Events / ILST Seminar: Mini-Talks 2

ILST Seminar: Mini-Talks 2

October 27, 2023
1:30 PM - 3:00 PM

3401 Walnut Street, Room 401B, 3401 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104

Join us for mini-talks by our first-year graduate students.



Abigail Laver – “Does having a semantic seed aid in artificial language learning?”


After acquiring a few words through word-to-world mapping, infants and young children may be able to observe the distributional patterns of these known words and then make inferences about the meaning of unknown words that appear in similar distributional contexts. I will discuss a proposed study to investigate if receiving a seed vocabulary helps adults learn an artificial grammar. Participants in the semantic seed condition will receive a “semantic seed” consisting of nouns and a few verbs in the artificial language, while control participants will only be exposed to these words without the associated meaning. During the exposure phase, all participants will listen to simple intransitive, transitive, or ditransitive sentences in the artificial language containing a mix of seed and novel words. At test, we will see if participants in the semantic seed condition perform better on a cross-situational word learning task using novel words from the exposure phase.



Chun-Hung Shih – “Adverbial verbs in Budai Rukai”


Cross-linguistically, adverbials can surface in various syntactic categories in addition to being adverbs. In Budai Rukai, an Austronesian language, I show that adverbials are reflected as verbs in syntax, which serve as main predicates and are followed by lexical verbs. I further argue that adverbial verbs and lexical verbs are in a structure of complementation rather than coordination or adjunction. With different semantic types, adverbial verbs in Budai Rukai can be either lexical or functional restructuring verbs, taking different syntactic complements.



Mikaela Belle Martin – “‘Y’all finna go to the dhall?’ Tense-Aspect Markers in Black Harvard African American English”


The Black community at Harvard represents a unique set of undergraduate students that, as a whole, make up a minority at the institution, but are further divided, beyond the scope of the university, into various ethnic groups. With this diversity in identity comes, also diversity in language. African American English (AAE) is spoken within this community by most of its members. One such group is made up of descendants of enslaved Africans on American soil, also known as Generational African Americans (GAA). Most of these students come to Harvard with familial knowledge and experience of AAE, in contrast with their non-GAA peers. Therefore, it can be anticipated that differences would be found within this greater community in the usage of African American English based on differences in regional and ethnic origin, as well as level of experience. This study focused on two main features of African American English: stressed BIN and the distinction between finna and gonna. Additionally, responses on changes in participants’ perceived use of AAE and Black identities were gathered. This study found that participants used stressed BIN as predicted by the literature, both as a marker of a distant past action and a mode of correction. Finna was found to occur most frequently in expressions of the immediate future tense and gonna and gon were found most frequently in expressions of the near and indefinite future. Additionally, participants reported a joint decrease in the use of African American English and an increase in code-switching, as well as negative changes in their perceptions of their own Black identities since starting at Harvard.



Wesley Lincoln – “/t/-flapping in Singapore English: Not an American English import but a feature of local variation”


With a wave of endonormativity in Singapore English (SgE) marking a shift from traditional Standard Southern British English (SSBE) norms, there has been debate as to whether recent phonological trends, like rising rhoticity, stem from independent change or American English (AmE) influence. In this study, I investigate SgE speakers’ use of /t/-flapping, a feature broadly associated with AmE but not SSBE. Comparing explicit awareness of AmE /t/-flapping with self-reported use (n=105), I find that participants are well aware of the environments that allow this feature in AmE, but do not claim to use it in the same way. This finding is corroborated by speech data (n=30) which shows use of flapped /t/ primarily in compound decade numbers (mean=63.2%, SD=29.4%) and between words (mean=36.4%, SD=16.0%) but rarely within words (mean=6.4%, SD=6.0%). This distribution differs from that of AmE, where flapping routinely applies to all of these environments. Flapping was predicted neither by mediated nor interpersonal exposure to AmE, showed no ethnic differences, and did not covary with other AmE-linked features like rhoticity or the BATH-TRAP merger. Based on these findings, I suggest that /t/-flapping is not an innovation, let alone an AmE import, but an established feature of local variation. I briefly lay out plans for future perceptual work on the feature.