Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • EFFECTS OF FIRST LANGUAGE VOICING RULES ON THE PERCEPTION AND PRODUCTION OF ENGLISH OBSTRUENT SEQUENCES BY ADULT HUNGARIAN AND POLISH LEARNERS OF ENGLISH

    Author:
    Marisa Monteleone
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Linguistics
    Advisor:
    Winifred Strange
    Abstract:

    The present study explored difficulties in the acquisition of a second language (L2) phonology, looking specifically at the role of native (L1) voicing rules on L2 perception and production. Hungarian and Polish late learners of English performed production and perception tasks with English voicing contrasts in contexts where Hungarian and Polish voicing rules might interfere. American English speakers also participated, for comparison. Each participant produced sentences containing fictional names with obstruent sequences crossing a word boundary (e.g. I met Gus Barker today). The non-native participants did show evidence of transfer of their native regressive voicing assimilation rules to their productions of English word-final obstruents, although regressive devoicing was observed more often than regressive voicing. Each participant also performed identification tasks with similar sentences (e.g. I met Jess Geller today): a four-choice task containing the entire obstruent sequence, and a two-choice task containing sentences in which either the first or last name had been replaced with silence (e.g. I met Jess [silence] today or I met [silence] Geller today). For word-final obstruents, the non-native listeners were significantly less accurate in the two-choice task than the American English controls, but not significantly different from each other. In the four-choice task, both groups became even less accurate, with the Polish listeners showing a more severe effect than the Hungarian listeners. Overall, there was a slight significant correlation of word-final perception and production scores. For word-initial stops, perception was highly accurate for all groups, with the exception of voiced stops in a voiceless-voiced context. Perception of word-initial /s/ was unexpectedly poor for all three language groups. The pattern of results observed in this study suggests that both L1 phonetic and phonological interference affects perception and production in an L2. Implications for current theoretical models of second language phonology are discussed.

  • EFFECTS OF FIRST LANGUAGE VOICING RULES ON THE PERCEPTION AND PRODUCTION OF ENGLISH OBSTRUENT SEQUENCES BY ADULT HUNGARIAN AND POLISH LEARNERS OF ENGLISH

    Author:
    Marisa Monteleone
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Linguistics
    Advisor:
    Winifred Strange
    Abstract:

    The present study explored difficulties in the acquisition of a second language (L2) phonology, looking specifically at the role of native (L1) voicing rules on L2 perception and production. Hungarian and Polish late learners of English performed production and perception tasks with English voicing contrasts in contexts where Hungarian and Polish voicing rules might interfere. American English speakers also participated, for comparison. Each participant produced sentences containing fictional names with obstruent sequences crossing a word boundary (e.g. I met Gus Barker today). The non-native participants did show evidence of transfer of their native regressive voicing assimilation rules to their productions of English word-final obstruents, although regressive devoicing was observed more often than regressive voicing. Each participant also performed identification tasks with similar sentences (e.g. I met Jess Geller today): a four-choice task containing the entire obstruent sequence, and a two-choice task containing sentences in which either the first or last name had been replaced with silence (e.g. I met Jess [silence] today or I met [silence] Geller today). For word-final obstruents, the non-native listeners were significantly less accurate in the two-choice task than the American English controls, but not significantly different from each other. In the four-choice task, both groups became even less accurate, with the Polish listeners showing a more severe effect than the Hungarian listeners. Overall, there was a slight significant correlation of word-final perception and production scores. For word-initial stops, perception was highly accurate for all groups, with the exception of voiced stops in a voiceless-voiced context. Perception of word-initial /s/ was unexpectedly poor for all three language groups. The pattern of results observed in this study suggests that both L1 phonetic and phonological interference affects perception and production in an L2. Implications for current theoretical models of second language phonology are discussed.

  • The processing of complex syntax and its relation to non-native reading comprehension

    Author:
    Gabriella Morvay
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Linguistics
    Advisor:
    Elaine Klein
    Abstract:

    Via a variety of measurements, 64 Hungarian speaking 12th graders learning English as a second language were tested in a cross-sectional correlational study in order to determine the relationship between the ability to process complex syntax and L2 reading comprehension across two levels of language proficiency. While vocabulary knowledge is considered to be the most important determinant of effective non-native reading comprehension, results of this study showed syntactic comprehension to be a statistically significant estimator for L2 reading comprehension