Tag Archives: Institute Theme
6/27 Janet Pierrehumbert (Sapir Professor): “Lexical Variability”

 

Janet Pierrehumbert, Northwestern University
2013 Linguistic Institute’s Edward Sapir Professor
Thursday, June 27, 2013 7:00 pm
Askwith Auditorium, Lorch Hall
Reception to follow

 

Read Abstract


Words are the nexus of the relation between form and meaning in language, and a rich lexicon is a hallmark of the intelligence of the human species. Words support cooperation amongst people by enabling them to share complex information about other times and places, abstract ideas, and emotions and social judgments. These facts motivate a large and fruitful body of research on how  shared vocabularies arise in linguistic communities, and how children acquire the vocabulary of the language spoken around them.  This emphasis on lexical convergence, however,  abstracts away from significant differences across speakers  in the total inventory of words, their abstract representations, their detailed phonetics,  and their patterns of use in context.  Equally,  it abstracts away from variation across words in who knows them, when and where they are used, and how they are pronounced. It  begs the question of  how the vocabularies of languages keep changing even after  a shared norm is in place.

This talk will document an assortment of cases of lexical variability, which touch on levels of linguistic representation from phonetics to pragmatics.  All  involve the interaction of cognitive and social factors in learning, remembering, and producing words. I will discuss these cases in the context of computational models of language acquisition and change.  I conclude by  developing a connection between synchronic variation and the robustness and  adaptability of language over time.

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6/29-30 Universality and Variability: New Insights from Genetics

June 29-30, 2013
2353 Mason Hall

Organizer contact: Sarah Graham (sarah.graham@mpi.nl)

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This two-day workshop is an introduction to the investigation of language from the perspective of human genetics. The workshop will be accessible to students and researchers from all levels and academic backgrounds, and no prior knowledge of genetics is required.

Language is in our DNA: our shared genetic endowment lies at the heart of the universal capacity for language, while the genetic differences between us contribute to the variability in our linguistic abilities. Tracing the connections between genes, brains and language will provide fresh insights into many areas of inquiry within linguistics.For example, how does genetic variation contribute to individual differences in language acquisition and use, and to disorders of speech and language? How could genetic factors help explain the universal constraints and tendencies in language? Have genetic differences between human populations shaped the diversity we observe in the world’s languages today? How can studying the DNA of ancient humans and other species inform the debates on the nature and evolution of our capacity for language? How is language grounded in the brain and ultimately in the genome?

On day one of this workshop, researchers working at the interface of genetics and language will give presentations introducing the principles of molecular genetics, the nature of human genetic similarity and variation, the state-of-the-art methods employed by genetic research into language, the exciting discoveries made so far, and the emerging questions and future research directions.  In addition to providingparticipantswith an overview of thecurrent state of knowledge regarding the role of specific genes in language, these presentations aim toequip participants with the core knowledge to tap into this growing literature, to make a sound evaluation of the role of genetics in their area of interest, andto identifythe potential to integrate genetic investigations into their work. Each presentation will be followed by a question-and-answer session coordinated by a linguistics researcher, designed to clarify the material covered, to address myths and misconceptions about genetics, and to stimulate discussion of the ramifications for linguistics.  On day two, researchers from both genetics and linguistics will together lead structured discussion sessions, where participants will be encouraged to put forward their own questions and views on the application of genetic studies to linguistics research.

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7/12 Universality and Variability in Segment-Prosody Interactions

July 12, 2013
2407 Mason Hall

Organizer contact: Marzena Żygis (zygis@zas.gwz-berlin.de)

Click here for Workshop website.

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Organizers
Christine Mooshammer (USC, Los Angeles, tine@haskins.yale.edu)
Stefanie Shattuck-Hufnagel (MIT, sshuf@MIT.EDU)
Marzena Żygis (Centre for General Linguistics (ZAS) & Humboldt University, Berlin, zygis@zas.gwz-berlin.de)

Several studies on universals in phonology and phonetics pertain either to segmentals (e.g. sound frequencies, gaps in inventories, preferences for certain cluster types) or supra-segmentals (e.g. preferences in stress and intonational patterns). In recent years, accumulating evidence has suggested that language-specific interactions between the two levels can induce systematic temporal and qualitative variability on the segmental level. For example, most sounds lengthen substantially following a phrase boundary, but there are exceptions such as the sibilants; lax vowels do not lengthen under stress; and glottal stop insertion also depends on the quality of the following vowel. This workshop is aimed at gaining more insight into the interdependence of the segmental and prosodic levels from a cross-linguistic perspective. Papers which deal with the following questions are of particular importance:

(i) What patterns of segmental and supra-segmental interactions are found cross-linguistically?

