Keynote Speakers

Dr. Bernard Comrie

Bernard Comrie is Distinguished Faculty Professor of Linguistics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His main interests are language universals and typology, historical linguistics (including in particular the use of linguistic evidence to reconstruct aspects of prehistory), linguistic fieldwork, and languages of New Guinea and of the North Caucasus. His publications include Aspect (1976), Language Universals and Linguistic Typology (1981/1989), Tense (Cambridge, 1985), The Russian Language in the Twentieth Century (co-authored, 1996), and The Dictionary of Languages and Dialects of the Peoples of the Northern Caucasus (co-authored, 2010). He is also editor of The World’s Major Languages (1987/2009) and co-editor of The Slavonic Languages (1993), The World Atlas of Language Structures (2005), Studies in Ditransitive Constructions(2010), New Perspectives on the Origin of Language (2013), Valency Classes in the World’s Languages (2015), and Noun-Modifying Clause Constructions in Languages of Eurasia (2017).

Dr. Comrie’s talk: “Possessive chains and Possessor Camouflage”

Recursive possessive constructions produce possessive chains like English the girl’s father’s house. In most such constructions, from knowing the morphosyntax of possessor  and possessum in the corresponding bipartite construction, e.g. the girl’s house, one can predict the morphosyntax of the intermediate possessor (father): It combines the distinctive properties of possessor and possessum. Many languages with typologically distinct possessive constructions conform to this generalization, e.g. Russian, Finnish, Abkhaz, Welsh, Turkish, Tsez, Standard Arabic. However, two independent cases are known in which the properties of an intermediate possessor are not predictable from the properties of possessor and possessum in the bipartite construction, a phenomenon that may be called Possessor Camouflage. In Sakha (Yakut) (and the closely related Dolgan), the bipartite possessive construction is head-marking, as in učūtal ǰie-te teacher house-3sg ‘the teacher’s house’. However, an intermediate possessor, in addition to being head-marked, must also be dependent-marked by means of the genitive case, as in kini ehe-ti-n oron-o s/he grandfather-3sg-gen bed-3sg ‘her grandfather’s bed’. The second case involves Scottish Gaelic and Irish, where dependent-marking (genitive case) in the bipartite possessive construction is lost on an intermediate possessor. Data will be presented and analyzed, and typological implications discussed.


Dr. Lal Zimman

Lal Zimman is an Assistant Professor of Linguistics and Affiliated Faculty in Feminist Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His research is broadly focused on the linguistic practices of transgender speakers, in which he employs a range of qualitative and quantitative methodologies. He has published on the homonormativity of the coming out narrative genre (Gender & Language, 2009), trans men’s creative appropriations of gendered body part terminology (Queer Excursions, 2014, Oxford; Journal of Homosexuality, 2014), and the acoustic characteristics of the voice (Journal of Language & Sexuality, 2013; Language and Masculinities, 2015, Routledge). In 2014, he published a co-edited volume, Retheorizing Binaries in Language, Gender, and Sexuality with Oxford University Press, which was awarded the Ruth Benedict Prize by the Association for Queer Anthropology. He is also General Editor of OUP’s Series in Language, Gender, and Sexuality.

Dr. Zimman’s talk: “Voicing (trans)gender identity: Rethinking the relationship between gendered identities, bodies, and the voice”

The relationship between gender and the voice is of central importance to phoneticians, transgender people, and listeners who engage in the process of gender attribution based (partially) on auditory cues; in other words, almost everyone who’s hearing. This talk presents a reconceptualization of the relationship between the voice, gendered identities, and sexed bodies through a focus on transgender speakers.

There is a long tradition in the social sciences of looking to transgender people as a means of understanding the practices we all engage in as part of constructing our gender (e.g. Garfinkel’s 1967 discussion of Agnes, an intersex trans woman). Linguists, however, have been relatively slow to take up this line of inquiry. This talk is part of a broad research program that explores the vast potential for linguistic insight from the study of trans people’s verbal practices. Following a brief overview of different strains of that program, this talk focuses on the gendering of the voice, which in linguistics remains a site of biological essentialism and gender binarism. Through an examination of transgender speakers in two Western United States urban centers, the central analysis highlights the ways speakers with non-normative bodies and identities navigate the complex interplay of embodiment and social practice. Specifically, three phonetic features are discussed: fundamental frequency, /s/, and creaky phonation in both read and spontaneous speech.

Two primary arguments emerge from this work. First, the gendered phonetic styles trans speakers produce demand a more satisfactory account of the gendered voice that recognizes the effect not only of the body and of early socialization, but of speakers’ multidimensional alignments and disalignments with normative femininity and masculinity. Second, even this complexified theory of gender must be supplemented by discourse analysis of the analyzed speech, which demonstrates the crucial importance of interactional stance and agentive stylistic moves in the production of gender differences in the voice. Together, these arguments suggest that the role of gender in linguistics requires more careful and thorough theorization, particularly as the field advances in our recognition of transgender voices, in every sense of the word.