Tag Archives: Phonology

UIC TiL: Fall 2012 Schedule

Mark your calendars and save these dates because the fall line-up for UIC Talks in Linguistics has been announced. All talks are scheduled on Fridays at 3 PM and will take place in University Hall 1750, located at 601 S. Morgan Street here in Chicago. We look forward to seeing you there for some interesting talks on a wide array of linguistic topics.

  • September 21: Masaya Yoshida, Northwestern (Psycholinguistics)
  • October 19: Kay González-Vilbazo, UIC (Code-switching)
  • November 2: Bernie Issa, UIC (SLA)
  • November 16: Craig Sailor, UCLA (Syntax)
  • November 30: Nicholas Henriksen, Michigan (Phonology)

Titles of the talks as well as abstracts will be announced closer to the dates listed for each.

Talk: When “foreign” languages aren’t foreign – Heritage speakers in the United States

The Latin American and Latino Studies Program and the Department of Hispanic and Italian Studies present:

When “foreign” languages aren’t foreign: Heritage speakers in the United States

Presented by: 
Kim Potowski
Associate professor of Hispanic Linguistics at UIC
October 12, 2011,  12:00 p.m.
Rafael Cintrón-Ortiz Latino Cultural Center
Lecture Center B2, University of Illinois at Chicago, East Campus
“You’re in America Speak English.”
“Multilingualism threatens our national unity.”
“Today’s immigrants are not learning English as quickly as those of the past.”
These myths regarding language are fairly prevalent in the U.S. at the beginning of the 21st century.  Approximately 20% of the U.S. population speaks a language other than English at home, yet several mainstream currents portray this linguistic diversity as a problem – with repressive and sometimes illegal  results. But there have been growing countercurrents of awareness that heritage languages are in fact both a right for the communities that speak them and a resource for the nation generally, along with the understanding that there are good ways (and not so good ways) of promoting English language learning.   Several cities have enacted initiatives to protect people’s right to maintain their heritage language without being accused of rejecting mainstream U.S. society, and several K-8 educational models teach other languages to our nation’s English monolingual children. This talk explores these issues making frequent reference to Spanish in the U.S. and to Chicago more specifically.
Kim Potowski is Associate Professor of Hispanic linguistics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she directs the Spanish for Heritage Speakers Program. Her research focuses on Spanish in the United States, and her book Language Diversity in the U.S. (Cambridge University Press 2010) profiles the 12 most commonly spoken heritage languages in the nation.  She is currently completing a book about “MexiRicans” in Chicago.
Bring your brown bag lunch and refreshments will be provided  –   this event is free and open to the general public.   For more information call LALS office at 312. 996.2445.

UIC TiL: Frank Savelsberg

This Friday October the 7th, Frank Savelsberg will be presenting a talk at UIC TiL entitled ‘La periferia izquierda “alta” y “baja” y la estructura informativa en las variedades iberorrománicas medievales’.

Join us at 3 PM in 1750 University Hall (601 S. Morgan St. Chicago, IL 60607) for the talk, and as usual, light refreshments will be provided.

We hope to see everyone there!

La periferia izquierda “alta” y “baja” y la estructura informativa en las variedades iberorrománicas medievales

Frank Savelsberg, Freie Universität Berlin

La intervención se centrará en variantes del orden de palabras en las variedades iberorrománicas medievales que divergen de modo significativo de los posibles tipos de organización de constituyentes en las lenguas actuales en cuestión. En el Español moderno, por ejemplo, predomina el orden de sujeto – verbo – complemento y es la organización no marcada en oraciones con verbos transitivos:

(1)            María come la manzana.

Si uno desplaza el complemento directo a la periferia izquierda de la oración en el Español moderno la repetición a través de un pronombre clítico es indispensable:

(2)            La manzana la come María.

Contrario a ésto, en el Español medieval pueden encontrarse estructuras como en (3a-b):

(3)            a.            E esto fiz yo porque tomases exiemplo. (Juan Manuel, Conde                                  Lucanor)

b.            [...] que aestos dos procuradores fuese dado, por mi mandado, poderio por las çibdades e villas [...] (Anonym, 1432)

En el primer caso se trata de un complemento directo dislocado al margen izquierdo de la oración, en el segundo caso de un complemento indirecto. En ambos casos, el Español moderno exige la repetición de los complementos dislocados a través de un clítico.

La intervención también se dedicará a estructuras como las siguientes:

(4)            a.            E pues que la Emperadriz ouo esto fecho murio. (Gran Conquista de Ultramar)

b.            [...] e hauemos por experiencia visto [...] (Anónimo, 1414)

En ambas frases se encuentran formas perifrásticas para expresar el pasado y entre el verbo auxiliar y el participio se hallan constituyentes interpoladas. Esta construcción no es posible en el Español moderno, la vecindad inmediata del verbo auxiliar y del participio es obligatoria.

