Monthly Archives: April 2018

New paper published by Luchkina et al.: Eighteen‐month‐olds selectively generalize words from accurate speakers to novel contexts (Dev Sci 2018;e12663)

Congratulations to Elena, Dave, and Jim for a new paper out in Developmental Science! The title and abstract are as follows:

Eighteen‐month‐olds selectively generalize words from accurate speakers to novel contexts.

The present studies examine whether and how 18‐month‐olds use informants’ accuracy to acquire novel labels for novel objects and generalize them to a new context. In Experiment 1, two speakers made statements about the labels of familiar objects. One used accurate labels and the other used inaccurate labels. One of these speakers then introduced novel labels for two novel objects. At test, toddlers saw those two novel objects and heard an unfamiliar voice say one of the labels provided by the speaker. Only toddlers who had heard the novel labels introduced by the accurate speaker looked at the appropriate novel object above chance. Experiment 2 explored possible mechanisms underlying this difference in generalization. Rather than making statements about familiar objects’ labels, both speakers asked questions about the objects’ labels, with one speaker using accurate labels and the other using inaccurate labels. Toddlers’ generalization of novel labels for novel objects was at chance for both speakers, suggesting that toddlers do not simply associate hearing the accurate label with the reliability of the speaker. We discuss these results in terms of potential mechanisms by which children learn and generalize novel labels across contexts from speaker reliability.

The full paper can be found here. In addition, more information about Elena can be found on her professional website

AY 2012-2013 Speaker Schedule


Fall 2012

Date Speaker Title
10/17/2012 Polly Jacobson (Brown University) The Myth of Silent Linguistic Material
9/25/2012 Geoffrey K. Pullum (University of Edinburgh) Psychology and the Claimed Infinitude of Sentences
10/10/2012 Junwen Lee (Brown University) A Unitary Analysis of Colloquial Singapore English Lah
10/17/2012 Eugene Charniak (Brown University) Colloquium – Bayes’ Law as Psychologically Real
10/24/2012 D.R. (Bob) Ladd (University of Edinburgh) Colloquium – Individual differences in pitch perception and a possible link to language typology
10/31/2012 Peter Graff (MIT) Communicative Efficiency in the Lexicon
11/1/2012 Terry Au (University of Hong Kong) Colloquium – Access to Childhood Language Memory
11/14/2012 Brian Dillon (University of Massachusetts Amherst) Syntactic complexity across the at-issue / not-at-issue divide
11/28/2012 Stefan Kaufmann (Northwestern University)

Spring 2013

Date Speaker Title
2/6/2013 Uriel Cohen Priva (Brown University) (CANCELLED)
4/24/2013 Jill Thorson (Brown University) TBA
4/17/2013 Victor Ferreira (University of California, San Diego TBA
5/2/2013 Philip Miller (Université Paris Diderot) Verb Phrase Ellipsis and Pseudogapping: From Discourse to Syntax
5/8/2013 Kathryn Davidson (University of Connecticut) What can sign languages tell us about the semantic/pragmatic interface?
5/15/2013 Neal Fox (Brown University) Sentential context effects on phonetics of speech production

AY 2013-2014 Speaker Schedule


Fall 2013

Date Speaker Title
9/18/2013 Eva Wittenberg (Tufts University) Close but no cigar: The differences between kissing, giving kisses, and giving other things
10/2/2013 Josh Hartshorne (MIT) Syntax, Semantics, World Knowledge, and Reference
10/15/2013 Scott AnderBois (Brown University) A transitivity-based split in Yucatec Maya control complements
10/29/2013 Scott AnderBois (Brown University) On the exceptional status of reportative evidentials
11/13/2013 Kevin Ryan (Harvard University) Prosodic weight beyond the rime
12/10/2013 Anna Shusterman (Wesleyan University) (CANCELLED) Language-Thought Interactions in Development
12/17/2013 Laura Kertz & Corey Cusimano (Brown University) (CANCELLED) Coherence-driven expectations for cross-clausal parallelism

