29 January 2012

Kristine Yu speaks at University of Maryland

Kristine Yu will present "Morphosyntax-prosody mapping in Samoan," at the University of Maryland on February 3. An abstract follows.

Samoan is a Polynesian language with an ergative case marking system. While ergative and oblique case are marked segmentally, the absolutive case has been thought to be unmarked. I will present fieldwork data in Samoan supporting the hypothesis that absolutive case is marked by a lexical high tone, although this is not necessarily a one-to-one mapping, since high tones also mark other grammatical structures, as well as prosodic boundaries. I will discuss implications of this finding for prosodic typology and for the syntax-phonology interface.

Stefan Keine's paper on Switch Reference accepted to NLLT

Stefan Keine's paper "Deconstructing Switch-Reference," has just been accepted for publication in Natural Language and Linguistic Theory.

Congratulations Stefan!

Undergraduate Research Position in Speech Perception

Alexandra Jesse from Psychology writes:

We are currently looking for undergraduate research assistants to work in the Language, Intersensory Perception, and Speech (short: LIPS) lab in the Psychology Department. Positions are open starting this Spring semester. Ideal applicants are those who can commit to a longer time period.

The work within the LIPS lab falls within the area of Psycholinguistics. We examine how listeners recognize speech from hearing and seeing a speaker talk. In particular, we are interested in the time-course of recognizing words - both from listening and from lip-reading, how listeners adjust to a speaker's idiosyncratic pronunciations, and what happens to these processes when people get older. We use eye-tracking and other behavioral methods to address these questions, as well as EEG. 

You can visit our website for more information:

Typical tasks of our research assistants are:
- help with finding stimuli for an experiments (e.g., selecting words, making nonwords)
- help with recording, annotating, and editing of speech materials for the experiments
- assist with recruitment, scheduling, and testing of participants
- attend & prepare for weekly lab meetings
- do administrative research-related tasks

The typical commitment of our research assistants during the school year is 9hrs/week, for 3 credits. You would be enrolled in Psych 398B, but this course can count as an elective towards your linguistics degree. Please contact me if you have any questions about how these credits can be applied to your degree in Linguistics. 

So if you are interested in the position for the Spring, please contact me as soon as possible for more information and for an application form. Once you return the completed application form, we will then contact you to schedule for an interview. We will then also require a letter of recommendation. Enrollment has to be completed by Thursday, February 2nd.

Barbara Pearson presents at the LARC/Acquisition Lab Meeting on Monday

The first meeting of LARC and the Acquisition Lab this semester will be tomorrow, Monday January 30th, in the Partee Room (South College 301) at 5:15PM. Barbara Pearson will present her paper co-authored with UMass alumna Miren Hodgson "A Test of Chidren's Knowledge of A-Chains: Preschoolers learning Spanish verbs with 'se' ."

Deadline for Abstracts to GLEEFUL 2012 extended

The Deadline for submissions to the Great Lakes Expo for Experimental and Formal Undergraduate Linguistics (GLEEFUL) has been extended to February 5th (next Sunday). GLEEFUL will happen on April 21 at Michigan State University, and the keynote speaker is former UMass faculty, David Pesetsky.

More information is available at: https://sites.google.com/site/gleeful2012/

Call for Papers: Undergraduate Conference at University of Toronto

The University of Toronto is proud to host TULCon (Toronto Undergraduate Linguistics Conference) 2012! It will be held March 2-4, 2012.

Abstracts can still be submitted for consideration until February 10, 2012. If you are an undergraduate or a graduate student who has yet to begin a graduate program, please consider applying! We consider every abstract, as long as it's linguistics-related.

For more information, please see http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~slugs/?s=tulcon2012 or email tulcon2012@gmail.com.

Christopher Garry is awarded Commonwealth College grant

Christopher Garry, an undergraduate majoring in Computer Systems and Engineering, has been awarded a $1000 grant by the Commonwealth College to study "Larynx Displacement during Speech Utterances." John Kingston's description of Mr Garry's grant follows.

Chris Garry received a $1000 research grant from the Commonwealth College for building a system to record vertical movement of the larynx during speech. Movement is recording using a Casio EX-F1 camera that can capture up to 1200 frames per second, although just 300 fps is more than enough for recording the relatively slow movement of the larynx. The system Chris is building processes these images in Matlab to measure changes in the height of the larynx as the person speaks and synchronizes these measurements with an audio recording of their speech. The height of the larynx in the neck varies directly with the pitch of the speaker's voice -- larynx lowering appears to be the principal mechanism for lowering pitch -- and with their regulation of the volume of the oral cavity to control air pressure inside it -- larynx lowering is at least the second most important means of expanding the oral cavity and reducing pressure. Chris is a computer engineering major who came to the Phonetics Lab last spring with an interest in getting practical research experience. He will present the results of this project at the Undergraduate Research Conference later this spring.


Michael Becker speaks at McGill

Michael Becker will present "Universal Grammar protects Initial Syllables" at McGill University on Monday, Jan. 30. An abstract of his talk follows.

In English, voicing alternations (e.g. knife ~ knives) impact mostly monosyllables, while polysyllables are rarely impacted.  The opposite is true of French: most monosyllables that end in [al] keep their base faithful under affixation (e.g. bal ~ bal ‘ball(s)’), while most polysyllables tolerate a stem change (bokal ~ boko‘jar(s)’).  In this talk, I examine the two types of languages, and show that the symmetry is only superficial. The French trend is accessible to the grammar and extends readily to novel words, whereas English speakers treat novel words the same regardless of size. In other words, English speakers fail to find the generalization (the surfeit of the stimulus, Becker et al. 2011).

Positional faithfulness, and in particular, initial syllable faithfulness explains this asymmetry: The [al] in bal is protected by initial syllable faithfulness and by general faithfulness, while the [al] in bokal is protected by general faithfulness only. English goes against the Universal bias, requiring monosyllables to be less faithful than polysyllables. But with general faithfulness highly ranked, the ranking of initial syllable faithfulness is irrelevant, and the speakers are blocked from forming the required generalization.

Having established the asymmetry in the novel word tasks, we press English speakers further and ask them to learn unfamiliar morphophonological alternations (e.g. miːp ~ miːb-ni). Unencumbered by the counter-typological nature of actual English, speakers revert to Universal Grammar, and exhibit the French pattern.

This line of investigation, which goes from real words to novel words and from novel words to novel alternations, allows us to trace the biases that humans use in the phonological organization of their lexicon, and allows us to expose behavior that roundly contradicts the ambient language, yet conforms to the trends we see in the world’s languages.