The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, September 4th, 2017

Welcome to Fall 2017!

Welcome to the first edition of Whamit! for Fall 2017! After our summer hiatus, Whamit! is back to regular weekly editions during the semester.

Whamit! is the MIT Linguistics newsletter, published every Monday (Tuesday if Monday is a holiday). The editorial staff consists of Adam Albright, Kai von Fintel, David Pesetsky, Yadav Gowda, Mitya Privoznov, Neil Banerjee, and Itai Bassi.

To submit items for inclusion in Whamit! please send an email to whamit@mit.edu by Sunday 6pm.


Welcome to ling-17!

We’d like to extend a warm welcome to the students who are joining our graduate program this year!

Daniel Asherov

I’m from the greater Tel Aviv area in Israel. I received my B.A. in Linguistics at Tel Aviv University, where I worked on defaultness in Hebrew morphology,  acquisition of rhotics, and phonology of heritage speakers. In my M.A., also at Tel Aviv University, I primarily worked on the role of prosody in the interpretation of constructions with ‘or’. At present, I am particularly curious about the division of labor between phonetics and phonology, and all aspects of prosodic prominence. In my free time I enjoy language learning, especially through interaction with language exchange partners.

Tanya Bondarenko

I was born and have lived my whole life in Moscow, where I finished Bachelor’s and Master’s programs in linguistics at the Lomonosov Moscow State University (MSU). I am interested in various topics of syntax and semantics, for example in how can subjects of embedded clauses of some languages receive accusative case marking, what mechanisms are responsible for clause reduction, or why repetitive adverbs like ‘again’ have different meanings in structures with dative arguments in different languages. I enjoy doing fieldwork a lot – I have participated in MSU’s expeditions into Balkar (Turkic) and Buryat (Mongolian) languages and have done fieldwork on Georgian on my own. When I am not doing linguistics, I enjoy snowboarding, learning to do acrobatics and artistic gymnastics, and watching and discussing films.

Cater Chen

I was born and raised in Beijing, China. I received a B.Sc. in Psychology and an M.A. in Linguistics from the University of Toronto. I’ve worked on the morphology and syntax of several nominal constructions (both phrases and compounds) in Mandarin Chinese and English, and I’m generally interested in argument structure, locality (in movement), nominalization, and things about Roots. Outside of Linguistics, I enjoy reading and writing prose and poems, solving math and logic puzzles, and listening to post-rock music. I bike and hike when I’m back home. Sometimes I have ice cream or cake for lunch/dinner.

Sherry Chen

I was born and raised a little town called Longyou, located in southeastern China. I did my undergraduate studies at the University of Hong Kong, during which time I studied abroad in Melbourne, Australia. After that I did an MPhil in general linguistics at the University of Oxford, where I was advised by E. Matthew Husband and became fascinated by various topics including tense, event structure, and presupposition. My two years at Oxford has been an magical experience, which ultimately brought me to the decision of pursuing a PhD in linguistics. My main research interests lie in syntax, semantics, and their interface interfaces, involving both theoretical and experimental inquiry. While not working, I spend my time cooking and taking long walks. I think coffee and platypus are the two best things in the world.

Boer Fu

I was born in Fuxin, China. It’s a tiny town right next to Inner Mongolia. But I would consider my hometown to be Shanghai, because I have lived there since I was 4 and I have long lost my velar nasal because of it (only in Mandarin and only after certain vowels). I went to UCLA for my undergrad and did a bit of research on Mongolian vowel harmony. I came to Boston to escape the burning sun of SoCal, and to explore more of phonology. I’m also interested in historical linguistics, especially the question of how sound changes over time. When I’m not doing linguistics, you’ll probably hear me going on and on about Harry Potter and Liverpool FC (it’s a soccer team). I also love politics, maps, cats, and Agatha Christie.

Filipe Kobayashi

I’m from a small town in Brazil called Petrópolis. I received a BA in Portuguese language and literature from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. Last year, I moved to Canada to do an MA in Hispanic linguistics at the University of Toronto. I’m interested in semantics, syntax and their interfaces. Currently, I am particularly puzzled by epistemic indefinites and the licensing of polarity items. In my free time, I enjoy reading, watching TV series and trying to play the guitar.

Vincent Rouillard

I grew up in Montreal, where I obtained my B.A. in linguistics from McGill University.  I am most interested in semantics and pragmatics, although I hope to extend my research into syntax. My work so far has focused on so-called presuppositional implicatures, which are inferences generated when speakers utter a sentence for which there are presuppositionally stronger alternatives. Outside of academia, I like to sit at my computer all day.