Las observaciones y los análisis de la intervención quieren dar unas primeras respuestas a las preguntas siguientes: ¿Qué función cumplen los complementos dislocados en las variedades iberorrománicas medievales respecto a la estructura informativa? ¿Los elementos interpolados entre auxiliar y participio están marcadas en cuanto a la estructura informativa? ¿Qué función cumplen en el discurso?

UIC TiL: Fall 2011 Lineup

Mark your calendars!

UIC Talks In Linguistics (TiL) is pleased to announce this semester’s lineup:

Frank Savelsberg, Freie Universität Berlin

La periferia izquierda “alta” y “baja” y la estructura informativa
en las variedades iberorrománicas medievales (Spanish)

David Heap, The University of Western Ohio

Non-standard Spanish clitic sequences:
data from the Atlas Lingüístico de la Península Ibérica

Ming Xiang, University of Chicago


MaryAnn Parada and Shane Ebert, UIC


Please join us at UIC TiL Fridays at 3 p.m. in University Hall 1750, at the University of Chicago Eastern Campus.

Stay tuned for more information!

UIC TiL: Erik Willis

This Friday, January 28th, Dr. Erik Willis of Indiana University will be presenting a talk entitled, “Findings from a Spanish trill seeker” (abstract below), an interesting discussion of the Spanish “r/rr.”

Join us at 3 PM in 1750 University Hall (601 S. Morgan St. Chicago, IL 60607) for the talk and as usual light refreshments will be provided.

In addition, directly following the talk, Dr. Willis will hold a Praat workshop in Grant Hall 304. All are welcome to join us for this discussion of linguistic research and classroom implementation.

Findings from a Spanish trill seeker

This paper will provide an overview of a laboratory approach to understanding the Spanish phonological trill based on acoustic work on different three dialects, Dominican, Veracruz Mexican and Jerezano Peninsular Spanish. Spanish rhotics, and in particular, the Spanish phonological trill, have been a topic of research in linguistics due to the potential for neutralization, considerable variation and complexity of production. Trill production has also been a topic of interest to researchers working on theoretical issues such as gemination, syllabic affiliation, gestural score, phonetic/articulatory factors, etc. Trill variation is also one of the principal characteristics for dialectal variation of phonetics. However, it is only recently that detailed acoustic accounts have been forwarded.

We will begin by reviewing the “normative” descriptions of the Spanish trill and then proceed to illustrate the principal acoustic characteristics used to identify or delimit a phonological trill. We will then review the findings of three dialectal examinations including the acoustics of the primary allophonic variants. We will next review the specific phonological contexts in which the variants are found across the dialects and the specific acoustic characterization for each dialect. For two of the three dialects, the phonological trill is also contrasted with the phonological tap to better understand contrast and how the contrast is maintained despite the similarities in the segments. The talk will conclude with data and findings of a current study of phonological trill in newscaster speech in the Dominican Republic.

Praat Workshop

Praat is a powerful tool for acoustic analysis. Our review will focus on its uses for linguistic research. In this hands-on workshop we will first review some basic functions of Praat including opening files, editing files, extracting small portions of sound, and saving sound files in a wav format as well as a binary format. The remainder of our time will be spent on the bulleted topics below.

▪ Creating textgrid. Textgrids are annotations attached to a sound file that can be used to automate the extraction of data and insertion of text including phonetic symbols.

▪ Extracting text from textgrids. A transcription of a sound file can be effective using Praat for the transcription and then extracting the text into a single file.

▪ Logging. Logging is a quick automated analysis of specified features with a single button. These buttons can be programmed for specific functions similar to “hot keys” in word.

▪ Tonal modification. The intonation contour of a sound file can easily be modified in order to examine a wide variety of topics. With a simple modification a question can be converted into a statement.

I will conclude with a demonstration of several ways in which I have used Praat in the classroom for teaching. We will try to leave a few minutes at the end for individual questions.

Conference: Quantitative Investigations in Theoretical Linguistics

From March 28 to 31 of next year there will be a conference on Quantitative Investigations in Theoretical Linguistics in Berlin, Germany. The deadline for submissions is November 15, 2010.

Quantitative models of linguistic phenomena have been increasingly informing linguistic theory by testing, confirming and falsifying linguists’ hypotheses, and translating their insights into language based applications. Despite this, the divide between theoretical linguistics and empirical research remains substantial, with many theories being expressed in terms that are not conducive to data-based testing, and conversely, the appearance of a variety of data-based studies and applications with no adequate theory to frame and explain
their results.

