Uriel Cohen Priva and Chelsea Sanker have just had their paper published in LabPhon. They show that the using difference-in-difference to measure convergence, though convenient and frequently used, should ultimately be avoided in most situations: Speakers whose performance is close to the mean of the distribution or to their interlocutors are likely to be seen as divergent, and speakers whose performance is far from the mean are likely to appear as convergent. Both effects can lead to finding false evidence for individual differences in convergence.
In a paper originating in CLPS 1390 in Spring 2017, Scott AnderBois and Chelsea Sanker together with then-students Hugo Lucitante ’19, Chiara Repetti-Ludlow ’18, and Haoru Zhang MA ’18 published the first instrumental phonetic description of A’ingae (Cofán), an indigenous language of Amazonia, as part of the Journal of the International Phonetic Association‘s “Illustrations of the IPA”:
A new paper by Scott AnderBois — “Negation, alternatives, and negative polar questions in American English” — has appeared in an edited volume, Questions in Discourse, in the Current Research in the Semantics / Pragmatics Interface: https://brill.com/view/book/edcoll/9789004378308/BP000003.xml
Babak Hemmatian and colleagues just published his paper Think of the consequences: A decade of discourse about same-sex marriage at Behavior Research Methods. The paper studies the change of discourse regarding same sex marriage changed over the course of 10 years using topic models and a large corpus of Reddit posts.
The Oxford Handbook of Ellipsis was just published. It includes a paper by Scott AnderBois entitled “Ellipsis in Inquisitive Semantics” and a paper by Polly Jacobson entitled “Ellipsis in Categorial Grammar“.
Chelsea Sanker has just published in Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics
This paper presents a set of auditory perception experiments testing the effects of lexical ambiguity, lemma frequency, and acoustic details. In an AX discrimination task with stimuli produced in isolation, lexically ambiguous phonologically matching forms (e.g., sun-sun, sun-son) were evaluated more slowly and identified as ‘different’ more often than lexically unambiguous forms (e.g., cat-cat). For stimuli extracted from meaningful sentences, pairs of homophone mates (sun-son) were evaluated more slowly than same pairs of such words (sun-sun), following from the greater acoustic distance between homophone mates in several measures. The individual lexical frequency of homophone mates was a significant factor in both identification tasks, though frequency effects in the AX tasks were weaker and driven by the lexically unambiguous items. In both studies, greater acoustic distance between items was a predictor of longer response times, though the significance of particular acoustic measures varied. Identification of homophone mates also depended on context of production; listeners were above chance accuracy for choosing between homophone mates extracted from sentences, but not for homophone mates produced in isolation. While results for stimuli produced in sentential contexts indicate that listeners are sensitive to acoustic details and can weakly associate production patterns with lexical items, the absence of such differences for homophone mates produced in isolation suggests that these details are not an inherent part of the representation.
Uriel Cohen Priva has been awarded a grant from NSF. Read about it here.
Human language use reflects the nature of human communication. For instance, frequent words tend to have fewer sounds than infrequent ones, which facilitates quick production and understanding. However, little is known about more fine-grained distinctions. For instance, English has more /k/ than /p/ sounds. Does that reflect a property of human language and its physiological and perceptual nature or a historical accident? Answering such questions requires comparative data on the frequency and phonological makeup of words in many languages. This project will build on existing textual sources and word frequency lists to provide the phonological makeup of words in close to 200 low-resource languages. The phonological word lists will provide an invaluable resource to the understanding of human language and provide much-needed linguistic resources to low-resource languages. The outputs of the project will be made public and easily accessible, thereby assisting in documenting and teaching the processed languages, and in building computational linguistic resources such as text-to-speech engines.
The research team, including trained undergraduate and graduate students, will create rules to translate alphabets to phonemic representation for multiple languages. The team will then collect textual resources and word frequency lists from publicly available sources such as online Bibles, newspapers, and movie subtitles. The rules will be applied separately to each source and the resulting phonological representations will be made publicly available, such that not only researchers but also the general public will be able to use and interact with the data. The researchers will proceed to use the data to investigate whether the information theoretic properties of sounds have distributional universality: do sounds tend to provide similar amounts of information cross-linguistically, and if so, does their information content correlate with their phonetic properties? Universality is an age-old question, and the similarities and differences of properties across language can provide new insights into language use. Specifically, the researchers will use information theoretic properties to predict whether low information or other previously studied phonological properties are likely to promote consonant weakening in those languages.
This award reflects NSF’s statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation’s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
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 https://www.elenaluchkina.com/.
Congratulations to Matt, Lauren, and Jim for a paper published recently in the Journal of the Acoustic Society of America! The title and abstract are as follows:
Articulatory peripherality modulates relative attention to the mouth during visual vowel discrimination.
Masapollo, Polka, and Ménard (2016) have recently reported that adults from different language backgrounds show robust directional asymmetries in unimodal visual-only vowel discrimination: a change in mouth-shape from one associated with a relatively less peripheral vowel to one associated with a relatively more peripheral vowel (in F1-F2 articulatory/acoustic vowel space) results in significantly better performance than a change in the reverse direction. In the present study, we used eye-tracking methodology to examine the gaze behavior of English-speaking subjects while they performed Masapollo et al.’s visual vowel discrimination task. We successfully replicated this directional effect using Masapollo et al.’s visual stimulus materials, and found that subjects deployed selective attention to the oral region compared to the ocular region of the model speaker’s face. In addition, gaze fixations to the mouth were found to increase while subjects viewed the more peripheral vocalic articulations compared to the less peripheral articulations, perhaps due to their larger, more extreme oral-facial kinematic patterns. This bias in subjects’ pattern of gaze behavior may contribute to asymmetries in visual vowel perception.
The full paper can be found here.