Archive for June, 2008

Breaking news: Giannakidou and Kennedy promoted!

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

Congratulations to Anastasia Giannakidou and Chris Kennedy on their promotion to Professor. Their promotions are formal recognition of their excellence in scholarship, teaching and service.

Last BLING post for the year

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

This will be the last posting brought to you by BLING news for this academic year. BLING will resume in late September. Have a wonderful and exciting summer!

Kirby awarded the Hanna Gray Fellowship

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

Congratulations to James Kirby, who has been awarded a three-year Hanna Holborn Gray Advanced Fellowship! This fellowship is given annually to one third-year student in the Humanities division and one in the humanistic Social Sciences. We are very proud of James for receiving this honor.

Lee to Notre Dame

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

Jung-Hyuck Lee (Ph.D. 2006) has been appointed senior lecturer at the University of Notre Dame teaching Korean languages and civilization courses. Congratulations, Jung-Hyuck!

Caponigro talk on Friday

Monday, June 9th, 2008

The Semantics and philosophy of Language Workshop presents

Ivano Caponigro
(joint work with Maria Polinsky, Harvard)
Time: June 13, Friday, 11am
Location: Landahl Center Seminar Room

Most languages (including English) distinguish between relative clauses, embedded declarative clauses, and embedded interrogative clauses in various syntactic ways (e.g. complementizers, gaps, wh-words, extraction). The syntactic behavior matches the semantic one, since all these embedded clauses differ in their meaning as well. In this talk, we present a language that exhibits a very different pattern. In Adyghe, a North-West Caucasian language spoken in southern Russia and some parts of Turkey, the very same “mystery clause” is used to convey the various meanings that relative clauses, embedded declaratives, and embedded interrogatives convey in other languages. We show that (i) Adyghe’s “mystery clause” is a headless relative clause, and that (ii) the syntax-semantics mapping in Adyghe can be accounted for by means of tools that have already been independently argued for in the grammar (set formation, concealed questions, polarity operators, etc.). More generally, Adyghe and its extensive use relative clauses to convey various meanings show that the syntax-semantics interface across languages is more varied that it is usually assumed, but it can still be handled without enriching the conceptual apparatus of the grammar.

QP defense mania

Monday, June 9th, 2008

As the Spring quarter comes to a close, we celebrate the many successfully defended QPs. Here’s the honor roll:

First QP

  • Max Bane: Modeling the Typology of Quantity-Insensitive Stress Systems.
  • Tommy Grano: At the intersection of form, meaning and use: Being assertive in Mandarin Chinese.
  • Arum Kang: On the plurality of the Extrinsic Plural Marker -TUL in Korean.
  • Yaron McNabb: Hebrew Coordinated Relative Clauses as a Window into the Nature of Resumption and Movement.
  • Nassira Nicola: Dire N’IMPORTE-Q”: Identifying a free choice item in Quebec Sign Language.

Second QP

  • Catherine Chatzopoulos: Negative Concord in Attic Greek.
  • James Kirby: Comparative-induced event measure relations in English and Vietnamese.
  • Osamu Sawada: The Historical Syntax of Japanese Comparatives.
  • Eleni Staraki: Turkish Loanwords in Modern Greek: A Psycholinguistic Approach.
  • Chris Straughn: The Development and Use of the Uzbek Complementizer.

Congratulations also to Jackie Bunting for successfully defending her dissertation proposal titled From English to Sranan: An Assessment of Structural Similarities and Differences. Good job, Jackie.

Bultaovic successfully defended dissertation

Monday, June 9th, 2008

Congratulations to Angelina Bultaovic, who successfully defended her doctoral dissertation entitled ” MODALITY, FUTURITY AND TEMPORAL DEPENDENCY: THE SEMANTICS OF THE SERBIAN PERFECTIVE NONPAST AND FUTURE 2 “! in both The Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures the Department of Linguistics for a dual Ph.D. Chestitamo na uspehu! Well done, Gina!

Livescu Colloquium

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Phonological Models in Automatic Speech Recognition

Karen Livescu
Toyota Technological Institute at Chicago
Location: Cobb 201
Time: 3:30pm


The performance of automatic speech recognizers varies widely across contexts. Very good performance can be achieved on single-speaker, large-vocabulary dictation in a clean acoustic environment, as well as on small-vocabulary tasks with fewer constraints on the speakers and acoustics. One domain that is still elusive is that of spontaneous conversational speech. This type of speech poses a number of challenges, among them extreme variation in pronunciation. I will describe efforts in the speech recognition community to characterize and model pronunciation variation.

The most thoroughly studied approach is augmentation of a phonetic pronunciation lexicon with phonological rules. Despite successes in a few domains, it has been surprisingly difficult to obtain significant recognition improvements by including those phonetic pronunciations that appear to exist in the data. I will advocate an alternative view: that the phone unit may not be the most appropriate for modeling the lexicon. I will describe approaches using both larger (e.g. syllable-sized) and “smaller” (e.g. articulatory) units. In the class of “smaller” unit models, ideas from articulatory and autosegmental phonology motivate multi-tier models in which tiers have semi-independent behavior. I will present a particular model in which articulatory features are represented as variables in a dynamic Bayesian network.

Non-phonetic pronunciation models can involve significantly different model structures than those typically used in speech recognition, and as a result they may also entail modifications to other components such as the observation model and training algorithms. At this point it is not clear what the “winning” approach will be. The success of a given approach may depend on the domain or on the amount and type of training data available. I will describe some of the current challenges and ongoing work, with a particular focus on the role of phonological theories in statistical models of pronunciation (and vice versa?).