Indiana University

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Events for the week :
February 09, 2014 - February 15, 2014
February 09
February 10
  • Different windows on the hypothesized bilingual advantage

    Time: 04:00pm - 05:00pm 

    Place: Psychology 228


    Dan Yurovsky, Viridiana Benitez, and Greg Cox

    Research on the cognitive consequences of bilingualism suggests a bilingual advantage: early experience with more than one language predicts better inhibitory control of attention. The generality and mechanisms responsible for this advantage, however, are not well understood. For example, bilinguals might be generally better at resolving conflicts between different responses and/or representations. Bilinguals might also just have overall weaker response biases and/or poorer encoding, thus leading to less competition overall.

    To get at these questions, we measured bilingual and monolingual adults’ memory for non-linguistic stimuli processed during three tasks. The first paradigm, modeled after Richter and Yeung (2013), assessed participants’ memories of stimuli processed during an attentional control task, providing a measure of attentional selection abilities. The second paradigm primed participants’ recognition of faces at different durations, yielding a temporal measure of memory representations and their effect on stimuli recognition. The third, a false memory paradigm modeled after Koutstaal and Schacter (1997), measured spreading activation across the semantic networks of monolinguals and bilinguals.

    I'll be discussing some of the immediate theoretical implications of our results (turns out bilinguals probably don't have any general cognitive advantages), as well as the challenges of designing non-linguistic experiments to investigate linguistic questions.


    In category: Second language acquisition


  • Polarity and exhaustivity in questions

    Time: 04:30pm - 06:00pm 

    Place: Ballantine Hall 205


    Andreea Nicolae (Harvard University)

    In this talk I investigate how the distribution of negative polarity items can inform our understanding of the underlying semantic representation of constituent questions. Building on Guerzoni and Sharvit’s 2007 insight that strength of exhaustivity in questions correlates with the acceptability of negative polarity items, I propose a revision of the semantics of questions that can explain this link in already familiar terms from the literature of negative polarity, namely the availability of a local downward entailing environment (Ladusaw, 1979, Kadmon and Landman, 1993). Specifically, I argue for a new theory of questions that takes strength of exhaustivity to be encoded internal to the question nucleus rather than in different answer-hood operators (Heim, 1994). Crucially, this conceptually simple move offers a straightforward account of the distribution of NPIs in questions as well as other open issues in the domain of questions.


    In category: Morphosyntax and semantics


February 11
February 12
February 13
  • Crosslinguistic (non-)variation in semantic composition: Two lessons from Mandarin Chinese

    Time: 04:30pm - 06:00pm 

    Place: Ballantine Hall 310


    Thomas Grano (University of Maryland)

    Two fundamental concepts in natural language semantics are truth-conditionality (the idea that the meaning of a sentence can be characterized as the conditions under which that sentence would be true) and compositionality (the idea that the meaning of a sentence is a function of the meaning of its parts). Given this, a pressing question for theories of crosslinguistic (non-) variation is: when we observe sentences with similar truth conditions crosslinguistically, to what extent do they represent similar compositional procedures for arriving at those truth conditions? In this talk, I present two case studies from Mandarin Chinese, one in the adjectival domain and one in the verbal domain. I argue that in the former case, Mandarin provides crucial evidence for crosslinguistic universality in (certain key dimensions of) the composition of scalar predicate meaning (contra Liu 2010), whereas in the latter case, it points toward crosslinguistic variation in the composition of temporo-aspectual meaning (in line with Lin 2003, 2006, 2010). Taken together, the two case studies call for an architecture of grammar that includes both universally available type-shifting rules and functional morphemes, as well as functional morphemes whose content can vary in being bundled together monomorphemically in some languages or parceled out across morphemes in other languages. The overarching lesson echoes von Fintel and Matthewson’s (2008) conclusion that functional morphemes, along with principles of composition, are an important area of investigation in the search for semantic universals.


    In category: Morphosyntax and semantics


February 14
  • Widening the lens on variation in and across multi-faceted sources of input

    Time: 12:15pm - 01:15pm 

    Place: Ballantine Hall 006


    Laura Gurzynski-Weiss, Kimberly Geeslin, Rebecca Clay, Bret Linford, Avizia Long, Ian Michalski, Megan Solon, and Melissa Whatley

    Learners are exposed to many sources of input, which differ both in availability and quality. Quality may differ across production modes (classroom speech, conversational speech, controlled written and oral production), across speakers (teachers, friends, strangers), and according to speaker characteristics (gender, age, degree of bilingualism, dialect). Moreover, within any one of these conditions, there is variability inherent in the language produced. This complicates learners’ experience with language, and undoubtedly contributes to the difficulty learners have acquiring variable structures.

    Our goal is to compare the use of a single variable structure, namely, the (non)use of overt subject forms in Spanish across several of these aforementioned production modes where the input occurs naturally. The (non)use of overt subject forms in Spanish is well-documented both across geographic regions and in terms of the path of development for English-speaking learners of Spanish. What is not understood, however, is the nature of the variability in and across the many input sources available to such learners, and how this could potentially affect language learning opportunities in a variety of contexts.

    In this project we compare instructor (non)use of subject pronouns across contexts: (a) in oral input provided to learners in Spanish language classes, (b) in written input provided during class via both instructor-controlled and department-provided materials, and (c) in three sociolinguistic tasks of varying guided production—a written contextualized questionnaire, a semi-directed oral production task, and an oral interview. The same ten native and non-native speakers, instructors in a university language department, participated in all elicitation activities (i.e., across projects) to examine how use of this structure varies according to context. Variationist analyses investigating the distribution and patterns of subject form use are used throughout to facilitate robust comparisons between settings. Implications for learner language experiences are discussed in detail.


    In category: Sociolinguistics and pragmatics


  • On some structural differences between Macedonian and Bulgarian

    Time: 01:20pm - 02:20pm 

    Place: Ballantine Hall 005


    Steven Franks

    This talk argues for an important structural difference between two superficially very similar languages. In particular, it is proposed that several contrasts between Macedonian and Bulgarian can be derived from a distinction in the internal structures of their extended nominal projections. My point of departure is Franks (2009), which demonstrates a host of differences in the behavior of clause-level pronominal clitics between Macedonian and Bulgarian. These differences derive from the proposal that the clitics are K(ase) heads in Bulgarian, which subsequently move to (clausal) Agr(eement), while in Macedonian K is generated directly in Agr-as a sort of incipient object agreement. This implies that the motivation for positing KP above DP in Macedonian vis-à-vis Bulgarian is suspect, implying a KP-less DP for Macedonian. Three additional differences are examined in this light: (i) dative-like nominal domain clitics are promiscuous in Bulgarian but extremely restricted in Macedonian; (ii) Bulgarian has a colloquial reflexive form nego si 'him self', but this form does not exist in Macedonian (even though roughly comparable entities can be found in other Balkan languages, e.g. Turkish, Albanian, and Greek); (iii) Bulgarian uses an obligatory particle -to on non-interrogative wh-words in, but there is no comparable function for -to in Macedonian.


    In category: Morphosyntax and semantics


February 15

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