Archive for June, 2008

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?).

Student Accolades

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Congratulations to Nikki Adams, who has been awarded a Provost’s Dissertation-Year Fellowship for next year, and to Erin Debenport, who has been awarded an AAUW Dissertation Fellowship!

Congratulations also to the following students who have received Provost’s Summer Fellowships: Jackie Bunting, James Kirby, Yaron McNabb, Chris Straughn, and Suwon Yoon.

Alumnus in the spotlight

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Almerindo Ojeda (PhD, 1982) has recently launched the Center for Human Rights in the Americas, an interdisciplinary center dedicated to scholarship and education about human rights in the Americas. The history and rationale behind this endeavor was featured on the UC Davis website.