Fall 2014 Colloquium

The University of Arizona

Department of Linguistics

Fall 2014

Linguistics Colloquium

Ling 495/595A

Coordinator and convener: Professor Adam Ussishkin (Associate Professor, Department of Linguistics)


Assistant Coordinator: Mohsen Mahdavi (Graduate Student, Department of Linguistics)


Fridays 3:00-4:30 PM in Communication 311

Please see dates for Colloquia below.


Date: Friday, September 5, 2014

Title: Augmented Reality Mobile Games for Language Learning and Revitalization

Speaker: Jon Reinhardt, University of Arizona


The Partnerships in Indigenous Knowledge and Digital Literacies Project, funded by an NSF Cyberlearning grant, was begun as a partnership between UA’s CERCLL, AILDI, and educators in four southwest indigenous communities, Mojave at Ft. Mojave and CRIT, Hualapai, and Maricopa, who share a Yuman linguistic heritage. The primary objective of the project was to explore mobile game technologies as a means of contextualizing traditional ecological knowledge and language learning, specifically augmented reality technology-based games that are designed to easily and seamlessly incorporate location and contextual information into game design (Holden & Sykes, 2011). In place-based mobile learning games, native linguistic and ecological knowledge can be embedded as interactive narratives that relate learning directly to physical locations on native lands. Built by tribal educators and youth together, these games might serve as a digital nexus for language, ecological, and cultural revitalization. To date, the project has sponsored a symposium and the development of a Mojave learning game “Analy Nyuwiich: The Mesquite Tree” using ARIS, Augmented Reality Interactive Storytelling, an open-source mobile game development tool. Future plans are to create and disseminate resources for the development of ARIS games for indigenous language learning and revitalization. In this presentation, Dr. Jonathon Reinhardt (English), grant co-PI, will describe the project and its successes, challenges, and future plans, as well as research on mobile language learning, technology and language revitalization, and the potentials of ARIS as a place-based language learning tool.


Date: Friday, September 19, 2014

Title: Teaching Computers to Answer Non-Factoid Questions

Speaker: Mihai Surdeanu, University of Arizona


In this talk, I will describe our work towards teaching computers to answer complex questions, i.e., where the answer is a longer piece of text that explains a complex phenomenon, using linguistic information that is automatically acquired from free text. I will present a robust question answer model for non-factoid questions that integrates multiple sources of information, such as lexical semantics and discourse information, driven by two representations of discourse: a shallow representation centered around discourse markers, and a deep one based on Rhetorical Structure Theory. I will describe how to evaluate the proposed system on two corpora from different genres and domains: one from Yahoo! Answers and one from the biology domain, and two types of non-factoid questions: manner and reason. I will experimentally demonstrate that the discourse structure of non-factoid answers provides information that is complementary to lexical semantic similarity between question and answer, improving performance up to 24% (relative) over a state-of-the-art model that exploits lexical semantic similarity alone. I will further demonstrate excellent domain transfer of discourse information, suggesting these discourse features have general utility to non-factoid question answering.


Date: Friday, October 17, 2014

Title: Defectiveness as allomorphy: How the idiosyncratic fringes of inflection are not so idiosyncratic after all

Speaker: Andrea Sims, The Ohio State University


Morphologists have frequently sought to reduce word structure to morpheme combinatorics, describing words in terms of an agglutinative model and demoting form-meaning mismatches (e.g., syncretism, deponency) to the status of idiosyncratic exceptions in the form of structural ‘readjustments’. However, such ‘exceptions’ are far from rare and attempts to force them into the agglutinative mold are often deeply unsatisfying. I thus start from a different perspective -- one that considers deviations from the one-form-one-meaning principle to be fundamentally normal and reflective of close ties between morphology and the word-based structure of the lexicon.

In this paper I explore an extreme example of inflectional idiosyncrasy: defectiveness (e.g., English *amn’t, Russian *pobežu 'I will conquer'). Defectiveness is widely assumed to be the flotsam and jetsam of language -- miscellaneous and superficial junk that washes up on the shores of an inflectional system. However, using grammatical description and computational simulation, I show that it can in fact be tightly integrated with inflectional structure and that like other inflectional allomorphs, it is best understood as an emergent and self-reinforcing product of lexical organization. The goal is to illustrate how placing morpholexical idiosyncrasies at the center of investigation can inform us about morphological structure and its relationship to lexical organization and processing.


Date: Friday, October 24, 2014

Title: Child Acquisition of Quechua Verbs: An Overview of Research Findings

Speaker: Ellen Courtney, University of Texas, El Paso/University of Arizona


Quechua is an agglutinative, canonically SOV language spoken in several varieties by a few million people, primarily in Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador.   For nearly 20 years, I have been investigating Quechua child language acquisition in different parts of the Peruvian Andes.  In this presentation, I share highlights of my exploration of verb learning by two- to four-year-olds.  The first part centers on the development of verb morphology, especially the subject- and object-marking inflections.  In this regard, Pinker’s (1984/1996) account of inflectional learning proves useful yet limited.  The second part of the presentation focuses on children’s acquisition of the argument structure of change-of-state verbs.  The Quechua data reveal an interesting asymmetry in child errors, one which has been observed in a number of other languages.  Finally, I briefly discuss proposals that might explain how Quechua-speaking children recover from these errors.  Because (morpho)syntactic bootstrapping (Landau & Gleitman, 1985) would provide little help to Quechua-speaking children, I appeal to proposals emphasizing the role of conceptual and semantic criteria in verb learning, e.g., Fisher & Song (2006), Gordon (2003), Gropen, Pinker, Hollander & Goldberg (1994).  


