Recent Graduates

Recent Theses and Dissertations

Lúcia Lopes Fischer (MA, 2013): Sgaw Karen as spoken by a member of the local North Carolina community: A phonetic analysis and phonemic description

 

Mary E. Kohn (PhD, 2013): Adolescent ethnolinguistic stability and change: A longitudinal study (dir. Elliott Moreton and Erik Thomas)

Most sociolinguistic studies rely on apparent time, cross-sectional methods to analyze language change. On the basis of apparent time data, sociolinguists have hypothesized that cultural processes of lifespan change create predictable cycles of linguistic behavior in which adolescents lead in the use of vernacular variants and advance sound change (Eckert 1997). While adolescence is hypothesized to be central to vernacular optimization and language change processes, only longitudinal studies reveal whether individuals change their linguistic behavior in predictable ways across adolescence. Furthermore, longitudinal data about individual trajectories of change allow linguists to confirm or disconfirm apparent time data.

As a longitudinal study of over 67 African Americans from infancy to post-high school, the Frank Porter Graham (FPG) study presents a unique opportunity to document language variation across the lifespan. This analysis is the first longitudinal acoustic analysis of vocalic variation from childhood to early adulthood. Because African American English (AAE) vowels in the Piedmont region of NC are stable, this study can explore the extent to which life-stage variation influences participation in ethnolinguistic vowel systems without the confound of a change in progress. Additionally, because longitudinal trajectories of AAE morphosyntactic/consonantal variables are documented, comparisons across linguistic subsystems reveal the extents and limits to which life-stage patterns predict linguistic cycles of behavior.

This study focuses on a subset of 20 individuals at approximately ages 9, 12, 15, and 20. Although all participants are from the Piedmont region of NC, individuals come from two communities with different demographics. Hierarchical regressions show that, while participation in AAE vowels strongly correlate with community and school demographics, stable vocalic variables do not undergo aggregate-level peaking patterns consistent with age-grading. Instead, stable aggregate patterns camouflage idiosyncratic individual trajectories. A lack of group patterns for vowel variation across adolescence suggests that life-stage variation does not affect all linguistic systems equally; age- grading is a minority pattern perhaps associated with stereotyped features and/or morphosyntactic/consonantal variables. Because age-grading is not a predominant pattern for non-stereotyped vocalic variation, apparent time peaks in adolescent vowel data should not be taken for granted as a default product of age-grading.

Mary is currently Assistant Professor of English at Kansas State University.

 

Justin Pinta (MA, 2013): Lexical strata in loanword phonology: Spanish loans in Guaraní (dir. Jennifer Smith)

An analysis of a corpus of Spanish loanwords in Paraguayan Guaraní shows the stratified structure of the Guaraní lexicon evidenced by varying phonological repair strategies in the loans. Ito and Mester (1999 and earlier work) show that a language with a synchronically relevant stratified lexicon displays impossible nativization effects. The phonology and morphology of Guaraní provide evidence for the synchronic relevance of the stratification, and as expected the corpus shows specific nativization strategies which are unattested. A nonce-word experiment with native Guaraní speakers shows that in some cases, but not all, impossible nativizations are strongly avoided by native speakers. The Ito and Mester (1999) model handles the impossible nativizations within Optimality Theory through their proposed ranking consistency of faithfulness constraints across strata. Variable repair strategies of certain Spanish phonological structures in Guaraní in addition to the results of the experiment present a theoretical problem for ranking consistency.

 

Katherine Shaw (MA, 2013): Head faithfulness in lexical blends: A positional approach to blend formation

 

Hang Zhang (PhD, 2013): The second language acquisition of Mandarin Chinese tones by English, Japanese, and Korean speakers (dir. Jennifer Smith)

This dissertation explores the second language acquisition of Mandarin Chinese tones by speakers of non-tonal languages within the framework of Optimality Theory. The effects of three L1s are analyzed: American English, a stress-accent language; Tokyo Japanese, a lexical pitch accent language; and Seoul Korean, a non-stress and non-pitch accent language. The study tests for three possible sources of L2 tonal errors; namely, 1) universal phonological constraints (i.e. the Tonal Markedness Scale (TMS), the Obligatory Contour Principle (OCP), and Tone-Position Constraints (TPC)); 2) the transfer of L1 pitch patterns; and 3) a pedagogical problem of Tone 3. The data shows that these three factors jointly shape the properties of interlanguage grammars.

This study finds that the TMS, the OCP, and TPC constrain L2 tone acquisition, but do so to varying degrees. Evidence is found that the TMS applies to both word- and sentence-level L2 productions. Some effects of the OCP are found to interact with the TMS and with L1 transfer effects. For example, patterns regarding tone pairs (more T1-T1 productions than T4-T4, and in turn more than T2-T2) can be attributed to either a case of the “emergence of the unmarked” interacting effects of the TMS and the OCP, or to local conjunction of the TMS. Learners are better at maintaining Rising (T2) at word-initial positions, but Falling (T4) at word-final positions. L2 learners often substitute other tones for target tones and the substitution patterns provide evidence for L1 transfer. For example, English speakers often use high falling tone while Japanese speakers tend to lengthen low tones to express monosyllabic narrow focus in sentences. This study found conflicting error and substitution patterns pertaining to Tone 3, as well as greater accuracy in processing Pre-T3 sandhi than the sandhi occurring elsewhere. This effect is argued to be attributed to the “T3 [214]-First” teaching method.

In light of the three factors affecting L2 tone acquisition, this study proposes a constraint re-ranking model to provide a new way of viewing positive and negative transfer. It is demonstrated that some markedness constraints are promoted while some are demoted in the acquisition of tones.

Hang is currently Assistant Professor of Chinese Language and Linguistics at George Washington University.