Dóra Takács

I grew up in a small industrial town in Hungary. I got my B.A. in German studies with a minor in mathematics from the University of Szeged. I have recently finished my M.A. in linguistics at the University of Göttingen. I am interested in semantics and pragmatics in general, and propositional attitude verbs, presuppositions and anaphora in particular. I am excited to continue working on these topics as well as extending my linguistic horizon in the coming years at MIT.

Christopher Yang

I was born and raised in San Jose, California. I attended UCLA and received a BA in linguistics with a specialization in computing. My main interests in linguistics center around phonology, in particular Optimality Theory, opacity, and syllable theory, as well as learning and learnability. I am currently investigating the effects of syllable structure on certain opaque interactions in Korean. Outside of linguistics, I am an avid gamer, lover of superhero films, and enjoy hiking and woodworking.

Stanislao Zompì

I was born and grew up in the South-East of Italy, a few miles away from the awesome Ionian shores of Apulia. I then moved to Tuscany to study, and earned both my BA and my MA from the University of Pisa. During those university years, however, I also managed to travel around a good deal, spending some months as an Erasmus student in Paris and London, then taking part in a couple of EGG schools in Eastern Europe, and finally arranging to write my MA thesis at the University of Geneva. In that thesis, I focused on so-called *ABA patterns in case morphology, and on what they may tell us about the way that cases are assigned. I’m also interested in syntax and morphology more generally, and I hope to get a grasp also of semantics and phonology in the years to come. Outside linguistics, I enjoy good literature (especially short stories), reading and debating about politics, and binge-watching TV series.

New Visiting Scholars and Visiting Students for Fall 2017

Visiting Faculty

  •  Naomi Feldman (University of Maryland): “I’m visiting this year from the University of Maryland.  My research is in computational psycholinguistics.  This means I use computational models to try and understand how people learn and process language, drawing on methods and insights from a number of fields: linguistics, cognitive science, computer science, engineering.  Most of my research looks at how people’s processing of speech becomes specialized for their native language, but in recent collaborations with students, I’ve also looked at questions in morphology and syntax acquisition.”
Visiting Scholars
  • Michiko Bando (Shiga University): “My research interests are morphology and syntax of Japanese complex predicates, and recently I am also interested in syntax of Japanese and English relative clauses.”
  • Yunjing Li (Tianjin Foreign Studies University): “I’m an associate professor from Tianjin Foreign Studies University, China. I got my Ph.D degree in linguistics from Nankai University.  My research interests lie primarily in doing phonological and/or phonetic studies on Chinese dialects. Feel free to contact me if you want to discuss with me linguistic things or anything else.”
  • Senem Şahin  (Universität Augsburg)
  • Ryosuke Shibagaki (Nanzan University). His research interests include Lexical Semantics and Syntax
  • Jaehyun Son (Duksung Women’s University): “I am interested in the accent types and their correspondences in Korean and Japanese. For now, I am focusing on Korean accentual dialects through field work. Research on the Korean accent has been carried out within the Korean linguistics community, but in that context, the Korean accent system has traditionally been compared to the tone system of Chinese, in which pitch contours are syllabic. In contrast, Japanese researchers have proposed that the Korean accent system should be analyzed from the point of view of word-level and phrase-level accentual systems seen in Japanese dialects. One possible reason for this difference of opinion is that recently in Japan, despite the growing