• Martina is travelling to the Basque country and Israel

Martina was invited to give a week-long course in the Masters of Linguistics Program the University of the Basque country on “The syntax of interaction“.  The main theme of the course: speech act structure is syntacticized but not in the way usually assumed. Rather traditional speech act theory, which often serves as the pragmatic underpinning for the syntacticization of speech acts misses the interactive dimension of language. With the structure we developed in the eh-lab, we can more accurately capture the distributional and interpretive properties of discourse markers.

On that same trip, Martina is giving a talk at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on “The syntax of interaction. Towards a formal typology of discourse markers”


  • Several talks by eh-lab members

Johannes gave a talk at the conference on Meaning, Context and Cognition in Lodz Poland on “How Particles and Intonation Can Modify Speech Acts”. (joint work with Martina). The paper was really well received and we were asked to contribute to a volume on speech acts that the organizers are editing.

Johannes gave a talk at a workshop on “Prosody in syntactic encoding” in Saarbruecken, Germany on the Syntactic integration of sentential intonationThis is joint work with Martina and looks at how intonational tunes are associated with syntactic structure. Again, the speech act structure we’ve been developing in the eh-lab has been useful to “put things into place”.

Hermann gave a talk at ACAL in Indiana on “Two strategies for Affirmative Response in Bamileke Medumba” (joint work with Martina). The cool finding here is that Medumba has two ways of saying “yes”: one is used to respond to the propositional content and the other is used to respond to the bias implicit in the question.   Fits nicely with our speech act structure according to which there is a dedicated layer to encode the speaker’s commitment (GroundP).


  • Talk at NWAV

Martina is giving  a talk at NWAV (with Alex d’Arcy and Derek Dennis) on the rise of right.  (photo credit: James Walker)


  • Talk at NYU

Martina is giving  a colloquium at NYU on the typology of conformationals

  • Eh-lab field trip to Europe:

Anne and Martina are attending the summer school on prosody in Aix-en-Provence

Martina is giving a talk at the University of Geneva: Higher Ground
The grammar of peripheral particles and other conversational strategies

Anne, Johannes, Sonja and Martina are presenting at a workshop on Formal, Probabilistic and Typological Approaches to Discourse Particles and Modal Adverbs in Bolzano Italy: Let’s all be systematic (about confirmationals), eh? And Adriana is also presenting at that same workshop: Discourse particles and asymmetries in knowledge: the case of two Spanish discourse markers.

  • First eh-lab dissertation

Sonja Thoma successfully defended her dissertation on dicourse particles in Miesbach Bavarian. Congratulations Sonja!

  • Lots of talks by eh-lab members

Johannes and Martina are presenting at the DGfS conference 2017: “Syntactic Integration of Sentential Intonation”

Martina is giving a talk at WSCLA 2016 at UQAM: “Conversational sentences in Ktunaxa”

Martina is giving a talk in Utrecht: “What particle syntax can teach us about the particularities of syntax”.

Hermann presented work on Medumba biased questions at “Questions, Answers, and Negation” in Berlin.

Derek Denis is coming to visit our eh-lab on thursday, Nov 19th. he will also give a colloquium at the department on the 20th.

Martina is presenting joint work with Alex d’Arcy at NWAV 44 in Toronto

Martina gave a colloquium at Yale University on “Exploring conversation competence. An interface perspective”

Hermann presented work on Medumba confirmationals in Japan at WOCAL 8.

eh-lab talk at ALT. Here is the abstract

Martina will be teaching a course in Vienna on the syntax of discourse and giving a talk at CAMCOS 2015 in Cambridge on “The (not so) silent syntax of speech acts. A comparative approach.”

Johannes is presenting at the 14th international pragmatics conference in Antwerp (Belgium). Here is the abstract of the paper (Intonation in peripheral discourse particles: an empirical investigation).

The eh-lab is going to WCCFL .Here is the abstract of our paper. (Left of the left periphery: The syntax of discourse markers)

Johannes and Martina are giving a talk at the workshop on: “Prosody and Meaning of non-canonical questions” (March 2015 in Leipzig). Here is the abstract of our paper. (Requesting Confirmation with Intonation and Sentence- Peripheral Discourse Markers)

  • First joint eh-lab paper finished

We just finished our first joint eh-lab paper for the proceedings of the CLA: How to do things with particles. 

This marks the beginning of a series of papers which will emerge over the coming months.

  • Zoe Lam’s paper published

Zoe’s paper on the Cantonese equivalent of eh is now published in Studies in Chinese Linguistics (Volume 35).

Congratulations Zoe on the first journal publication out of the eh lab!

This study of syntax-pragmatics interface analyzes the meaning of two Cantonese question particles, namely me1 and ho2, and contrasts their felicity conditions with that of neutral questions. Both particles introduce complex speech acts which exercise two illocutionary forces (asserting and asking), contrary to neutral
questions which are simple speech acts. Co-occurrence patterns of question particles, scope facts and clause-typing restrictions suggest that the addressee-oriented particle ho2 is higher than speaker-oriented me1 in syntax. A complex ForceP structure is proposed, in which a higher head FORCE A(ddressee) hosts ho2,

while FORCE S(peaker) hosts me1.

  • Martina’s book is out

Martina Wiltschko’s book “The universal structure of categories. Towards a formal typology” is now published (and buyable at least in its e-form).  While it doesn’t discuss speech acts or confirmationals, it introduces the framework within we are approaching this empirical domain: the universal spine hypothesis.



  • Talk in Vienna

July 2014

Johannes is taking our paper “The syntax of clause-external discourse markers. A neo-performative analysis” to a conference on extra-clausal constituents in Vienna.

In this paper we talk about what it means to be inside or outside of the clause. We suggest that the grounding layer hosts apparently extra-clausal constituents. We’ve convinced ourselves that it consists of not just two but three layers (yes the plot is thickening): one is dedicated to the speaker (GroundS), one is dedicated to what the speaker thinks about the addressee’s set of beliefs (GroundA) and one is dedicated to encoding the call on the addressee.

Note that this three layered structure is reminiscent of the three layered structure we find in the verbal projection (vP): intransitive verbs have one participant and one layer; transitive verbs have two participants and thus two layers; and both intransitive and transitive structures can be causativized with a third layer. Makes sense that the call for addressee would be parallel to the causative layer, eh? Calling on the addressee is the cause of my speech act!

We also discuss evidence for why you want to develop a syntactic analysis for speech acts in the first place.

  • CLA talk

May 2014

Zoe and Hermann are taking our paper “How to do things with particles” to the Canadian Linguistic Association at Brock University.

The paper shows that declarative clauses do not always result in assertions. They can be modified via intonational contours and/or sentence final particles (like eh?). We argue that in English, particles modify what is being said (speaker commitment) while intonational contours modify the call on the addressee.

We also explore what happens in languages where intonational contours are not available to manipulate the interpretation of the clause, namely tone languages.

We show that in such languages the same function can be expressed via particles. In Medumba we find two separate particles while in Cantonese a single particle is simultaneously responsible for both functions.

syntax of speech acts cla 2014




Syntax of Speech Acts Project at UBC Linguistics