Archive for the ‘talks’ Category

Talk by Clayards on May 7

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Workshop on Language, Cognition, and Computation

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).

Talk by Wagner on May 6

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Departmental Colloquium

Information Structure Effects on Prosody: English vs. French

Michael Wagner
McGill University

Cobb 201
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.

“Relatively” recent talk for CK

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

If you had the feeling that something was missing a few weeks ago, perhaps it’s because Chris Kennedy was gone off to Germany at the end of last month at the 2010 Conference of the German Society for Linguistics (DGfS).  Chris gave a talk during that conference’s workshop on Subjective Meaning: Alternatives to Relativism, entitled “Where does relativity come from?”

The program for DGfS can be found here, and slides from Chris’s presentation are here. And welcome back, Chris!

Pesetsky here next week

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

David Pesetsky (MIT) will be on campus next week on Thursday, March 4. He’ll give a talk on “Russian case morphology and the syntactic categories” (abstract below) at 10:30 a.m.

He is also giving a different talk on islands (abstract here) at the University of Illinois at Chicago the following day.

Abstract (for U. of C. talk)

Sometimes it is the oddest facts that provide the best clues to significant properties of language, because their very oddity limits the space in which we are likely to search for possible explanations. In  this talk, I argue that the strange behavior of  Russian nominal phrases with paucal numerals (‘two’, ‘three’ and ‘four’) provide clues of just this type concerning the syntactic side of morphological case.

When a nominal phrase like the Russian counterpart of ‘these last two beautiful tables’ occupies a nominative environment, the pre-numeral demonstrative and adjective (‘these last’) bear nominative plural morphology, and the numeral itself is nominative. The post-numeral adjective (‘beautfiul’), however, is often genitive plural; and the noun (‘table’) is genitive singular — a situation that the illustrious Russian grammarian Peshkovsky (1956) characterized as “a typical example of the degree to which grammatical and logical thinking may diverge”.

I suggest that the behavior of these phrases is actually entirely logical — once one adopts a particular structural analysis of the Russian DP and a particular view of the nature of case morphology. Developing ideas by Richards (2007), I propose that Russian is a covert case-stacking language in which the realization of outer case morphemes suppresses the pronunciation of inner morphemes — with this process restricted, however, by the phonological freezing effect of phase spell-out (Chomsky 1995; 2001).  The case affixes themselves — traditionally classified using case-specific sui generis terminology (nominative, genitive, etc.) — are actually instantiations of the various syntactic categories: N, P and V.  The interaction of this proposal with the theory of phases and spellout raises at least the possibility that there is no special theory of morphological case.

Reminder about colloquium

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

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!