Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • Attachment Ambiguities in Hebrew Complex Nominals: Prosody and Parsing

    Author:
    Amit Shaked
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Linguistics
    Advisor:
    Janet Fodor
    Abstract:

    This dissertation investigates the prosody-syntax interface in two Hebrew complex nominals. Their meaning is identical but their syntax and phonology differ. The free state (FS) nominal is similar to English (e.g., the coach of the wrestler). The construct state (CS) nominal lacks the preposition, has stress on the second noun, and the construction constitutes one phonological word despite its internal syntactic structure. When followed by a relative clause (RC) the two constructions (1a,b) are syntactically/semantically ambiguous in the same way; but they contrast prosodically because one of the phrasing patterns permitted for FS (a boundary between the two nouns) is inhibited for CS. (1) a. FS: ha-me'amen shel ha-mit'agref she-parash le'axar ha-taxarut b. CS: me'amen ha-mit'agref she-parash le'axar ha-taxarut (the-)coach of the-wrestler who-retired after the-fight Research on the relative clause attachment ambiguity has shown that different languages and constructions vary in attachment preferences; it is important to investigate factors that may contribute to attachment decisions, because this variation threatens the universality and innateness of the human sentence processing routines. In recent years, much research has focused on a prosodic explanation: The Implicit Prosody Hypothesis (Fodor, 2002) proposes that attachment choices in silent reading are affected by implicit prosody mentally projected onto the sentence by readers, on the basis of language-specific phonological rules. Since implicit prosody cannot be directly observed, it is investigated by studying overt prosody in speaking and listening. This dissertation thus provides data on prosodic phrasing in Hebrew and its relation to the processing of the RC-attachment construction. Three experiments are reported: a production experiment studied speakers' preferred prosodic patterns for each construction; a listening study examined how the preferred interpretation differed for different prosodic contours; a silent reading experiment investigated the interpretation when no overt prosody was provided. For the FS sentences the results of the three experiments concurred, indicating that RC-attachment is sensitive to prosody, both explicit and implicit. For the CS, prosody was also found to play a role but some other factor(s) intrinsic to the construction resulted in consistently higher RC-attachment.

  • Deriving Word Order in Code-switching: Feature Inheritance and Light Verbs

    Author:
    Ji Young Shim
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Linguistics
    Advisor:
    Marcel den Dikken
    Abstract:

    This dissertation investigates code-switching (CS), the concurrent use of more than one language in conversation, commonly observed in bilingual speech. Assuming that code-switching is subject to universal principles, just like monolingual grammar, the dissertation provides a principled account of code-switching, with particular emphasis on OV~VO variation in two typologically similar language pairs, Korean-English and Japanese-English bilingual speech. Taking the view into consideration that linguistic variation is a result of variation in the domain of functional categories rather than lexical roots (e.g., Borer 1984; Chomsky 1995), the role of light verbs in word order in code-switching is further investigated and tested against Korean-English and Japanese-English bilingual speakers' introspective judgments of the code-switching patterns presented to them in the form of a questionnaire. The results provide strong evidence indicating that the distinction between lexical and functional or light verbs play a major role in deriving different word order, OV and VO in Korean-English and Japanese-English code-switching, respectively, supporting the hypothesis that parametric variation is attributed to differences in the features of a functional category in the lexicon. In particular, the explanation pursued in this dissertation is based on feature inheritance, proposed in recent developments the Minimalist Program. To account for OV~VO variation in Korean-English and Japanese-English code-switching, feature inheritance, primarily proposed for the C-T domain by Chomsky (2000, 2001, 2008), is extended to the v-ASP domain, thereby developing it into a full-fledged mechanism for the two phases, C and v, of the clause. Two principles of feature inheritance (feature selection and feature expiration) and three operational rules (earliness, economy, and multiple agree under antisymmetry) are proposed to show that feature inheritance is designed to make a derivation proceed economically and efficiently in the syntax. Based on this, the dissertation presents how head-initial structure in English (C-S-V-O) and head-final structure (S-O-V-C) in Korean and Japanese are derived, and argues that the OV-VO variation in Korean-English and Japanese-English code-switching is due to a result of object shift: if object shift occurs, OV is derived. On the other hand, if object shift fails, the underlying VO structure will surface.

