Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

Filter Dissertations By:

 
 
  • Prosodic Phrasing and Modifier Attachment in Standard Arabic Sentence Processing

    Author:
    Hala Abdelghany
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Linguistics
    Advisor:
    Janet Fodor
    Abstract:

    This dissertation investigates the syntax-prosody interface in Standard Arabic, focusing on the ambiguity of a modifier (relative clause or adjective phrase) in relation to the two nouns in a complex noun phrase. Ambiguity resolution tendencies for this construction differ across languages, contrary to otherwise universal parsing tendencies. One explanation proposed is Fodor's (2000) Implicit Prosody Hypothesis: that readers mentally project onto a text a default prosodic phrasing (possibly different between languages), which then influences their syntactic ambiguity resolution. Since implicit (silent) prosody cannot be directly observed, previous research has had to infer it by analogy with overt prosody. But the phonology and orthography of SA permit use of novel methods for tapping into the silent prosody of readers. Liaison phenomena sensitive to prosodic boundaries make phonological phrasing in SA very easy to detect. Also, liaison is indicated by diacritics in the `vowelized' version of SA orthography. Thus, clear data on prosodic phrasing patterns in SA complex nominals can be related to their preferred syntactic/semantic interpretations. Six experiments are reported: three production experiments and three perception experiments. Participants in Experiment 4 silently read sentences in unvowelized orthography, and added diacritics as they thought appropriate. The inserted diacritics gave evidence of their implicit prosodic phrasing of the sentence. Experiments 5 and 6 investigated Arabic speakers' preferred overt prosodic phrasing when the modifier was forced to attach to either the lower or the higher noun, providing standards for comparison with the prosodic phrasing preferences in silent reading in Experiment 4. The orthography was put to a different use in assessing modifier interpretation under varying prosodic conditions. In Experiments 2 and 3, vowelized text was presented, establishing one or other of two relevant prosodic patterns. Participants read aloud, and then indicated their interpretation of the sentence. This provided standards for comparison with modifier interpretation (attachment preferences) in silent reading of unvowelized texts (lacking prosodic disambiguation) in Experiment 1. Results obtained from these experiments provide new information concerning the constraints that apply at the syntax-prosody interface in SA, and also support the hypothesis of an effect of implicit prosody on syntactic interpretation during silent reading.

  • Consonantal voicing effects on vowel duration in Italian-English bilinguals

    Author:
    Ylana Beller-Marino
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Linguistics
    Advisor:
    Dianne Bradley
    Abstract:

    This project reported in this dissertation analyzes phonetic details of the speech patterns in one of New York's bilingual communities, asking whether a bilingual speaker can attain native-like proficiency in both languages and the extent to which authenticity — maintenance of language-specific settings — is sustainable. Researchers have established that Italian and English differ strikingly in their characteristic time settings for vowel durations: durations are greater for vowels preceding voiced consonants, e.g., cab, rather than voiceless, e.g., cap. This duration difference, termed the consonantal voicing effect (CVE), is notably greater for English than for Italian. The greater magnitude of the CVE found with English is considered to be a phonological enhancement of a basic phonetic process. Utilizing a speech production task, the study reported compares the performance of Italian-born bilinguals for whom English was acquired in adulthood, as a second language, with that of U.S.-born speakers who experienced simultaneous acquisition of their languages (albeit in an English-dominant setting). In separate sessions for each language, speakers produced utterances in which the target word, situated inside a carrier phrase, contrasted in [voice] value for the post-vocalic consonant, e.g., Say the word « ___ » to me. Stimuli were familiar words selected to sample the vowel inventories for each language and for which the voicing contrast was realized through the inventory of stops common to both languages. Analyses revealed no evidence of influence of the second language on the CVE for the first language for either group, despite an extended immersion period in an English-language environment for the foreign-born speakers and simultaneous exposure to both languages from birth for the U.S.-born speakers. But crucially, there was evidence of an influence of the first language in the timing settings found for the CVE in the second language, for both speaker groups: the foreign-born speakers managed to increase the magnitude of the CVE-English but failed to fully implement the phonological mechanism consistent with larger CVE values for that language; and the U.S.-born speakers managed to reduce the magnitude of the CVE-Italian but failed to fully suppress that same mechanism. Results are discussed in relation to language-specific timing patterns and the extent to which a dominant language may influence production in the non-dominant language.

