Archive of Past 530 Courses

2019–2020

Term 1

530F: Sign Language Phonetics & PhonologyKathleen Currie Hall.

In this course, we will explore how phonetics and phonology are studied in relation to sign languages. Sign languages of course involve a different modality than spoken languages — they are visual / gestural rather than auditory / vocal. While this means that we can’t literally study the “sounds” of such languages, we can still study the smallest non-meaningful units that form their structure, and that is the sense in which we can study their phonetics and phonology. For example, instead of talking about the place, manner, and voicing of consonant sounds, we might talk about the location, movement, and handshape involved in producing a sign. And as it turns out, many of the phonological processes common in spoken languages also show up in sign languages, such as assimilation, neutralization, reduction, deletion, or metathesis. Such observations give us insight into which characteristics of languages are universal and which are modality- or language-specific.

We will examine the ways in which linguists describe and analyze these components of sign languages, reading both general overview articles and more narrowly focused research papers. We will compare different theoretical approaches to particular issues and discuss their relative merits. There will be a particular focus on the lexical processing of phonological characteristics of signed languages. Students will be involved in an original research project in relation to the topics covered in the course.

No prior knowledge of any sign language is assumed.

 

Term 2

530B: Clausal complementation at the syntax-semantics interface –Neda Todorovic.

This course explores the interaction between syntax and semantics in the domain of clausal complementation. In particular, it tries to describe how structural relations established between the matrix verb and its clausal complement affect the obtained interpretation, as well as what the interpretational requirements imposed by the matrix verb tell us about the syntactic constellation of its complement. Some of the topics covered in this course will revolve around the following questions: Do clausal complements of all verbs come in same, CP-sizes? What dictates the size of the complement – do different languages follow the same size patterns? What is finiteness (especially in languages without tense)? What exactly are syntactic and semantics differences between finite and non-finite complements in one language and cross-linguistically? How does the complement structure affect cross-clausal syntactic operations (e.g. clitic climbing, wh-movement, NPI-licensing), complement’s temporal interpretation, the availability of shifted indexicals, among others.

The course will integrate my own research with the existing explorations in this domain, and it will be heavily guided by what people attending the seminar are interested in. The idea is to look into a number of different languages and see what parallelism can be established in this domain.

While the course is mostly about syntax-semantic interface, it is impossible not to touch on phonology, morphology and pragmatics of these clauses—please join us and teach us something we don’t know yet!

2018–2019

Term 1

530A: The Sound Pattern of Icelandic –Gunnar Hansson

This seminar will explore the sound system of Icelandic, broadly construed: its phonetics and phonology, and the phonology-phonetics and phonology-morphology interfaces. The main focus will be on those aspects of the Icelandic sound system that are typologically unusual, of special theoretical interest, or lend themselves to methodological approaches (e.g. experimental or computational/corpus-based) that have not previously been applied. A small sample of phenomena of potential interest includes: preaspirated stops, short (monomoraic) diphthongs, voiceless sonorants, prestopped nasals and laterals, excrescent stops, and various other segmental alternations (umlaut, hardening, vowel epenthesis/syncope, cluster simplification, diphthongization, palatalization, deaspiration, and more). Many of these sound patterns interact with inflectional and derivational morphology, giving rise to intriguing interface effects: paradigm gaps, phonologically-conditioned allomorphy, levelling (paradigm uniformity), and probabilistic correlations between stem shape and inflectional class, to name a few. Students will pursue original research projects, individually and/or in groups.

 

 

