Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • Demonstratives in Motion: The Grammaticalization of Demonstratives as a Window into Synchronic Phenomena

    Author:
    LISA FERRAZZANO
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Linguistics
    Advisor:
    Christina Tortora
    Abstract:

    There is significant variation in the literature on how demonstratives are characterized semantically, leading to divergent syntactic analyses of demonstratives. A major source of this disagreement regards how distance specifications relate to the demonstrative: whether [+/-speaker] is an integral property of the demonstrative or not. I argue that distance-marking divides the class of demonstratives into strong and weak, along the lines of what Cardinaletti and Starke (1999) propose for pronouns. Strong demonstratives possess a [+/-speaker] feature, while weak demonstratives have a neutral [speaker] feature, corresponding to a distance-neutral interpretation, and the pragmatic notion of immediate accessibility of the referent (Lyons 1999). The diachronic component of this work serves as a lens through which to view the demonstrative's synchronic behavior. I argue that the process of grammaticalization (Meillet 1912) allows us to `see' certain aspects of a demonstrative's meaning (and, I argue, corresponding internal syntactic structure) getting peeled away as the demonstrative evolves. Latin ille and spoken Finnish se provide evidence that demonstratives pass through a distance-neutral phase before being analyzed as definite articles, suggesting that strong and weak demonstratives should receive distinct analyses in the synchronic domain. I argue that strong and weak demonstratives can be viewed as synchronic imprints of a diachronic process. In addition to teasing apart different semantic types of demonstratives, this dissertation seeks to identify differences between demonstratives and definite articles. I propose that the demonstrative is specified for (i) [(+/-) speaker], (ii) [+contrastive] (encoding contrast), and (iii) [+identifiability], and that these features are encoded on functional heads in the extended projection of the demonstrative. The complex demonstrative is merged in a dedicated functional projection ([Spec, TrackerAdjP) within the DP. The definite article, in contrast, expresses only [+identifiability], and is merged directly in the DP projection. I argue that the common core of [+identifiability] helps explain the synchronic and diachronic dependency between the demonstrative and the DP projection, and sheds light on our discussion on the phenomenon of apparent `double definiteness.'

  • HUU-FA THESIS DAT?: A Syntactic Analysis of Possessive Jamaican Creole Possessive WH-elements

    Author:
    Toni Foster
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Linguistics
    Advisor:
    Marcel den Dikken
    Abstract:

    HUU-FA THESIS DAT?: A Syntactic Analysis of Possessive Jamaican Creole Possessive WH-elements by Toni Foster Advisor: Professor Marcel den Dikken This thesis discusses the differences between the Jamaican Creole expressions huu-fa and fi-huu. Jamaican Creole is a language that was born from a combination of the lexifier language English and the substrate language Twi, therefore it is reasonable to check whether the features of JC were derived from these languages. The distribution of huu-fa and fi-huu resembles the distribution of English whose. Fi-huu and huu-fa are WH-elements that show possession, similar to the English word whose. They are made of a WH-pronoun and a form of the preposition fi "for". Both terms differ in internal structure, and distribution. The difference between huu-fa and fi-huu will be dissected in terms of substrate and superstrate influences as well as the elements involved in their formation. Ultimately, this thesis states that the internal structure of the PP huu-fa prevents it from appearing adnominally.

  • THE DP HYPOTHESIS THROUGH THE LENS OF JAPANESE NOMINAL COLLOCATION CONSTRUCTIONS

    Author:
    Kaori Furuya
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Linguistics
    Advisor:
    Marcel Dikken
    Abstract:

    In Japanese, bare noun phrases can refer to the object that is introduced in a previous context, whereas in English, the definite article is required for a common noun phrase to refer. The research question of this discussion is whether Japanese syntactically projects a determiner phrases (DP) although it does not have an article such as the in English. If Japanese does not project DP unlike English, the definiteness of referential arguments needs to be parameterized in syntax and in semantics. On the other hand, if Japanese projects DP, it suggests that DP is part of Universal Grammar (UG) and thus that no parameterization is called for. This thesis presents three pieces of evidence to support the DP hypothesis for Japanese by examining nominal collocation constructions such as watasitati 3-nin `we three' and watasitati sensei `we professors' In Chapter 2, the first argument stems from specificity effects. In Japanese numeral classifiers (NCs) cannot float away from personal pronouns. Likewise, NCs cannot get raised outside the associated bare noun phrases when the noun phrases possess definite interpretations. This implies that Japanese projects DP and that the DP blocks NCs from moving outside. In Chapter 3, examination of the internal structure of nominal collocation constructions is conducted. The grouping of personal pronouns and common noun phrases is ungrammatical when the common noun phrases have a plural marker and occur prenominally with the genitive marker. Moreover, NCs cannot also appear prenominally with the genitive marker when the host noun phrases involve personal pronouns unlike in the case of common noun phrases. Based on the argument of the nominal predication hypothesis due to the former property, the ungrammaticality of the second property is argued in terms of D feature on DP, in favor of the DP hypothesis. In Chapter 4, the left periphery of nominal collocation constructions is investigated. The fact that not all noun phrases allow for adjunction is explained in terms of the ban on adjunction to DP. If these arguments are correct, this suggests that DP is part of UG and that in Japanese the lack of a determiner is only due to morpho-phonological reasons.