(ii) How does metrical structure influence segments, phonotactics and phonological processes?

(iii) What principles govern segment-specific variation due to prosodic effects, e.g. localized hyper articulation, feature enhancement, syntagmatic dissimilation or prominence enhancement?

(iv) Why do some segments or larger units resist the more global prosodic variations, e.g. in order to maintain a contrast?

(v) How do different models deal with the segmental-prosodic variation, e.g. Exemplar Theory (Pierrehumbert 2001), pi-gesture model (Byrd & Saltzmann 2003), (bidirectional) OT (Boersma 1998) and others?

Invited speakers:
Laura Dilley, Michigan State University
Paul de Lacy, Rutgers University
Jelena Krivokapic, Haskins Labs

 

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7/14 How the Brain Accommodates Variability in Linguistic Representations

July 14, 2013
Aud C, Angell Hall

Organizer Contact: T. Florian Jaeger (fjaeger@bcs.rochester.edu)

Click here for workshop website.

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Articulatory Phonology

Khalil Iskarous – University of Southern California
Course time: Monday/Wednesday 1:30-3:20 pm
MLB

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Articulatory Phonology (AP) is a view of the sound structure of a language that tries to account both for its abstract aspect, contrast and pattern, as well as its physical realization in speech production and perception. And it does so without assuming a dualistic mind-body distinction between phonology-phonetics. The key aspect of AP that allows is to be non-dualistic is a dynamical framework that allows for a principled (non-arbitrary) relation between symbolic/discrete entities and continuous motion. This course will start by introducing students to the dynamical framework of task dynamics, and how contrasts and patterns are expressed in this framework. Students will also be introduced to TaDa, a computational engine allowing for the derivation of continuous motion of articulators and formants from an utterance described in terms of overlapped elementary contrasts, expressed as gestures. Segmental and prosodic phonology will be discussed in combination with each other throughout the course.

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Comparative Syntax

Acrisio Pires – University of Michigan
Course time: Monday/Wednesday 3:30-5:20 pm
2353 Mason Hall

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This course aims at introducing students to research on comparative syntax. It is directed to students interested in a more thorough understanding of the common properties of the syntax of human languages and of the possible variation across their structure.

Human languages have strikingly similar structural features, but at the same time they also vary in significant respects. A substantial amount of advances in our understanding of human language has resulted from the individual and comparative analysis of distinct languages. Their similarities and differences can be explored from cognitive, formal, theoretical and typological perspectives. This course focuses on a generative perspective to comparative syntax, by also taking into account insights from linguistic typology. It investigates approaches aiming at explaining both common properties and boundaries of variation across languages. Some of the questions that arise in this context are: what structural principles are common across different human languages? What kind of variation can we find across human languages? What parameters or alternative mechanisms determine the range of this variation? How can this variation be analyzed and understood in a precise way? What mechanisms give rise to this sort of cross-linguistic variation over time?

The course focus will be: (i) to introduce students to a generative approach to syntactic variation across languages, by discussing aspects of variation that have received prominent attention in the linguistics literature (e.g. word order variation regarding verb movement, wh-questions, empty categories); (ii) to explore extensions to different approaches to cross-linguistic variation (e.g. variation in clause structure and word order, and across case systems); (iii) to consider potential difficulties and limitations to unifying approaches to syntactic variation (e.g. non-configurational languages).

Students in this course should have taken an introductory undergraduate course in syntax or semantics.

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Historical Linguistics

Andrew Garrett – University of California, Berkeley
Course time: Monday/Wednesday 9:00-10:50 am
2336 Mason Hall

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This course provides a very basic introduction to core topics in historical linguistics, appropriate for beginning graduate students or advanced undergraduates who have not taken a previous course on the subject. The following topics will be surveyed: patterns and causes of phonological change (week 1), morphological change (week 2), and syntactic and semantic change (week 3); and methods of reconstruction, determining relatedness and subgrouping, and patterns of diversification (week 4).