 

Inmaculada Gómez Soler (PhD, 2012): Acquiring Spanish at the interfaces: An integrated approach to the L2 acquisition of psych-verbs (dir. Misha Becker)

This dissertation provides a comprehensive analysis of the L2 acquisition of Spanish psych-verbs (e.g. gustar ‘to like’) across four different proficiency levels. In particular, psych-verbs constitute a testing ground for the predictions of the Interface Hypothesis (Sorace and Filiaci, 2006; Tsimpli, Sorace, Heycok & Filiaci, 2004; Sorace, Serratrice, Filiaci & Baldo, 2009; inter alia), one of the most influential theories in current generative second language acquisition. Its main claim is that properties that hinge on external interfaces (i.e. those that require the interaction between a linguistic module and a cognitive module) are more problematic for learners than those that do not hinge on that interface (i.e. internal interfaces/narrow syntax). In order to assess the empirical adequacy of the IH, this project encompasses five experiments that test different syntactic properties of psych predicates as well as phenomena that belong to both internal and external interfaces. The results of this study indicate that clitic and verb agreement is the most problematic aspect of psych-verb acquisition in accordance with the previous literarture in the field (e.g. Montrul, 1998, 2001). As for the issue of interfaces, this project is only partially consistent with the proposals of the IH. Whereas external interfaces present a certain level of difficulty for some groups of L2 learners, the low-proficiency participants are sensitive to pragmatic factors in spite of their lack of mastery of the morphosyntax of these constructions. Thus, external interfaces are problematic for L2ers but not more so than internal interfaces. Additionally it is not a necessary condition that syntax will precede the understanding of pragmatic phenomena. Instead, pragmatics can come for free in L2 acquisition while the learner still struggles with the target syntactic templates. Because of these inconsistencies with the IH, I turned to a more articulated model, the Integrative Model of Bilingual Acquisition (Pires & Rothman, 2011), that accounts for the differences between native and non-native speakers by resorting to the interplay of a series of factors (i.e. formal complexity, L1-L2 parameter mapping, processing resources and primary linguistic data). I argue that this more sophisticated model not only is able to more successfully account for the patterns found in this dissertation but it is also a more integrated explanation for the intricacies of the acquisition process.

Inma is currently Assistant Professor of Spanish at the University of Memphis.

 

Anne Bakken (MA, 2011): Scandinavian interference on the /s ~ z/ voicing contrast in American English (dir. Jennifer Smith)

 

Halley Wilson (MA, 2011): Child acquisition of passive sentences: building upon animacy assumptions from UG (dir. Misha Becker)

Children’s acquisition of passive sentences has been widely studied in an attempt to understand why children acquiring languages such as English appear to exhibit a delay in the acquisition of this structure.  The present study examined semantic factors in English acquiring children’s comprehension of passive sentences as a means of accounting for this delay.  The results of the study indicated that animacy in the by-phrase may be the crucial factor required for passive comprehension.  The process by which passive sentence structure is acquired is argued to be linked to inherent assumptions about animacy from UG which children may utilize to build the syntactic structures required to comprehend passives.

 

Justin Rill (MA, 2011): A unified analysis of “dative shift” in English and the applicative construction in Chichewa (dir. Randall Hendrick)

Many languages exhibit alternate syntactic realizations of ditransitive verbal constructions. For example, English features both a prepositional construction (Mary gave candy to the children) and a Double Object construction (Mary gave the children candy), a phenomenon known as “Dative Shift” (Larson 1988). In Chichewa, the “applicative construction” is a similar syntactic alternation (Baker 1988, Marantz 1993). The primary aim of this thesis is to present a unified analysis of Dative Shift and the applicative construction for both of these typologically distinct languages.

The proposed unified analysis features an identical argument structure for both languages, as well as isomorphic morphosyntactic processes. It accounts for several asymmetries previously observed between benefactive and instrumental ditransitives in Chichewa. These asymmetries serve as the basis for a corollary hypothesis about natural sub-classes within the class of “oblique” arguments.

Justin is currently pursuing a doctoral degree at the University of Delaware.

 

Alice Drozdiak (MA, 2011): Identifying and describing prosodic domain interaction with duration and hyperarticulation (dir. Elliott Moreton).

Motivated by the ambiguities of prosodic constituency and prosodic domain interaction, this study asks whether pitch accent acts upon non-segmental features (specifically right-edge word boundaries), as well as whether or not right-edge word boundaries induce hyperarticulation in the preceeding syllable. By looking at the duration of diphthongs in both word-initial and word-final positions, my research shows that pitch accent does indeed appear to hyperarticulate word boundaries, giving evidence to prosodic interactions across different phonological domains. Additionally, with few exceptions, the data collected in this study support the hypothesis that right-edge word boundaries do not hyperarticulate preceding diphthongs. These results contribute to current discourse regarding prosodic domain interactions. Finally, this work proposes and employs a method of measuring hyperarticulation in diphthongs, a process yet unexplored, using first and second formant values.

 

Amy Reynolds (MA, 2011): Competing factors in phonological learning models: The acquisition of English consonant clusters (dir. Jennifer Smith).

This thesis tests the relative influence of a number of factors within phonological learning models that have been proposed to affect patterns of child language acquisition. In the Gradual Learning Algorithm literature, social factors such as variation in the adult grammar and frequencies of forms in child-directed speech, and mental grammar factors such as constraints and decision strategies make various predictions about the learning paths followed by children. English-speaking children’s acquisition of consonant clusters is modeled to test the relative influence of learning model factors, since each social factor in the English adult language makes opposite predictions about what learning paths children should follow. Adult grammar variation is shown to be the more influential social factor, and a comparison between the constraint sets and decision strategies used in Boersma and Levelt (2000) and Jesney and Tessier (2011) provides support for using Specific Faithfulness constraints to adequately model child language acquisition.

Amy is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in Linguistics at UNC.

 

Caleb Crandall Hicks (MA, 2010): Morphosyntactic doubling in code switching (dir. David Mora-Marin and Paul Roberge).

When code switching occurs between languages which are typologically opposed, the resulting utterance sometimes obeys the typological patterns dictated by both languages. If one contributor language has a basic word order of SVO, and the other has SOV, the code switched sentence may have the surface order SVOV; in effect, producing a doubled morphosyntactic element, where each “double” is realized in a different source language. In this thesis, I examine code switches which furnish doubled verbs, auxiliaries, adpositions, coordinations, complementizers, and morphological affixes from a large variety of language pairs. I argue that previous accounts of such doubles are unsatisfactory, as is the application of syntactic approaches to monolingual doubling. I contend that a framework favoring simultaneous access of multiple languages gives a more promising account of code switched doubles.

Caleb is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in Linguistics at UNC.

 

Victoria McGee (MA, 2010): (dir. David Mora-Marin).

 

Ian Clayton (PhD, 2010): On the natural history of preaspirated stops (dir. Elliott Moreton).