  • The Acquisition of L2 Reading Comprehension: The Relative Contribution of Linguistic Knowledge and Existing Reading Ability

    Author:
    Leigh Garrison-Fletcher
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Linguistics
    Advisor:
    Gita Martohardjono
    Abstract:

    The study presented here examines the development of second language (L2) reading comprehension among adolescents who speak Spanish as their native language (L1) and are just beginning to learn English. The existing research on L2 reading comprehension among adolescents has focused on the transfer of reading skills from the L1 to the L2 and on the role of L2 linguistic knowledge. The research has suggested that reading skills transfer from the L1 to the L2, but that L2 linguistic knowledge plays the strongest role in L2 reading comprehension. However, previous research has not fully investigated the role of the L1 in the L2 reading development of adolescent learners. Crucially, students with low levels of L1 reading have not been included in the research, and such students must be studied in order to get a complete picture of the role of L1 reading in L2 reading. This study further expands on the previous research by including a group of participants not included in the research program on L2 reading comprehension among adolescent learners--namely, adolescent newcomer English language learners (ELLs) who arrive in the United States and enter the school system in middle or high school. Research on these students is lacking and little is known about their development of L2 academic skills. The main finding from the study is that L1 reading comprehension is the strongest contributor to L2 reading comprehension, as compared to the other predictor variables: L2 vocabulary, L2 syntax, and L1 vocabulary. This result is in opposition to previous research findings that L2 language skills play a more important role in L2 reading comprehension than L1 reading comprehension. It is clear that for newcomer adolescent ELLs in U.S. schools, their level of L1 reading is an important contributor to their development of L2 reading comprehension. Thus, educators should be aware of their students' L1 reading skills upon entry to school in order to provide them with the best instruction.

  • The Acquisition of an L2 Vowel System: A Longitudinal Investigation of Change

    Author:
    Fran Gulinello
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Linguistics
    Advisor:
    Charles Cairns
    Abstract:

    To what extent do the vowels systems of L2 learners change over time and what types of changes can be expected? The study reported here is a longitudinal investigation of change in the vowel systems of five adult native Spanish speakers learning English. It focuses on eleven vowels of English as uttered in CVC words and in various sentential contexts. Vowel productions from each speaker were measured for the acoustic parameters of F1, F2 and duration. These acoustic parameters were then analyzed via the classification matrices of discriminant analysis and compared over time. Change in the nonnative speakers was analyzed in two ways: independently of the target and in direct comparison to the target. Research in L2 acquisition has suggested that interlanguage is a system unto itself unlike the native language or the target language (Selinker, 1972). Thus, the nonnative speakers' vowels were first examined independently of the native speakers' vowels. This phase of the analysis showed which vowels were differentiated by a speaker on the three acoustic parameters, which were not, and whether there were changes over time in how vowels were differentiated. Research in cross-linguistic production has shown that learners may approximate target norms without necessarily achieving them (Flege, 1980). Therefore, in addition to considering the interlanguage of the nonnative speakers, change over time was also examined with respect to the target language. Nonnative speakers' vowels were compared directly to the two native speaker participants in the study. This second phase of the analysis showed whether changes approximated target norms. Findings indicate that the vowels of nonnative speakers change in ways that reflect dialectal and diachronic changes. Specifically, we see instances of split, merger and shift as described by Labov (1994). It is also the case, however, that changes occur that are unique to L2 acquisition. These changes are undoubtedly related to the learning of orthography and sound-spelling correspondences. This study provides evidence that intermediate phonological systems arising during L2 acquisition should be viewed not only in terms of the target but as unique systems of contrasts. It also provides evidence that changes are not necessarily unilateral; movement in one aspect of a system can affect other aspects of the system.