  • The Semantics of Adjectives of Quantity

    Author:
    Stephanie Solt
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Linguistics
    Advisor:
    William McClure
    Abstract:

    This work investigates the semantics of the adjectives of quantity (Q-adjectives) many, few, much and little, with the goal of providing a unified semantic analysis of this class, and in doing so exploring the semantics of quantity and degree more broadly. My central claim is that Q-adjectives must be analyzed as degree predicates - gradable predicates of scalar intervals - with much of the semantic content traditionally ascribed to these words instead contributed by a set of null functional elements and operations. This proposal allows a compositional analysis of Q-adjectives across the wide range of syntactic positions in which they occur, including quantificational (many dogs bark), predicative (John's friends are few), attributive (the little rice that remains), and especially differential (many fewer than 100 students), the latter of which is problematic for theories that take Q-adjectives to be either quantifying determiners or cardinality predicates. The same mechanism also accounts for the operator-like behavior of few and little and the availability of much as a dummy element (much-support), and allows quantification over individuals to be analyzed via simple Existential Closure, without giving rise to spurious `at least' readings for few/little. I further show that patterns in the interpretation and distribution of Q-adjectives can be related to properties of the scales of whose intervals they are predicated. The vagueness of Q-adjectives and their apparent cardinal/proportional ambiguity can be accommodated via the manipulation of two elements in the scalar representation, the structure of the scale (bounded vs. unbounded) and the location of the standard of comparison, with no need to posit multiple lexical entries. Aspects of scale structure are also responsible for contrasts in distribution among individual Q-adjectives (e.g. a few vs. *a many; the problems were many vs. *the difficulty was much). This thesis thus argues for the relevance of degrees and scales to the analysis of natural language meaning, while adding to recent work investigating subtle syntactic and semantic differences between superficially similar quantificational expressions, and developing compositional analyses of complex expressions of quantity. It further supports a view of nominal syntax in which functional elements contribute semantic content.

  • Some complexities in English article use and acquisition

    Author:
    Victoria Somogyi
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Linguistics
    Advisor:
    Gita Martohardjono
    Abstract:

    Along with preposition use, native-like article use is one of the greatest difficulties for learners of English, particularly for those learners whose first languages do not have articles. And unlike many other areas involved in the mastery of the language, articles continue to present a challenge for advanced learners. A significant number of article usages are complex in that they are neither simple to explain (in that the does not encode definiteness or contextual uniqueness) nor strictly idiomatic. This paper a) provides an overview and critique of the scholarship on articles and their acquisition, b) takes a detailed look at several of the complex usages (noun phrases with genitive phrases, modified by the adjective "wrong," or with a possible generic reading), and c) examines article acceptability judgments by English language learners with article-less L1s and by native speakers, both college students and adults.

  • The acquisition of consonant clusters by Japanese learners of English: Interactions of speech perception and production

    Author:
    Mieko Sperbeck
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Linguistics
    Advisor:
    Winifred Strange
    Abstract:

    The primary aim of this dissertation was to investigate the relationship between speech perception and speech production difficulties among Japanese second language (L2) learners of English, in their learning complex syllable structures. Japanese L2 learners and American English controls were tested in a categorial ABX discrimination task of nonsense words sequences (e.g., /spani/ vs /sepani/) and included /sp, sk, pl, kl, bl, gl, spl, skl/ clusters. In the second study, production data on these same contrasts were collected by employing the delayed imitation task where speakers were asked to produce the target words in a short sentence. Productions were evaluated by American English listeners. In addition, the Versant test, a short test of English fluency by phone, was administered to see how Japanese participants' present English fluency level would correlate with their performance on the current experiments. Results of the perception experiment showed that overall accuracy by the Japanese group was significantly poorer than for Americans (Median = 71 % and 100% correct, respectively). Certain clusters were harder than others for Japanese listeners. Specifically, overall accuracy in the /bl/ clusters was significantly low (Median = 63% correct). The production experiment demonstrated that, as was the case with the perception experiment, the American group showed a ceiling effect for all types of consonantal sequences. In contrast, the Japanese group's performance was consistently lower (Mean = 64% correct). Specifically, Japanese participants had difficulty producing the voiced stops + schwa + liquid tokens (e.g., /belani/) accurately. Interestingly, the major errors in these clusters were deletion of schwas. Corelational analyses between perception and production performance were conducted. Overall, the Japanese group's perception and production was correlated (rho = +7.82, p < 0.01, one-tailed). Additionally, overall Versant test score was correlated with perception performance (rho = + 0.470, p < 0.01) and production performance (rho = + 0.633, p < 0.01). These results suggest that there is a link between L2 perception and L2 production at phonotactic level of acquisition. However, a picture of such link is much more complicated, as suggested by great variability among Japanese participants' performance. That is, the current study suggests that inaccuracy in L2 production is a product of interactions among inaccurate L2 perception, motor constraints of unfamiliar sequences of phonemes, and learners' individual differences in English fluency skills.

