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Creteling 2019
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Department of Philology
University of Crete, Greece

Course descriptions

Computational Phonology
Adam Albright

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

This course compares various models of phonological computation, focusing especially on constraint-based models of phonology that employ grammars of ranked (Optimality Theory) or weighted (Harmonic Grammar, Maximum Entropy models) constraints. We first compare how these models select surface forms (i.e., assign probability distributions over potential outputs), and assess the implications for phonological typology. We then turn to the problem of learning constraint rankings and weightings, comparing different approaches to learnability challenges. No prior knowledge of computational modeling or programming is assumed; some prior experience with Optimality Theory would be helpful, but not necessary.

Intermediate Syntax IIB: Case (Week II)
Elena Anagnostopoulou

University of Crete

This intermediate class will provide an outline of Case Theory and how proposals have developed over time to deal with several empirical and conceptual questions. Topics include Abstract Case and the Extended Projection Principle, the relationship between syntactic licensing of NPs and the distribution of overt case morphology, configurational/dependent case vs. Case assigned under Agree, structural vs. inherent Case. Participants are expected to be familiar with basic syntactic theory of the sort used in introductory syntactic classes or textbooks (such as the CreteLing Introduction to Syntax class).

Language Acquisition: Developmental issues in Semantics (Week I)
Athulya Aravind & Roman Feiman

Massachusetts Institute of Technology & Brown University

This course discusses the development of aspects of natural language meaning relating to quantification, number and reference. We will discuss core empirical findings from child language and outstanding puzzles. A main focus throughout will be the question of how the acquisition of these elements of natural language depend on/interact with the development of other components of the mind. Prerequisites: basic knowledge of predicate logic and compositional semantics.

Morphemes and Morphotactics
Karlos Arregi & Paul Kiparsky

University of Chicago & Stanford University

Distributed Morphology and Minimalist Morphology are broadly compatible with the Minimalist Program, but differ conceptually and empirically in ways that this course will explore. The first part of the course deals with morphemes and their organization into paradigms, including allomorphy and allosemy, locality, blocking effects, multiple exponence, and prosodic morphology.  The second part of the course is devoted to morphotactics and takes up issues of affix ordering and constituency, level ordering, and cyclicity.  The interface of morphology with phonology, syntax, and semantics will be in focus throughout. This is an intermediate-level course which presupposes introductory-level knowledge of syntax and phonology.

The Linguistics of Us and Them (Week II)
David Beaver & Jason Stanley

The University of Texas at Austin & Yale University

Formal semantics and pragmatics have largely been devised on the basis of examples filtered by strong idealizations. For example, we do not usually consider in-group and out-group distinctions in our theorizing in semantics and pragmatics, idealizing away from them. Perhaps more surprisingly, we do not usually consider the basic fact that many linguistic messages, especially public linguistic messages, are intended to deliver different messages to different audiences. Consider for example a basic kind of political rhetoric - dog whistles; here, we need to think about three audiences – the audience that does not hear the covert message, an audience that hears the covert message and doesn’t like it, and an audience that hears the covert message and likes it (their enjoyment increased by their knowledge of the audience who hears it and doesn’t like it). Fundamental concepts of formal pragmatics such as presupposition and accommodation are defined relative to these idealizations, making them unhelpful in understanding political speech. What happens when we abandon these idealizations? In this course, we will develop tools analogous to the classical ones, but with wider applicability, sensitive to the us-them categorizations that are necessary to understanding the force of political speech. In addition to modifications of the notions of presupposition and accommodation, this will involve rethinking the role of Speech Acts in grammar, placing them at the center of linguistic theory, rather than in the relatively peripheral position they are usually seen to occupy. The basis of the course will be a book manuscript co-authored by the instructors, forthcoming with Princeton University Press.
Some prior knowledge of formal semantics and pragmatics and would be helpful, but we will not require familiarity with any specific formal framework.