  • Systematic Asymmetries in Perception and Production of L2 Inflections in Mandarin L2 Learners of English: The Effects of Phonotactics, Salience, and Processing Pressure on Inflectional Variability

    Author:
    Timothy Bonner
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Linguistics
    Advisor:
    Gita Martohardjono
    Abstract:

    The study of language production by adults who are learning a second language (L2) has received a good deal of attention especially when it comes to omission of inflectional morphemes within L2 utterances. Several explanations have been proposed for these inflectional errors. One explanation is that the L2 learner simply does not have the L2 syntactic or prosodic representation in his grammar leading to omission of surface inflections (Hawkins & Liszka, 2003; Goad, White, & Steele, 2003, respectively). Others attribute L2 errors to mapping problems between the lexicon and syntax (Prévost & White, 2000; Lardiere, 1998, 2003). Another potential explanation for the variable production of inflectional endings is that it may be due to performance factors as in Hopp (2009) and Martohardjono, Valian, and Klein (2012) or to "Extra-syntactic" factors as proposed in Klein (2004) or to syllable repairs due to L1 phonotactic interference as proposed in Davidson (2005, 2006a, 2006b). This dissertation claims that when L2 morphosyntactic representations are shown to be available in the L2 learner's grammar, L2 inflectional variability can be attributed to L1 phonotactic interference, salience of the L2 inflection, and performance factors leading to systematic, but asymmetrical patterns of perception and production of the allomorphs that represent the surface L2 inflections. The results revealed that the target inflections were not omitted across the board as would be expected under deficit accounts. On the contrary, repairs of the final target coda clusters (i.e., schwa epenthesis before and after the final inflectional consonant and devoicing of the word-final consonants) revealed patterns that are consistent with the degree of syllabicity (e.g., [Vd] vs. [t] and [d]) and sonority (e.g., [s] vs. [t]) of the allomorph or coda and are not indicative of morphosyntactic deficits. Importantly, schwa epenthesis was applied asymmetrically (i.e., particularly to stops [t] and [d]) in clusters that contained target codas and inflectional allomorphs in real, nonce, and monomorphemic items, and thus, this repair pattern is contra the Prosodic Transfer Hypothesis of Goad et al. (2003). Overall, this dissertation presents an alternative explanation for L2 inflectional errors outside of the morphosyntactic and prosodic deficit arguments.

  • The Influence of Pseudo-relatives on Attachment Preferences in Spanish

    Author:
    David Branco-Moreno
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Linguistics
    Advisor:
    Marcel den Dikken
    Abstract:

    This paper presents the results from an off-line experiment on the extent to which the availability of pseudo-relatives modulates attachment preferences in Spanish. Participants were presented with sentences in which different syntactic and semantic factors had been manipulated to allow for either both a pseudo-relative (PR) and a relative-clause (RC) reading or a RC reading only. All the experimental items included two potential antecedents with which the constituents of interest could be associated. The experimental items can be divided into four groups: group 1 consists of stimuli allowing for a double reading in direct object position, and groups 2, 3 and 4 consist of stimuli containing RCs in prepositional complement position, preverbal subject position, and postverbal subject position, respectively. A stronger preference for the "higher" antecedent was expected in the first group of experimental items. The results indicate that the availability of pseudo-relatives seems to influence attachment preferences; however, the results ensuing from the statistical comparison of groups 3 and 4 need further investigation.