influence of the accentual systems of Tokyo Japanese and the dialects of other major cities, a great variety of smaller dialects have been observed and documented, and as a result of this work researchers have discovered accent types that have played a crucial role in uncovering the history and evolution of the Japanese accentual system. In Korea, on the other hand, accent has been lost in the regions surrounding and including Seoul (the national capital) but there are still dialects, mainly in the south-eastern regions of the Korean peninsula, that retain an accentual system and can shed light on the history of accent in Korea. For the present study, I took the Japanese-oriented view rather than the traditional Chinese oriented view and analyzed the accentual systems of Korean dialects using data from a purely synchronic field survey of several locations across the Korean-speaking region. The field survey includes dialects that have already been documented by Korean and Japanese researchers, but by including the whole Korean-speaking region in its scope and using a new theoretical framework, the current study was able to highlight the shortcomings of previous work.”
  • Sze Wing Tang (The Chinese University of Hong Kong). His research interests lie primarily in Chinese syntax, theoretical approaches to the study of Chinese dialects, and comparative grammar. Topics he is currently working on include the syntax of the sentence-final expressions and the micro-parametric variation of functional categories under a cartographic approach.
  • Koichi Tateishi (Kobe College): “I am a phonologist with a strong interest in syntax. Currently, I am doing a joint work on how Japanese learners of English as a foreign language perceive prosody, how it is different from native speakers of English, and whether the learners’ levels of English matter. Also, I have been working on the relation between lexical classes and phonological phenomena related to syllables and other prosodic structures. My past work includes those on the syntax of multiple nominative constructions in Japanese and on pitch contours of Japanese speakers in relation to syntactic constructions.”
Postdoctoral Associates
  • Tiaoyuan Mao (Beijing Foreign Studies University). His research interests include syntax, semantics-pragmatics interface,and language acquisition.
  • Sarah Zobel  (University of Tübingen): “My main research interests lie in formal semantics and pragmatics (and everything in between). The two main lines of research I am currently pursuing are the description and analysis of the interpretational possibilities of German `als’-phrases and English `as’-phrases, as well as the semantics and pragmatics of German discourse particles (contrasting Federal German and Austrian German varieties). I have also worked on pronouns and modality/genericity. In addition to my theoretical work, I am interested in corpus linguistic and experimental methods, which I both apply in my research (as far as my skills permit).”
Visiting Students
  • Moshe E.Bar Lev (Hebrew University of Jerusalem):“My main research interests are Semantics and Pragmatics and their interface. I currently work on Free Choice and Homogeneity phenomena, and I’m also interested in Tense semantics cross-linguistically.”
  • Kasia Hitczenko (University of Maryland):
    I’m a 4th year grad student at the University of Maryland, advised by Naomi Feldman, and will be spending the full academic year at MIT. My research is in computational psycholinguistics, with a focus on modeling how infants learn the sound system of their language. I’m looking forward to meeting everyone!
    Alexander Wimmer (Universität Tübingen): “I am a second-year PhD student at the University of Tübingen, Germany, where I am a member of „ObTrEx“, a project that investigates obligatory presupposition triggers from an experimental or crosslinguistic perspective. My research interests lie in crosslinguistic semantics, especially in quantification over alternatives and Chinese language. Besides linguistics, I enjoy walking and all kinds of movies.”