  • Phoneme restoration methods reveal prosodic influences on syntactic parsing: data from Bulgarian

    Author:
    Iglika Stoyneshka-Raleva
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Linguistics
    Advisor:
    Janet Fodor
    Abstract:

    ABSTRACT Phoneme restoration methods reveal prosodic influences on syntactic parsing: Data from Bulgarian by Iglika Stoyneshka-Raleva Adviser: Professor Janet Dean Fodor This dissertation introduces and evaluates a new methodology for studying aspects of human language processing and the factors to which it is sensitive. It makes use of the phoneme restoration illusion (Warren, 1970). A small portion of a spoken sentence is replaced by a burst of noise. Listeners typically mentally restore the missing phoneme(s), reporting that they heard a complete utterance with the noise burst overlaid on it. Phoneme restoration is used in the present study to explore the role of prosodic phrasing, specifically the impact of a major prosodic break on the interpretation of a sentence where no other type of disambiguation remains. Materials are constructed so that the phoneme(s) that listeners indicate they had heard reveal which syntactic/semantic interpretation of the sentence they had computed. Two target constructions in Bulgarian are investigated in a series of experiments, using the same materials throughout: NP/S coordination as in (1) and RC attachment as in (2). The target items are originally disambiguated by morphological agreement: number agreement between subject and verb in (1), and gender agreement between the head noun and the relative pronoun in (2). The sentences in each pair differ with respect to one or more phonemes in the word on which the morphological disambiguation is encoded; these are the phonemes that are noise-replaced in the experimental materials. (Prosodic boundaries are indicated by ||.) (1) a. Nakraia sreshtnahme Ani || i Ivan i Mimi biaha vav vaztorg. In the end meet-past-1p.pl Ani and Ivan and Mimi were in ecstasy `In the end, we met Ani and Ivan and Mimi were in ecstasy.' b. Nakraia sreshtnahme Ani i Ivan || i Mimi bee vav vaztorg. In the end meet-past-1p.pl Ani and Ivan and Mimi was in ecstasy `In the end, we met Ani and Ivan and Mimi was in ecstasy.' (2) a. Podtseniha advokata || na pevitsata koiato kupi imenieto. underestimate-past lawyer-m of singer-f who-f buy-past estate-det `(They) underestimated the lawyer of the singer who=N2 bought the estate.' b. Podtseniha advokata na pevitsata || kojto kupi imenieto. underestimate-past lawyer-m of singer-f who-m buy-past estate-det `(They) underestimated the lawyer of the singer who=N1 bought the estate.' The alternative structures for both (1) and (2) are also disambiguated by the location of a major prosodic boundary, as shown. For the NP/S coordination a boundary after the first noun (1a) signals that only that noun (Ani) is the object of the first clause; a boundary after the second noun (1b) signals that the first two nouns (Ani and Ivan) form a coordinate object in the first clause. For the RC construction, a boundary after the first noun (2a) favors the interpretation that the RC modifies the second noun (the singer), whereas a boundary after the second noun (2b) favors RC modification of the entire complex NP (the lawyer of the singer). After noise-replacement of the disambiguating phonemes, only these prosodic boundaries differentiate the competing interpretations. Three different response tasks are employed to tap which phonemes listeners mentally restored. In a visual word choice task, participants indicate which of two words (e.g. biaha / bee in the case of (1)) they had `heard' in the stimulus sentence (Experiments 1a-c). In a sentence repetition task, participants repeat back the sentence after hearing it (Experiments 2a-b). In a sentence shadowing task, participants repeat back the sentence as they are listening to it (Experiments 3a-b). In all three tasks, responses confirmed that prosodic boundary location provided viable disambiguation of syntactic structure. However, the effect of prosody differed for the two constructions. Both prosodic contours disambiguated NP/S coordination equally well, but a break after the first noun was a stronger structural cue for RC attachment than a break after the second noun. These findings for Bulgarian comport well with data from more traditional methodologies on prosodic influences on coordination and RC attachment interpretation in other languages, thereby validating the sensitivity of the new methodology. A broader range of other ambiguities in Bulgarian were explored in a subsequent pilot experiment. Also, the original target constructions were tested in written form, with a simulated `ink blot' obscuring the morphological agreement. Two tasks were employed: silent reading with visual word choice (Experiments 4a-b) and silent reading with sentence repetition (Experiments 5a-b). Visual grouping of phrases disambiguated NP/S coordination quite effectively, but had little impact on RC attachment interpretation. The advantage of the phoneme restoration approach is that it is unobtrusive, resembling everyday listening in a partly noisy environment. It draws no attention to the presence of ambiguity or to the relevance of prosody, it does not interrupt the stimulus sentence, and no comprehension question intrudes between stimulus and response. It is equally well-suited to studies of parsing sensitivity to non-acoustic factors such as syntactic priming, discourse context or lexical frequencies.

  • Japanese -te iru and -te aru: The Aspectual Implications of the Stage-Level and Individual-Level Distinction

    Author:
    Mamori Sugita
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Linguistics
    Advisor:
    William McClure
    Abstract:

    This dissertation investigates semantic and syntactic properties of the forms –te iru and –te aru in Japanese, as well as pragmatic effects of statements with these forms. With an activity verb in the –te iru form, progressive, experiential, and habitual readings are available. With an achievement verb in the –te iru form, perfective, experiential, and habitual readings are available. I address specifically the difference between perfective and experiential readings. After reviewing the literature, where it seems that the distinction is not clear, I give a series of empirical tests and argue that experiential sentences exhibit properties of individual–level predicates, while perfective (as well as progressive) sentences exhibit properties of stage–level predicates. There are two types of –te aru sentences, intransitivizing and non–intransitivizing –te aru, both of which have been claimed to yield perfective readings. However, I argue that all –te aru sentences are experiential and exhibit properties that parallel individual–level predicates. Formally, I propose that progressive and perfective –te iru are represented as sets of events with a requirement that the event be realized. In contrast, I propose that experiential –te iru and –te aru are represented as sets of individuals with a requirement that the event be realized. The relative scope difference of the event and individual variables in the semantic representation reflects the stage–level and individual–level distinction. Progressive and perfective –te iru denote properties of events, while experiential –te iru and –te aru denote properties of individuals. The stage–level/individual–level distinction is also reflected in the proposed syntax. Progressive and perfective –te iru sentences have raising structures, while experiential –te iru and –te aru sentences have control structures. The scope of the event and individual arguments in the semantics of –te iru and –te aru is reflected in the position of their subjects in syntax. Lastly, I argue that habitual –te iru sentences parallel experiential–te iru sentences in that they also exhibit properties of individual–level predicates.

  • Morphological and Phonological Factors in the Production of Verbal Inflection in Adult L2 Learners and Patients with Agrammatic Aphasia

    Author:
    Malgorzata Szupica-Pyrzanowski
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Linguistics
    Advisor:
    Gita Martohardjono
    Abstract:

    Failure to supply inflection is common in adult L2 learners of English and agrammatic aphasics (AAs), who are known to resort to bare verb forms. Among attempts to explain the absence of inflection are competing morphological and phonological explanations. In the L2 acquisition literature, omission of inflection is explained in terms of: mapping (Epstein et al., 1996; Prévost & White, 2000), failed modular interaction (Lardiere, 1998), L1 morpho-syntactic constraints governing the activation of the L2 features (Hawkins & Liszka, 2003), L1 prosodic organization which differs from that of L2 (Goad, et al., 2003), and L1 phonological constraints on final consonant clusters (Lardiere, 2003). In agrammatism, inflectional omission has been linked to: processing (Thompson et al., 2002), accessing (Kehayia et al., 1990), impaired rule implementation (Lee & Thompson, 2005), productive (Bird et al., 2003; Mathews & Obler, 1997) and receptive phonology (de Mornay Davies, 2006). Most, if not all, investigations of inflectional omission have focused on populations whose L1 lacks the syntactic representation of inflection. In this study, we concentrate instead on two groups (L1 Polish learners of L2 English and AAs of L1 English) who can be assumed to have an underlying representation of inflectional material because the L1 already has it; yet they show difficulties in the use of inflection. With regard to production, we therefore asked: What contributes more to the problems encountered by these speakers, morphology or phonology? To test this, we administered an elicited production task varying either the morphological or the phonological complexity of the environment of the inflectional morpheme. We hypothesized that if non-target production of inflection is constrained by morphological factors, we would likely see the following: 1. Both groups would perform better on mono- than bi-morphemic homophones. 2. The participants would differentiate between homophonous morphemes, e.g., PLUR, AGR, POSS and show different degrees of omission for these. 3. There would be no significant difference between inflection of mono-syllabic existing verbs and mono-syllabic pseudo verbs because the rule attaching inflection is present and intact. On the phonological side, we made the following predictions: 1. Sonority of the final segment of stems would affect the production of inflection. 2. Syllabic suffixes would be produced more accurately than their non-syllabic counterparts because of their saliency. 3. Shorter (mono-syllabic) verbs would be affixed better than longer (bi- and tri-syllabic) ones. Results show that in the production of inflection, similar patterns were found in these two fundamentally different populations, L2 learners and AAs. Morphological constraints seem to play a greater role in the omission of inflection than phonological ones. On the other hand, phonology is used by both groups as a compensatory strategy to preserve inflection.

