Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • 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.

  • Automated Classification of Argument Stance in Student Essays: A Linguistically Motivated Approach with an Application for Supporting Argument Summarization

    Author:
    Adam Faulkner
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Linguistics
    Advisor:
    Martin Chodorow
    Abstract:

    This study describes a set of document- and sentence-level classification models designed to automate the task of determining the argument stance (for or against) of a student argumentative essay and the task of identifying any arguments in the essay that provide reasons in support of that stance. A suggested application utilizing these models is presented which involves the automated extraction of a single-sentence summary of an argumentative essay. This summary sentence indicates the overall argument stance of the essay from which the sentence was extracted and provides a representative argument in support of that stance. A novel set of document-level stance classification features motivated by linguistic research involving stancetaking language is described. Several document-level classification models incorporating these features are trained and tested on a corpus of student essays annotated for stance. These models achieve accuracies significantly above those of two baseline models. High-accuracy features used by these models include a dependency subtree feature incorporating information about the targets of any stancetaking language in the essay text and a feature capturing the semantic relationship between the essay prompt text and stancetaking language in the essay text. We also describe the construction of a corpus of essay sentences annotated for supporting argument stance. The resulting corpus is used to train and test two sentence-level classification models. The first model is designed to classify a given sentence as a supporting argument or as not a supporting argument, while the second model is designed to classify a supporting argument as holding a for or against stance. Features motivated by influential linguistic analyses of the lexical, discourse, and rhetorical features of supporting arguments are used to build these two models, both of which achieve accuracies above their respective baseline models. An application illustrating an interesting use-case for the models presented in this dissertation is described. This application incorporates all three classification models to extract a single sentence summarizing both the overall stance of a given text along with a convincing reason in support of that stance.

  • 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 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.

  • Canvas: A fast and accurate geometric sentence alignment system using lexical cues within complex misalignment settings

    Author:
    Hussein Ghaly
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Linguistics
    Advisor:
    Andrew Rosenberg
    Abstract:

    In this paper, we present a new sentence alignment system (Canvas), which is a Python implementation of a geometric approach to sentence alignment, based on lexical cues. Canvas system is designed mainly to handle parallel texts exhibiting complex misalignment patterns, namely within English-Arabic pairs for United Nations documents. The system relies heavily on pre-indexing words/tokens in the source and target texts, and it creates correspondences between the token indexes. From this point onward, the alignment problem is reduced to a geometric problem of finding the path that runs through the True Correspondence Points (TCPs). The likelihood of a point being a TCP depends on the clustering of other points nearby; so, we collect the most likely points, and we identify the shortest path containing the maximum number of these points using a modified form of Dijkstra's algorithm. The results of Canvas system are very promising, as they demonstrate that it can handle intricate misalignment patterns, with much better speed than other alignment approaches using lexical cues, and with good accuracy in general, in a completely automated fashion. The only drawback is that the system does not cover all the alignment segments and this coverage is generally lower than other systems, which can be a subject of future research.

  • 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 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.