Spring 2014

Date Speaker Title
1/29/2014 Anna Shusterman (Wesleyan University) Language-Thought Interactions in Development
2/12/2014 Sohini Ramachandran (Brown University) A geneticist’s approach to comparing global patterns of genetic and phonemic variation
2/19/2014 Nathaniel Smith (University of Edinburgh) Building a Bayesian bridge between the physics and the phenomenology of social interaction
2/26/2014 Jeff Runner (University of Rochester) Binding constraints on processing: pronouns are harder than reflexives
3/12/2014 Livia Polanyi (Stanford University) Step-wise Discourse Topic Construction
3/19/2014 Shiri Lev Ari (Max Planck Institute, Nijmegen) How expectations influence language processing, and their cognitive and social consequences: The case of processing the language of non-native speakers
4/2/2014 Sheila Blumstein (Brown University) Variability and Invariance in Speech and Lexical Processing: Evidence from Aphasia and Functional Neuroimaging
4/9/2014 Kyle Rawlins (Johns Hopkins University) ‘About’ attitudes
4/16/2014 Lee Edelist (Brown University) Pronoun resolution in multi utterance discourse
4/30/2014 Jill Thorson (Brown University) How intonation interacts with new and given information to guide attention

AY 2014-2015 Speaker Schedule


Fall 2014

Date Speaker Title
9/24/2014 Introductory Meeting
10/1/2014 Sara Guediche (Brown University) Flexible and adaptive processes in speech perception
10/22/2014 Masako Fidler (Brown University) Mining reader receptions of text with keyword analysis
10/29/2014 Sophia Malamud (Brandeis University) Utterance modifiers and the emergence of illocutionary force
11/5/2014 Chigusa Kurumada (University of Rochester) Expectation-adaptation in the incremental interpretation of English contrastive prosody
11/19/2014 Scott AnderBois (Brown University) The discourse particle wal in Yucatec Maya: a decompositional approach
12/10/2014 Stefanie Tellex (Brown University) Natural Language and Robotics

Spring 2015

Date Speaker Title
2/4/2015 Philip Hofmeister (Brown University) Expectations and linguistic acceptability judgments
2/25/2015 Timothy Grinsell (University of Chicago) Verdicts, Voters, and Vectors: Three Sources of Evidence for One Theory of Vagueness
3/4/2015 Tania Rojas-Esponda (Stanford University) Discourse particles and focus effects in a question-under-discussion framework
3/18/2015 Václav Cvrček (Institute of the Czech National Corpus) Descriptive vs prescriptive approach. The case of Czech grammar
4/1/2015 Junwen Lee (Brown University) Lah revisited – A modal analysis
4/8/2015 Magdalena Kaufmann (University of Connecticut) Free choice as a form of dependence
4/22/2015 Ryan Bennett (Yale University) An ultrasound study of Irish palatalization
4/29/2015 Gregory Hickok (University of California, Irvine) Colloquium – An Integrative Approach to Understanding the Neuroscience of Language
4/30/2015 Eladio Mateo Toledo (B’alam) (CIESAS-Sureste, México) The Destinative Construction in Q’anjob’al (Maya)

AY 2015-2016 Speaker Schedule


Fall 2015

Date Speaker Title
9/9/2015 Boaz Keysar (University of Chicago) Colloquium – Living in a Foreign Tongue
9/16/2015 Edward Gibson (MIT) Colloquium – Information theoretic approaches to language universals
9/30/2015 Matt Hall (University of Connecticut) Using Non-Language to Understand Language
10/7/2015 Stephen Emet (Brown University) “I’m sorry I ever went to that talk”: NPIs in Affective Contexts
10/21/2015 Polly Jacobson (Brown University) You think there’s Silent Linguistic Material, but I don’t: Neg Raising meets Ellipsis
11/4/2015 Matt Hall (University of Connecticut) Keeping the hands in mind: Executive function and implicit learning in deaf children
11/11/2015 Evelina Fedorenko (Mass General Hospital/Harvard Medical School) Colloquium – The L​anguage ​N​etwork and ​I​ts ​P​lace within ​t​he ​B​roader Architecture of the Human Mind and Brain
11/18/2015 Robert J. Podesva (Stanford University) Colloquium – The Role of the Body in Structuring Sociophonetic Variation
12/2/2015 Wilson Silva (RIT) The Desano Language Documentation Project: Fieldwork, Theory and Language Revitalization

Spring 2016

Date Speaker Title
2/24/2016 Peter Klecha (University of Connecticut) Regulating Loose Talk through Implicature
3/2/2016 Peter Alrenga (Boston University) (CANCELLED) At least and at most: Ignorance and variation in focus
3/9/2016 Emily Myers (University of Connecticut) Non-Native Speech Sound Learning: Studies of Sleep, Brain, and Behavior
3/23/2016 Jean E. Fox Tree (University of California, Santa Cruz) Colloquium – The Usefulness of Useless Utterances: Why Um, Like, and Other Disparaged Phenomena are not Superfluous
4/6/2016 Matthew Barros (Yale University) Sluicing and Ellipsis Identity
4/20/2016 Eiling Yee (University of Connecticut) Putting Concepts in Context
4/29/2016 Florian Jaeger (University of Rochester) From processing to language change and cross-linguistic distributions