Phonological alternations: stratification, storage, history
Ricardo Bermúdez-Otero

University of Manchester

Contextual variation in the form of linguistic exponents, i.e. ‘alternation’ in the broadest sense of the term, comprises an extremely wide variety of phenomena: from probabilistic variation operating over—and affected by—continuous phonetic parameters, to strong suppletion conditioned by syntactic features. This course presents an attempt to derive a fine-grained taxonomy of alternation types in a theoretically principled manner from the interaction of three key elements:
  1. a constraint-based stratal-cyclic theory of phonological computation (Bermúdez-Otero 2018);
  2. an approach to lexical storage under which entries may be either nonanalytic or analytic, and may be linked by nonproductive schemata (Bermúdez-Otero 2012: §2.3); (iii) an account of the diachronic life cycle of phonological patterns (Bermúdez-Otero 2015).
This effort leads to the conclusion that, whilst the synchronic implementation of particular alternations often involves highly complex and redundant interactions between several lexical and grammatical components, the overall typology and diachronic dynamics of alternation presents a remarkably orderly picture at the global level. This course is advanced and requires previous acquaintance with phonological theory, especially OT.

Intermediate Semantics
Rajesh Bhatt & Winfried Lechner

University of Massachusetts & National and Kapodistrian University of Athens

This intermediate course in semantics will cover phenomena such as plurals, events, and the mass/count distinction. It will introduce formal techniques and concepts (e.g. assignment functions, Link's star operator, covers, and type shifting) that have been useful in the analysis of these phenomena. Prerequisities: Participants are expected to be familiar with basic set theory, boolean logic and compositional interpretation of syntactic trees of the sort used in introductory semantics classes or textbooks (such Heim & Kratzer or the CreteLing Introduction to Semantics class).

Introduction to Semantics
Cleo Condoravdi

Stanford University

This course will cover the main analytical concepts and technical tools used in the study of linguistic meaning and use. We will focus on varieties of implications, such as entailments, presuppositions, conversational implicatures, on the basics of semantic composition and on modeling inherent properties of language, such as ambiguity, vagueness and context-dependence. No background is required in Semantics.

Semantics and Pragmatics of Questions
Regine Eckardt & Donka Farkas

University of Konstanz & University of California, Santa Cruz

The semantics of questions has been studied for decades and is by now fairly well understood. This course concentrates on the less well-studied area of non-canonical questions pursuing two related goals:
  1. understanding the semantic and pragmatic connections between canonical and non-canonical questions, and
  2. accounting in detail for particular morpho-syntactically marked non-canonical questions across several languages.
We first introduce classical approaches to question semantics, ending with a semantic, pragmatic and morpho-syntactic characterization of canonical questions. We then turn to non-canonical questions, i.e., questions that violate one or more conditions for question acts as described by Searle (1969). We focus on questions that are morpho-syntactically marked as non-canonical, including markers for rhetorical questions, self- addressed questions, biased questions, conjectural questions, and theme-setting questions. The analyses of non-canonical questions we work out rest on an articulated interface between morpho-syntax, semantics and pragmatics. They lead us to re-think the role of context and the relation between speaker, addressee and common ground. The course assumes that you are familiar with basic semantics as introduced in Heim & Kratzer (1998), Portner (2005) or Beck & Gergel (2014).

Variable costs: An exploration of language in context
Kai von Fintel

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

This intermediate level class in formal semantics and pragmatics will introduce students to central topics in the analysis of context-dependence: anaphora, indexicality, domain restriction, and presuppositions. We discuss the importance of classic data including intra- and inter-sentential anaphora, donkey sentences, and modal subordination, showing how such data motivates the notion of a discourse referent, and prompted the dynamic turn in semantics in the 1980s. We show how indexical expressions can be used to motivate a two-level account of meaning, for example Kaplan's distinction between content and character. We explore the dependence of quantifiers and modals on context, and the question of whether domain restrictions should be thought of as possibly free variables at the level of logical form. To what extent do linguistic expressions place constraints on context, and to what extent should we rather think of utterances or speech acts as having such restrictions? Or perhaps we should think of presupposition, following Stalnaker's work, as a relation between speakers and context? The final classes will turn to the "meta-semantics" of context-dependence: what costs does the use of context-dependent language impose on the context? Prerequisite: basic familiarity with compositional semantics.

