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Linguistics Research Seminars (LRS)

If you want to be added to the mailing list, please subscribe yourself at this link. For any other information about the seminars, please email Dr Valentina Colasanti (

This schedule is subject to change; please check back for changes

Schedule Michaelmas Term 2023/24

26 September 2023

Speaker: Muhammad Zakaria
Title: The Historical Development of Causative/Applicative and Middle Constructions in Southeastern and Southwestern Kuki-Chin
Time: 16:00-17:30 
Location: TRiSS seminar room, Arts Building

Abstract: This talk argues for the shared origin of two valence-affecting constructions in South Central Tibeto-Burman, specifically Southeastern and Southwestern Kuki-Chin. They propose that these constructions, despite seeming unrelated, may indicate a closer relationship between Southeastern and Southwestern languages within this subgroup. Notably, both regions have similar morphological elements indicating causative and applicative functions. Southeastern Kuki-Chin, exemplified in Hyow, shows similar middle marker morphology. The authors suggest a common origin involving initial causative or comitative applicative elements, evolving into middle markers in Southeastern languages while retaining some applicative semantics. This parallels a situation in West Africa where causative, applicative, and middle semantics have evolved from an original 'co-participation' marker in Wolof. The paper aims to comprehensively explore these linguistic phenomena and their semantic evolution.

10th October 2023

Speaker: Masha Esipova (Bar-Ilan University)
Title: To Q or not to Q?
Time: 16:00-17:30 
Location: TRiSS seminar room, Arts Building/*hybrid talk* Zoom registration link (register in advance for this meeting):

Abstract: Rudin (2018); Rudin & Rudin (2022) discuss a typological generalization that languages in which rising declaratives comprise non-canonical biased yes/no questions (YNQs)—like English and Bulgarian—also allow for rising imperatives, used as polite/friendly/tentative requests or non-committal suggestions, as shown in (1), but languages in which rising declaratives comprise canonical neutral YNQs, like Macedonian, don't allow for such rising imperatives.

(1) a. Did you pour me wine L* H-H%? (syntactically marked canonical question)
b. You poured me wine L* H-H%? (rising declarative as a non-canonical question)
c. Pour me wine L* H-H%? (rising imperative as a request)
d. A: What should I do to help you relax?
B: I don’t know... Pour me wine L* H-H%? Make me a bath L* H-H%? (rising imperative as a suggestion)

In this talk, I will look at another Slavic language, Russian, further expanding and fine-tuning the typology of how languages can realize various discourse-oriented meanings across sentence types. While, like in Macedonian, Russian canonical neutral YNQs are formed via an "intonation-only" strategy, said intonation doesn't involve a rising tune, but rather what I will call the Q-Peak. I will show that, despite marking canonical neutral YNQs, the Q-Peak can also be used in friendly requests like (1c)—but not in non-committal suggestions like (1d). I propose that the Q-Peak doesn't realize an operator that raises an issue, but rather an operator that asks the addressee to respond to an issue—appropriate in (some) questions and requests, but not in non-committal suggestions.

7th November 2023

Speaker: Jingqi Ying (Trinity College Dublin)
Title: The Old Chinese sound change *-ps > *-ts > *-jH: Insights from Zhou Excavated Documents
Time: 16:00-17:30 
Location: TRiSS seminar room, Arts Building

21st November 2023

Speaker: Adam Ledgeway (University of Cambridge)
Title: Parameters of Variation in the Clausal Domain: A Pan-Romance View
Time: 16:00-17:30 
Location: TRiSS seminar room, Arts Building

28nd November 2023

Speaker: Chiara Marchetiello (Trinity College Dublin)
Title: TBC
Time: 16:00-17:30 
Location: TRiSS seminar room, Arts Building

Schedule Hilary Term 2022/23

1st February 2023

Speaker: Zihan Wang (Trinity College Dublin)
Title: The Perceptual Effect of Aliasing Distortion in Voice Source Modelling
Time: 16:00-18:00 
Location: Banking Hall, Foster Place

8th February 2023

Speaker: Tim Fernando (Trinity College Dublin)
Title: BS and Finite Automata
Time: 16:00-18:00
Location: Banking Hall, Foster Place

15th February 2023

Speaker: Caitríona O' Brien (Trinity College Dublin)
Title: Parents of deaf children in Ireland. Language and identities in transformation
Time: 16:00-18:00 
Location: Banking Hall, Foster Place

22 February  2023

Speaker: Carl Vogel (Trinity College Dublin)
Title: Computational Methods of Analyzing Dialogue 
Time: 16:00-18:00 
Location: Galbraith room, Trinity Long Room Hub / Please note, this is an hybrid talk, Zoom link

Abstract: Human language appears to provide an excellent modality for use in thought, but is rather less well adapted for communication in dialogue.  It would therefore be helpful to advance methods for providing guidance on when it is safe to reject the null hypothesis that mutually unfamiliar interlocutors in dialogue have not understood each other.  Some details of approaches to quantifying aspects of interaction in dialogue are considered.

