Rajesh Bhatt from UMass will be visiting the department from May 12 to May 21 as our first linguistics guru. He will be hanging out in Anastasia’s office (Classics 314E). Please stop by to say hi! If you want to meet with him to discuss your research, please e-mail him <bhatt<AT>linguist.umass.edu> directly to schedule an appointment.
Archive for the ‘colloquia’ Category
Abstract: What does it signify that a language “has a word for” such-and-such a notion? For the general public, it sheds light on the way its speakers think, often with political or ideological consequences. For linguists and psychologists, lexicalization chiefly bears on individual perception or cognition. For historians and other students of culture, it means a society has come into the possession of a new concept. It turns out that these perspectives rest on very different understandings of “concept” and “language”—and for that matter “have.” I’ll spell some of these out and show how there are certain misconceptions inherent in each. I want to focus in particular on the way the individualism of modern linguistics can obscure the social consequences of lexicalization, some of which have played an important role in recent philosophy of language. In general, having a word is a bigger deal than linguists generally suppose, and for reasons that linguists don’t often pay much attention to.
This talk is sponsored by the Franke Institute for the Humanities and the Department of Linguistics.
Another year, another colloquium series: today kicks off our fantastic 2010-2011 lineup. Join us for Annika Herrmann’s talk (link to abstract found below) at 3:30 p.m. in Cobb 201; all are invited to Tea immediately following in the department lounge.
Schedule for Autumn quarter
October 7: Annika Herrmann, University of Göttingen
The split nature of scalar focus particles in sign languages
November 11: Bart Geurts, University of Nijmegen
November 18: Silvina Montrul, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
December 2: William Idsardi, University of Maryland
Documentation of tone in the Mackenzie Basin Dene languages
University of Rochester
As part of a study of the phonetics of the Dene languages, this talk examines the realization of tone in several Athabaskan, or Dene (as speakers prefer) languages in the Mackenzie Basin area of Canada, an important group of language communities and dialects for which little instrumental phonetic documentation has been available. The Dene languages are polysynthetic; words are multisyllabic, and these languages are considered to be among the most morphologically complex known to us. Many of these languages have contrastive tone. Despite their enormous spread, the languages are phonetically and morphologically conservative, resisting ‘exotic influence’ (Sapir 1945), they share a surprisingly consistent phonemic inventory, phonetic realization patterns and morphological structure, thus providing a ground of stability in which to examine tonal variation.
There are several reasons why tone in this group is interesting. First, these inventories are heavily obstruent, the stop series include ejectives and glottal stops, the sonorant consonants are limited. Thus pitch contours are broken up by often robust (in duration and intensity) stops and fricatives; tonal contours are systematically disturbed in ways that they are not in other tone language groups. Second, tone is paradigmatic rather than lexical, broadly marking inflectional, morphological and lexical categories. Third, tonogenesis arguably resulted from the incorporation of glottal suffixes into the word-final stem, but produced both H and L marked tone language communities (Sapir, 1925; Li, 1930, 1933; Leer, 1979, 1999; de Ruse, 2005; Krauss, 2005; Kingston 2005). Thus the documentation of this type tone reversal within a closely related group with near identical tonongenesis patterns is important to theories of tone and language change. Fourth, despite the diachronic consistency in their grammars and lexicons, a great deal of prosodic variation has been observed across the group. Typologies include metrical stress, pitch accent and non-tone systems. This has not been instrumentally documented, which is essential to the understanding and description of prosodic variation and discourse related intonation patterns across these language communities and theoretical constructions based on this data.
In this talk, we examine tone from 4 communities in the Mackenzie Basin group, with examples of both H and L tone-marked languages (tone reversal), in an instrumental analysis of fieldwork data, in a preliminary analysis of the tone data. The broad goal is to provide a documentation of the pitch typology and variation in this area and its relationship to the theories of Athabaskan tonogenesis, with an instrumental analysis of pitch patterns including pitch range, tone bearing units, peak/valley alignment, tone distribution, and patterns in tone realization between the morphological categories (pre-stem (inflectional) versus stem (content) domains (McDonough 1999, 2003; Gessner, 2005; Kingston, 2005.))
