammars to distributed morphology and everything in between. SynCirc currently meets every Wednesday at 1:30 PM in Morrill 201. For more information, contact Lingzi Zhuang.

Semantics Group

Semantics Group meets every week and provides an opportunity for students and faculty to come together to tackle current issues related to semantics, pragmatics, philosophy of language, and the syntax-semantics interface. Meetings are held most Mondays at 2:30 PM in Morrill 110. For more information, contact Carol-Rose Little.


The Ph2 (Phonetics and Phonology) Reading Group hosts biweekly meetings to discuss current topics of interest in phonetics and phonology. The group meets on Fridays at 12:20 PM in Morrill B11. For more information, contact Dan Cameron Burgdorf.

Historical Reading Group

Historical Group meets every week and provides an opportunity for students and faculty to come together to tackle current issues related to historical linguistics. Meetings are held Wednesdays at 12:20 PM in Morrill 201. For more information, contact Francesco Burroni.

Language Documentation Lab

The Language Documentation Lab hosts a biweekly reading group to discuss recent papers, research, and member experiences in language documentation. Members discuss methodology, ethics, and their own experiences working in the field.
The CLC has also hosted occasional reading groups based on the current interests of members. In the past we have had a Computational Semantics Reading Group and a Language Research Group. Our members also attend a variety of interdisciplinary reading groups including the Emergent System Group, the Cognitive Science Reading Group, and the NLP Group among others.