1st March 2023

Speaker: Paolo Acquaviva (University College Dublin)
Title: Concepts and lexical knowledge: What's special about thinking through words
Time: 16:00-18:00 
Location: Banking Hall, Foster Place

Abstract: That words express a conceptual content is uncontroversial. This does not entail that their content should break down neatly into a grammatical part, relevant for language and to be analyzed in linguistic terms, and a conceptual part, relevant for cognition and to be analyzed in psychological terms. Various types of empirical evidence are reviewed, showing that the conceptual content of words cannot be isolated from their linguistic properties, because it is affected and shaped by them. The view of words as labels or containers for a non-linguistic conceptual content stems from a naive disregard of the complex and structured nature of lexical knowledge. On the contrary, knowledge of language is shown not just to organize and categorize conceptual content in a way not reducible to non-linguistic cognition, but also to affect its scope, as the range of verbalized concepts is both limited by abstract templates and expanded by productive word formation. This suggests that lexical knowledge is a distinctively linguistic dimension of conceptualization, and that words do not so much label or package concepts, as provide an inner form for conceptual knowledge.

15th March 2023

Speaker: Craig Sailor (Trinity College Dublin)
Title: From restructuring verbs to exhortative particles: a Scots case study  (in collaboration with Gary Thoms, NYU)
Time: 16:00-18:00 
Location: Banking Hall, Foster Place

Abstract: To express a command, speakers of certain varieties of Scots and Scottish English can use an English-like imperative clause, or they can use a non-English-like exhortative clause type involving the markers gonnae or wantae:

(1) a. Wantae leave me alane. 
          ‘Leave me alone.’
      b. Gonnae drop it right now. 
           ‘Drop it right now.’

This talk is concerned with the synchronic and diachronic syntax of these Gonnae/Wantae Clauses (henceforth GWCs). 

Synchronically, we argue that gonnae/wantae are innovative modal verbs expressing exhortative force. We present evidence from a variety of GWCs – those involving negation, overt subjects, and predicate ellipsis – to show that gonnae/wantae occupy an especially high position in the clause, having undergone inversion with the subject (akin to that found in Standard English interrogatives, albeit here with exhortative force). 

Diachronically, we propose that GWCs derive from reduced questions functioning as ‘concealed imperatives’ (e.g. (Are you) goin’ tae leave me alane, cf. Standard English Will you leave me alone?). In brief, GWCs underwent reanalysis from a biclausal structure into a monoclausal one. Specifically, we present diatopic and diagenerational evidence from the Scots Syntax Atlas suggesting that the initial innovation began with gonnae, which underwent  grammaticalization from an infinitive-embedding lexical verb into a restructuring verb, and then into an exhortative modal auxiliary. Subsequently, and by analogy with this change, wantae has recently begun to follow the same pathway of reanalysis; this is very much still a change-in-progress, as we will show. This study in Scots GWCs therefore provides further evidence of Roberts & Roussou’s (2003) notion of ‘upward reanalysis’, from lexical verbs into functional elements within the periphery of the clause.

22nd March 2023

Speaker: Nathaniel Sims (Centre national de la recherche scientifique & Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales)
Title: A roadmap to reconstructing proto-Rma
Time: 16:00-18:00 
Location: room 4073, Arts Building

Abstract: Rma is a language spoken along the upper reaches of the Min River in Northwestern Sichuan, China. Rma a member of the Trans-Himalayan language family. Thus, it is related to Chinese, Tibetan, and Burmese. However, unlike these languages, Rma does not have a long tradition of writing, and the history of the language subgroup is not well understood. 

The purpose of this talk is to discuss issues related to historical reconstruction of proto-Rma in light of recent advancements in the documentation of the language, and to discuss what this can tell us about the relationship between Rma and other languages of the family. To date, the most comprehensive treatment of Rma historical linguistics is Evans (2001). Evans etymologized over one thousand Rma forms and proposed reconstructions for certain southern varieties. Since Evans’ study, there have been many publications on previously undocumented varieties which broaden the empirical basis for studies of the history of the language: Ronghong (LaPolla & Huang 2003), Qugu (LaPolla & Poa 2003, Huang & Zhou 2006), Hongyan (Evans 2006), Puxi (Huang 2007), Yonghe (Sims 2014), Xiaoxing (Huang et al. 2019). Thus, the time is ripe for work on historical reconstruction of which incorporates these publications. 