  • THE SYNTAX OF NON-VERBAL CAUSATION: THE CAUSATIVE APOMORPHY OF `FROM' IN GREEK AND GERMANIC LANGUAGES

    Author:
    Alexandra Ioannidou
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Linguistics
    Advisor:
    Marcel den Dikken
    Abstract:

    This is a study of the meaning and syntax of non-(lexical)verbal causation. Macroscopically, it examines the preposition `from' as attested in contexts like "X is/comes from Y". Syntactic diagnostics are applied to formally distinguish the causative from the spatial interpretations of `from'-PPs in Greek, English, Dutch, and German. The syntactic landscape of causative `from' will turn out to be very minimal with `from' directly selecting the Cause-DP, in contradistinction to its spatial counterpart, where `from' always selects for another PP layer. More microscopically then I focus on the causative interpretations only, which are particularly revealing because (i) they give an in-depth view of CAUSE, stripped of all verbal layers—traditionally considered the locus of CAUSE—suggesting that the source of causation in non-(lexical)verbal environments has to be the preposition per se and (ii) they single-handedly provide a rudimentary structure for causation, where `from' introduces the Cause in its complement and is predicated of the Causee. Finally, with a basic predicational structure in place, I offer a detailed cross-linguistic account for the syntactic mechanism that forces the use of particle verbs in causative `from'-less environments.

  • CONTRIBUTIONS OF STATISTICAL INDUCTION TO MODELS OF SYNTAX ACQUISITION

    Author:
    Xuan-Nga Kam
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Linguistics
    Advisor:
    Janet Dean Fodor
    Abstract:

    Recent challenges to Chomsky's poverty of the stimulus thesis for language acquisition suggest that children's primary data may carry ‘indirect evidence’ about linguistic constructions despite containing no instances of them, with the deeper implication that innate knowledge is not needed for grammar acquisition. Reali & Christiansen (2005) demonstrated that a simple bigram model trained on child-directed speech can induce the correct form of auxiliary inversion in certain complex English questions (e.g., Is the boy who is crying hurt?). The significance of this achievement is called into question, however, by Experiments 1–6 reported here, which show that the success is highly circumscribed, resting on one particular bigram (<who is> or <that is>) in the grammatical test sentences. The model performs poorly on inversion in related constructions in English and Dutch, which do not afford effective cues accessible to a bigram analysis. Performance improved modestly when learning resources were added in Experiments 7–15: the learning algorithm was upgraded to a trigram model, corpus size was increased, part-of-speech information was provided. Even so, there were no circumstances in which auxiliary inversion was well-discriminated across other variants (with do-support, with object-gap relatives). This suggests that the n-gram models were not capturing the linguistic generalization that unites the various instances of auxiliary inversion. This weak performance is unsurprising, since the n-gram learners had no access to information about phrase-structure. Chomsky (1980) emphasized the significance of ‘structure dependence’ for correct application of the auxiliary-inversion rule. Experiments 16–18 provided some partial phrase-structure information relevant to the task. When noun phrases in the corpus and test sentences were surrounded by NP brackets, performance was extremely poor. But replacing each (maximal) noun phrase by the symbol NP finally yielded success across all three sub-cases of auxiliary inversion tested. Consequently, based on the results to date, the n-gram challenge to stimulus poverty and UG remains unsubstantiated. However, if it can be shown in future work that an n-gram model is capable of assigning phrase-structure to word-strings, there are grounds for anticipating that it could succeed in extracting the general pattern of auxiliary-inversion.

  • Overt versus null subject pronoun variation in the Turkish spoken in Turkey and in New York City

    Author:
    Didem Koban
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Linguistics
    Advisor:
    Ricardo Otheguy
    Abstract:

    The purpose of this dissertation is to examine the use of subject personal pronouns in the Turkish spoken in Turkey and in New York City from a variationist perspective. Whereas the variable use of subject personal pronouns in Turkish has been extensively analyzed in many studies conducted in Europe, it has received much less attention in the U.S. This study has as one of its aims replicating the study conducted by Otheguy, Zentella and Livert (2007) where the influence of different social and linguistic variables on the expression of Spanish subject pronouns was examined across Latin American and Caribbean immigrant generations in New York. The present study examines several linguistic and social variables that condition the presence and absence of subject personal pronouns in the speech of 20 adult speakers living in Turkey (TT) and 20 living in New York (TNY). The study compares the rate of subject pronoun use in Turkey with that of NYC and whether contact with English has an influence on the overt pronoun rate. In both the TT and TNY samples, there were an equal number of males and females and an equal number of speakers from working and professional classes. The speakers ranged in age from 20 to 80. Data analysis involved Anovas, correlations, cross-tabulations and multivariate regression analyses of linguistic and social variables. The linguistic variables, which were also examined in Otheguy et al. (2007) and in other previous studies, are person and number of the pronoun and of the verb, continuity of reference, and TMA of the verb. Social variables that are analyzed are gender, social class, age of the informant, education, age of arrival in NYC, length of residence in NYC and so forth. The results of the study indicate that TT and TNY resemble each other regarding the linguistic variables that condition the distribution of subject personal pronouns and regarding the order of the variables that account for the most variance in the use of the pronouns. However, the two samples differ from one another with respect to the order and strength of the constraints within the person and number of the verb variable. In addition, we find a significantly higher rate of overt pronoun use for TNY than for TT. These findings are consistent with those obtained in the Spanish study and provide clear support for an English contact hypothesis when the increased use of overt subject pronouns among TNY and differences in constraint hierarchies between TT and TNY are taken into consideration.