This talk will also outline the issues related to the collection and analysis of fieldwork data from small speech communities and/or endangered language communities, and the generalizations that can be drawn from this type data.
The role of phonetic detail, auditory processing and language experience in the perception of assimilated speech
(Communication Sciences and Disorders, McGill)
Friday, May 7 at 3:30pm, in Harper 130
The speech signal is notoriously variable and complex. Not only do listeners cope well with this variability and complexity, they display exquisite sensitivity to the co-occurrence and predictability of fine grained aspects of the speech signal. In this talk I will discuss one such example – place assimilation at word onset and offsets and listeners’ abilities to make use of this information (compensation). Models of spoken-word recognition differ on whether compensation for assimilatory changes is a knowledge-driven, language-specific phenomenon or relies more on general auditory processing mechanisms. Both English and French exhibit some assimilation of sibilants (e.g., /s/ becomes like /S/ in “dress shop”), but they differ in the strength and directionality of these shifts. We taught English and French participants words that began or ended with /s/ or /S/ consonants. After training, participants were presented with the novel words embedded in native-language sentences that could engender assimilation. Sentences were uttered by both French and English speakers and used a continuum of sibilant sounds between the two phonemic endpoints. Listeners’ perceptions of the potential assimilations were examined using a visual-world eyetracking paradigm in which the listener clicked on a picture matching the novel word. The results suggest that French and English participants treated these assimilatory sequences differently. Furthermore, there was evidence for low level auditory processing in cases with weak or no assimilation patterns in the language (/S/-/s/ sequences in both languages) as well as knowledge driven compensation in response to patterns of strong assimilation in the language (/s/-/S/ in English).
Information Structure Effects on Prosody: English vs. French
2:30-4pm *NOTE NEW TIME*
Germanic and Romance languages differ in how prosody is affected by information structure. Ladd (2008), e.g., observes contrasts between English and Italian that reveal differences in how argument structure and information structure affect prosody. These differences seem to generalize to other Romance and Germanic languages (see Swerts et al. 2002, Swerts 2007 for experimental evidence on Dutch, Italian, and Romanian). Using evidence (mainly from English and French), this talk explores the semantic, syntactic, and phonological underpinnings of the prosodic differences. The observed patterns suggest a connection between seemingly unrelated facts, e.g., the stresslessness of indefinite pronouns such as ‘something’ and contrastive focus; they reveal that both semantic and phonological givenness play a role in focus marking, as do constraints on syntactic movement; they cast doubt on claims of a universal nuclear stress (Cinque 1993); and finally, they have repercussions in sometimes unexpected ways, e.g., they influence what types of rhyme are considered artistic in poetry.
Due to job talks this month, the 2009-2010 colloquium series has had a delayed winter-quarter start. For all those waiting in eager anticipation, colloquia will finally resume next week, Thursday, February 25, with a talk by UChicago’s Katherine Kinzler (Psychology). More on her lab’s research can be found here. As usual, we’ll begin at 3:30 in Cobb 201, followed by tea at 5:00 in the department lounge. See you there!
The Department of Linguistics will have its first colloquium of the (new) decade in a few weeks. For now, you can content yourself with our colloquium schedule for Winter quarter 2010 (abstracts available soon):
- February 25: Katherine Kinzler, University of Chicago
- March 4: Craige Roberts, Ohio State University
- March 11: Marcela Depiante, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
This is also a good time to remind everyone to hit up the various graduate workshops affiliated with our department. There’s something for everybody, including Semiotics: Culture in Context, Workshop in Semantics and Philosophy of Language, Workshop on Language and Cognition, and Workshop on Language Variation and Change, all of which have several talks scheduled for the coming weeks and months.