This talk will discuss the reconstruction of the segmental phonology, including consonants and vowels, syllable structure, as well as suprasegmental phonology such as tonal distinctions. It will also discuss the development of the verb-complex, and other larger constructions in Rma. This talk will present a ‘recipe’ for reconstructing a form in proto-Rma and discuss cover some of the insights that can be gained by internal reconstruction, loanwords from other languages, as well as loanwords from Rma into other languages, and some of the methodological issues in historical reconstruction of a language without a long written tradition. 

29th March 2023

Speaker: Caroline Jagoe (Trinity College Dublin)
Time: 16:00-18:00 
Location: Banking Hall, Foster Place

5th April 2023

Speaker: Lorna Carson (Trinity College Dublin)
Time: 16:00-18:00 
Location: Banking Hall, Foster Place

12th April 2023

Speaker: Lingzi Zhuang (University of Toronto Mississauga)
Time: 16:00-18:00 
Location: Galbraith room, Trinity Long Room Hub (hybrid talk)

Previous Seminars

Schedule Michaelmas Term 2022/23

21st September 2022

Speaker: Nathan Hill (Trinity College Dublin) 
Title: The syntax of subordination with verba dicendi matrix verbs in the Old Tibetan Ramayana
Time: 12:30-2pm Neill Theatre, Trinity Long Room Hub

28th September 2022

Speaker: Caitriona O’Brien (Trinity College Dublin) 
Title: Parents of deaf children in Ireland: Language and identities in transformation
Time: 12:30-2pm TRISS seminar room, Arts Building

5th October 2022

Speaker: Connor McCabe (Trinity College Dublin) 
Title: Exploring prosody in Munster Irish - why and how?
Time: 12:30-2pm Neill, Trinity Long Room Hub

12th October 2022

Zhu Honghui (Trinity College Dublin)
Title: Multilingualism and language policy in Sino-foreign tertiary education
Time: 12:30-2pm Neill, Trinity Long Room Hub

19th October 2022

Speaker: Isabelle Heyerick (Trinity College Dublin)
Title: The strategic nature of (signed language) interpreting
Time: 12:30-2pm Neill, Trinity Long Room Hub

2nd November 2022

Speaker: Linda Badan (Ghent University)
Title: Information Structure and beyond: A comparison between Italian and Chinese
Time: 12:30-2pm TRISS seminar room, Arts Building *Hybrid meeting*
Zoom Link:

9th November 2022

Speaker: Anna Giovannini (Trinity College Dublin) 
Title: Exploring the prosody of affective speech
Time: 12:30-2pm Neill, Trinity Long Room Hub

16th November 2022

Speaker: Maria Dimitropoulou (Trinity College Dublin) 
Title: Bi-/multilingual parenting in Europe: exploring speaker identities in a foreign and a minority language context
Time: 12:30-2pm Neill, Trinity Long Room Hub

23rd November 2022

Speaker: Yunfan Lai (Trinity College Dublin) 
Time: 12:30-2pm Neill, Trinity Long Room Hub

30th November 2022

Speaker: Shihua Li (Trinity College Dublin)
Time: 12:30-2pm Neill, Trinity Long Room Hub

Hilary Term 2021/22

Wednesday 9 February 2022

Speaker: Nathan Hill (Trinity College Dublin) 
Title: Changes to Old Tibetan compound internal sandhi
Time: 14:15-15:30 (online)

Previous discussions of Tibetan phonology do not distinguish between prescript and superscript consonants. In fact, the use of prescripts and superscripts may show a different sandhi behavior. This behavior can be summarized in two rules, a pre script rule and a superscript rule. According to the prescript rule, a prescript consonant falls out in the following syllable if a preceding syllable ends in a consonant, and the superscript elision rule, where (1) if the final consonant of a preceding syllable is acute, and the consonant of the word in question would be deleted according to the superscript rule, a following superscript would also be deleted, then the superscript is also deleted, and (2) in the anlaut, the superscript is also deleted, although the prescript remains.

Registration link:

Wednesday 23 February 2022

Speaker: Breffni O’Rourke (Trinity College Dublin) 
Title: What does it mean to be engaged in a discussion?
Time: 14:15-15:30 (online)

Discussion plays a key role in education, not least in the language classroom. In this talk I will define and characterise the term engagement as it relates to discussion, and outline a discourse-analytic framework for exploring engagement in discussion. Key characteristics of “engaged discussion” are proposed, emphasising the roles of good faithcontribution focus, and, based primarily on the work of Van Lier, contingency.

Registration link:

Wednesday 16 March 2022

Speaker: Liam Lonergan (Trinity College Dublin)
Title: TBA
Time: 14:15-15:30 (online)

Registration link: