Linguistics - Theses, Dissertations, and other Required Graduate Degree Essays

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Embedded verb second in German: Experiments at the syntax-pragmatics interface

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-08-12
Abstract: 

The interpretation and licensing of clauses with Embedded Verb Second (EV2) in German have been widely debated over the past decades. The goal of this thesis is to experimentally testempirical claims in more recent work on EV2 in German, in particular those in Djärv 2019a and Caplan & Djärv 2019. Djärv (2019a) and Caplan & Djärv (2019) argue that (i) EV2 clauses must denote discourse-new information, and that (ii) EV2 clauses are therefore unacceptable under embedding predicates that presuppose that the complement proposition is discourse-old. These claims were tested using a judgment task to elicit the naturalness of EV2 clauses when they constitute discourse-old information. The results provide two key findings. First, they show that the EV2 clauses are judged natural when they constitute discourse-old information. Second, the results show that canonical verb-final configurations are preferred over EV2 complements if the embedded proposition denotes discourse-old information. The results partially bear out previous claims and I argue that it is the lexical semantics of embedding predicates alone that determines whether EV2 is available, not the discourse status of any particular instance of EV2. Moreover, this thesis provides additional evidence against the claim that EV2 gives rise to speaker-commitment interpretations of the embedded proposition, replicating the results in Djärv 2019a and Caplan & Djärv 2019.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Chung-hye Han
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Linguistics
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

θə stqayeʔ ʔə ƛ̓ səl̓ilwətaʔł ʔiʔ tə nec̓ sx̌ʷix̌ʷəy̓em̓: She-Wolf and other Tsleil-Waututh narratives

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-08-26
Abstract: 

The ancestors of the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ speaking people lived along the lower Fraser River and all around the shores of neighbouring Burrard Inlet in British Columbia. The Central Coast Salish people living here today are their descendants. Throughout the time that we’ve lived here, our elders shared oral narratives that conveyed history, life skills, and the legal and moral code by which our people lived. In the present work, I have restored three oral narratives of the people from the village of səl̓ilwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), originally related by Tsleil-Waututh elders in English. First, the narratives were translated by Dr. Ruby Peter into her həl̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ dialect (Vancouver Island). Once translated, I converted the narratives into the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ dialect. My hope is that these narratives will inspire and inform our younger generation who are working to gain fluency in our language.

Document type: 
Graduating extended essay / Research project
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Donna Gerdts
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Linguistics
Thesis type: 
(Project) M.A.

Prolonged multilingualism among the Sebuyau: An ethnography of communication

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-08-13
Abstract: 

This thesis describes the Sebuyau language and seeks to explain how this small group as maintained their culture and way of speaking in the shadow of very large languages like Malay, English and Chinese. I use the ethnographic method to study this ethnic group. Specifically, I based this ethnography of communication on two texts told by twenty-four people, who all belong to the community of practice of Keluarga Church. The study is divided into two broad areas. Part of the thesis is more synchronic linguistics, and describes the lexicon, phonology and morphology of Sebuyau. The conclusion is that Sebuyau is a variety of Iban. The lexicon exhibits considerable borrowing from languages that are no longer spoken in the area – such as Sanskrit. But most of the non-Sebuyau words are English or Malay. There are some lexicographic signs of the beginning of language shift to Malay, but the phonology shows signs that the language is being reincorporated into Iban. The other theme of the thesis is an examination of the reasons why Sebuyau has not been swallowed up by Malay or some other language. It is a more general description of the history and linguistic ecology of the area in Malaysia that is their homeland. In particular, the study shows how the linguistic ecology has helped the Sebuyau maintain their identity and way of speaking.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Panayiotis Pappas
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Linguistics
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Angry Raven and Friends: Three new stories for Hul’q’umi’num’ language learners

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-04-28
Abstract: 

Storytelling is an important tool for sharing knowledge and language across generations. Stories teach us about our way of life and our perspectives on how to be as First Nations peoples. In this project, I share three new stories that I have created inspired by real-life experiences—the importance of singing in the Quw’utsun’ culture, the fixation of the younger generation on video games, and the cultural activities of our people as witnessed by a young sasquatch. Each story has an important life lesson that is presented through humour. Together with elders Delores Louie and Ruby Peter, I have brought these stories to life in Hul’q’umi’num’, a Coast Salish language of British Columbia. These stories are designed to engage the younger generation and inspire them to gain fluency in the Hul’q’umi’num’ language.

Document type: 
Graduating extended essay / Research project
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Donna Gerdts
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Linguistics
Thesis type: 
(Project) M.A.

Processing tone and vowel information in Mandarin: An eye-tracking study of contextual effects on speech processing

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-04-06
Abstract: 

Prior work has suggested that rime (vowel) information is given priority over tone information in the perception of isolated words but there are flipped roles of tone and rime in a semantically constraining context. Here, I examined the eye gaze of native listeners of Mandarin Chinese, asking when and how top-down contextual effects from hearing a noun classifier constrains real-time processing of a target noun, and whether this classifier context has differential impacts on activating tone and rime information. The results show that, when hearing the classifier, average looking time to the target noun and noun competitors with the same tone or rime was significantly greater than to phonologically unrelated nouns. Moreover, fixations to the target were significantly greater to the phonological competitors only in a high-constraint classifier context. In addition, there was more distraction from a tone competitor than a rime competitor only in the high-constraint context. Results suggest that segmental and lexical tone perception follow different perceptual processes, and that tone was predicted ahead of rime when perceiving spoken words in context.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Henny Yeung
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Linguistics
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

A critical (re-)assessment of the effect of speaker ethnicity on speech processing and evaluation

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-02-07
Abstract: 

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in the bidirectional relationship between speech and social processes, as increased attention is given to how speakers’ physical appearance, in combination with their accent, can influence the perception of their spoken language. Two competing theoretical frameworks have been proposed to explain conflicting findings in the existing literature: supporters of the reverse linguistic stereotyping hypothesis argue that listeners’ inherent racial biases against certain groups and their speakers negatively influence their speech evaluations (e.g., Rubin, 1992; Yi, Phelps, Smiljanic, & Chandrasekaran, 2013), while proponents of exemplar-based models of perception maintain that such negative judgments reflect the cognitive consequences of incongruent face–accent pairings (e.g. Babel & Russell, 2015; McGowan, 2015). Using this debate as a point of departure, this cross-cultural and cross-linguistic investigation was designed to determine whether reported effects of speaker ethnicity also extend to online processing speeds. Two response time studies (one using photographs and one using dubbed videos of Asian and White speakers of English) were conducted in Canada, while a third study using dubbed videos of Moroccan and White speakers of Dutch was conducted in the Netherlands. Additional offline dependent measures included sentence verification scores, accentedness ratings, verbal repetition accuracy, and credibility scores. Results from the three experiments showed (1) a processing cost associated with foreign-accented and non-standard speech, but (2) no effect of ethnicity on processing speeds or on the other dependent measures. These outcomes do not support the predictions of either theoretical framework, given that both presuppose an effect of speaker ethnicity on speech evaluation. The fact that the observed null findings are consistent with some previous studies highlights the potential influence of methodological choices underlying the seemingly contradictory findings in the literature. In view of this possibility, the findings are discussed in relation to the distinction between perception and interpretation. Further research will be needed to determine the true nature and magnitude of the effect of visually based social information on speech processing and evaluation.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Murray Munro
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Linguistics
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

English as a voicing and aspirating language: Evidence from nonnative speech perception

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-04-08
Abstract: 

The English contrast between fortis (i.e., /p t k/) and lenis plosives (i.e., /b d g/) is widely considered to depend on the presence or absence of aspiration. English is thus generally thought of as an “aspirating language,” as opposed to a “voicing language.” This thesis describes a study in which English listeners from across Canada rated Marathi plosives and provides results contradicting the analysis of English as an aspirating language. Native listeners of an aspirating language would be expected to rate Marathi voiceless unaspirated and voiced aspirated stops as respectively lenis and somewhat fortis-like. However, these English listeners rated them as respectively ambiguous and somewhat lenis-like. This suggests that voicing and aspiration are of similar importance to one another, contradicting the view that English is an aspirating language and, further, suggesting that English speakers may be better positioned to learn non-native laryngeal contrasts than has been thought.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Henny Yeung
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Linguistics
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Diglossia and codeswitching among public figures in the Arabian Gulf region

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-11-28
Abstract: 

The Arab Gulf region is one of the standard examples of diglossia, where standard Arabic (SA), as a high variety, and colloquial Arabic (CA), as a low variety, co-exist (Ferguson, 1959; Kaye, 1970; Wardhaugh & Fuller, 2015). However, this linguistic pattern has been changing, with speakers increasingly using English due to globalization (Winford, 2002). In this paper, I examine the use of SA, CA, and English in the speech of two groups of public figures in the Arabian Gulf region: politicians and actors. It is hypothesized that the two groups will have distinct speech styles as they are constructing different personae (Eckert, 2004): a socially conservative one for politicians, and a more popular and cosmopolitan one for actors. It is further hypothesized that politicians will use standard Arabic more, because of its association with conservative values, and actors will use more colloquial Arabic and English for their popular association. The study uses naturalistic data that was obtained by examining a 30-minute interview, from public recordings on YouTube, for each of the 18 subjects: six politicians (three males, three females) and 12 actors (six males, six females). An analysis of 2,808 utterances yields results that support the hypothesis. More than half of the politicians’ utterances are a mixture of SA and CA. Actors, on the other hand, adopt a different style in which CA is the dominant code, but they also use utterances that are a mixture of CA and English borrowings (12% of their speech). These findings can be seen as an indication of a linguistic change in the region: CA forms are replacing SA, not only in the speech of popular figures such as actors but also in that of more conservative speakers such as politicians. The appearance of English borrowings in the utterances of the actors is another indication that linguistic norms in the Arab Gulf region might be shifting towards the vernacular.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Panayiotis Pappas
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Linguistics
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Wind from the North: Hul’q’umi’num’ speakers in Saanich

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-12-02
Abstract: 

Among the First Nations peoples are the Coast Salish tribes that live along the shores of the Salish Sea. The Hul’q’umi’num’ and the Sunchathun are members of two of the ten Coast Salish groups and reside on neighboring territories in southwestern Vancouver Island. They speak two different, but closely-related languages. My research studied Hul’q’umi’num’ speakers who live among the Sunchathun, posing the question: do these speakers talk like each other or different from each other? My finding is that there is no uniform dialect, but rather each speaker uses a form of Hul’q’umi’num’ based on their family connections and personal history. Speakers differed in how much influence Sunchathun had on the way they spoke Hul’q’umi’num’—from none to much—depending on various factors including where they were raised and whether they could speak Sunchathun.

Document type: 
Graduating extended essay / Research project
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Donna Gerdts
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Linguistics
Thesis type: 
(Project) M.A.

A conversation analysis approach to alternative medicine sessions

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-07-29
Abstract: 

This dissertation presents a descriptive study of discourse practices used in the context of a doctor-patient interaction in alternative medicine sessions. Alternative medicine is oriented toward a mind-body integration in which the mental state of the patient is considered a significant contributor to the illness (Larson, 2007). Based on this philosophical background, I explore the communication in alternative medicine within the frame of patient-centred communication which informs the principles of modern healthcare. I investigate the dimensions of elicitation and rapport, and their linguistic realizations in the form of speech acts, backchannels, joint productions, and repetitions. I examine the genre of the dialogues within the Systemic Functional Linguistics framework with a focus on stages and lexico-grammatical features related to discourse and semantics. I apply Conversation Analysis to a data comprised of nine recorded sessions between two alternative medicine doctors and their patients, native speakers of English. The corpus contains 5,378 turns and 3,139 units of analysis in total for all dyadic conversations. The present study reveals that the alternative medicine speech event is an institutional genre with characteristics of patient-centred communication. The four linguistic features are used strategically — they contribute to conversational power-sharing and to collaborative creation of knowledge. Simultaneously with the conversational dominance (through questions), doctors accommodate and collaborate with patients (through backchannels, joint productions and repetitions). Reaching a diagnosis is often an incremental process in which doctors engage patients in an ongoing interactional meaning-making and shared knowledge. These practices advance the therapeutic alliance, rapport building, and shared responsibility — components that are at the core of patient-centred communication. Seen in this perspective, the study findings can bring about insights into a linguistically underexplored area such as discourse in alternative medicine visits. It contributes to the body of research that applies Conversation Analysis techniques to study medical communication.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Panayiotis Pappas
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Linguistics
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.