530F: Natural Language Processing with Deep Learning–Muhammad Abdul-Mageed

Natural language processing (NLP)is the field focused at teaching computers to understand and generate human language. Dialog systems where the computer interacts with humans, such as the Amazon Echo, constitute an instance of both language understanding and generation, as the machine attempts to identify the meaning of questions and generate meaningful answers. Recent advances in machine learning, especially in Deep learning, a class of machine learning methods inspired by information processing in the human brain, have boosted performance on several NLP tasks. Deep learning of natural language is in its infancy, with expected breakthroughs ahead. Solving NLP problems directly contributes to the development of pervasive technologies with significant social and economic impacts and the potential to enhance the lives of millions of people. Given the central role that language plays in our lives, advances in deep learning of natural language have implications across almost all fields of science and technology, as well as many other disciplines like linguistics, as NLP and deep learning are instrumental for making sense of the ever-growing data collected in these fields. This course provides a graduate-level introduction to Natural Language Processing with Deep Learning. The goal of the course is to familiarize students with the major NLP problems and the primary deep learning methods being developed to solve them. This includes problems at various linguistic levels (e.g., word and sub-word, phrase, clause, and discourse). Methodologically, this involves unsupervised, distributed representations and supervised deep learning methods across these linguistic levels. The course also includes providing an introductory level of hands-on experience in using deep learning software as well as opportunities to develop advanced solutions for NLP problems in the context of a final project.

 

Term 2

530B: Sociolinguistics in Social Media–Julian Brooke

This is a project class focused on corpus linguistics in general, and sociolinguistic analysis of social media in particular. We will review the growing body of relevant research from linguistics, computer science, and psychology, and students are expected to formulate novel research hypotheses involving one or more sociolinguistic factors (e.g. gender, age, social background, etc.) and linguistic variables which can be identified with minimal human intervention. Using the Python programming language, each student will collect appropriate documents from the internet, process the data, and carry out a statistical analysis, employing machine learning models where appropriate.

Prerequisite: LING 447G – Python for Linguists. For questions about registering in this course, please contact Will Sarmiento.

 

2017-2018:

530A:

Embodied Phonetics–Bryan Gick

While all theories of speech behavior must ultimately incorporate the body, modeling bodies has not been a prominent program in phonetics research. Our goal in this course will be to explore how understanding bodies can (must?) underpin and influence our models of spoken language. Part of the evaluation for the course will be a single group research project relevant to the topic.

2016-2017:

530A:

Investigating Information Structure: theoretical and methodological perspectives— Henry Davis & Michael Rochemont

Information Structure (IS) is relevant to every area of linguistic investigation. It finds expression in natural language in intonational and segmental phonology, and in morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. The last couple of decades have seen an explosion of work on its ramifications for theoretical and experimental research in the phonetics/phonology, phonology/syntax, syntax/semantics, and semantics/pragmatics interfaces, and in areas as diverse as field work, corpus linguistics, psycholinguistics (L1 and L2 acquisition and processing), L2 pedagogy, language disorders, historical linguistics, computational linguistics, and neurobiology. In this course, we investigate the central theoretical notions of IS (focus, givenness and topic), with a special emphasis on the methodological issues that they give rise to in both experimental and fieldwork contexts. For example, how do we go about establishing IS generalizations in an understudied language with few and often elderly speakers? What constitutes sufficient evidence for an IS generalization? How much context is enough? Can we investigate the syntax and semantics of IS without examining its phonological and phonetic effects, and vice-versa?

 

530B:

Alternation: exploring the morphology-­phonology borderlands — Gunnar Hansson & Doug Pulleyblank

Our focus of attention in this graduate seminar is alternations, their analysis, and how they figure in the demarcation and division of labour between morphology and phonology and in models of the interface between these two components of grammar.

 

What counts as genuine “phonological” alternation vs. something else (“just morphology”, “allomorphy”, “listed exceptions”, “inflectional classes”)? Is this a linguistically valid distinction? What are the relevant criteria?

● productivity, frequency, generality?

● phonological conditioning?

● limitation to particular sets of lexical items or morphological constructions?

● phonological naturalness (non­arbitrariness)?

● parallels with phonotactic generalizations (surface­trueness)?

 

We will approach these topics from different perspectives, considering for example their implications for issues of representational complexity and abstractness, learnability, lexical representation and storage, etc. Drawing on a variety of morphophonological phenomena (e.g. exceptionality, derived environment effects, non­concatenative exponence, prosodic morphology, reference to domains or boundaries) and types of alternation (assimilation, epenthesis, polarity, etc.), we will examine these in the light of different theoretical models of phonology and morphosyntax and the interface between these components of grammar.

2015-2016:

530A:

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.

530B:

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.

2014-2015:

530A:

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.

 

530B:

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.

 

2013-2014:

530A:

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.

 

530B:

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.

 

2012-2013:

530A:

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:

  1. scope
  2. information structure
  3. processing
  4. 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.

 

530B:

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.