  • Processing the not-because ambiguity in English: the role of pragmatics and prosody.

    Author:
    Yukiko Koizumi
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Linguistics
    Advisor:
    Janet Fodor
    Abstract:

    This dissertation investigates the processing of not-because sentences in English (e.g. Jane didn't purchase the blouse because it was silk), which are scopally ambiguous between BEC>NOT (Jane did not buy it) and NOT>BEC (Jane bought it for some other reason) readings. Frazier and Clifton (1996) had found a strong dispreference for NOT>BEC, which could be attributed to high attachment of the because-clause outside the scope of negation, in conflict with an otherwise very general processing tendency to attach incoming constituents low. The present study was designed to evaluate the possibility that no adjustment of the parsing model is necessitated, because the NOT>BEC reading has marked prosodic and pragmatic properties which would not be anticipated by the parser without substantial contextual support. In two self-paced reading experiments, disambiguated target constructions were presented either as main clauses or embedded in if-clauses. If-subordination was hypothesized to neutralize the marked prosodic and pragmatic properties of NOT>BEC by (a) suppressing a prosodic boundary before because and (b) reducing perceived `incompleteness' by guaranteeing that another clause would follow. In Experiment 1, significantly slower processing occurred for NOT>BEC than BEC>NOT targets in main clauses, replicating previous results, but no processing time difference was evident when the not-because construction was embedded within an if-clause. Experiment 2 followed to separate the two factors, assessing the contribution of prosody alone. All details of Experiment 1 were maintained except that the not-because construction displayed on a single line in Experiment 1 was now distributed over two lines. The line-break inserted before because was expected to encourage a prosodic break there, due to readers' tendency to interpret visual display segmentations as prosodic breaks, thus favoring BEC>NOT. The reading time data confirmed this, showing no sign of the if-subordination amelioration observed in Experiment 1. Thus, Experiment 2 confirms that prosody is a crucial contributor to the usual difficulty of NOT>BEC. A general conclusion is that standard parsing strategies are not falsified by not-because, but may be overridden by its unusual linguistic properties.

  • The Rise of Disyllables in Old Chinese: the Role of Lianmian Words

    Author:
    Jian Li
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Linguistics
    Advisor:
    Jian Li
    Abstract:

    The history of Chinese language is characterized by a clear shift from monosyllabic to disyllabic words (Wang, 1980). This dissertation aims to provide a new diachronic explanation for the rise of disyllables in the history of Chinese and to demonstrate its significance for Modern Chinese prosody and lexicalization. A corpus of 300 Lianmian words in Old Chinese was compiled, including 96 Shuangsheng words, 172 Dieyun words and 32 Splitting-sound words. This study builds on previous morphological and phonological research on disyllables in Chinese and looks closely at detailed aspects of Old Chinese sound patterns and their evolution. Based on the analysis of sound patterns of Splitting-sound words and Dieyun words in Old Chinese, evidence from neighboring languages, statistical analysis of the development of Old Chinese, and reconstructed syllable structure, I argue that the simplification of complex onsets in Old Chinese was a central motivating factor for the rise of the earliest disyllabic forms - Splitting-sound words. Monosyllabic words with historic initial CL clusters (L a liquid), undergo fission, surfacing as disyllables where the first syllable has the simple C onset and the second the L onset. The occurrence of the liquid in the second syllable onset preserves consonant identity, which would otherwise be lost in the onset simplification process. Generalization of this process soon gave rise to another type of mono-morphemic disyllable - Dieyun. Once onset simplification was complete, around Late Old Chinese to Early Middle Chinese period, phonological motivation for syllabic fission disappeared. Mono-morphemic disyllables lost their productivity at this point. The disyllabic template they defined was preserved, giving rise to productive formation of disyllabic compounds. This word-formation process appears to be responsible for the dominance of disyllables in many modern Chinese languages spoken today. This diachronic phonological research accounts for issues that previous studies fail to address. It reveals the relation between the rise of disyllables and the creation of Lianmian words, the relation between the creation of Lianmian words and the simplification of Old Chinese phonology. It enriches our understanding of the role of Lianmian words and of Old Chinese phonological development in Chinese historical disyllabicity.