Tuesday, 26 February, 4.00-5 pm: Qian Li


Consecutive Neutral Tone in Tianjin Mandarin


What is Neutral Tone?

In Mandarin Chinese, pitch changes over a syllable usually signal lexical meanings. We call them lexical tones. The so-called NEUTRAL TONE SYLLABLES are those that do not surface with any of the lexical tones. These syllables always occur in the prosodically weak positions; they are usually produced with acoustic reductions and short duration. What is of interest to me is that their f0 contours exhibit so much variability.


Why consecutive?

Researchers have argued that because of the variable f0 realization of the neutral tone, different tonal targets are underlying those realizations. For example, in Tianjin Mandarin, structures like “Tone X + Neutral Tone + Tone 1” always have a rising neutral tone f0. This led to the conclusion that the neutral tone before T1 has a special rising tonal target; and in another context they would posit a different target. This seems true, but please note here we only have ONE neutral tone! However, if we have more neutral tone syllables, such as three neutral tones as we used in our experiment, this conclusion can no longer be correct. In this study, with well-controlled laboratory speech, we examined the f0 realization of three consecutive neutral tone syllables before Tone 1. We show that the rising neutral tone realization cannot be treated as a special rising target; rather, it is due to the general raising effect brought by the following Tone 1.



Tuesday, 29 January, 3.00-5 pm: Sima Zolfaghari

Bakhtiaris: Their language and culture

The Bakhtiaris are among the most ancient inhabitants of Iran and for centuries they have lived in the same region of approximately 75,000 km² in the south-western part of the country, on both sides of the Zagros mountain range. At present, the majority of Bakhtiaris live in towns and villages. A number of Bakhtiaris still follow the nomadic life style of their ancestors, migrating twice a year across the Zagros Mountains in search of fresh pastures for their herds of sheep and goats and also to escape the unbearable heat and cold of their summer and winter campsites, respectively.

In this talk, I will present some general aspects of the Bakhtiari language and culture and how these two have been interwoven through ages and are reflected into their vocabulary, proverbs and different genres of their songs and literature.

In addition, to give you a glimpse of their world, a documentary film, made by a German documentary filmmaker for ARTE, will be shown afterwards. I collaborated on this project as an interpreter and anthropological consultant.


Kinder der Glücklichen. Nomaden im Iran

Documentary (Germany, 2011) of Dorothe Dörholt about the yearly travel of the Bachtiari nomads from the southwest of Iran.


Tuesday, 4 December, 4.00-5 pm: Jaap Kamphuis

Verbal aspect in Old Church Slavonic

Venue: Van Eyckhof 2, room 3

The verbal systems of modern Slavic languages are characterized by an important dichotomy between perfective and imperfective verbs, which is encoded morphologically. To illustrate the functions of perfective and imperfective verbs, often Russian examples are used. However, in the past decades it has becomes more and more clear that there is large variation between the various modern Slavic languages when it comes to the functions of verbal aspect.

Old Church Slavonic, as the oldest attested Slavic language, attested in a period only a few centuries after the break-up of Proto-Slavic, can give us an idea of the system this variation comes from, and thus of the direction in which the various modern Slavic languages have developed this system.

The first question that needs to be answered is whether there is a verbal aspect system similar to the modern aspect systems in Old Church Slavonic, and if so, what its functions are. And only when these questions are answered, can the bigger questions be asked: do we find clues in Old Church Slavonic as to the source of verbal aspect in Slavic and does the stage of development of the Old Church Slavonic aspect system give us any information as to where the variation in modern Slavic comes from?

The first results of the research show that in Old Church Slavonic there is indeed a system similar to the modern Slavic languages.  One striking difference is that the link between various contexts or functions and aspect is not as strong as in the modern Slavic languages. Furthermore, a considerable part of the verbal system does not seem to partake in the aspect opposition, which is deviating from the general image that aspect in Slavic is a dichotomy which encompasses the entire system.

In my talk I will briefly introduce Slavic verbal aspect and the results of comparative aspect research in modern Slavic languages. Then I move on to verbal aspect in Old Church Slavonic and finally I will touch upon questions of the origin of verbal aspect in Slavic and the possible consequences of my findings in Old Church Slavonic for the research of verbal aspect in modern Slavic languages.

Tuesday, 30 October, 4.00-5 pm: Marieke Meelen

From [Ab]guidaur to App: where computational and historical linguistics come together

Venue: Van Eyckhof 2, room 1

Some 1300 years ago, a Welsh monk decided to write down complex calculations about the exact dates for Easter in his mother tongue. This so-called Computus became one of the oldest surviving fragments in the history of the Welsh language. In the course of history, the word order in the Welsh language seems to have changed from verb-initial in the Computus to verb-second in Middle Welsh tales, eventually evolving to the Modern Welsh VSO order. In this talk I will return to the very beginning of that language exploring how recent developments in computational linguistics can give more insight into both the oldest fragments and the latest changes in the Welsh linguistic corpus.

Thursday, 27 September, 4.00-5 pm: Jessie Nixon

Speech production and visual word recognition involve automatic activation of subphonemic information: Evidence from Chinese tones

Venue: Van Wijkplaats 4, room 1

In this talk, I will first give an introduction to current psycholinguistic models of phonological processing in speech production. I will then present some more specific data from my own research, as follows:

The extent to which detailed phonetic information is retained or compressed in speech has been intensely debated in recent speech production research. Yet studies have focused mainly on segmental processing. The present study investigated whether Mandarin word production activates phoneme-level or subphonemic representations of lexical tone.