AY 2016-2017 Speaker Schedule


Fall 2016

Date Speaker Title
9/28/2016 Andy Wedel (University of Arizona) Functional pressure from the lexicon shapes phoneme inventory evolution
10/5/2016 LLL(Lite) – Lightning Talks
10/19/2016 Matt Masapollo (Brown University) On the nature of the natural referent vowel bias
10/26/2016 Seth Cable (University of Massachusetts Amherst) (CANCELLED) Negation and Antonym in Tlingit
11/2/2016 Valentine Hacquard (University of Maryland) Colloquium – Grasping at Factivity
11/9/2016 Chelsea Sanker (Brown University) Phonetic Convergence across measures and across speakers
11/16/2016 Uriel Cohen Priva (Brown University) An interplay between information, duration, and lenition
12/1/2016 Peter Alrenga (Boston University) At least and at most: Ignorance and variation in focus
12/7/2016 Gerry Altman (University of Connecticut) Colloquium – The challenges of event cognition: Object representation at the interface of episodic and semantic memory

Spring 2017

Date Speaker Title
1/25/2017 LLL(Lite)
2/1/2017 Maria Piñango (Yale) Eventive iteration construal during real-time comprehension, its neurological underpinnings and the grammar-meaning connection
2/8/2017 Youtao Lu, Elena Luchkina (Brown) LLL(Lite) Student Presentations ([ ])
2/15/2017 Sudha Arunachalam (Boston
Informativeness and processing cost in verb acquisition: Evidence from typical language development and autism spectrum disorder ([ ])
2/22/2017 Seth Cable (UMass Amherst) Negation and Antonymy in Tlingit ([ ])
3/1/2017 Steve Emet (Brown) I just think… : the meaning of just and its role in discourse ([ ])
3/8/2017 Kevin Tang (Yale) Experience and expectation predict fine details of perception and production
4/12/2017 Annemarie Kocab (Harvard) Language Emergence: Evidence from Nicaraguan Sign Language
4/19/2017 Kristine Yu (UMass Amherst) Parsing with prosody: towards a computational model of prosodically-informed syntactic parsing in Samoan ([ ])
4/26/2017 Jon Gajewski (University of
It’s not syntax, I don’t think: Neg-raising and parentheticals
5/3/2017 Scott AnderBois (Brown) LLL(Lite) – An illocutionary account of reportative evidentials in imperatives

LingLang Lunch Lite (4/18/2018 & 4/25/2018): Masters Presentations: Yiming Gu & Haoru Zhang (Brown University)

On April 18th and April 25th we will hear two Masters thesis presentations from Yiming Gu and Haoru Zhang.

Yiming Gu: Tone Sandhi in Ganyu Mandarin

Tone sandhi in Ganyu, a Mandarin dialect, is relatively complicated. There were only a few descriptive works in existing literature. By using prosodic structure, the thesis provides a uniform explanation to non-focused pitched syllable tone sandhi in Ganyu from the perspective of Optimality Theory. In the analysis, a syllable contains three pitch targets underlyingly, while in the output only two targets are allowed. Phonological phrase and foot are constructed via the ranking of phonosyntactic constraints. Pitch-sensitive constraints which are responsible for each and every sandhi phenomenon are motivated by tonal saliency, metrical integrity, target realizability, and pitch faithfulness. In addition, the thesis proposes a new concept: dependent pitch target. Phonologically-relevant creaky or falsetto sounds, as found in Ganyu and neighboring dialects, are dependent pitch targets which must follow a low or high target, and they are very shot in duration. The analysis covers disyllabic and trisyllabic feet both at the final position of a phonological phrase and at the non-final position. The analysis can be extended to cases which involve focus-stressed syllables and pitch-less syllables in future investigations.

Haoru Zhang: Phonetic Convergence in Mandarin

Phonetic convergence is the phenomenon that speakers’ acoustic and phonetic characteristics increase in similarity with each others’ during communication. This phenomenon has been gaining increasing interest over recent years, and many measures have been claimed to be subjected to convergence, such as fundamental frequency (F0), formants, VOT, duration, etc. The current study contributes to the field by investigating these measures on Mandarin, a tonal language. The results reveal potential differences in sensitivity to convergence across measures, especially among tone-related variables.

LingLang Lunch (4/11/2018): Angela Carpenter (Wellesley College)

Angela Carpenter is Associate Professor of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences at Wellesley College. Her research has focused on the phonological acquisition of both child language and adult second language, especially the acquisition of stressed syllables and function words in L1 acquisition, and factors that affect acquisition of a second language. For more information, her website is here.

Dialect change in immigrant speakers of Jamaican Creole

The process of dialect change occurs frequently in the world’s languages, as it is one of the results of population migration. Dialect change occurs when speakers of one dialect of a language emigrate to an area where another dialect of the same language is spoken. This type of migration has occurred quite notably across the English-speaking world where, for example, speakers of one version of English, such as Canadian English or Jamaican English move to Great Britain, where British English is spoken (Chambers 1992, Tagliamonte and Molfenter 2007, Wells 1973). In this particular study I am focusing on the dialectal change Jamaican Creole (JC) towards Standard American English (SAE) by Jamaicans who immigrated to the U.S. The phonological aspects of JC that differ from SAE include: 1) vowel merging, such that in JC “black” and “block” are homophones; 2) glide insertion between velar stops and a following low back vowel, such as saying [kjar] ‘kyar’ and not [kar] ‘car’; 3) h-dropping and/or hypercorrection, such as saying [an] for ‘hand’; but [hɛgz] for ‘eggs’; and 4) merging of [ie] and [eə] into [ie] so that in JC ‘beer’ and ‘bear’ are homophones. To fully acquire SAE speakers of JC have to change their phonology towards the American standard. This talk is a preliminary report on dialect change among a group of Jamaicans who have lived in the Northeast U.S. for many years. We analyze to what extent they have acquired SAE.

LingLang Lunch (4/4/2018): Meghan Armstrong (UMass Amherst)

Meghan Armstrong is an Assistant Professor of Hispanic Linguistics at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Her main line of research deals with intonational development. Her current work deals with how epistemic meaning is encoded intonationally. For more information, her website is here.

Children’s detection of epistemic strength distinctions through prosody and the lexicon

Children make great strides in their comprehension of strength distinctions for epistemic modal verbs between the ages of 4 and 6 (Papafragou, 1998). However, while strength distinctions like might/will are lexicalized, the epistemic strength of mid-scalar epistemic modal verbs can also be modulated prosodically allowing a speaker to either highlight that something is quite likely, or highlight that something is less likely. While prosody is extremely important for development during the first year, it has been shown that as children’s receptive vocabulary increases they begin to pay extra attention to lexical information, perhaps at the expense of prosody (Friend 2001). For mental state verbs like think/know, Moore, Harris & Patriquin (1993) found that 4- and 5-year-olds were more successful at using these verbs for inferring degree of certainty than they were at using prosody (rising vs. falling) with no lexical indicators of mental states. Here we ask whether a lexical advantage can also be found for the case of epistemic modal verbs.
In our task children saw, on a Powerpoint presentation, a set of twins and their mutual friend, who was having a birthday party. For each trial, children were told that the friend either wanted something (e.g. a football – positive valence) or did not want something (e.g. socks – negative valence). The friend was asking the twins whether or not they would give him/her that thing for his/her birthday. Each twin responded with pre-recorded epistemic modal expressions differing in strength. The might/will contrast was used for the lexical condition (e.g. I will/might give you a football), while in the prosody condition epistemic strength of the verb might was modulated by one of two intonational contours conveying stronger vs. weaker epistemic strength, along with pitch range differences (wide for stronger and compressed for weaker). Children had to decide which twin the friend would want to come to his/her birthday party, based on what each twin said. Sixty monolingual American English-speaking children, aged 3-7, participated. There were 12 trials with two blocks, one for positive valence and the other for negative, with one familiarization trial for each block. The results show that the youngest children in the study show an emerging ability to detect modal strength through lexical items but perform at chance levels for the prosodic condition. They get increasingly better at both conditions between the ages of 4 and 5, but with a clear advantage for the lexical condition. This advantage disappears by 6 years old, with 6- and 7-year-olds performing at ceiling. The findings echo prior studies on children’s detection of distinctions in modal strength, with detection of certainty through prosody lagging behind. Results suggest that prosodic meaning may take a “backseat” to lexical meaning in the preschool years, but this effect disappears by early school age. The findings also suggest that prosodic information can generate a pragmatic implicature (in this case the directionality of the meaning of the word might), which makes a child’s pragmatic development important for understanding their prosodic development. Implications for prosodic acquisition are discussed.