Introduction to Neurolinguistics
Yosef Grodzinsky

Hebrew University of Jerusalem

This course will discuss the brain bases for linguistic and communicative ability. It will attempt to address two questions:
  • (a) In what ways is linguistic theory relevant to the scientific study of the human brain?
  • (b) How are data produced by neuroscience-based methods, and brain-related constraints, relevant to linguistic theory?
To provide answers to these questions, concrete neurolinguistic arguments need to be given, for which background is necessary. The course will therefore begin with a quick but fairly thorough review of current methods in neuroanatomy, as well as of central experimental and analytic methods for the study of the neural basis of linguistic ability. This review will lead to a third question:
  • (c) How to design the right experiment and interpret its results.
En route to an answer, I will present some prominent results regarding the brain bases for linguistic knowledge, with an emphasis on knowledge that pertains to meaning. Concretely, I will begin with results that seem to identify the neural bases for the computation of downward entailingness at a surprising degree of precision, and then move on to other aspects of meaning. The course will conclude with some puzzles and open problems, as well as demonstrations of clinical applications of the methods in the field - I will show how fine semantics questions can be tested in clinical settings, and in fact in the operating room, with awake patients that undergo neurosurgical procedures. Prerequisites: Basic knowledge of syntax and propositional logic, some knowledge of semantics. 

Intermediate Syntax I: Verbal Morphosyntax and Binding Theory
Sabine Iatridou

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

In this class we will focus on a small number of topics, among which will minimally be binding theory and verbal morphosyntax. We will discuss what the empirical challenges are in each domain, and how proposals have developed over time to deal with an increasing body of knowledge about the relevant crosslinguistic patterns. Prerequisites: At least one semester of syntax. Complete familiarity with drawing and understanding syntactic trees. Basic notions like c-command and government.

Introduction to Syntax
Kyle Johnson

University of Massachusetts

This course introduces the beginning student to some of the central methodologies and results of contemporary syntactic theory. The goal will be to provide the student with a brief foundation for syntactic theorizing and a working knowledge of movement, ellipsis, agreement, and a rudimentary knowledge of argument structure. The course is structured around a set of lecture notes and problem sets. This class is introductory, so no background is required in Syntax.

Musical structure and interpretation: A linguistic approach (Week II)
Jonah Katz & Philippe Schlenker

West Virginia University & École Normale Supérieure Paris

This course is a survey of combinatoric dependencies, constituent structure, semantic interpretation, and pragmatic inferences in (mostly Western Tonal) music. Each of these domains will be compared and contrasted with their linguistic counterparts, to the extent possible. The emphasis will be on computational-level properties of musical and linguistic systems rather than processing or production algorithms. The materials will assume some familiarity with basic concepts in linguistic syntax and semantics. We will attempt to introduce and motivate all relevant music-theoretic material, though some experience with Western music performance or analysis will be useful for understanding the material thoroughly.

Intermediate Syntax IIA: Control (Week I)
Idan Landau

Ben-Gurion University

Control constructions typically involve a referential dependency between an overt argument in the main clause and a null subject (PRO) in an embedded clause (e.g., Pauli prefers [PROi to be alone]). In this course we will address key questions like: What is the nature of the control dependency? Is it reducible to other grammatical dependencies (predication, binding, or movement)? Is it specified in the syntax or in lexical semantics? Must the controller be overt? Must the controllee be null? In what ways does control depend on properties of the controlled clause (finiteness and case)? What determines whether control is obligatory or optional? Does control operate in adjuncts the same way it does in complements? We will try to answer all these questions by navigating through the rich literature on the topic. The course is intermediate level; basic syntax and basic semantics are prerequisites.

Evolution and Language (Week II)
Shigeru Miyagawa & Ian Tattersall

Massachusetts Institute of Technology & American Museum of Natural History

In this course, we will explore how modern humans developed the high cognitive capability that makes it possible for us to have language. First, we will look at ideas about how humans and language evolved. Scrutiny of the fossil and archaeological records reveals that the transition to symbolic reasoning happened very late in hominid history - indeed, within the tenure of anatomically recognizable Homo sapiens. Given the intimate interdependence of modern cognition and language, the most plausible cultural trigger for symbolic thought processes was the spontaneous invention of language in an African isolate of early Homo sapiens at (very approximately) 100,000 years ago. To try to see how language formed, we will compare language of the modern humans with systems of communication employed by other animals, particularly the systems employed by birdsong, and by the alarm calls of Old World monkeys. We will identify similarities and differences as a way to explore how human language might have emerged in evolution in the time frame given. No background linguistic knowledge is required.