Summer defenses

Our warmest congratulations to this summer’s shower of doctoral dissertators. From Aron Hirsch and Paul Marty’s semantics to Chris O’Brien, Isa Kerem Bayırlı and Ruth Brillman’s syntax and to Sam Zukoff and Ben Storme’s phonology. Between all the fields, a wide variety of topics and excellent defenses, it was truly a fruitful dissertation season. The department was celebrating with an as wide a variety of food and beverages: champagne, a cookie cake, sublime French wine and rakı.

  • Aron Hirsch: An inflexible semantics for cross-categorial operators
  • Benjamin Storme: Perceptual sources for closed-syllable vowel laxing and nonderived environment effects
  • Chris O’Brien: Multiple dominance and interface operations
  • Isa Kerem Bayırlı: The universality of concord
  • Paul Marty: Implicatures and the DP domain
  • Ruth, Brillman: Subject/non-subject extraction asymmetries: the view from tough-constructions
  • Sam Zukoff: Indo-European Reduplication: Synchrony, Diachrony, and Theory


Summer news

We have following summer news from students and faculty:

  • The biennial Summer Institute of the Lingusitic Society of America took place at the University of Kentucky from July 5 - August 1. Several faculty members and alumni taught classes:
    • Adam Albright (faculty): Phonology
    • Michel DeGraff (faculty): Creole Studies at the Intersection of Theory, History, Computation and Education
    • Claire Halpert (PhD ‘12, now at Minnesota): Clausal Arguments in Bantu and Beyond
    • Giorgio Magri (Phd ‘09, now at CNRS): Computational Phonology
    • David Pesetsky (faculty): Introduction to Syntax
    • Norvin Richards (faculty): Prosody and Syntax: Introduction to Contiguity Theory
    • Coppe van Urk (PhD ‘15, now at QMUL): Movement in Minimalism
    • Igor Yanovich (PhD ‘13, now at Tübingen): Statistical Inference for the Linguistic and Non-Linguistic Past
    Elise Newman (2nd-year) and Danfeng Wu (2nd-year) were attendees, and Danfeng also TAed David’s syntax class. Elise shares this group picture of some of the attendees, including MIT-ers Danfeng, Coppe, Norvin, Elise, Claire and David, and David shares this picture of a bourbon distillery.Some of the attendees of LSA Summer Institute 2017. Photo credits: Elise Newman.A bourbon distillery in Lexington, KY. Photo credits: David Pesetsky.
  • The CreteLing Summer School took place at the University of Crete in Rethymnon from July 10 to July 21, and many MIT faculty and alumni taught courses. Shigeru shares the picture below showing the view of Rethymnon from the accomodations at CreteLing. Marie-Christine Meyer (PhD ‘13, now at ZAS Berlin), Despina Oikonomou (PhD ‘16, now at Humboldt), and Uli Sauerland (PhD ‘98, now at ZAS Berlin) gave talks at the associated workshop. Rafael Abramovitz (3rd-year), Ömer Demirok (4th-year), and Maša Močnik (3rd-year) were TAs at CreteLing, while Snejana Iovtcheva (6th-year), and Tatiana Bondareko (1st-year) and attended. In addition, former visiting faculty Elena Anagnostopoulou (Crete) and Hedde Zeijlstra (Göttingen) also taught courses.
  • The ferris wheel in Toulouse.The European Summer School in Logic, Language, and Information (ESSLLII 2017) took place at the University of Toulouse from July 17-28. Among the course instructors were: Philippe also gave an evening lecture on the scope of the field of semantics. Keny Chatain (2nd-year), Yadav Gowda (2nd-year), and Maša Močnik (3rd-year) attended, and Maša also presented a poster at the student session. Roger, who shared the picture of the ferris wheel to the right, reports “The school was well organized. The location, Toulouse, France, did not disappoint nor did the students and fellow lecturers. If the 2017 instantiation of ESSLLI was representative and you have an opportunity in the future to participate, grab it!”.
  • Some MIT linguists who happened to be in Toronto in August presented at the Dog Days VI Syntax Workshop at the University of Toronto. Bridget Copley (PhD ‘02, now at CNRS/Paris 8), Neil Banerjee (2nd-year), and Tova Rapoport (PhD ‘87, now at Ben Gurion) gave talks, while Bronwyn Bjorkman (PhD ‘11, now at Queen’s University) was a co-author on a talk and gave a keynote as well.
  • For the third year in a row, MIT has participated in the Congresso Internacional de Estudos Linguísticos (VI CIEL) at the University of Brasília. From August 23-25, Shigeru Miyagawa, Kai von Fintel, and Maria Luisa Zubizaretta (PhD ‘82, now at USC) taught mini-courses.
  • Maya Honda (Wheelock College) and Wayne O’Neil (faculty) have published an article in Revista LinguíStica. The article summarizes the past thirty years of their teaching linguistics, generally in non-traditional settings. The journal is open-access, and the article is available online here.
  • In June, David travelled to Utrecht University to participate in a dissertation defense by Heidi Klockmann, who was a visitor to the department in Fall 2014. Heidi’s dissertation is available here.
  • In August, the Workshop on Quirks of Subject Extraction was held at the National University of Singapore. The workshop was organized by Mitcho Erlewine (PhD ‘14, now at NUS). David was an invited speaker, and former visitors Nico Baier (UC Berkeley) and Amy-Rose Deal (UC Berkeley) also presented at the workshop.
  • Congratulations to Pritty Patel-Grosz (PhD ‘12) who has been promoted to the rank of full professor at the University of Oslo!
  • Colin Phillips (PhD ‘96, now at Maryland) was elected a 2018 Fellow of the Linguistic Society of America! Colin joins 37 other MIT linguistics alumni and faculty members who have been similarly honored. Congratulations to Colin and the other 2018 Fellows!

Fall 2017 Reading Groups

LPRG is the Linguistics and Philosophy Reading Group, held Mondays from 1:00 to 2:00pm in 32-D769. Linguists and philosophers join forces to understand language and linguistics. We read and discuss old and new papers in the field (especially in formal semantics and philosophy of language). For more information visit the website or contact the organisers Christopher Baron or Maša Močnik.