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Language Acquisition and Grammatical Variability

William Snyder – University of Connecticut
Course time: Monday/Wednesday 11:00 am – 12:50 pm
MLB

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Linguistic theory aims to specify the range of grammars permitted by the human language faculty, and thereby to specify the child’s “hypothesis space” during language acquisition. This course shows, step by step, how to use acquisition data to test theoretical claims about grammatical variation. The text is the instructor’s book, Child Language: The Parametric Approach, published by Oxford University Press. The book covers a number of methodologies, but the course will focus on the analysis of longitudinal corpora of children’s spontaneous speech, and will cover methods of statistical hypothesis-testing that are appropriate for this type of data. The students in the course will each conduct an individual project using data from the Child Language Data Exchange System (CHILDES), which includes corpora for a range of languages. Students will learn how to use correlational analysis and distributional statistics to analyze group data, as well as non-distributional methods that are appropriate for use in single-child case-studies.

Prerequisites:  A decent grounding in syntax and/or phonology. Algebra-level mathematics. Basic computer skills in a Mac or PC environment.

Course Requirements: Enrolled students are required to attend regularly, participate actively in classroom discussion, complete an individual project using data from CHILDES, and present their findings at the final class meeting.

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Language Variation and Thought

John A. Lucy – University of Chicago
Course time: Tuesday/Thursday 3:30-5:20 pm
2407 Mason Hall

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This course will explore research on the significance of natural language variation in shaping human thought.  The first unit of the course provides essential background by introducing historical and conceptual perspectives on the relation of language and reality that continue to shape our understanding of language variation and by surveying early work in anthropology (Boas, Sapir, Whorf) and psychology (Brown, Lenneberg, Carroll) linking language variation to thought.  Classic topics involving lexical forms denoting “color” and “snow” will be discussed critically.  The second unit reviews and contrasts prominent contemporary approaches from within anthropological linguistics, including both structure-centered approaches (Lucy et al.) and domain-centered approaches (Levinson et al.), as well as several influential approaches within psychology (Slobin, Boroditsky).  The discussions will highlight both continuities and innovations with respect to earlier work.  The third unit will review recent research extending these approaches to new populations including the deaf, young children, bilinguals, etc.  These approaches not only offer avenues to exploring underlying mechanisms but also open up ways of theorizing the centrality and trade-offs of relying on language in human thought.  The final unit will explore variations in the cultural and institutional regimentation of language-thought relationships, first in the areas of standard language as promulgated through education and literacy, and then within the research enterprise itself in areas involving practical translation, including comparative linguistic research.  Readings will be drawn from many fields but will emphasize classic works that emphasize comparative, developmental, and critical approaches and provide a foundation for further research.  Class time will be divided between general orienting lectures on theoretical issues and close discussion of key empirical works.

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Linguistic Diversity and Language Change

Lyle Campbell – University of Hawaii, Manoa
Course time: Tuesday/Thursday 11:00 am – 12:50 pm
1401 Mason Hall

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In keeping with the theme of the Institute, Universality and Variation, this course addresses language diversity and language change, and how they interact with one another. It investigates broadly the following questions:

(1) How many language families are there in the world? How do we know?

(2) How many language isolates are there in the world, and how can we investigate their history?

(3) What are the prospects for finding new language classifications and thus of reducing the ultimate number of independent language families? How might controversial proposals of distant genetic relationship be resolved?

(4) How many of the existing languages are endangered? What are the implications of this for linguistic diversity and the classification of languages? Can endangered languages undergo changes that are not possible in fully viable non-endangered languages? What are their implications for historical linguistics generally?

(5) What implications does the discovery of unusual or unique linguistic traits in recent documentation of endangered languages have for how we view universals, linguistic typology, and aspect of language change?

(6) How do language contact and diffusion affect views of linguistic diversity?

(7) What is the relevance, if any, of human genetics, the farming/language dispersal hypothesis, and related matters to language classification and linguistic diversity?

Students at any level of preparation in linguistics are welcome to register for this course, although it will be clearest for students who have had at least a solid introduction to general linguistics and some familiarity with the basic concepts of phonology/phonetics, grammar, and historical linguistics.