This dissertation makes two contributions, one empirical, the other theoretical. Empirically, the dissertation deepens our understanding of the lifecycle and behavior of the preaspirated stop, an extremely rare phonological feature. I show that in most confirmed cases, preaspirated stops develop from earlier voiceless geminate stops, less commonly from nasal-voiceless stop clusters. When decaying, preaspirated stops typically develop into unaspirated voiceless stops, or undergo buccalization to become preaffricated. More rarely, decaying preaspirated stops may trigger tonogenesis, or undergo spirantization or nasalization. Phonologically, preaspirated stops usually function as positionally conditioned allophones of underlying aspirated voiceless stops contrasting with voiceless unaspirated stops.

The dissertation tests three theoretical frameworks. First, the State-Process model (Greenberg 1978, 1969, 1966) claims that the synchronic distribution of linguistic features offers insight into their rates of innovation and transmission. Conventionally, the rarity of preaspirated stops is attributed to a presumed low rate of transmission: they are rare because they are hard to hear (Silverman 2003, 1997; Bladon 1986). However, the geographic and genetic distribution of preaspirated stops fit the State-Process model’s prototype of an infrequently innovated but robustly transmitted linguistic feature. Further, I show experimentally that preaspirated stops are no more difficult to distinguish from unaspirated stops than are much more abundant postaspirated stops.

Second, the dissertation tests the success of two models, one cognitive, the other phonetic/diachronic, at accounting for two place-based asymmetries in Scottish Gaelic preaspiration. Whereas a conventional Optimality-Theoretic analysis of these asymmetries overgenerates, an analysis modified via Steriade’s P-map Hypothesis (2001a, 2001b) resolves this overgeneration. The P-map analysis depends on congruent perceptual scales, which the perception experiment (above) confirms: participants’ confusion rates closely match the place-based asymmetries observed in Gaelic.

The competing “innocent misperception” model (Ohala 2005, 1993; Blevins 2004) depends on the presence of phonetic precursors to produce an ambiguous phonological signal, which listeners may interpret differently than intended by the speaker, leading to an alteration in a segment’s underlying form. A series of production experiments identifies potential precursors, but also reveals between-speaker variation more compatible with the P- map account than “innocent misperception”, again lending support to Steriade’s hypothesis.

Ian is currently teaching at Boise State University.

 

Jennifer Renn (PhD, 2010): Acquiring style: The development of dialect shifting among African American children (dir. Michael Terry).

The dearth of research on style shifting in African American English (AAE) during the early lifespan has left a number of unanswered questions related to the acquisition of and the ability to shift speech styles. This presentation focuses on several of these questions, including when stylistic shifting is initiated, whether there are differential patterns of stylistic usage among children and adolescents, and how stylistic facility relates to school achievement and literacy. It further considers the influence of social, demographic, and self-regard factors to determine how they affect style over time. As a basis for addressing these issues, this research utilizes data from a unique, longitudinal study of AAE and literacy. The analysis compares formal and informal language data from a sample of African American speakers collected at three temporal data points (Grade 1/2 (N=73); Grade 6 (N=125); and Grade 8 (N=164)) to compare linguistic behavior throughout the elementary and middle school years. Language samples representing different situational contexts were analyzed in terms of 42 morphosyntactic and phonological AAE features to determine the overall difference in dialect use across time and situation. Analyses suggest that while there is a range of individual variation in the early use of style shifting, speakers progressively engage in an overall expansion of style shifting over time. Further investigation of the influence of gender, mother’s education, social contacts, school demographics, and the child’s score on a racial centrality index identifies which factors have a greater impact and how the relative influence of these variables evolves during childhood and adolescence. Tests of the interaction effects of these various social, personal, and demographic factors indicate that while certain factors are significantly related to style shifting, the influence of others is instead associated with speakers’ overall dialect use.

Jennifer was a postdoctoral researcher at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, UNC Chapel Hill (2010-2013) and is now research associate at the Center for Applied Linguistics.

 

Melissa Frazier (PhD, 2009): The production and perception of pitch and glottalization in Yucatec Maya (dir. Jennifer Smith).

This dissertation uses the Bidirectional Stochastic OT model of the phonetics- phonology interface (Boersma 2007a) to analyze the production and perception of pitch and glottalization in Yucatec Maya. The Gradual Learning Algorithm (GLA, Boersma and Hayes 2001) is used to develop mean ranking values of constraints. I show that, when using this algorithm, a simulated learner must be trained on both production and perception tableaus in order to reach an accurate adult grammar (contra Boersma 2006, who proposes that perception learning alone is sufficient). This simulated learner is trained on phonetic data obtained from tokens of real speech, and these results show that bidirectional constraints can account for the symmetrical relationship between production and perception. However, because the symmetries are not exact, the production grammar does not simply fall out of perception learning.

Production and perception studies were conducted with native speakers of Yucatec Maya in Yucatan, Mexico. The results of these studies are analyzed with Bidirectional Stochastic OT, but they are also presented in detail in order to document the phonetics of pitch, length, and glottalization in Yucatec Maya. One important result of the production studies is that there is previously undocumented dialectal variation in the production of pitch and length such that tone may be a dialectal feature of Yucatec Maya. Furthermore, there is variation in the perception of pitch that mirrors the variation in production; the cues that differentiate phonemic categories in production are the same cues that are attended to in perception. These results thus provide further support for the idea that production and perception grammars are defined by the same constraints.

This research fills in two gaps in the literature. First, despite the robust literature on its morphosyntax, there is little research on the sound system of Yucatec Maya, especially at the phonetic level. The production study thus provides the first thorough account of the suprasegmentals of the vowel system, and the perception study is one of the first conducted with this language. Second, this work is the first to test the Bidirectional Model with actual (and not simulated and idealized) language data.

Melissa is currently a visiting assistant professor at the University of Southern California.

 

Susannah Kirby (PhD, 2009): Semantic scaffolding in first language acquisition: The acquisition of raising-to-object and object control (dir. Misha Becker).

This dissertation joins the debates on whether language is innate and/or modular, by examining English-speaking children’s acquisition of raising-to-object (RO; (1)) and object control (OC; (2)) utterances.

(1) RO: Suki wanted/needed Neil_i [{\it t}_i to kiss Louise]
(2) OC: Suki asked/told Neil_i [PRO_i to kiss Louise]

While these verbs may appear in the same surface string, they map onto two distinct underlying structures. As a result, they differ in their syntactic and semantic behaviors, including the interpretation of embedded passives, and whether the subject of the embedded clause may be expletive or inanimate.