Date: Friday, November 14, 2014

Title: Rare Sound Changes

Speaker: Bonny Sands, Northern Arizona University


Clicks are rare consonants cross-linguistically, yet they are extremely common in lexical roots in some languages. Bilabial ʘ and palatal ǂ click types are both rare in the first sense but ʘ is also infrequent in lexicons. There are only a few cases where palatal clicks appear to have been borrowed and no cases where bilabial clicks have been borrowed. Several sound changes have been identified which affect ǂ but none which affect ʘ. I will present data from ǂHoan, Yeyi, |Xam and ||Xegwi to discuss the phonetic, phonological, lexical, sociolinguistic and areal factors that affect how clicks have been borrowed and retained. I will also discuss the only known instance where a non-click has regularly changed into a click. Hadza, a Tanzanian language, appears to have introduced clicks into Cushitic loanwords, replacing a prohibited sequence of nasal+ejective with a glottalized click (Miller & Sands, in prep.).
-Miller, Kirk & Bonny Sands (in prep.) What Hadza phonotactics tells us about click consonants. The Handbook of Clicks. ed. Bonny Sands. Leiden: Brill.


Date: Friday, November 21, 2014

Title: Butcher as cultural trope: A language network analysis of small-scale butcher narratives and public discourses

Speaker: Ashley Stinnett, University of Arizona


Participant observations and transcribed interview narratives with small-scale butchers from three fieldsites in the Southwestern region of the United States reflect butchers perceptions of negative public sentiment regarding their occupation. These linguistically primed, metapragmatic narratives are in line with other stigmatized communities discourses about public identity construction and stereotyping. Based on these butcher narratives, I have developed an application of network science to analyze participant language and corpus data to investigate the relationship of public discourses in the media (Santa Ana 2002) with specific regard to the occupation of butchery. The corpus data for this investigation was extracted from the Corpus of Contemporary America English (COCA), encompassing a twenty-year time span (1990-2009) representing both textual and spoken sources (Davies, 2008-). The results show a strong correlation between butchers expressed experiences of stigmatization and public perceptions of butchering. In light of these findings, I posit that frequent and repeated negative portrayals of butchers in the media, from a variety of contexts and sources, becomes iconized as a violent cultural trope.



Date: Friday, December 5, 2014

Title: Spanish Voicing and Resyllabification: Phonetic Insights into Gradient Phenomena

Speaker: Martin Kohlberger, Leiden University / University of California, Santa Barbara


In this presentation, I will discuss how subtle phonetic cues can provide crucial insight into the complexity involved in various phonological phenomena.  Two experiments on Spanish will be discussed: one on voicing in whispered speech and one on resyllabification.

An underlying voicing contrast tends to be preserved in whisper, even though phonetic voicing as such is not present. This study investigates whether whispered speech also contains phonetic cues to instances where voicing is not lexically contrastive, but where it arises contextually through assimilation to a following obstruent.  Spanish speakers read 8 repetitions of 6 test items where word-final /s/ appeared in the context of a following fortis or lenis obstruent (e.g. gatas tensas, sopas densas). Of the 8 repetitions, 4 involved normal phonation and 4 involved whisper. A number of cues were analysed as potential correlates of sibilant voicing.  Results show that the contrast between sibilants followed by fortis and lenis stops was preserved in vowel duration and vowel-consonant intensity differences. The contrast between sibilants followed by fortis and lenis stops in whispered speech indicates that aspects of voicing assimilation may also be found in the absence of vocal fold vibration. This result contributes to our understanding of how different cues are integrated in signalling assimilatory voicing. As the cues observed in whispered speech cannot be secondary to the presence of vocal fold vibration, they should be viewed as independent and speaker-controlled exponents of voicing assimilation.

Word-final consonants in Spanish are commonly assumed to undergo resyllabification across a word boundary before a following vowel, e.g. /los#otros/ ‘the others’ is realised as [lo.s|o.tros].  However, in many dialects of Spanish, word-final prevocalic consonants (‘derived onsets’) pattern phonologically with canonical codas and distinctly from canonical onsets. This property of derived onsets has been the subject of much interest in the phonological literature, and has led some linguists to question whether resyllabification indeed applies in all Spanish dialects. In this presentation, evidence for resyllabification is evaluated based on acoustic data from 11 speakers of Castilian Spanish. The results show that word-final prevocalic /s/ has increased duration compared to coda /s/, but at the same time, it is shorter compared to word-initial /s/. This result is incompatible with a full resyllabification hypothesis, which would predict word-final prevocalic /s/ to be indistinguishable from canonical onsets. An alternative in the form of partial resyllabification is considered, the role of the syllable as a relevant unit in explaining /s/-sandhi in Spanish is further discussed.