The Society of Linguistics Undergraduate Students at UC Berkeley presents:

The Sixth Annual
SLUgS Symposium

Sunday, November 18th, 2007
370 Dwinelle
University of California, Berkeley

9:00 amAlex Bratkievich, Graduate Student
“Existential” verbs with pre-posed subjects in Brazilian Portuguese
9:25Anupama Bhatt, Undergraduate Student
Degree of exposure and acoustic perception in a foreign language
9:50Maziar Toosarvandani, Graduate Student
Leaving v behind
10:15Line Mikkelsen, Professor
Same but different: VP anaphors in Danish and English [handout]
10:50Nancy Ward, Undergraduate Student
Neutralization in the length of vowels preceding intervocalic alveolar flaps in CA English
11:15Molly Babel, Graduate Student
Judgments of gay-sounding speech within and across dialects
11:40Alice Gaby, Professor
West of today: Imagining time in absolute space [handout]
12:00 pmLunch
1:00Nathan Schneider, Undergraduate Student
Stealing, sneaking, and smuggling: Towards a constructional account of Hebrew verb morphology [slides]
1:25Sam Mchombo, Professor
On the causative construction in Bantu
1:50Sam Tilsen, Graduate Student
Studying speech rhythm with low-frequency spectral analysis
2:25Dominic Yu, Graduate Student
Tone and language games in Chinese dialects
2:50Andrew Garrett, Professor
Why do languages exist?

Sponsored by the Linguistics Department and the ASUC • Wheelchair accessible


Alex Bratkievich | “Existential” verbs with pre-posed subjects in Brazilian Portuguese

Perlmutter (1976) identifies a class of Portuguese “existential” verbs—aparecer (‘appear’), existir (‘exist’) and others—that almost always occur with a post-posed subject. Although Perlmutter and other authors group the constructions with these verbs with “traditional” existentials (impersonal constructions with ter (‘have’) or haver (‘have’)), only the former allow pre-posed subjects/pivots. This paper reports the results from a corpus study showing that the position of the subject of “existential” verbs is determined by its information status, which indicates that the two types of existential sentences have different statuses in the grammar and should not be treated as a single construction.

Anupama Bhatt | Degree of exposure and acoustic perception in a foreign language

Native English speakers will be tested on their perception of breathy Hindi consonants. It is expected that subjects with early exposure to foreign language sounds, excluding Hindi, are quicker to discriminate between English and non-English sounds. It is possible that they are also quicker to acquire a foreign language due to this early exposure. I will be comparing the advantage of early exposure to deliberate articulatory and auditory training, thereby expanding Catford and Pisoni’s 1970 study that shows significant improvement in perception and discrimination after training.

Subjects will be divided into 3 categories: monolingual speakers with no prior exposure to a language other than English, hereby called a “foreign” language; speakers who have previously studied a foreign language, excluding Hindi; and those speakers who range from childhood exposure to Hindi to initial exposure to Hindi only at the college level, in Hindi 1A, for example. Subjects will be given a pre-test and post-test, involving auditory discrimination in both tests and also a test of articulatory skill in the post-test. The monolingual English speakers will be given auditory and articulatory training between the tests. I will therefore be juxtaposing deliberate training versus inherent recognition of non-English sounds, and trying to find out whether early childhood exposure provides an advantage in foreign language acquisition.

Maziar Toosarvandani | Leaving v behind

The phenomenon of verb phrase ellipsis (VPE), illustrated in (1), was long considered to exist only in language like English that possess rich auxiliary systems.

(1)    Jasper likes pistachios, and Mona [TP does [vP like pistachios]] too.

In this talk, I propose that an idential ellipsis operation targets light verb constructions in languages like Farsi. In (2), the phrase headed by the nonverbal half of the complex predicate otu zadan ‘to iron’ (lit. ‘iron’ + ‘hit’) goes missing, leaving behind the light verb.

(2)    sohrāb piranā-ro     otu   na- ad                vali rostam
         Sohrab iron neg-hi.pas.3sg but Rostam

         [vP [NP piranā-ro     otu] ad].
              iron hi.pas.3sg

         ‘Sohrab didn’t iron the shirts, but Rostam did.’

Looking at this construction in Farsi, which I call v-stranding VPE, will help to shed light on the licensing requirements on ellipsis.

Line Mikkelsen | Same but different: VP anaphors in Danish and English [handout]

In addition to VP ellipsis, Danish and English both have an overt VP anaphor that involves a verb (English do, Danish goere (roughly, ‘make’)) and a third person singular pronoun (English it, Danish det). Based on this surface similarity, one might expect that the two VP anaphors behave alike in the two languages. This talk shows that they do not. In particular, Danish goere det in some ways behave more like English VP ellipsis. I speculate that this difference could be related to a difference in the syntax of the two languages, namely that Danish is a verb second language (the finite verb appears second position of the clause) and English is not.

Nancy Ward | Neutralization in the length of vowels preceding intervocalic alveolar flaps in CA English

There have been many studies on alveolar flapping in English, especially with words such as writer and rider. Joos (1942) discussed the writer/rider difference in English, and claimed that there is a distinction in vowel quality preceding flaps. [This trend has been known to remain consistent in Canadian English, in the phenomena of Canadian Raising (Picard, 1977).] Fox and Terbeek (1997) stated that the difference between the vowels preceding the flapped consonants was of length, not quality. This study analyzes whether or not California English has an distinction in the length of these vowels, preceding the flaps which represent the underlying voiceless and voiced stops. 27 California English speakers produced 19 pairs of flapped words differing in their underlying voicing in three different types of contexts: two positions within prosodically similar sentences, standing alone, and in alternating sequences. Additionally, words were made up that fit the same pattern of flapping, and also tested on the speakers. Once the productions are all analyzed, a follow up experiment will be conducted in which speakers will be tested on their perception of the utterances, with original tokens selected for their differences in vowel length, to see if CA speakers follow vowel length as a perceptual cue. Results have not been obtained as the study is still in progress.

