The Circle is a weekly forum dedicated to discussion of the descriptive, experimental, and theoretical study of syntax and semantics, featuring presentations of ongoing research by members of the Berkeley Linguistics Department and other departments, as well as discussion of previously published works.


Fridays, 3:00-5:00pm


1303 Dwinelle Hall


Kenneth Baclawski

Virginia Dawson

Erik Hans Maier

previous semesters

fall 2015
spring 2015
fall 2014
spring 2014
fall 2013
spring 2013
fall 2012
spring 2012
fall 2011
spring 2011
fall 2010
spring 2010
fall 2009
spring 2009
fall 2008
spring 2008
fall 2007
spring 2007
fall 2006
spring 2006
fall 2005


University of California, Berkeley
Department of Linguistics


12 february
Rebekah Baglini (Stanford)
How to quote a sensation: The semantics of quotative ideophones in Wolof

Ideophones are marked words which iconically evoke vivid sensory experiences (Dingemanse, 2012). Although neglected in the theoretical literature, ideophones pose a significant challenge for semanticists given the non-arbitrary relationship between their form and meaning. Quotatively-marked ideophones (QMIs), which surface with a quotative predicate marker, are cross-linguistically common (Plank, 2005; Güldemann, 2008) and suggest a compelling link between ideophones and speech reports. Using the extensive ideophone system of Wolof (West Atlantic, Niger Congo; Eth: [wol]) as a case study, I show that QMI sentences and direct speech reports both require that some salient property of the marked utterance (the words used or sound-symbolic features of those words) resemble the described event (a speech event or a sensory experience). I then draw on prior accounts of the semantics of speech reports (Potts 2007) and iconic event demonstrations (Davidson 2015) to formally explain how quotative markers incorporate non-arbitrary meanings into semantic representations. I conclude by discussing directions for future theoretical work on this rich and underutilized empirical field.


19 february
Hannah Sande (UC Berkeley)
Particle verbs and focus in Guébie

Particle verbs are well described in Germanic languages, though little work has been done on particle verbs in less well documented languages. Here I describe the distribution of particle verbs in Guébie, a Kru language spoken in southwest Côte d'Ivoire, demonstrating that neither the morphological or syntactic analysis of particle verbs in Germanic accounts for the Guébie data. While particles pattern as a morphological word with the verb in some constructions, there is a focus construction in which the particle undergoes A-bar movement, leaving the verb behind. This focus construction shows that the particle must be independent from the verb inside its own phrasal projection.

In this talk I provide an analysis of the syntactic structure of particle verb constructions, concluding that a particle is introduced in a PP, as complement to V, but that the particle P undergoes morphological merger with V under certain morphosyntactic conditions.

26 february
Nico Baier (UC Berkeley)


5 february
No Meeting (The 42nd Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society)

29 january
Amy Rose Deal (UC Berkeley)
Interaction and satisfaction in phi-agreement

The operation Agree may be decomposed into three more primitive steps:

Search: A probe initiates a search for an element with matching features (a goal).
Copy: Features are copied from the goal to the probe.
Valuation: The probe's features are valued, and the search is halted.

The usual assumption is that the features involved in each step are the same. I argue that the usual assumption is incorrect, and offer an alternative that draws on two influential recent ideas about Agree(ment). First, probes may be specified for particular phi-features, such as [PL] or [SPKR] (Bejar 2003, Nevins 2007, Bejar & Rezac 2009, Preminger 2011, i.a.). Second, the component steps of Agree are subject to at least partially distinct conditions, so that (e.g.) Search is obligatory, but Valuation is not (Preminger 2011). Let us recast this idea in terms of conditions on a probe's INTERACTION vs. its SATISFACTION. Interaction with F means that the probe's domain is assessed (Search) and that, if F is located, F is copied to the probe (Copy). Satisfaction by G means that the probe's [uG] is valued and the search is halted (Valuation). Drawing on a case study of complementizer agreement in Nez Perce, I show that interaction and satisfaction conditions on probes may be differentiated in featural terms. In particular:

A probe may interact with F even if it may only be satisfied by G, where F and G are distinct subsets of the phi set.

In Nez Perce complementizer agreement, the C probe is satisfied only by [ADDRESSEE], but interacts with all phi-features it encounters until the point of satisfaction. This case study shows that interaction with non-satisfying features is possible regardless of feature-geometric relations and regardless of whether Agree results in clitic doubling (pace Bejar & Rezac 2009; Preminger 2011).