Tense and Aspect
Roumi Pancheva & Paul Portner & Sergei Tatevosov

University of Southern California & Georgetown University & Lomonosov Moscow State University

One of the core universal properties of languages is that they situate events in time. There has been a long tradition of formal and empirical investigation into the mechanisms that languages use to accomplish this task. We will offer a fast-paced overview of how tense and aspect work, illustrating the major advances in understanding universality and variation, and identifying the still unresolved questions. Specific topics include tense vs aspect, perfect and progressive, aspect and evidentiality, (im)perfectivity, aktionsart and aspectual composition, and Slavic-type aspectual systems. Level: Intermediate-Advanced. Prerequisites: Graduate-level coursework in syntax and formal semantics.

Introduction to Super Linguistics (Week I)
Pritty Patel-Grosz & Philippe Schlenker

University of Oslo & École Normale Supérieure Paris

In this introductory level class, we will offer an introduction to Super Linguistics (using the term 'super' in its original Latinate meaning 'beyond'), which we define as the application of formal linguistic methodology (and methodology inspired by linguistics) to diverse non-standard objects (beyond standard linguistic objects of study). Out of the various topics that have already been explored under the Super Linguistics umbrella (including the syntax/semantics of gestures, music, dance, non-verbal pictorial representations, animal calls, and animal gestures), we zoom in on iconicity and sign, animal semantics and narrative dance. In doing so, we connect these newly established objects of study to more traditional objects of study, in particular, formal semantic modeling of iconicity in both spoken and signed natural languages. This class is introductory in that it does not presuppose familiarity with super linguistic topics (e.g., iconicity in sign language, animal semantics, gesture, dance). However, introductory level knowledge in syntax, semantics and pragmatics will be presupposed.

Syntax of Austronesian Languages
Maria Polinsky

University of Maryland

The goal of this class is to provide an introduction to the comparative study of Austronesian languages, with an emphasis on syntactic structure. We will discuss issues in the study of Austronesian languages that pose challenges to current linguistic theory and consider further readings and topics for discussion. The overall goals of the course are threefold:
  1. To provide an introduction to the languages of the Austronesian (AN) family and to give students tools and background knowledge to aid in their future work on these languages
  2. To identify critical issues pertaining to the structure of AN and their implications for modern syntactic theory
  3. To introduce new topics in the study of AN
The choice of the Austronesian language family as the focus of this class is not accidental. Although it is considered the largest language family in the world (comprising roughly 1,200 genetically related languages dispersed throughout Madagascar, Taiwan, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific islands), AN has received relatively little attention in the academic literature. Sophisticated research into AN did not really begin until the 1930s and 1940s, fueled, in part, by military interest in the Pacific region. Austronesian languages possess a number of typologically unusual properties, making them important to the development of linguistic theory. Our basic perception of syntax might be dramatically different if these languages were as well-understood today as, say, the Romance languages. The following list illustrates a small selection of the intriguing features whose theoretical significance will surely deepen when they are investigated from a comparative perspective:
  • Many Austronesian languages exhibit the uncommon word orders verb-subject-object (VSO) and verb-object-subject (VOS). These word orders pose an apparent challenge to theories that posit a universal underlying SVO word order. Some Austronesian languages exhibit both VOS and VSO, thus raising the question of which order is more basic. It is not clear what determines the choice between VSO and VOS either intra- or cross-linguistically within the Austronesian family.
  • Austronesian languages also display an unusual order within the verb phrase (the “middlefield”): objects apparently shift rightward rather than leftward, and the order of adverbs is the mirror image of that found in better-studied languages.
  • Many Austronesian languages, especially those spoken in the western branches of the family, have complex verbal voice systems. Voice morphology indicates the grammatical role of the ‘subject’, a syntactically and pragmatically privileged constituent which has been variously analyzed as a structural subject, an absolutive argument (in an ergative system), or a topic. The grammatical status of the ‘subject’ and the treatment of the voice system remain highly controversial and call for more investigation, especially from a comparative perspective.
  • Many Austronesian languages impose unusually stringent syntactic constraints on which arguments can be questioned, focused (“emphasized”), or topicalized (presented as background information); in these languages, the only constituent eligible for these operations is the ‘subject’. The nature of this restriction is not well understood and poses significant challenges to existing theories of syntactic movement. It is also mysterious why the restriction is so resilient within this language family.
This course requires basic knowledge of syntax.