  • THE USE OF LE BY L1 CHINESE SPEAKERS AND THE ACQUISITION OF LE BY L2 CHINESE LEARNERS

    Author:
    CHI CHEN BREDECHE
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Linguistics
    Advisor:
    GITA MARTOHARDJONO
    Abstract:

    The perfective marker V-le is claimed to be one of the most problematic items in the acquisition of L2 Chinese, perhaps because no unified and comprehensive treatment of it exists in the literature. Although much has been written on this topic, the semantic and pragmatic functions of V-le have remained elusive. While linguists and grammarians all agree that V-le performs multiple functions, there has been no consensus on its meaning and usage. Adding to this complex situation is that V-le is not always syntactically obligatory in Mandarin Chinese. Even though scholars are well aware of the phenomenon of "optionality" with Chinese aspect markers, disagreement and ambiguity prevail. Smith (1997) claims that V-le, like other aspect markers in Chinese, is always syntactically optional. Li and Thompson (1981) claim that the use of V-le depends largely on the speaker's viewpoint as to whether an event is "bounded" or not. Both seem to suggest global optionality. In contrast, textbooks written for Chinese L2 learners discuss V-le as obligatory in various different contexts. Having found no established and unified treatment of V-le that reflects native speaker's knowledge regarding its obligatory and optional use, we conducted a larger survey of 482 native speakers, 316 adolescents and 166 adults, in an attempt to capture some generalizations on the obligatory and optional use of -le in various contexts. Our results show a range of frequencies, from very high (98% to 100%) in the context of accomplishment predicates and activity predicates as the first event in a sequence; to high (67% to 84%) in the context of achievement predicates; to variable (31% to 64%) in the context of resultative verb complements. We argue that this pattern of V-le suppliance can be derived by positing a hierarchy of boundedness in the predicate and that it follows a redundancy principle in discourse. The results from learners' data suggest that they acquired the knowledge of the perfective marking in the obligatory context after 300-400 hours of classroom instruction. They consistently used -le with accomplishment verbs and activity verbs as the first event in a sequence. They also consistently omitted -le with resultative verb complements, a hint of their implicit understanding of the semantic cues given by the predicates. In sum, the learners had a good understanding of the semantic properties of the verb class and had acquired a good, but not yet native-like, knowledge about the interaction between the perfective marker V-le and the lexical and semantic properties of different verb type categories.

  • Temporal Information Extraction and Knowledge Base Population

    Author:
    Taylor Cassidy
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Linguistics
    Advisor:
    Heng Ji
    Abstract:

    Temporal Information Extraction (TIE) from text plays an important role in many Natural Language Processing and Database applications. Many features of the world are time-dependent, and rich temporal knowledge is required for a more complete and precise understanding of the world. In this thesis we address aspects of two core tasks in TIE. First, we provide a new corpus of labeled temporal relations between events and temporal expressions, dense enough to facilitate a change in research directions from relation classification to identification, and present a system designed to address corresponding new challenges. Second, we implement a novel approach for the discovery and aggregation of temporal information about entity-centric fluent relations.

  • Non-standard Italian Dialect Heritage Speakers' Acquisition of Clitic Placement in Standard Italian

    Author:
    Lionel Chan
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Linguistics
    Advisor:
    Gita Martohardjono
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines the acquisition of object clitic placement in Standard Italian by heritage speakers (HSs) of non-standard Italian dialects. It compares two different groups of Standard Italian learners--Northern Italian dialect HSs and Southern Italian dialect HSs--whose heritage dialects contrast with each other in clitic word order. The syntactic constructions tested include restructuring contexts (i.e., constructions in which clitic climbing can take place), and negative first- and second-person informal imperatives. The overarching research question guiding this pilot study is to determine what influences non-standard Italian dialect HSs' clitic placement when learning these constructions in Standard Italian. Three possible sources that may motivate these speakers' clitic placement in Standard Italian are considered: heritage non-standard Italian dialects; universal principles and dominant language transfer (English). A secondary research question of this study investigates whether there is a universal preference for encliticization. Participants completed two experimental tasks. The first was an Oral Elicited Imitation task that focused HSs' usage of clitics, whereas the second was a Grammaticality Judgment task that examined HSs' explicit knowledge of this property. The overall findings of this pilot study suggest that HSs parallel their heritage dialect clitic word order in their usage of Standard Italian, even though they are aware that another structure is possible in the standard dialect. The results also show only weak evidence to support a universal preference for encliticization, as suggested by the data gathered in previous studies (Bruhn-Garavito & Montrul 1996; Duffield & White 1999; Montrul 2010a; 2010b). A pedagogical implication based on this pilot study's findings is that when teaching standard dialect syntax, pedagogues should differentiate instruction based on learners' heritage non-standard dialectal background.