Several truth-value and sentence judgment tasks yielded the following results:

  • Children have adultlike comprehension of active RO/OC utterances by age 4.
  • Children who fail on tests of matrix passives can interpret passives embedded under RO verbs (despite their greater length and syntactic complexity), but not under OC verbs (which have syntax more like matrix passives).
  • In sentence judgment tasks, children preferentially parse the embedded clause alone.

To account for these patterns, I offer the “semantic scaffolding hypothesis”, which comprises two major proposals: (a) children assume a canonical alignment of thematic and grammatical roles, resulting in agent-subjects and patient-objects, and (b) children assume a default clausal shape of contiguous subject and predicate. I argue that children use semantic scaffolding as a stepping stone on their way to adultlike syntactic and processing power. In short, movement may be easier than control structures, if these assumptions are not violated.

Moreover, the fact that children do maintain a distinction between the verb classes is evidence for innateness and modularity in language. However, the language module interacts crucially with other cognitive modules (e.g., the conceptual-semantic system) and with domain-general faculties (e.g., attention, memory).

Finally, the results presented here also bear on the following issues:

  • There is no evidence for maturation of A-chains and/or control, contra Wexler (1992, 2004).
  • Children’s performance on active RO, passives, and embedded passives suggest that RO utterances should instead be analyzed as instances of “exceptional case marking.”
  • The data can neither support nor refute Hornstein’s (1999) proposal that RO and OC both be analyzed as instances of movement.

Susannah is currently teaching at the University of British Columbia.

 

Yu Li (PhD, 2007): Differential acquisition of phonemic contrasts by infant word-learners: Does production recapitulate perception? (dir. Elliott Moreton).

This dissertation investigates the relationship between the acquisition orders of phonological contrasts by children in perception and production and the phonological theories that account for this relationship. Three key words can be used to characterize this relationship: gap, parallel and mismatch. It is commonly observed that young children’s ability to perceive phonological contrasts is more advanced than their ability to produce them (e.g. Smith 1973, Werker and Stager 2000). It has also been found that the order in which phonological contrasts are acquired in production recapitulates that in perception (Jusczyk et al. 1999, Pater 2004). Experiments done as part of this dissertation suggest that the parallel between perceptual and productive acquisition orders of phonemic contrasts does not always hold: 17-month-old American-English-acquiring children were able to distinguish [n] and [r] yet not [t] and [n] in a perceptual word-learning task; while productively, the [t]-[n] contrast has been found to be acquired earlier than the [n]-[r] contrast. In other words, the orders of acquisition of phonological contrasts in perception and production can mismatch each other.

Most phonological acquisition models (reviewed in this dissertation: Smith 1973, Braine 1976, Macken 1980, Boersma 1998, Smolensky 1996a, Lassettre and Donegan 1998, and Pater 2004) are able to account for the gap. The model proposed by Pater (2004) is also able to explain the parallel. When more than one phonological contrasts are involved and the order of acquisition between them is at issue, its explanation for the developmental parallel would depend on two necessary assumptions that the model did not elaborate: One, the shared MARKEDNESS constraints must be fixed in ranking; and two, the FAITHFULNESS constraints must not only be fixed in ranking, but also be homogeneous in form and function. However, under these assumptions, the model will not be able to explain the attested mismatch.

This dissertation proposes to revise Pater’s model by allowing non-homogeneous faithfulness constraints for perception and production. It demonstrates how the revised model is able to account for the mismatch, explain the gap, and at the same time allow for the parallel.

Yu now teaches in the Department of Russian and East Asian Languages and Cultures at Emory University.

 

Kara VanDam (PhD, 2007): A study of language identity and shift: The Calvinist Dutch of West Michigan

 

Abby Spears (MA, 2006): Nasal coarticulation in the French vowel /i/: A phonetic and phonological study (dir. Elliott Moreton).

In this thesis, I use acoustic phonetic data to examine the phenomenon of nasal coarticulation in French. Previous work describes French as a language with very little vowel-nasal (VN) coarticulation, presumably due to the oral/nasal contrast in vowels (Cohn 1990). However, I found that the high vowel /i/, which has no nasal counterpart in French, exhibits a high degree of coarticulation. This finding supports the proposal that contrast and coarticulation are inversely correlated (Manuel 1990), adding the insight that this correlation is observable even within a language. Based on this finding and a typological survey of VN coarticulation, I propose an underspecification account in an Optimality Theoretic framework to capture the patterns of VN coarticulation. In this OT account, the interaction of markedness constraints driving orality and minimizing effort and a faithfulness constraint protecting the feature [+ nasal] provides an explanation for the French data and produces the attested typology.

 

Claire Lampp (MA, 2006): Negation in modern Hindi-Urdu: The development of nahII (dir. Craig Melchert).

There are three negative particles used for sentential negation in Hindi-Urdu-matna, and nahII. The particles mat and na are generally of restricted distribution in the modern language, and their origins are relatively straightforward. The status of the modern general negative particle nahII is more problematic. There are two common explanations for modern Hindi-UrdunahII: (1) nahII results from the Old Indo-Aryan (OIA) general negative particle na combining with a substantive/existential verb form; (2) nahII results from na combining with the OIA emphatic particle hi. In a recent account Elena Bashir offers support for both explanations. Based on evidence from a modern Hindi corpus and a reexamination of Bashir’s work, I conclude that modern Hindi-Urdu nahII likely has its origin only in the existential, thus providing another example in support of William Croft’s negation cycle.

 

Amie Kraus (MA, 2006): Language attitudes of Québécois students towards le français québécois standard and le franco-québécois (dir. D. Mora-Marín).

The many language attitude studies which have been conducted in the province of Québec over the past fifty years have revealed that the linguistic attitudes and beliefs of the Québécois towards both English and specific varieties of French have changed considerably. The purpose of the present study was to determine the current language attitudes of Québécois students towards standard Québec French and towards a colloquial variety of Québec French, le franco-québécois. In spite of the significant shift in language attitudes in Québec’s recent history, the results of this study were comparable to those of a similar study conducted three decades ago by Méar-Crine and Leclerc. In both studies, the majority of Québécois participants indicated a preference for the standard variety of Québec French.

 

Melissa Frazier (MA, 2006): Accent in Proto-Indo-European athematic nouns: Antifaithfulness in inflectional paradigms (dir. Jennifer Smith).

