The Shifting Nature of an Individual’s Speech-sound System Across the Life Span — Joe Stemberger & Eric Vatikiotis-Bateson
Language acquisition is often thought of as a succession of states, conceptualized from the perspective of an end-state adult language. The earliest period in an individual’s speech-sound system has been addressed by different approaches concerning the nature of theinnate mechanisms which support language acquisition (or is it language learning? or language development?).
Research across the entire life span often presupposes a modular system, with strong limitations on the role of other aspects of human communication (such as morphosyntax, or even between different aspects of the speech-sound system if divided into phonology, a part of language, and phonetics, a part of speech), to say nothing about other aspects of cognition (such as memory, attention, non-verbal communication, and other types of motion). But is it even reasonable to talk about “the” adult system as a commodity to be acquired, as if it were static and unchanging (across decades of life, or even across a few minutes)? This course will address how our speech-sound systems wander as we travel through the course of our lives, in all their variability across individuals, and changes within the individual and the language across time. We address speech sound systems in typically or atypically developing or developed infants, children, young adults, mature adults, and well-aged adults; with intact or compromised motor, perceptual, and neural systems; engaged in language or other activities.
Acquisition of Meaning: Theory and practice — Carla Hudson Kam & Lisa Matthewson
This course will explore how children learn what morphemes mean. For practical reasons, we will focus on English meanings, but students are invited to think about how learning might work in other linguistic and cultural contexts. We will start by considering ‘easy’ meanings like those encoded by count nouns, progressing through more opaque meanings and ending by considering tense and aspect. We will consider the formal analysis of meanings, the nature of the input children get from which they must learn meanings, and what we know about how children do (or do not) use the information available. The course will culminate in a joint research project, looking at the input in children’s picture books that may aid in the learning of tense and aspect. Students will be involved in developing the coding scheme and analyses, and we will complete a draft of a paper by the end of the course.
Attention & Salience in Phonetics & Phonology — Molly Babel & Kathleen Currie Hall
This seminar addresses the topics of attention and salience in phonetics and phonology. Many researchers appeal to these concepts as explanatory factors in understanding linguistic processing, variation, and change. We will explore how these concepts are defined, operationalized, and quantified, and examine how they relate to other potentially fuzzy concepts such as similarity, confusability, phonetic “cues,” prominence, markedness, and expectation. Special focus will be paid to how salience and attention affect phonological patterns, the grammaticalization of phonological patterns over time, variability (dialect contact, loanword phonology, “special” populations), and acquisition. The course will assume the situation of language as part of a large, relatively broadly defined communicative system.
Grammar of Discourse — Lisa Matthewson & Martina Wiltschko
Traditionally, semantics concerns itself with generating the truth conditions of sentences, and syntax concerns itself with generating grammatically well-formed sentences. In this course we will explore how we can go beyond these narrow confines to reflect and encode properties of the discourse context, including the knowledge states of the interlocutors. We will do so by investigating phenomena from familiar and unfamiliar languages. Students are encouraged to contribute relevant data from languages of their choice and will conduct both individual and joint original research on topics related to the course material.
Number & Quantification — Henry Davis & Hotze Rullmann
For a long time now, the standard approach to the semantics of noun phrases has been in terms of generalized quantifiers (GQ’s) and Quantifier Raising (QR). However, over the years it has become increasingly clear that true GQ’s are actually quite rare cross-linguistically (and even in English), and that the phenomenon of scope is far too varied to be captured by a single mechanism like QR. Several alternative approaches have been developed in which many types of noun phrases are something other than GQ’s, and in which QR is replaced by a variety of different devices (such as choice functions). Central to this development has been the realization that the category of number is a crucial factor in understanding the semantics of nominals. Number is semantically far more complex and interesting than suggested by the deceptively simple opposition between singular and plural found in the morphosyntax of languages like English. There is a lot of crosslinguistic variation in the expression of number, and number is tied up closely not just with quantification and scope, but also with phenomena such as the mass/count distinction, aspect, and genericity. By moving beyond the classical GQ-based theories, the field has thus arrived at a much richer and more detailed understanding of nominal semantics, which is also much more appropriate and productive for the empirical study of natural languages. The goal of this course is to introduce students to the diverse and versatile theoretical toolkit that is currently available, and to apply it to the analysis of empirical phenomena in their language(s) of choice.
Language & Gesture — Rose-Marie Déchaine & Eric Vatikiotis-Bateson
This is an exploratory seminar that looks at how speech and gesture are yoked. We will look at two countervailing conceptions of gesture: gesture as autonomous from language (McNeill, Kendon) versus gesture as an integral part of language (Bolinger). With this as backdrop, seminar participants will design and engage in collaborative research projects that treat any aspect of gesture writ large.
Linearization & Interpretation — Michael Rochemont & Martina Wiltschko
The goal of this course is to explore the relation between linearization and interpretation. By linearization, we mean the relative order of words and phrases in sentences as well as the order of morphemes in words. By interpretation we mean truth-conditional (semantic) and non-truth-conditional (pragmatic) meaning. Linearization includes not only displacement (e.g., topicalization) but also base-generation. For example, German particles are interpreted in different ways depending on their position in the clause. The same thing is true of adverbs.
Determinants of morpheme and word order are not limited to grammar internal considerations such as case and selection, but they also include the following:
- information structure
- syntax-phonology mapping
We will approach the issue through examination of individual case-studies which will be conducted by the instructors (who will present their ongoing research) and by the students (who will develop their own research projects). Possible topics include left and right dislocations, topicalization, scrambling, discourse particles, adverb placement, free word order and disconfigurational languages.
Tone — Kathleen Currie Hall & Doug Pulleyblank
This course examines phonological properties of tone systems. Contrastive tone occurs in 60-70 percent of the world’s languages. We examine a range of languages and properties, including languages differing typologically, genetically and geographically, looking at tone systems ranging from complex, densely specified systems to “accentual” systems with sparse tonal specifications. Theoretically the course considers various approaches, including autosegmental, metrical, and optimality-theoretic treatments. Attention will be paid to the ways in which tonal properties may be understood in light of the communicative function of language and modeled using information-theoretic approaches to linguistics.