  • The Inner Workings of Text Summarization Systems

    Author:
    Hope Cotton
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Linguistics
    Advisor:
    Virginia Teller
    Abstract:

    THE INNER WORKINGS OF AUTOMATIC TEXT SUMMARIZATION SYSTEMS: MEAD AND SWESUM

  • THE SOUND PATTERNS OF CAMUNO: DESCRIPTION AND EXPLANATION IN EVOLUTIONARY PHONOLOGY

    Author:
    Michela Cresci
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Linguistics
    Advisor:
    Juliette Blevins
    Abstract:

    This dissertation presents a linguistic study of the sound patterns of Camuno framed within Evolutionary Phonology (Blevins, 2004, 2006, to appear). Camuno is a variety of Eastern Lombard, a Romance language of northern Italy, spoken in Valcamonica. Camuno is not a local variety of Italian, but a sister of Italian, a local divergent development of the Latin originally spoken in Italy (Maiden & Perry, 1997, p. 2). It is an oral language with no writing system, and it is endangered. The language is understudied (Bonfadini, 1995, p. 26), and this thesis appears to be the first detailed study of Camuno phonology. The goal of this dissertation is linguistic and cultural. It will assess, characterize and explain the most striking properties of the sound patterns of Camuno as spoken in the upper part of the low valley; and it will provide a lasting documentation of an endangered language that may soon disappear. Notable sound patterns in Camuno discussed in this work include: a unique system of stress-dependent height harmony; final obstruent devoicing; and nasal/zero alternations originating from final-consonant loss. In analyzing these sound patterns in terms of their phonetic and diachronic sources, naturalistic data is combined with acoustic analysis and experimental paradigms. This description and analysis of Camuno phonology will provide a foundation for all those who wish to study Camuno word-structure, and other structural aspects of the language. At the same time, it illustrates the value of the Evolutionary approach in coming to understand a range of newly described sound patterns.

  • THE EFFECT OF MORPHOLOGICAL AWARENESS ON READING COMPREHENSION: A STUDY WITH ADOLESCENT SPANISH-ENGLISH EMERGENT BILINGUALS

    Author:
    Rebecca Curinga
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Linguistics
    Advisor:
    Elaine Klein
    Abstract:

    The present research examines the role of morphological awareness in reading comprehension of high school emergent bilinguals. As an increasing number of research studies contribute to our understanding of morphological awareness, i.e. the ability to reflect on and manipulate morphologically complex derived words, we are better able to appreciate some essential components of reading that may have been overlooked in past decades. Previous research suggests that morphological awareness contributes to academic reading vocabulary and higher-level text comprehension, both crucial to the success of secondary school students in the United States (U.S.). The population in the present study is newcomer Spanish-speaking high school students who have a range of reading ability in the first language (L1), and have emerging second language (L2) English and literacy skills. There are two overarching research questions in this study: the first considers the role of linguistic variables, namely Spanish-English cognates, the frequency of morphologically complex derived words, the degree of phonological transparency in morphologically related words, and the linguistic context: semantic or syntactic. The second examines the effect of morphological awareness on reading comprehension in the L1 Spanish, in the L2 English, and across these languages. The effect of morphological awareness on reading comprehension is considered through reading vocabulary as a mediating variable, and analyzed with a series of multiple regression path analyses. Both questions consider differences between L1 Spanish low-proficiency (2nd - 4th grade) and high-proficiency (7th -11th grade) readers. Several important contributions come from this study. The first is that linguistic variables do have a significant effect on morphological awareness, with strongest effects from cognates and frequency in English. Second, morphological awareness makes a strong contribution to reading comprehension in both the L1 Spanish and L2 English; and the shared contribution of morphological awareness and reading vocabulary of these two predictors together is strongest. Furthermore, L1 morphological awareness contributes to L2 reading comprehension for those who are reading above the third grade proficiency in English. Implications from this research suggest that higher morphological awareness skills in L1 Spanish helps to foster L2 English vocabulary and reading comprehension skills.