This thesis examines four accent patterns displayed by athematic nouns in Proto-Indo-European. Each accent pattern is distinguished by either alternating stress or vowel quality between ‘weak’ forms (nominative, accusative, vocative) and ‘strong’ forms. I argue that surface stress is the result of the interplay of the lexical accent specifications of the morphemes that compose the stem. The strong endings are classified as dominant and are thus responsible for the accent/ablaut alternations. Optimality Theory is used to provide a synchronic phonological analysis of athematic noun accent. The weak forms are accounted for with a ranking of faithfulness and alignment constraints, including a positional faithfulness ranking in which faithfulness to roots is preferred over faithfulness to derivational affixes. The strong endings, which are dominant, trigger antifaithfulness constraints (Alderete 1999), and so a new type of antifaithfulness constraint is introduced that works within inflectional paradigms, based on the Optimal Paradigms model (McCarthy 2005).

Melissa has recently completed her PhD in the Department and is now a visiting assistant professor at the University of Southern California.

 

Melissa Damann (MA, 2006): ESL learners’ perceptions of American dialects (dir. David Mora-Marín).

This study was conducted to determine how ESL (English as a Second Language) learners’ perception of American dialects differs from the perception of native American English speakers. 39 ESL students and 18 native speakers listened to and rated eight different speakers, representing four different dialects (i.e. Standard American English, Southern American English, African American English and Latino English). These speakers were rated on status, solidarity and language proficiency-related characteristics. The ESL and native speaker groups ranked the dialect groups similarly on status-related features (i.e. successful, smart, confident). However, the test groups had markedly different rankings of the dialect groups for solidarity-related features (i.e. dependable, funny, friendly). The ESL and native speaker groups had similar rankings concerning the speakers’ language proficiency (i.e. speaking English well). However, with the exception of the Standard dialect, the ESL group generally viewed each dialect’s proficiency more positively than the native speaker group.

 

Donna Salisbury (PhD, 2005): Local adverbs in Neo-Hittite (dir. Craig Melchert).

This dissertation systematically and exhaustively evaluates the functions of the local adverbs in Neo-Hittite as determined by their use in assured Neo-Hittite compositions. The primary finding is that the Old Hittite synchronic system of contrasting directional and locatival pairs as established by Starke (1977) remains fundamentally intact in Neo-Hittite. There are a limited number of specific cases of overlap. The triple distinction in function of preverb, postposition, and freestanding adverb likewise continues throughout the history of the language. This study accounts for each Neo-Hittite occurrence of a local adverb, assesses its functional role, and presents a justification for its inclusion in a given class. Where possible, it provides an explanation of the likely path by which evolved meanings of a preverb have arisen. An analysis of instances of consecutive adverbs evaluates whether the two coincidentally co-occur or have developed a specialized function as a combination. Those established as unitary combinations are categorized as preverb, postposition, or freestanding adverb compounds. Lastly, a reconsideration of the relationship of local adverbs to Hittite word order takes into account the three functional roles. This preliminary analysis identified a basic word order with numerous possible deviations, certain of which may be considered preferred for each specific function. A process of fronting of the local adverbs to positions before the subject in a sentence accounts for some but certainly not all non-standard configurations.

Donna is now teaching linguistics part-time at UNC-Greensboro.

 

Susannah Kirby (MA, 2005): Semantics or sub-cases? The acquisition of referential vs. expletive it (dir. Misha Becker).

This study was conducted to determine the natural order of acquisition among deictic pronoun it, anaphoric pronoun it, and expletive it. Files from 4 children (Adam, Eve, Nina, and Peter) ages 1;6 – 3;0 in the CHILDES database were coded for occurrences of NP it (here it is), and expletive it (it’s raining). Occurrences of NP it were coded for whether they followed an overt discourse anaphor (anaphoric it) or not (deictic it). All children examined produce deictic and anaphoric pronoun itfrom the very first files examined, but do not produce expletive it until 2-7 months later. Following Inoue’s (1991) lexical-semantic reanalysis account of the acquisition of expletive there after locative there, it is proposed that children acquire expletive it by reanalyzing referential pronoun it to include an expletive subtype. This reanalysis takes place when children realize that expletive it never co-occurs with a deictic or anaphoric referent.

Susannah has recently completed her PhD in the Department and is now teaching at the University of British Columbia.

 

Becky Butler Thompson (MA, 2005): Cross-dialectal tendencies of emphasis spread in Arabic: An Optimality Theoretic account based in experimental phonetics (dir. Jennifer Smith).

Emphasis refers to a secondary pharyngeal constriction in the pharynx. In Arabic, this constriction affects (spreads to) neighboring sounds. In this thesis, I consider two cross-dialectal tendencies of spread: (i) directionality, which I show is a phonological parameter not grounded in universal phonetics and (ii) the identity of segments that block spread. I propose that all segments can be ranked hierarchically according to their incompatibility with emphasis, thereby explaining the tendency for certain segments to be blockers. I explore these ideas in terms of Optimality Theory and use them as metrics to compare two OT theories: Traditional Approach and Span Theory (McCarthy 2004). I show that Span Theory accounts for the data presented equally as well as the Traditional Approach.

Becky is now a PhD student in linguistics at Cornell University.

 

Heidi Angel (MA, 2005): Classifier predicate acquisition by a deaf child with delayed linguistic input (dir. Misha Becker).

This study focuses on the acquisition of American Sign Language (ASL) classifier predicate constructions, specifically observing the use of handshape by an eight-year-old deaf child with delayed linguistic input. The findings are compared with other cases of delayed or impoverished input and research into a critical period for language acquisition. While the subject shows delayed ASL acquisition, his innovations and possible ‘home signs’ demonstrate an innate bias to create productive and natural language features similar to ASL and other natural sign languages. A distinction is made between natural sign languages and artificial sign languages, such as Manually Coded English (MCE), which makes up a significant portion of the child’s language input but is not reflected in his output. This supports nativist claims of an innate language-learning mechanism. In particular, a focus on handshape configurations in classifier predicate constructions was chosen because the use of classifiers is acquired relatively late in children acquiring ASL natively and the handshape parameter is a particularly fragile component of signs in general, often found in ‘slips of the hand’ even in adult native signers. Analysis of these complex constructions in a subject with delayed input may corroborate evidence for Universal Grammar (UG) which claims a language-specific domain for acquisition. In this thesis I will discuss the overall results of the classifier handshape analysis, the relationship to UG as well as specific results in which conceptual, physiological and perceptual complexity seem to contribute to the production of handshape errors in the acquisition of ASL classifier predicate constructions.

