The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, February 20th, 2012

Phonology Circle 2/21 - Karim Shoul

Title: The Relationship Between Back and Front Articulations in Moroccan Arabic
Speaker: Karim Shoul (CNRS)
Date/Time: Tuesday, Feb 21, 5:30-7p
Location: 32-D831

For this study, we considered /t/ and the back counterpart /T/ in the sequences /#CVb/, /VCV/ and /bVC#/, where /C/ is /t/ or /T/, and /V/ is /a/. The bilabial stop /b/ was chosen in order to minimize possible coarticulatory effects. The different positions (initial, intervocalic and final) permit to examine their possible effects on the realisation of the target consonants (Straka, 1963). The low vowel /a/ was chosen since it shows less linguo-palatal contact than /i/ and /u/ (Marchal, 1988).

The data was examined by direct palatography and linguography. Six native speakers of Moroccan Arabic participated in the experiment and none of them suffer from any articulatory disorders (Shoul, 2007).

Palatographic results show that both /t/ and /T/ are alveolars in all three positions. These findings are in accordance with Ghazeli’s (1977) observations concerning different Arabic dialects. However, linguographic results show that /t/ is laminal whereas the back corresponding /T/ is apical. The apicality of /T/ can be explained by a concave configuration of the tongue since it is produced with a backward movement of the the back of the tongue towards the pharynx, unlike the convexe configuration which characterizes /t/. This tongue configuration for /T/ favours the contact between the palate and the tongue with the tip (Clements, personal communication).

The apicality of /T/ and the laminality of /t/ can also be explained in terms of their acoustic consequences. According to Ladefoged and Maddieson (1996) laminal consonants are more often produced with more important frication noise than apical ones, and for Dart (1991) the separation of the tongue and the palate is shorter for apicals than for laminals. This seems to be supported by our data, since the laminal /t/ is produced with the participation of the blade of the tongue and then an important frication noise, whereas the apical /T/ is manifested by the contribution of the tip of the tongue and then a weak frication noise.

No ESSL meeting this week

There will be no Experimental Syntax and Semantics lab meeting this week, due to Presidents’ Day.

Join us next Monday (2/27) at 5:30 for the first meeting of a short two-session reading group in which we will discuss theoretical and experimental (ERP-related) papers on Blocking effects. Contact Hadas if you would like to participate and get the reading list in advance.

Ling-Lunch 2/23 - Igor Yanovich

Ling-Lunch returns this week at its usual time with a talk by Igor.

Speaker: Igor Yanovich (MIT)
Title: Modal hopes and fears: a diachronic case study
Date/Time: Thursday, Feb 23, 12:30-1:45p
Location: 32-D461

In this talk, I will show what the history of English modals in CP complements of one semantic class of attitude verbs can tell us about the mechanics of semantic change. Data for the study come from two historical corpora of English (covering the time periods of 1425-1520, and 1640-1680, respectively), each of size >350K words, drawn from the Penn Parsed Corpus of Early English Correspondence. The talk will include of brief tutorial on the use of Penn parsed corpora.

MIT Linguistics in the New Yorker

A recent New Yorker article on myths about “Brainstorming” end with a nice discussion of Building 20, and how linguistics got started at MIT. Our link will take you to the linguistics part of the article.

Nevertheless, he soon grew fond of the building, if only because he was able to tear down several room dividers. This allowed Halle to transform a field that was often hermetic, with grad students working alone in the library, into a group exercise, characterized by discussion, Socratic interrogation, and the vigorous exchange of clashing perspectives. “At Building 20, we made a big room, so that all of the students could talk to each other,” Halle remembers. “That’s how I wanted them to learn.

How some people spent the 3-day weekend

And because Tuesday is a Monday…

…there will be no Syntax Square this week. But next week, Syntax Square returns, with a presentation by DaeYoung Sohn. Watch for the announcement in the next Whamit!