Phonology Circle will be meeting on Mondays, from 5:00–6:30pm, in 32-D831 (the 8th floor conference room). For those of you who are new to the department, Phonology Circle is the weekly phonology meeting group. It is an informal group, so we welcome presentations on all kinds of topics: work in progress, papers from the literature, recently defended generals papers or theses, practice talks, etc. Presenters need not be affiliated with MIT, though we give priority to current students, faculty, and visitors. Light refreshments will be provided. At this point, every Monday of the semester is open other than September 18 and November 13th. Please contact Erin Olson and/or Rafael Ambramovitz if you would like to reserve one. We will ask you for a title and an abstract closer to the date of presentation.

Syntax Square exists to facilitate the presentation or discussion of anything relating to syntax. Formal presentations are welcome, but not necessary. If there’s a bit of syntax you want to have a discussion about, sign up.

Syntax square will be meeting this semester on Tuesdays from 1-2pm in room 32-D461. If you would like to lead a discussion or give an informal presentation of your work, please contact Danfeng or Suzana.

LFRG is an informal, weekly semantics and semantics/syntax interface group. Rough ideas, work in progress, practice talks and presentation of papers from the literature are most welcome.

We will be meeting on Wednesdays 1-2pm, room 32-D461.

Please let Naomi or Mitya know if you would like to present.

Ling-Lunch is a series of weekly talks, held on Thursdays from 12:30 to 1:50pm. It is open to all linguistics topics and everybody is welcome to present their work, though preference is given to members of the MIT Linguistics Department. Contact this semester’s organizers, Keny Chatain or Ömer Demirok to reserve a slot.


Course announcements, Fall 2017

We have a number of exciting and new courses this coming semester!

24.946. Topics in Syntax

  • Instructors: Daniel Fox, Norvin W Richards
  • Time: Tuesdays 10am-1pm
  • Room: 32-D461

Course Description:

Stellar site: https://stellar.mit.edu/S/course/24/fa17/24.956/index.html

We will spend the semester considering some properties of A-bar chains; in particular, we’ll be interested in understanding the rules that determine how such chains are pronounced, and trying to figure out what kind of work we can get these rules to do for us. Particular topics include multiple wh-movement, parasitic gaps, ‘lowering’ operations, and extraposition.

Reading for the first class can be found on stellar.

24.979. Topics in Semantics: The Linguistics of Desire

  • Instructors: Sabine Iatridou, Kai von Fintel
  • Time: Wednesdays 10am-1pm
  • Room: 32-D461

Course Description:

We will discuss classic and current work on the semantics and syntax of desire constructions. We mostly will focus on wanting, wishing, hoping, intending. There are plenty of parallels and connections, among others to deontic modality, teleological modality, imperatives, optatives.

This class can satisfy either the Topics in Semantics or the Topics in Syntax requirement, depending on the nature of your final paper.

An initial list of readings can be found here.

Course requirements for registered students:

  • Regular attendance
  • Class participation
  • Submit weekly questions/comments on the readings by Monday afternoon
  • Final paper on a topic related to the seminar

24.964. Topics in Phonology: Reduplication

  • Instructors: Sam Zukoff
  • Time: Thursdays 2pm-5pm
  • Room: 32-D461

Course Description:

Reduplication has played a major role in the development of phonological theory, leading to advances in Autosegmental Phonology (Marantz 1982, Steriade 1982, 1988, McCarthy & Prince 1986) and Optimality Theory (McCarthy & Prince 1993a,b, 1994), and serving as the basis for Correspondence Theory within OT (McCarthy & Prince 1995, 1999). Since the 1990’s, there have been numerous proposals seeking to revise various aspects of McCarthy & Prince’s core framework of Base Reduplicant Correspondence Theory (e.g. Spaelti 1997, Struijke 2000, Raimy 2000, Inkelas & Zoll 2005, Frampton 2009, Kiparsky 2010, Saba Kirchner 2010, McCarthy, Kimper, & Mullin 2012). Some of these represent fairly minor tweaks, others represent more significant departures. The field has not yet paused to evaluate the arguments motivating these distinct alternatives (which sometimes make incompatible claims about the empirical evidence and its interpretation) nor fully compare their predictions, leaving the analysis of reduplication in a state of flux. This course will explore the core phonological issues relating to reduplication, and attempt to evaluate the various proposals. This course will be primarily concerned with two questions which are central to understanding the phonological properties of reduplication:

(i) How is the shape and composition of the reduplicant determined? Answering this question will involve examining issues such as templates, the emergence of the unmarked, fixed segmentism, locality, and others.

(ii) How do phonological processes interaction with reduplication? Namely, what is the status of the evidence for processes of over-application, under-application, back-copying, “re-copying”, etc. (broadly, opacity and look-ahead) in reduplication (Wilbur 1973), and what machinery is required to properly capture the typology of such effects?