 

Hayden Stack (MA, 2004): Analysis of output opportunities in a first-grade Spanish-English dual language program (dir. Larry King).

Although students receive much comprehensible input in dual language programs, their opportunities to produce comprehensible output that allows for hypothesis testing, feedback, automaticity, and syntactic processing are severely restricted even at the first grade level, thus hindering improvement in oral proficiency. The current pilot study focused upon native English-speaking students in a first grade dual language class. The main goals included collecting evidence concerning the role of output in second language acquisition in the dual language environment and characterizing the input that fostered this output. An analysis of the data revealed a predominance of one-word output on the part of students and reliance on close-ended questions on the part of teachers. It was found that complexity of output improves when more output hypotheses-whether correct or erroneous-are made and feedback applied to subsequent efforts. Dual language educators are thus encouraged to pro-vide students with more opportunities to interact conversationally in the tar-get language in order to foster second language development.

Hayden now teaches composition at Southeastern College in Wake Forest NC.

 

Julia B. St. John (PhD, 2004): The semantics of English manner adverbs (dir. Gert Webelhuth).

This dissertation details an empirical study investigating the semantic properties of English manner adverbs and subject modifiers and the verbs they modify. The purpose of the study is to determine which of these semantic properties are relevant to manner adverb modification and to enable a comparison of those properties to the semantic properties relevant to the syntactic phenomenon of argument realization and to other semantic phenomena such as the temporal and aspectual properties of verbs. In order to make this comparison, it was necessary to systematize the data to determine which adverb and verb combinations were acceptable and which were unacceptable. This sys-tematization of the data serves as the groundwork for a preliminary hierarchy of the types of semantic relations that play a role in adverbial modification. The hierarchy is expressed as a multiple inheritance hierarchy in which more specific types inherit information from more general supertypes. The semantic properties elucidated in this study are expressed in the formalism developed in Head-driven Phrase Structure Grammar (HPSG; Pollard and Sag: 1987, 1994). The comparison of this hierarchy to a hierarchy of semantic relations derived from semantic properties identified by Dowty (1989; 1991) and Davis (2001) as important to an adequate account of argument realization reveals a number of differences. Among those, two important distinctions are (1) the fact that, although some of the semantic properties relevant for argument realization also are identified as significant for describing the interactions of manner adverbs and verbs, the former are a small subset of the latter, and (2) the fact that semantic clashes between manner adverbs and verbs are much more easily overridden by contextual factors than is the linking of semantic role and argument.

 

Patrick M. Murphy (PhD, 2004): Passive prototypes, topicality, and conceptual space (dir. Laura Janda).

Passive constructions are perhaps the most widely studied grammatical phenomenon within generative grammar. Typological studies describe the wide variety of features of passive constructions cross-linguistically, and both typolological and acquisition studies offer insight into the relative markedness of these constructions. This dissertation has the goal of investigating the nature of membership within the category ‘passive’ and cross-linguistic comparison of constructions, ‘passive’ and otherwise. A model of universal passive types within the framework of Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar (HPSG) is presented. This is accomplished by proposing a set of type definitions, characterizing both the relatively unmarked and relatively marked features of passive constructions. This provides some granularity in the passive’s characterization, but does not model the markedness of these features with respect to each other. To that end, preference principles in the construction of passive type matrices in HPSG are introduced: a metagrammar provided by Universal Grammar describing the markedness of each type with respect to its supertype. The resulting system models a passive prototype within HPSG. Topicality measures were collected from the Uppsala Corpus of Russian for the Russian verbs pisat’/napisat’ ’to write’, davat’/ dat’ ’to give’, and zabyvat’/zabyt’ ’to forget’. [...]Examining the conceptual space of various voice constructions with these Russian verbs, Croft’s (2001) notion of plotting constructions in ‘conceptual space’ is exploited as a means of cross-linguistic comparison using these topicality measures. Examining the conceptual space of various voice constructions with these Russian verbs, Croft’s generalizations are upheld, their position being consistent whether Referential Distance or Topic Persistence is used as a measure. Finally, data from other typological discourse studies is plotted, noting where various voice constructions pattern, and how this data fits into Croft’s model.

Patrick now works as a Scientific Linguist for the Department of Defense.

 

Elaine Ferreira Abousalh (MA, 2004): The phonetic implementation of tonal downtrends in Coatzospan Mixtec (dir. Jennifer Smith).

This thesis compares the phone-tic implementation of downstepped high tones (!H) and low tones (L) in Coatzospan Mixtec, an Otomanguean language spoken in San Juan Coatzospan, Mexico. Two-word phrases where the second element consists of a bimoraic monotonic word associated to a !H or L were examined. It is shown that F0 means for !H and L at the initial mora of target words are not different from each other, while F0 means for the two tones at the second mora of target words are always significantly different. This is interpreted as resulting from the assignment of the same F0 target to !H and L. The difference between the tones would be caused by tone-specific declination, which makes the F0 of L decay more than the F0 of !H. If the TBU bearing !H or L is placed before a pause, the tones are further affected by final lowering.

 

Kimberly Thomas (MA, 2003): Issues concerning divergence/convergence in the Southern vernacular: Postvocalic /r/ and the time-depth contingency (dir. Walt Wolfram).

Many sociolinguistic studies have been done regarding the apparent structural divergence of African American Vernacular English from white vernacular varieties (Labov, 1985, 1987; Fasold et al., 1987; Bailey and Maynor, 1989). At issue is the admissibility of the evidence regarding the ‘increasing divergence’ of AAVE from other vernacular varieties, and particularly, the underlying theoretical and methodological suppositions upon which the hypothesis is based (Wolfram, 1987). Wolfram (1987) addressed the linguistic and time-depth issues by proposing a set of criteria regarding the admissibility of language change among vernacular varieties. In this thesis, I examine the admissibility of the evidence regarding divergent and convergent linguistic change in white and black vernacular varieties, concluding that the changes in the pronunciation of postvocalic /r/ (i.e., etymological /r/ before consonants or pause) are both divergent and convergent for black and white Southern speakers.