Molly Babel | Judgments of gay-sounding speech within and across dialects

Investigations examining gay- and gay-sounding speech have found that naive listeners can identify the sexual orientation of talkers from single word (Munson, McDonald, DeBoe,& White, 2006a) and sentential (Gaudio, 1993; Linville, 1998; Smyth, Jacobs, & Rogers, 2003) stimuli at better than chance levels. Researchers have also found systematic acoustical differences that separate self-identified gay and straight men and lesbian and straight women (Munson et al., 2006a; Pierrehumbert, Bent, Munson, Bradlow, & Bailey, 2004). These research groups found different results, implying that each community has its own dialect specific style of gay speech. In addition, judgments of sexual orientation made from more formal speech styles typically receive more gay-sounding judgments than more casual speech styles (Smyth et al., 2003; Munson et al., 2006a), causing researchers to suggest that speech style indicates membership into the gay community. This paper reports on the results of three experiment that examine 1.) the dialect specific nature of gay-sounding speech, and 2.) the relationship between gay-sounding speech and speech style.

The stimuli used in the experiments were recordings of a scientific text made by Smyth et al. (2003); this set of voices is comprised of 25 talkers (17 gay men, 8 straight men) from Toronto. Two groups of California-based subjects participated as listeners in the experiments. In the first experiment, listeners rated the perceived sexual orientation of the talkers. Their responses were compared to the sexual orientation judgments made by listeners in Toronto. The second and third experiments examined how speech style relates to perceived sexual orientation; listeners were asked to judge the reading ability of the talkers and determine if the talkers were reading to someone and whether the listener was a child or an adult. Finally, the judgments from each task are used in stepwise hierarchical linear regressions to determine which acoustic cues led to each social judgment.

The results suggest that judgments of gay-sounding speech are, indeed, dialect specific. The relationship between gay-sounding speech and other social judgments overlap to some extent, but the relationship also appears to be somewhat conditioned by dialectically meaningful social categories. The linear regressions illustrate that while social talker judgments may overlap with one another, the acoustic cues on which communities of listeners base each individual judgment differ. On the sociolinguistics side, this paper explores how the development of community conditioned style influences talker judgments from distinct speech communities. These results have implications for our understanding of how listener expectations and social stereotypes influence speech perception (Johnson, Strand, & D’Imperio,1999; Munson, Jefferson, & McDonald, 2006b).

Alice Gaby | West of today: Imagining time in absolute space [handout]

Time is something that’s on most of our minds much of the time; it’s either flying by us, running out or we’re killing it. In fact, time is the most frequently used noun in the English language. The use of spatial metaphors in the description of time has been well documented in numerous languages (e.g. Clark 1973, Fillmore 1997, Lakoff and Johnson 1980, Traugott 1978), and studies have shown that non-linguistic thinking about time similarly invokes the spatial dimension (e.g. Boroditsky 2000, Casasanto and Lozano 2006, Núñez and Sweetser 2006). But do speakers of every language use space to structure their understanding of time? In this talk, we’ll consider the case of Kuuk Thaayorre, an Australian aboriginal language. Though speakers of Kuuk Thaayorre label both space and time with a single word (raak), they employ few other metaphors that involve a space-time mapping. Nevertheless, ongoing experiments are revealing the Thaayorre to employ a space-time mapping in non-linguistic thought that looks very different to that used by speakers of English.

Nathan Schneider | Stealing, sneaking, and smuggling: Towards a constructional account of Hebrew verb morphology [slides]

Hebrew and other Semitic languages share a distinctive root-and-pattern morphology for verbs. A three-consonant verb root may be lexicalized in one or more of seven paradigms, which have distinctive morphological forms and semantics (differing roughly in voice and aspect). For example, five of the paradigms can apply to the root /g/-/n/-/b/ to form the verbs ‘steal’ (ganav), ‘be stolen’ (nignav), ‘smuggle’ (higniv), ‘be smuggled’ (hugnav), and ‘sneak’ (hitnagev). It is argued that root, paradigm, and verb all have the status of constructions, conventionalized pairings of form and meaning which serve as the building blocks of grammar. Drawing on Mandelblit’s (1997) analysis of the verbal system in the framework of grammatical blending, this work aims to elucidate the semantic contribution of each paradigm. It is further argued that Embodied Construction Grammar, a project of Berkeley cognitive linguists and computer scientists, provides a robust formalism ideal for modeling the form and meaning contributions and compositionality of these morphological constructions.

Sam Tilsen | Studying speech rhythm with low-frequency spectral analysis

This talk describes ongoing efforts to quantify rhythmic properties of chunks of uninterrupted speech in the VIC corpus using low-frequency spectral analysis, and to correlate various spectral measures with segmental deletion. Results indicate that consonantal and vocalic deletion are correlated with energy in distinct frequency bands. Furthermore, the well-known correlation between speech-rate and deletion may interact with the stationarity of low-frequency periodicities.

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