Quantitative Investigations in Theoretical Linguistics (QITL) offers a forum for researchers who aim to bridge this gap from any linguistic discipline or methodology, and in particular, but not limited to:

- Quantitative corpus based studies
- Psycholinguistics
- Computational linguistics / NLP
- Historical linguistics
- Lexicography
- Second language acquisition / applied linguistics
- First language acquisition

UIC TiL: Bryan Koronkiewicz & Tara Toscano

This Friday, March 19th, we’ll be having our semesterly student session of UIC Talks in Linguistics. Bryan Koronkiewicz will present a talk entitled, “Exceptional Hiatuses in Spanish: An Extension of Cabré & Prieto (2006)” and Tara Toscano will be presenting a talk entitled, “The Strandability of Prepositions in Spanish-English Code-switching”

Join us at 3 PM in 1650 University Hall (601 S. Morgan St. Chicago, IL 60607) for some talks and refreshments.

Bryan Koronkiewicz (University of Illinois at Chicago)
Exceptional Hiatuses in Spanish: An Extension of Cabré & Prieto (2006)

In Spanish phonology, the syllabification of rising sonority vocoids predicts diphthongization. Yet in various dialects, with a variety of words, speakers favor the creation of a hiatus in such a context. For example, the word *piano* can be realized by Spanish-speakers either as the expected form ['pja.no] or alternatively as [pi.'a.no]. The work of Hualde (1999, 2002) and Colina (1999) attests that word initiality, distance to stress, and morpheme boundaries all have strong effects on the realization of these so-called exceptional hiatuses. However, more recently these effects have been reexamined by Cabré & Prieto (2006) with dissimilar results, arguing that they are not as strong.

In this talk I will continue to explore the potential explanations for exceptional hiatuses. This current study recreates and expands the work of Cabré & Prieto (2006). Continuing their approach, Peninsular Spanish-speakers are tested on their tendency toward exceptional hiatuses, examining the specific parameters that may be influential. Furthermore, Mexican-Spanish-speakers are also tested to see if the effects are similar cross-dialectally.

Tara Toscano (University of Illinois at Chicago)
The Strandability of Prepositions in Spanish-English Code-switching

I have tested the acceptability of Preposition stranding in English-Spanish code- switching contexts by having sequential bilinguals perform a sentence judgment task. The term Preposition stranding (P-stranding) refers to an instance where the object of the preposition is extracted and the preposition is not pied-piped as shown in (1):

(1) Who did John talk [PP to[ t]]?

While P-stranding is found in some languages, it does not appear in others. P-stranding is quite common in English as shown in example (1). But in Spanish there is a lack of P-stranding:

(2) *Quién habló Juan  [PP con [ t]]?
Who   spoke John        with

Code-switching allows insights into the two grammars that are otherwise opaque in monolingual utterances. I hypothesized that the language of the preposition in code-switching would determine the acceptability of P-stranding regardless of the language of the DP or NP. I explored 2 hypotheses:

1. Spanish prepositions will not allow P-stranding in a code-switching context, as in (3c) and (3d), and English prepositions will, as in (3a) and (3b).

(3) a. Quién salió John with?
b. Quién did John leave with?
c. Who did John leave con?
d. Who salió John con?

2. The language of Tense (T), or more specifically little v, will determine the acceptability of P-stranding. English T will trigger P-stranding (see (3b) and (3c)) while Spanish T will prohibit it (see (3a) and (3d)).

No conclusions can be made regarding the element or layer of the structure that sanctions P-stranding because this phenomenon occurs in the Spanish dialect of the participants.

UIC TiL: Kenneth Konopka

Tomorrow, February 5th, we will have another session of UIC Talks in Linguistics from 3 PM to 5 PM in 1750 University Hall (601 S. Morgan Street 60607). This week we will have a talk from Kenneth Konopka of Northwestern University. As always, light refreshments will be served. The talk is entitled, “Vowels of Mexican Heritage English: Beyond the static.”

Kenneth Konnopka (Northwestern University)
Vowels of Mexican Heritage English: Beyond the static

Mexican Heritage English (MHE) speakers are first generation Mexican-Americans who are native speakers of English living in communities characterized by the general presence of the Spanish language. In this talk I compare the vowel structure of MHE to that of the regional Anglo dialect in the Albany Park community of Chicago. Analyses of vowel formant trajectories and durations provide evidence for a Spanish influence that is not captured in traditional static vowel plots.