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Pidgins and Creoles: Social and Cognitive Aspects

Marlyse Baptista – University of Michigan
Course time: Tuesday/Thursday 3:30-5:20 pm
2333 Mason Hall

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Some of the most compelling questions in the field of pidgins and creoles consist in identifying the linguistic sources and cognitive forces that shape a given creole: why does a particular creole look and sound the way it does? Where do its linguistic properties come from? What are the original populations and languages that contributed to its genesis?  This investigation ultimately hopes to shed light on two major cognitive questions:  how does the mind pull together linguistic materials from distinct sources to form a creole? What is the nature of the cognitive processes involved in creole formation?  In exploring some of these queries, this particular course will focus on the processes of convergence, relexification and grammaticalization and will contrast, regarding the latter point, general theories of grammaticalization (Lehmann, 2002; Hopper & Traugott, 2003; Fischer, 2007) with their generative (Van Gelderen, 2004) and usage-based (Tomasello, 2005; (Boyer & Harder, 2012) counterparts.  Comparing these approaches will allow us to gauge how each framework accounts for specific aspects of creole grammars and to assess their contribution to our understanding of how creole languages develop.   Besides its focus on cognitive issues in creole formation, other major topics in this course will include:

1) Socio-historical contexts of creole genesis, how a distinct history of population contact results in distinct structural outcomes;

2) examination of the morpho-syntactic properties of a set of creole languages;

3) contributions of L1 and L2 to the emergence of creole specific features.

Students enrolling in this class should have taken and introductory course in linguistics.

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Second Language Acquisition: Universality and Variability

Diane Larsen-Freeman – University of Michigan
Course time: Monday/Wednesday 3:30-5:20 pm
2336 Mason Hall

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The modern day study of second language acquisition (SLA) dates back to the late 1960s.  What launched it was the discovery of common acquisition orders and sequences of development among all learners of a given second language. Of course, there was clear native language influence on such orders and sequences, but the L1 interference was perceived to minimally “disturb” them.  This finding of universality has been remarkably robust and is widely accepted among second language acquisition researchers.  It has inspired many theoretical explanations, from the existence of an innate universal grammar, still accessible in SLA, to processability theory, which explains the common order by appealing to sentence processing constraints, to usage-based theories, which attribute the universality to features in the input, such as the frequency, saliency, and contingency of form-meaning mapping of certain constructions. More recently, there has been a shift to focusing on variability in the SLA process.  While it has always been acknowledged to be part of SLA, awareness of its ubiquity has been heightened through increased attention to social and contextual factors.  In addition, when one examines individual learners, as opposed to group phenomena, variability is obvious. Gaussian statistics, which emphasize averages, should at least be complemented with Pareto-based statistics, which feature (nearly) infinite variance.  In addition, variability has been recognized to play an important role in stimulating language development among second language learners, leading researchers to focus upon variable performance, looking for “motors of change.” The course will conclude with a consideration of a complexity-theory view of language and its learning, which inspires us to look for what unites universality and variability.

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Sentences and the Social: Representing Syntactic Variation

Julie Boland – University of Michigan
Lauren Squires – Ohio State University
Course time: Monday/Wednesday 1:30-3:20 pm
2333 Mason Hall

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Knowing the grammar of your language entails understanding how meanings map to syntactic structures, but these mappings are not strictly one-to-one.  We know, for example, that “Chris gave the book to Kim”  and “Chris gave Kim the book” are semantically equivalent and interchangeable. Likewise, we know “That car don’t run” is semantically equivalent to “That car doesn’t run,” but the two expressions are not interchangeable because the former is sociolinguistically marked. In this class, we explore the intersection of syntactic variation and sentence processing. Our approach assumes that knowledge of syntactic alternants, and of the social patterning of those alternants, is incorporated into our mental representations of grammar. As such, this knowledge should also be reflected in psycholinguistic theories. We will consider current theorizing that bears on this topic, and its limitations. Readings and discussion will address the following set of issues:

1. How do children deal with syntactic variation in the input?

2. How do adults represent and acquire syntactic variants that they themselves don’t use?

3. What is the role of language variation in sentence processing?

4. How do/can current models of linguistic competence and processing accommodate syntactic variation?

This course will be taught seminar-style, with students leading some of the discussions. The readings will focus on recent experimental research using a variety of online and offline methodologies. Students will work together to develop research proposals, which they will present to the class and write up as a final paper.

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Sociophonetics

Gerry Docherty – Newcastle University
Course time: Monday/Wednesday 3:30-7:30 pm; last 2 weeks of Institute only (July 8, 10, 15, 17)
2427 Mason Hall

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Sociophonetic research focuses on the implications for theories of speech production, speech processing and phonological acquisition of the presence of a rich array of social-indexical information inextricably woven into the substance of speech. Research in recent years has shown how this social-indexical channel can be sensitively controlled by speakers, is readily interpretable by listeners, and accessible to language-learners, and findings such as these are starting to have a significant impact on our understanding of different aspects of the speech chain, not least in respect of what we understand as an individual’s “phonological knowledge”. Sociophonetics is also concerned with the application of methods and theories from different areas of phonetic research to the theories and models of phonological variation and change which have arisen most notably from work within variationist sociolinguistics.

