Jessie Nixon, Thursday 22 August, 4.00-5 pm

Statistical noise influences online processing of speech sounds: eye movement evidence from Cantonese VOT perception

How does the human brain process highly variable, non-discrete acoustic information in such a way as to comprehend an incoming signal? In particular, how does the degree of variation affect perceptual certainty? In a ‘visual world’ eyetracking study, native Cantonese listeners saw pictures of words beginning with unaspirated /b/ (e.g. 布bou3 ‘cloth’) or aspirated /p/ stops (e.g. 铺 pou3 ‘shop’). All participants heard a bimodal distribution of auditory stimuli. Distribution peaks corresponded to prototypical voice onset times for each of the aspirated and unaspirated picture names. Participants heard either a Wide (high-variation) or a Narrow (low-variation) distribution of auditory stimuli.

Data were analysed using an advanced new technique, Generalised Additive Modelling (GAM). Results showed increased looks to target between 200-400ms after stimulus presentation in the Wide condition, compared to the narrow condition. This was modulated by distance from category boundaries, as well as distance from category means. We are still working on interpretation, but this suggests that increased variation in the input increases processing cost, even for prototypical pronunciations.

Tuesday, 4 June, 4.00-5 pm: Laura Migliori and Giuseppe Torcolacci

Splitting and clustering grammatical information: the case of auxiliary selection in southern Italian dialects

Southern Italian dialects (SIDs) show a particular mechanism of selection of perfective auxiliaries in the active voice (cfr. D’Alessandro & Roberts (2010), Giammarco (1973), Manzini & Savoia (2005) a.o.). In these dialects, BE and HAVE auxiliaries are not selected according to the verbal class of the participle they combine with (cfr. Italian ho mangiato (HAVE.1sg eaten, I have eaten) versus sono andato (AM.1sg gone, I have gone)), but strictly conditioned by the person feature expressed on the sentential subject.

(1) a.       sɔ/si/ʃemə/ʃetə ‘viʃtə/dər’mi:tə/ve’nutə                            ‘viʃtə/dər’mi:tə/ve’nutə
                BE.1sg/BE.2sg/BE.1pl/BE.2pl seen/slept/come          seen/slept/come
               ‘I/you/we have seen/slept/come’
b.            a                                                                                             ‘viʃtə/dər’mi:tə/ve’nutə
                HAVE.3                                                                                  seen/slept/come
               ‘he/she/it has seen/slept/come

Southern Marchigiano [Manzini & Savoia, 2005]

The example in (1) indicates that BE is selected only in the presence of a subject being of 1st and 2nd sg/pl. Conversely, in the case of a 3rd person subject, the auxiliary selected is HAVE. The goal of the talk is twofold: in the first place, the diachronic development of the phenomenon of auxiliary selection in SIDs will be taken into consideration. In this part, a comparison between the system of auxiliation of SIDs and other Romance languages, both from a diachronic and in synchronic perspective, will be presented. The last part will concentrate on the typology of auxiliary selection in SIDs. Namely, it will be shown that the pattern shown in (1) is not the only one found in these dialects, but a very rich microvariation affecting BE/HAVE alternation in the present perfect is at hand in the spoken varieties nowadays.