Introduction to Phonology
Doug Pulleyblank

University of British Columbia

This course is an introduction to phonological analysis. We'll focus on ways that sounds are represented in human language, how they are hierarchically structured, and how sound patterns are accounted for. We will consider patterns from many different languages, examining patterns of both distribution and alternation, and looking at phenomena such as assimilation, dissimilation, metathesis, stress and reduplication. We will look at what is special about these sorts of phenomena and how linguists approach their treatment. The focus will be on gaining practice in data analysis, with exposure to both rule-based and constraint-based frameworks. The course is introductory in nature.

Introduction to Sign Languages
Josep Quer

ICREA-Pompeu Fabra University

This course is an introduction into some of the core issues in Sign Language Linguistics, so that students are able to evaluate the results of this research field for the study of the human faculty of language. After a general introduction to socio-historical aspects of this type of natural languages, we will tackle several central topics in the phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics of sign languages. We will analyze not only the similarities with spoken languages but also the specific differences deriving from the visual-manual modality that can shed light on certain aspects of linguistic theorizing. No previous knowledge about sign languages is required.

Contiguity Theory
Norvin Richards

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Standard Minimalist syntax posits a number of parameters controlling the distribution of various types of overt movement.  Some languages have overt wh-movement, while others do not; some languages move the verb to T, and others don’t; some languages have something like the EPP, while others do not.  We have technology for describing these kinds of facts (strong features, EPP features, and so forth), but no real explanations; the existence of a particular type of overt movement in a language is not connected to any other observable facts about the language.
In this class we will try to develop a more explanatory theory of these kinds of phenomena.  The idea will be that there are universal conditions on the mapping between syntax and phonology, which are met in different ways in different languages because of independently observable differences in phonology and morphology.  In the end, at least in this domain, there will be no truly syntactic parameters.
The class will assume some fairly basic familiarity with syntax (students will need to be reasonably comfortable with trees, for example, and with the idea of movement).  No previous training in phonology or morphology will be necessary.

Language, Gender, and Sexuality (Week I)
Ivy Sichel

University of California, Santa Cruz

(How) does gender affect the way in which we speak and the ways in which we perceive other people’s speech? Do gender-related barriers to equal participation in public speech, stereotypes about vocal fry and the significance of #MeToo suggest that language is a feminist issue in our time? The course will combine work in socio-linguistics, feminist theory, queer theory, and racio-linguistics to construct a background for discussion of language, gender, and sexuality. Taking as a point of departure the recognition that gender is more than a simple dichotomy between men and women, we will consider the role of language in the construction of gender as traditionally understood, and look beyond that to the role of language in the construction of non-binary gender, trans-genders and sexual identities. No background in these topics is presupposed.

Morpho-phonology: the cycle and its extensions
Juliet Stanton & Donca Steriade

New York University & Massachusetts Institute of Technology

This intermediate-level course has two goals. One is to introduce students to the analysis of morpho-phonological phenomena that are central to our understanding of the relation between phonology, morpho-syntax, and the lexicon. These include: cyclic phonology (the phonological similarity between syntactically nested expressions: Chomsky and Halle 1968, Benua 1997, Kiparsky 2000), paradigm uniformity (the similarity between the stems of inflectional paradigm members: Albright 2011), pseudo-cyclic stem uniformity (Steriade and Yanovich 2015); homophony avoidance in paradigms (Kenstowicz 2005), and morphomic exponence (syntactically arbitrary forms of stem syncretism: articles in Luís and Bermúdez-Otero 2016). These phenomena are related in being, among other things, directional and recursive. Directionality refers to one class of forms, e.g. a leading form in a paradigm, asymmetrically influencing the stems of others. Recursiveness refers to chain effects: x determines the shape of y, which in turn dictates that of z. As the second goal of the class, we plan to explore analyses that reflect the similarities between all these morpho-phonological phenomena, while characterizing their systematic differences. The empirical focus in this part is on stress in English, explored through lexical statistics and experimental work. We presuppose basic knowledge of phonology and syntax.