This course begins with an evaluation of the factors which have led to such a rapid and really quite sudden convergence of interest in sociophonetics from a number of different directions over the past 15-20 years. It then focuses on the research questions which define the sociophonetics research community, discussing key studies in the field, methodological innovations, and theoretical insights. The material covered will include empirical studies of speech production, perception, and acquisition, the development and application of new experimental methods for investigating sociophonetic questions, and an evaluation of the theoretical innovations associated with this rapidly developing field of research. The course will round off by considering the methodological and theoretical challenges which are likely to shape the next stage in the development of sociophonetic research.

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Structure and Evolution of the Lexicon

Janet Pierrehumbert – Northwestern University
Course time: Tuesday/Thursday 11:00 am – 12:50 pm
2353 Mason Hall

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This class will explore the basic principles that create and sustain the richness of the lexicon in human languages. We will consider how new words are created, how they are learned, and how they are replicated through social interactions in human communities. Empirical data will be drawn from classical sources, from language on the Internet, and from computer-based “games with a purpose”. Using concepts from research on population biology and social dynamics, we will also discuss mathematical approaches to modeling the life and death of words.

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The Development of Sociolinguistic Competence in Children

Alicia Wassink – University of Washington
Course time: Tuesday/Thursday 3:30-5:20 pm
2325 Mason Hall

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This course introduces students to sociolinguistic research exploring a related set of issues at the intersection of child language acquisition research and research into sociolinguistic variation:

What is the timing of the emergence of sociolinguistic variation in children?  In particular:

How does the timing of the production of variation relate to other universal milestones of language development? When do children begin to show perceptual awareness of variation in the linguistic forms produced by others? What do we “know” about the types of social categories children conceptualize and employ in their social lives?

We begin with Dell Hymes’ notion of communicative competence, establishing a basis for understanding the abilities comprising sociolinguistic competence (systemic potential, appropriateness, occurrence, feasibility).  From there, we explore classic linguistic literature regarding milestones of child language acquisition.  We then examine key research focused upon the emergence of variability in children: 1) the history of language variation studies targeting children and preadolescent children, 2) systematic variability in childrens’ output (production), 3) variability in input to children, 4) evidence for language change in second dialect acquisition. We will look at one particular family of models, exemplar models, that seem promising for modeling of the mapping of linguistic form to social meaning in the mind because they can accommodate the types of findings described in the literature we have explored.  We will consider in particular, how and whether metalinguistic commentary from children (their “talk about talk”) might provide insights into the social categories they perceive, and the evolution of linkages between these categories and linguistic forms over time in the exemplar space.

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Usage-based Models of First and Second Language Acquisition

Nick Ellis – University of Michigan
Course time: Tuesday/Thursday 1:30-3:20 pm
2336 Mason Hall

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This course develops a constructionist approach to First and Second Language Acquisition (L1A, L2A). It presents psycholinguistic and corpus linguistic evidence for L2 constructions and for the inseparability of lexis, grammar, and semantics. It outlines a psycholinguistic theory of language learning following general cognitive principles of category learning, with schematic constructions emerging from usage. It reviews how the following factors jointly determine how a construction is learned: (1) the exemplar frequencies and their Zipfian distribution; (2) the salience of their form; (3) the significance of their functional interpretation; (4) the exemplars’ similarity to the construction prototype; and (5) the reliability of these form-function mappings. It tests these proposals against large corpora of usage and longitudinal corpora of L1 and L2 learner language using statistical and computational modelling. It considers the psychology of transfer and learned attention in L2A in order to understand how L2A differs from L1A in that it involves reconstructing language, with learners’ expectations and attentional biases tuned by experience of their L1. A central theme of the course is that patterns of language usage, structure, acquisition, and change are emergent, and that there is value in viewing Language as a Complex Adaptive System.

Week 1: Constructions, their cognition and acquisition

Week 2: A frequency-informed construction grammar of English usage

Week 3: Construction learning in L1A and L2A longitudinal corpora

Week 4: L2A, learned attention, and transfer and their implications for instruction.

Course Areas: Language Acquisition, Semantics/Pragmatics, Psycholinguistics, Corpus Linguistics, Cognitive Linguistics

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