  • Input Consistency in the Acquisition of Questions in Bulgarian and English: A Hypothesis Testing Model

    Author:
    Lidiya Tornyova
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Linguistics
    Advisor:
    Virginia Valian
    Abstract:

    The goal of this dissertation is to address several major empirical and theoretical issues related to English-speaking children's difficulties with auxiliary use and inversion in questions. The empirical data on English question acquisition are inconsistent due to differences in methods and techniques used. A range of proposals about the source of auxiliary omission and inversion errors have been presented but they remain with a limited cross-linguistic scope and cannot explain the data in full. This dissertation addresses the issues by investigating the influence of various target-specific properties on children's production of wh- and yes/no questions in a cross-linguistic perspective. We propose a Hypothesis Testing model of language acquisition in which target specific properties of the language determine the types of errors and how difficult they are to correct. The more contrasts the language supports, the greater the number of incorrect hypotheses the child can entertain, and the longer it takes for children to acquire the target. Cross-linguistic variation in language acquisition is determined by differences in the amount of relevant contrasts supported in various target grammars. Languages with uniform properties facilitate the hypothesis-testing process by providing a narrow range of hypotheses to be considered and are learned easily. Languages with non-uniform properties extend the course of acquisition by providing a broad range of hypotheses to be tested. To test the proposed hypothesis testing model we conducted four elicited imitation experiments investigating 2-year-old children's auxiliary use and inversion in Bulgarian and English wh- and yes/no questions. We predicted similar performance on auxiliary use for the two language groups because English and Bulgarian are both inconsistent and support relevant contrasts regarding auxiliary inclusion. With respect to auxiliary inversion, Bulgarian is consistent and English is not. English supports three relevant contrasts that Bulgarian does not. Thus, we predicted that Bulgarian-speaking children would perform better on auxiliary/verb inversion than English-speaking children. Our results support the Hypothesis Testing model.

  • ADICITY AND REFERENCE: MIDDLE VOICE AND ITS COMPONENTS

    Author:
    Erika Troseth
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Linguistics
    Advisor:
    Robert Fiengo
    Abstract:

    ADICITY AND REFERENCE: MIDDLE VOICE AND ITS COMPONENTS In this thesis I provide an analysis of middle voice sentences (as in The book reads well, El libro se lee bien, Das Buch liest sich leicht) in which the characterizing feature of middles is a mismatch with respect to predicate adicity and the number of argument expression occurrences in the syntactic structure. Throughout the thesis I rely on the distinction between linguistic types and linguistic tokens. Thus, although it might rightly be said, when considering orthography or phonology, that in the sentence Lolita si legge facilemente, there are two items: si and Lolita, we can also rightly say, when considering syntax or semantics, that together si and Lolita constitute a single abstract object. A significant feature of the analysis is indeed the proposal that the syntactic subject of middles and the weak reflexive together formally constitute a single syntactic object. The analysis predicts the various properties of the weak reflexive that appears in many languages' middle voice sentences, including their Case, referential, and agreement properties. Taking the aforementioned mismatch to be the core characterization of middles predicts that they are morphologically and semantically less restricted than previously thought. Data presented in the thesis support this conclusion.