 

Jenny Palmer (MA, 2002): The role of /s/ duration as a perceptual cue for gay-sounding male speech (dir. Chip Gerfen).

This thesis is an experimental analysis of the role that /s/ duration plays in how listeners perceive male sexual orientation based on speech. With listener responses measured as both a categorical (forced choice) response and a continual mean ‘gayness’ score, listeners’ perception of a man as gay increased substantially with the longer /s/ durations in word-initial, stressed /skV/ and /spV/ environments. Listener participants heard one of 3 /s/ durations of a man whose sexual orientation had been perceived as neutral. ANOVA analysis showed that listeners who heard the longer /s/ durations perceived the man as sounding ‘gayer’. In addition, multiple regression analysis showed that listeners who heard the longer /s/ durations were significantly more likely to judge the speaker as sounding ‘gay’.

 

Patrick Obregon (MA 2001): An Optimality Theoretic account of diphthongization in Spanish (dir. Chip Gerfen).

In this thesis I propose an Optimality Theoretic analysis of the monophthong-diphthong alternations (primarily [o]~[wé] and [e] ~[jé]) found in etymologically related forms in Spanish, and commonly referred to as diphthongization. This work builds upon the notion of Harris (1985) and Dunlap (1991) that vowels subject to this alternation may be marked in the lexicon by their association with two positions on the melodic tier, which for the purposes of this analysis I am taking to be a segmental skeletal tier. I posit a positional faithfulness constraint Max-Pos(Head), which holds that underlying segmental count must be pre-served in stressed syllables. The high ranking of No Long Vowels prevents diphthongizing vowels from surfacing with two associated skeletal slots (and hence moras), leaving epenthesis (of [e]) as the only means of satisfying Max-Pos (Head). Sonority sequencing constraints preventing mid-mid diphthongs, along with the integrity constraint O-Anchor-Pos, which ensures the tautosyllabicity of the associated skeletal slots, works to produce the high onglide shape of the resulting diphthong.

 

Sarah Tully Marks (MA 2001): Gender and computer-mediated communication: Why women need their space(dir. David Herman and Rusty Barrett).

The interaction of gender and computer-mediated communication (CMC) has become a subject of great research in the last few years. Many researchers have considered the differences between behavioral norms of genders when spoken and when typed as CMC. This thesis considers these differences, taking special consideration of the notions of ‘flaming’ and ‘thanking’. In addition to asserting that differences such as these necessitate separate spaces for women to participate in Internet Relay Chat, this thesis considers the possibility that it is not in fact the genders which assign people’s behavioral norms online. In reality, the norms of conversational style are determined by the chat systems themselves to be followed by the participant members of the community. Of most interest here is the notion that the effects of gender can be superceded when language is considered to be a function of a community at large and not an individual.

Sarah has gone on to study medicine.

 

Scott Halbritter (MA, 2001): Idioms, metaphors, and speech acts: Accounting for and predicting idiomatic flexibility (dir. Gert Webelhuth).

In this study I will explore the work of Webelhuth and Ackerman (1994), in order to provide a basis for furthering the HPSG approach of handling idioms by Riehemann (1997). I will use the model of W. and A. to test my own corpus of 1000 English idioms to verify the English applicability of their “aboutness” findings. I will show that metaphor is the critical aspect for defining and understanding idioms. I will suggest areas of inquiry that appear to be promising for predic-ting the flexibility and availability of idiomatic expressions. As Riehemann suggests, hierarchies of metaphorical mappings may indeed provide some of the keys to designing algorithms modeled after real +HUMAN speech acts–idioms, metaphors, and all. Regardless, it should be apparent that the traditional categories of context-free grammars hold little promise for being able to account for the intricacies of the key element of idioms: metaphor.

Scott received his PhD in English from UNC-CH in 2004.

 

Rodney Edwards (MA 2001): The development of the Southern double-object construction (dir. Gert Webelhuth).

The Southern Double Object Construction poses a major syntactic problem: how can a sentence like (1) be grammatical alongside (2) and (3)? (1) Maryi bought heri a book; (2) Maryi bought herj a book; (3) Maryi bought herselfi a book. Sentence (1) shows that a bare pronoun may stand in place of a reflexive pronoun, although standard varieties of Modern English mandate that such a bare pronoun should not be co-referential with its subject as in (1), but must always show disjoint reference as in (2). This was not the case, however, in Old English. Object pronouns in Southern English are specified as non-anaphoric by default, but the Southern Double Object Construction, preserving the situation that obtained in the ancestral form of English, may continue to license the overriding of this default similar to the way Old English construed its object pronouns. Thus any violations of the principles of Binding Theory are avoided.

Rod entered the PhD program in Linguistics at the University of Chicago.

 

Kirk Baker (MA 2001): Crosslinguistic comparison of the perception of glottalization in English and Coatzospan Mixtec (dir. Chip Gerfen).

This thesis takes a cross-linguistic look at the role that amplitude and fundamental frequency (f0) play in cueing the percept of glottalization in English and Coatzospan Mixtec (CM), an Otomanguean language spoken in Oaxaca, Mexico. Although vowel glottalization is contrastive in CM but allophonic in English, two salient acoustic features of glottalization in both languages are concurrent amplitude and f0 declinations. A series of forced-choice perception experiments using synthetic speech stimuli in which amplitude and f0 had been manipulated were conducted with CM listeners. The results of the experiments reported here indicate that, consistent with previous findings for English listeners, either an f0 or an amplitude drop alone can cue the percept of glottalization. However, CM listeners proved to be more highly attuned to slight change along both the f0 and amplitude dimensions than English listeners. This finding is consistent with the fact that glottalized vowels are contrastive in CM, and the expectation that CM speakers are more sensitive than English speakers to the acoustic variables which cue the percept of glottalization. Additionally, this thesis con-tributes to the body of literature per-taining to language-particular effects on speech perception and adds to our knowledge of the phonetics of glottalization in general.

 

Benito Vilá (MA, 2000): The vocabulary of Self and Other in sixteenth and seventeenth century Chilean documents (dir. Craig Melchert).

Members of every linguistic community possess a set of internal cognitive referents with which they interpret sensory input. These referents are not necessarily uniform within every community, and tend to evolve over time, as a result of innovation, reinterpretations, and borrowings from neighboring communities. However, many elements seem to persist within individual communities over time, elements which often yield distinctive interpretations of the world relative to other communities.