We will take as our baseline the “a-templatic” approach to reduplication within BRCT (Spaelti 1997, Hendricks 1999, Riggle 2006, among many others), an offshoot of Generalized Template Theory (McCarthy & Prince 1994, 1995, et seq., Urbanczyk 1996, 2001), which seeks to derive reduplicant shape mainly as the interaction between BR faithfulness and markedness, via the emergence of the unmarked.

24.946. Linguistic Theory and Japanese Language

  • Instructors: Shigeru Miyagawa
  • Time: Mondays 10am-1pm
  • Room: 32-D461

Course Description:

We will take up some recent studies of Japanese on topics including:

  • complementation — topicalization; complementizer choice; “subjunctive”
  • subject — position; empty pro; ga/no case marking
  • question formation — ‘why’; the role of the Q-marker
  • movement — scrambling; numeral quantifier float
  • allocutive agreement — agreement at C
  • ellipsis — NP ellipsis; “argument ellipsis”

24.965. Morphology

  • Instructors: Adam Albright, Roni Katzir, David Pesetsky
  • Time: Mondays 2pm-5pm
  • Room: 32-D461

Course Description:

Web site (to be populated shortly): http://stellar.mit.edu/S/course/24/fa17/24.965

Topics in the structure of words and their components. The leading question underlying the course will be: is there a distinct morphological grammar, or can morphological phenomena all be understood as arising from the interaction of syntax and phonology?

Particular questions to be discussed in light of this leading question include:

  • What is the evidence for structure below the level of the word?
  • What (if anything) distinguishes word structure from sentence structure?
  • What principles account for the order of morphemes?
  • How does morphological structure influence the phonological shape of complex words?
  • Why does morphology sometimes fail to express syntactic/semantic differences (one affix, two functions), and how do multiple morphemes compete to express the same meaning?

Course requirements:

  • weekly readings
  • active class participation
  • discovery of a data-rich problem to explore for term paper
  • class presentation of project (details will depend on enrollment)
  • submission of term paper

(Please, check back for updates!)


Ling-Lunch 9/7 - Colin Davis (MIT)

Speaker: Colin Davis (MIT)
Title: Intermediate Stranding, Constraints on Movement, and Cyclic Linearization
Date and time: Thursday, September 7, 12:30-1:50pm
Location: 32-D461

I argue that certain rarely considered facts about stranding point us towards a particular understanding of some general issues in syntactic theory, namely: The theory of phasal domains/spellout, and the nature of movement operations. In particular, using data from English, West Ulster English, Afrikaans, Polish, and Russian, I examine scenarios where material is pied-piped with one step of movement and stranded with a subsequent step, stranding that material at an intermediate position in the clause. I show that this phenomenon of intermediate stranding is subject to the following descriptive generalization:

(1). Intermediate stranding is only possible when the stranded material is, or can be, linearly to the right of the material that continues to move leftward.

I argue that the Cyclic Linearization theory of phase spellout (Fox & Pesetsky 2005, Ko 2014) and a theory of movement as driven by Probe-Goal Agree (Chomsky 1995, Ko 2014, van Urk 2015), and thus constrained by c-command, precisely predicts exactly this generalization, while the commonly held theory of phases, and a view of movement as free and untriggered, cannot. These results also point us to a new perspective on what constrains movement out of moved elements.


MIT Colloquium 9/8 - Alan Yu (UChicago)

Speaker: Alan Yu (UChicago)
Title: Are individual differences in cue weight strategies contrast-specific?
Time: Friday, September 8th, 3:30-5:00 pm
Place: 32-155

Phonological categories are generally defined by multiple acoustic dimensions. Recent studies have found that listeners of the same gender and dialect group give differential weighting to dimensions in phonetic categorization. What factors govern the differences between individuals remain a largely unanswered question. Variability may stem from differences in individual perceptual experience or the influence of some contrast-independent cognitive mechanism that modulates speech processing strategies. This study examines the relationship between perceptual behaviors across three categorization tasks concerning three sets of phonological contrasts in English (i.e. the effects of VOT and f0 on voicing identification, the effects of spectral and duration information on i/ɪ identification, and the effects of vowel on sibilant identification) and show that, while individuals vary in their cue weightings for each contrast, the weight settings across contrasts are not random. Implications of these findings for models of speech perception and language variation and change will be discussed.