Venue: 1166, room 001
A comparison of contact-induced phonological changes in two Arbëresh varieties
The Arbëresh varieties spoken in Greci (Campania) and San Marzano (Salento) have developed similar phonological changes due to contact with two different Italo-Romance dialects. Unlike other Arbëresh villages, these varieties have introduced consonant lengthening (or gemination) in the Arbëresh lexicon. Other structural sound changes parallel to the Romance varieties are also evident. In this talk I present such contact-outcomes and compare similarities and differences in their realisation. I will also briefly present the history of the villages. Speculation as to the kind of contact scenarios we can postulate based on linguistic and extra-linguistic data for each individual communities will follow.
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.
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
‘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.
Venue: Lipsius, room 130
Personal Pronouns of Dhao in Eastern Indonesia
Dhao is an Austronesian language spoken by about 3000 people mainly on Ndao Island, Eastern Indonesia. Dhao has four sets of personal pronouns. Two sets are morphologically independent and the other two are bound which requires hosts. The first set features bisyllabics which are considered free pronouns and the second set features monosyllabics which are considered clitics. The bound pronouns are prefixes which are attached to vowel-initial verbs and suffixes. The latter can only be attached to the verb la- ‘go’ to indicate agreement. The clitics are phonologically not identical to the free pronouns. This shows that the clitics are not the reduced forms of the free pronouns. The pronominal affixes are identical to the clitics, rather than to the free pronouns. For the syntactic distribution, not all the clitics can substitute the full NP as arguments of verbs. For example, nga ‘1pl-ex’ never appears as independent argument, na ‘3sg’ is preferably used in subject position and its counterpart ne ‘3sg’ in object position. Na ‘3sg’ is used as object only in combination with a complement. As Dhao lacks other types of pronouns, personal pronouns are also used as the possessor in possessive construction. The free pronouns but also the clitics appear immediately after the possessum, functioning as possessors. In addition, particular clitics, like ku ‘1sg’ are used for honorific expressions and emphasis, while the pronominal suffix –si ‘3pl’ is copied to express plurality.
Venue: Van Wijkplaats 2 (1162), room 1
What can we learn from bound learners?
In this talk, I discuss an often neglected perspective on understanding/modeling the acquisition of syntax, namely the limited capacities of the infant acquiring a language. Modern computational cognitive science typically treats learners as ‘Laplacean demons’, that is: supercalculators who can process enormous hypothesis spaces and keep track of innumerable statistics.
This ideal learner has no cognitive limitations: it has an infinite capacity for searching, storing and calculating. However, for different domains of cognitive science, including language, it has been shown that understanding the nature of cognitive limitations (e.g. working memory and hypothesis generation mechanisms) and acknowledging their presence allows us to model observed behavior better and thus furthers our understanding of the underlying mechanisms. I present an extension of this perspective to the acquisition of syntax and discuss the possible sources of cognitive limitations.