The participants in the study comprise four groups: Anglo speakers of the regional dialect characterized by the Northern Cities Vowels (N=12F); MHE speakers who are life-long community residents with varying Spanish proficiency (N=14F); late learners of English (L2E) who are native Mexican Spanish speakers (N=12F); and native Mexican Spanish speakers (N=7F). Speakers from the first three groups were recorded responding in English to a variety of materials. From CVC wordlist productions eleven English vowels were analyzed. These vowels, from a range of consonantal contexts, were analyzed for duration and first and second formant values at .20, .50 and .80 of the duration. Mexican Spanish speakers were also recorded reading tokens from a Spanish wordlist for a corresponding analysis.

In this talk I will show how temporal cues reveal clear distinctions between the vowels of the regional dialect, MHE, and L2E. In addition, I will provide evidence from Spanish for the origins of these cues. I will discuss the resultant vowel structure of MHE and how it provides insight into the interaction of the two disparate vowel systems. In addition to their relevance for the study of language contact, we will see how features normally considered secondary in vowel production may provide a basis for systematically evaluating vowel structure resulting from language contact.

UIC TiL: Brad Hoot & Álvaro Recio

Tomorrow we will have a student session of TiL featuring our own Brad Hoot (UIC PhD student) and visiting student Álvaro Recio (University of Salamanca PhD student).  Brad Hoot will present, “An Optimality Theoretic Analysis of Focus in Spanish and English.” His presentation will be conducted in English. Álvaro Recio will present, “Las propiedades argumentales de los complementos del nombre en español,” and his presentation will be given in Spanish.

As always the talk will be at 3 PM in 1750 University Hall with light refreshments provided.

Álvaro Recio (University of Salamanca)
Las propiedades argumentales de los complementos del nombre en español

Son muchos los autores que en las últimas décadas han puesto de relieve el paralelismo existente entre la estructura interna del sintagma nominal y del sintagma verbal. No todos los modificadores realizan la misma aportación al significado de un sintagma, ni tienen idénticas propiedades formales ni gozan del mismo estatuto sintáctico.

De la misma manera que el verbo posee una red argumental que le permite seleccionar determinado tipo de complementos, ciertos sustantivos, bien por herencia deverbal, bien por su propia semántica interna, seleccionan igualmente complementos argumentales. En consecuencia, en el interior de los grupos nominales, de forma paralela a las oraciones, también es preciso distinguir entre argumentos y adjuntos. Si bien en otras lenguas, fundamentalmente inglés, italiano y francés, se han dedicado  numerosos estudios al respecto, en el ámbito hispánico apenas se han esbozado unas pautas generales de clasificación de estos complementos, por lo que se revela necesario un análisis exhaustivo y profundo aplicado al español.

El objetivo de esta charla es presentar las características generales de un proyecto que trata de ahondar en la estructura interna del sintagma nominal en castellano, en los llamados complementos argumentales del sustantivo. Para ello, se expondrán los rasgos fundamentales que permiten determinar qué clases de sustantivos pueden seleccionar argumentos en español, cuál es la estructura de estos y qué tipo de vínculo los enlaza con el núcleo nominal, pues parece que no todos los argumentos tienen el mismo peso dentro del sintagma: el de mayor relieve temático podría ser considerado el “sujeto” del sintagma nominal.

Especial atención se dedicará a las subordinadas sustantivas que se vinculan a un nombre a través de una preposición (por ejemplo, la idea de comprar un coche o el problema de que los alumnos no estudien), ya que muchos aspectos de su funcionamiento están todavía desatendidos. Una rigurosa descripción de los modificadores del sustantivo no puede ignorar este tipo de construcciones y requiere analizar las características de los núcleos que las aceptan, el carácter argumental o no de la oración, así como la elección del modo correspondiente en el verbo subordinado.

Babies cry in their first language: Tränen, tears, o lágrimas?

In the newest edition of the journal Current Biology an interesting article was published about the language in which babies cry.

Apparently infants have already begun acquiring phonology at such an early stage that long before they can speak, they already cry in their native language.  In fact, the authors suggest that fetuses can “memorize auditory stimuli from the external world by the last trimester of pregnancy, with a particular sensitivity to melody contour in both music and language.”  It is not surprising then that their first sounds be somewhat language-specific.  French infants, for example, were found to prefer rising intonations in their cries and German infants preferred falling tones.  Further, the suggested effect is that “adult-like processing of pitch intervals allows newborns to appreciate musical melodies and emotional and linguistic prosody.”

“Newborns’ cry melody is shaped by their native language”. Birgit Mampe, Angela D. Friederici, Anne Christophe, Kathleen Wermke. Current Biology 2009, Nov 5, doi 10.1016/j.cub.2009.09.064

Other publications have begun taking notice as well.  The University of Würzburg has a discussion of the implications in German and English. And Uruguay’s LR21 has posted an article in Spanish.