Tuesday, 26 June, 4.00-5 pm: Martin Kohlberger

Shiwiar: Preliminary findings from fieldwork in the Amazon

Venue: Lipsius, 307

In this talk, preliminary findings from fieldwork on Shiwiar will be presented. The talk will be made up of two parts. In the first part a typological overview of the language will be provided. Based on characteristics of Shiwiar phonology and morphology, it will be argued that Shiwiar is typologically strange for the area in which it is spoken in that it behaves more like an Andean language than an Amazonian one. In the second part of the talk, I will address the main difficulty that I’ve had so far in analysing Shiwiar phonology, namely whether the language has tone or stress (or both).

Tuesday, 29 May, 4.00-5 pm: Simeon Dekker

Cohesion, coherence and beyond in Old Russian birchbark letters

Venue: Lipsius, 001

For an article in preparation I have investigated the use of imperative subjects in the corpus of medieval Russian birchbark letters. This perspective serves as a starting point for more general questions about cohesion and coherence. For instance, imperative subjects might be seen as cohesive devices, creating speaker selection in communicatively heterogeneous letters with more than one addressee. In certain cases, however, no overt marker of speaker selection is present. This is due to the context in which letters containing instructions were often performed orally, i.e. read out aloud in front of the addressee(s).

There are several ends to which this initial exploration could lead. For one, it might be a step towards a description of referential devices in Old Russian. Secondly, it could be the beginning of a typology of communicative functions of letters on birchbark. But it could also lead to more fundamental questions about the nature of language, e.g. the exact relationship between spoken and written language, the extent to which the context of performance determines meaning, making use of meaning potentials, to the detriment of the notion of fixed meanings attaching to words and constructions.

I would like to discuss these possibilities and hear your thoughts about the directions into which this research project might lead me. First of all, I have to clearly formulate the overarching goal of the project. In addition, a theory is needed in order to justify the selection of case studies of those linguistic elements that are appropriate for investigation.

Tuesday, 24 April, 4.00-5 pm: Khalid Mourigh

Non-integrated borrowings in Ghomara Berber

Venue: Lipsius, 308

In the literature borrowing usually means the integration of elements of one language (Source Language) into another language (Recipient Language). In many languages lexical borrowings are integrated in the native grammar. Therefore research has tended to focus on the study of ‘integrated’ borrowings. However, a number of languages show very interesting cases of non-integrated lexical borrowings. Berber languages, which have been in close contact with Arabic variaties, especially provide interesting examples. Ghomara Berber seems to be one of the most extreme cases in terms of the extent of non-integrated lexical borrowings, which are found in basically all inflectional categories. Furthermore, this has resulted in structural borrowing as well. In this talk, I will discuss the impact of this type of borrowing on the native morphology.

Tuesday, 21 February, 16.00-17 pm: Maaike van Naerssen

‘Politeness’ in Dutch and Indonesian

Venue: Lipsius, 308

Alongside linguistics competence, communicative competence is essential to successfully participate in communication. Part of communicative competence is knowing what social conventions to abide to, when (not) to speak, and how to express yourself politely. But what strategies and conventions are considered socially appropriate seems by no means universal. What might be the correct way to behave in one language and (language) culture, is not necessarily thought to be polite (or even acceptable) in another. My research concentrates on verbal politeness strategies, and the problems cross-linguistic and –cultural pragmatic differences can cause. To that end I will make a contrastive analysis of two very different languages and cultures: Dutch and Indonesian. By analyzing visual recordings of natural conversations between native speakers I want to define several ‘situations’ or ‘speech events’, roughly corresponding to Searle’s category of directives, in which particular linguistic behavior is used which can be evaluated as polite. I think it is important to focus on the speech events and strategies used in them, and not to try and define ‘politeness markers’, since, as many have claimed, politeness is a social/interactional phenomenon, heavily depending on context and situational evaluations and not inherent to certain words or structures.

But before I can actually start analyzing my data, there are some problems I have to deal with first: what is politeness? what is culture? how and when and where do I find politeness? how do I know what I list as ‘polite’ corresponds to what native speakers perceive to be polite? I have some preliminary definitions and ideas about this that I would like to discuss with you. There are a lot of languages represented within the LUCL and I hope you will share your thoughts on how these theoretical concepts can best be described in the area you’re working on to the benefit of my research.

Tuesday 20 December, 4-5 pm: Hamine Wane

Verbal morphology in Noon

Venue: Lipsius, 235b

Noon belongs to the Cangin group, an Atlantic language. It is spoken in Thiès, west of Senegal. The Noon language is divided into three main dialects: cangin, padee, saawii. The Noon verb is formed by the CVC pattern and has a great range of affixes which are conjugation, derivation and object. Conjugation marking is obligatory in the verb except for the simple present (unmarked) in the affirmative form which consists of a single bound verb root such as ñam- ‘eat’. The derivational suffixes are quite numerous, such as the transitive –í’, as in ñam-ír ‘feed’, -oh which is pluractional, in ñam-oh (intransitive) etc. All derivation markers are suffixal and many suffixes have a fixed position, whereas a few are mobile..