There is much in the patterns of continuity and change that suggest we are dealing with a linguistic mechanism. Changes in interpretations of cause and effect, of social relations and of individual responsibility reflect many of the same characteristics as do phonological, syntactic and semantic changes, as studied in Historical Linguistics.

Representations of Self and Other are among the most fundamental internal referents in any grammar of the universe. A look at this specific element in 16th and 17th Century Chilean documents reveals, on the one hand, commonalities with the grammar of Latin Antiquity, and on the other, borrowings from a very different perception of Self and Other in other European communities. There are, moreover, differences between Chilean documents themselves which seem to trace to the specific location of various authors within their shared culture, and signs of change in representations, within an enduring distinctiveness, as the overall community absorbed outside influences.

 

Kara VanDam (MA, 2000): The syntax of Albanian subordination: The interaction of subjects and complementizers (dir. Randall Hendrick).

This thesis examines the Albanian complementizer system in the Principles and Parameters syntactic framework, which seeks to establish universal principles of syntactic organization, as well as to define parameters which restrict the variation between languages. The Albanian complementizer system is of interest because it appears to be language-specific and idiosyncratic; further it appears to violate syntactic universals in two respects. First, complementizers precede Wh-phrases in subordinate clauses. Second, the complementizer system interacts with subject pronoun deletion. I argue that these two facets of variation follow from the parametric variation of complementizer systems in Universal Grammar. I show that the idiosyncratic properties of Albanian with respect to Wh-Movement and subject pronoun deletion follow directly from the selection of the parametric value of multiple complementizers in Albanian. This conclusion is supported by detailed discussions of that-trace effects, restrictions on object movement and topicalization, as well as Verb Second effects.

Kara completed her PhD dissertation in the Department.

 

Soo-Jung Kim (PhD, 2000): Accentual effects on segmental phonological rules in Korean (dir. Chip Gerfen and Megan Crowhurst).

This dissertation provides empirical support for the intonation-based model (Beckman & Pierrehumbert 1986; Pierrehumbert & Beckman 1988; Jun 1993, 1998) of Korean prosodic structure by arguing that this model best characterizes the domains of Lateralization, Delateralization, and N-insertion in Korean. Lateralization refers to the assimilation of a coronal nasal n to the adjacent lateral l. Delateralization is the segmental proscription against laterals in word-initial position. N-insertion is a phenomenon in which n appears stem-initially in stems beginning with i or y that are preceded by a stem or prefix ending in a consonant. Specifically, using nasal airflow data combined with pitch tracks, I show that the accentual phrase serves as a domain for these rules. I demonstrate that lateralization and n-insertion are not utterance-span rules, and that word-initial laterals in loanwords do not trigger lateralization of the preceding consonants. Throughout, I compare predictions of syntax-based and intonation-based models by examining cases where the target sequences (l-n for lateralization, n-l for delateralization and n-i for n-insertion) are projected to be within the same phrase by different models, cases where different models split the sequences by phrase boundaries, and cases where different models disagree regarding the location of phrase boundaries. By doing this, I show that each of the rules is best characterized as an accentual phrase phenomenon. Specifically, lateralization occurs within the accentual phrase and is blocked across the accentual phrase boundary. Regarding delateralization, word-initial /l/s are changed into either an [n] or a geminate [l] within the accentual phrase, or [ɾ] across the accentual phrase. And n-insertion applies across prosodic words within an accentual phrase. This work adds to a body of literature arguing that prosodic structure higher than the word in Korean is best modeled in terms of intonationally based approaches such as developed by Jun (1993, 1998). It further leads us to ask whether this kind of phonetic work will lead to adoption of intonational phrasing approaches for languages in general, or whether some languages employ syntax-based prosodic models, while others are intonation-based.

Soo-Jung now teaches at Kyungsung University in Pusan, Korea.

 

Della Chambless (MA, 2000): Stress in Standard Italian: An Optimality Theoretic account (dir. Chip Gerfen).

This thesis provides a comprehensive account of stress in Italian, within the framework of Optimality Theory. It is shown that an extrametricality account of unpredictable primary stress is unnecessary if lexical accent is assumed. High rankings of input-to-output prosodic faithfulness constraints ensure that lexical accent is realized, while secondary stress is accounted for through interaction of these faithfulness constraints with lower-ranked markedness constraints. After accounting for primary and secondary stress in monomorphemic words, I present an analysis of stress in suffixed words. Stress preservation effects (formalized as output-to-output faithfulness constraints) require that the syllable with primary stress in the base of the derived word surface with secondary stress in the suffixed word. Finally, variability is identified in secondary stress in suffixed words, and an attempt is made to capture this variability through constraint rankings.

Della received her PhD in Linguistics from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in 2006.

 

Hans Boas (PhD, 2000): Resultative constructions in English and German (dir. Gert Webelhuth).

This dissertation captures the licensing factors that underlie the distribution of resultative constructions in English and German. The usage-based model put forward in this dissertation argues for a constructional approach towards resultatives that regards the multiple conventionalized senses associated with verbs as central to a framework that aims at capturing the full range of resultative constructions. Based on corpus data which show that particular senses of verbs subcategorize for distinct semantic and/or syntactic classes of resultative phrases and distinct semantic classes of postverbal NPs, I argue that resultatives should be grouped into two main classes, namely conventionalized resultative constructions and non-conventionalized resultative constructions. On this view, each particular sense of a verb constitutes a mini-construction represented by an event-frame that captures the semantic/pragmatic and syntactic specifications of the sense of the verb.

Adopting the main ideas of Frame Semantics, I propose that event-frames contain two types of interrelated information, namely linguistically immediately relevant on-stage information that needs to be overtly realized because it is conceptually the most salient type of information, and conceptual off-stage information that may be realized linguistically given the proper contextual conditions. Based on corpus data, I show that it is possible to account for the licensing of conventionalized resultative constructions in terms of the event-frames associated with verbs. Non-conventionalized resultative constructions are licensed by an analogical process by which a verb acquires a new syntactic frame. This associative process is triggered by a semantic overlap with a conventionalized resultative in combination with contextual background information.

The similarities and differences in distribution between resultatives in English and German are shown to be due to the distinct lexical polysemy networks of English and German verbs. I show that historically related verbs show different distributions of resultative because of the differences in conventionalized usage patterns.

Hans is Professor in the Department of Germanic Studies at the University of Texas, Austin.