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

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A grammar of religion: Metaphorical understanding of religious discourse

Date created: 
2018-04-30
Abstract: 

This thesis addresses the need for a metaphoric understanding of religious language. However, the task to distinguish metaphoric meanings from literal ones is not always easy because all linguistic meaning, metaphoric or not, is expressed through the literal. While there has been some research that has shed light on the problem of metaphoric language and religion, no academic work has been done regarding this problem with respect to the religion of Islam. This thesis is an attempt to fill that gap. Since accounting for the comprehension of meaning is a complex endeavor, the study of metaphor lends itself naturally to philosophy. Therefore, I review two philosophical accounts, those of Paul Grice and Josef Stern before I discuss the two linguistic views of metaphor that I embrace, those being Conceptual Metaphor Theory (CMT) and Relevance Theory (RT).In adopting Conceptual Metaphor Theory, I build on George Lakoff and Mark Johnson’s cognitive linguistics work (1980), which changed what we know about language and cognition. In terms of Relevance Theory, I draw from Dan Sperber and Deirdre Wilson’s work (1986; 2008) and Carston’s (2002; 2010) to make my argument that relevance is a pre-requisite for metaphorical understanding of religious language. Both theories proved helpful in providing a harmonious analysis. Using both these theories, I analyze an underlying Quranic metaphor, life is a test. I clarify that it is not directly stated in the Qur’an, yet Muslims use it in everyday discourse, and take it as if were literal. I argue that the concept has to be essentially metaphoric for it to be consistent with the Islamic belief of God as All-Knowing and I discuss its inferences and entailments. Since this underlying metaphor reveals the Islamic view of life and its purpose, I further examine the metaphorical nature of religious discourse, by analyzing part of a relevant religious lecture given by the spiritual consultant of Az Zahraa Islamic Centre in Richmond, British Columbia. One of the examples I analyse in this lecture utilizes the Journey domain, while another reveals the Container schema. Although both theories seem to be able to account for this Quranic metaphor, yielding the same cognitive result (CMT through domain mapping and RT through lexical adjustment), Relevance Theory was especially useful in providing the terminology to describe how I arrive at the metaphoric realization, that being “the search for relevance”. This suggests that RT has more explanatory power for understanding problematic concepts which might not seem to make sense, while CMT is well-suited for analyzing non-problematic metaphors. In the life as test metaphor, a conceptual metaphoric analysis was not even possible without the cognitive maximisation of relevance. I agree, therefore, with the scholars who argue that the two theories are not contradictory and hence should be integrated. The thesis also includes a transcription of other excerpts that are rich in poetic metaphors, with a discussion of how religious discourse contains some metaphorical expressions that stem from our embodiment and others that are merely “loosely” used.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Nancy Hedberg
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Linguistics
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

The price of admission: Private English schools at the Inner/Expanding Circle interface

Date created: 
2017-12-18
Abstract: 

Each year multitudes of international students come to Vancouver, Canada from what Kachru (1984) calls the Expanding Circle: countries where English is considered a foreign language. Kobayashi (2006) notes that while English study makes up the majority of study abroad activity, it receives little scholarly attention. Researchers assume language acquisition to be the goal of short-term English programs, and fail to situate observations in a larger context. This macro-sociolinguistic exploration uses Bourdieu's (1977a) social practice framework to navigate the relationship between English, status, and power in short-term English language learning. It provides a thorough description of the socio-historical context, stakeholders and discourse themes involved in the local private English Language Teaching (ELT) sector. In doing so, it addresses a considerable deficiency in the research literature, and offers a foundation for further scholarship on private ELT in Canada. With it I seek to address the misguided avoidance of sociolinguistic factors in language acquisition research and teacher training.

Document type: 
Thesis
Senior supervisor: 
Suzanne Hilgendorf
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Linguistics
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

The effects of auditory, visual, and gestural information on the perception on Mandarin tones

Date created: 
2017-08-04
Abstract: 

In multimodal speech perception, strategic connections between auditory and visual- spatial events can aid in the disambiguation of speech sounds. This study examines how co-speech hand gestures mimicking pitch contours in space affect non-native Mandarin tone perception. Native English as well as Mandarin perceivers identified tones with either congruent (C) or incongruent (I) Audio+Face (AF) and Audio+Face+Gesture (AFG) input. Mandarin perceivers performed at ceiling rates in the Congruent conditions, but showed a partially gesture-based response in AFG-I, revealing that gestures were perceived as valid cues for tone. The English group’s performance was better in congruent than incongruent AF and AFG conditions. Their identification rates were also highly skewed towards the visual tone when gesture was presented in the AFG compared to AF conditions. These results indicate positive effects of facial and especially gestural input on non-native tone perception, suggesting that crossmodal resources can be recruited to aid auditory perception when phonetic demands are high.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Yue Wang
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Linguistics
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Cantonese jihgei: Subject-object asymmetry and non-subject antecedent potential

Date created: 
2017-02-03
Abstract: 

Subject orientation is generally viewed to be a cross-linguistic core property of long distance anaphors (LDAs). This property has an important bearing on theories of Chinese LDA which predict only subject antecedents. However, the claim that LDAs are strictly subject-oriented has been discredited in at least Korean, where recent experimental studies have demonstrated that Korean caki can potentially take an object as antecedent. The current study explores the non-subject antecedent potential of the Cantonese LDA, which has not been experimentally studied in the Chinese literature. Two experiments involving forced-choice tasks were conducted to investigate if jihgei could potentially take a non-subject antecedent. It was found that jihgei indeed has non-subject antecedent potential in certain syntactic and logophoric environments, thus greatly weakening syntactic approaches that cannot predict non-subject antecedent potential. It was also found that some amount of competing subject preference remained in cases where a non-subject antecedent was possible. The study concluded that jihgei's subject preference is not categorical, but is modulated by logophoric factors.

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

The Canadian Shift among Filipinos in Metro Vancouver

Author: 
Date created: 
2016-12-06
Abstract: 

The present study provides preliminary insight into the linguistic patterns of Filipinos in Metro Vancouver, an important ethnic community in the region. Specifically, this thesis sought to explore whether Filipinos are (linguistically) integrated by determining if they participated in the Canadian Shift (CS), an on-going change in Canadian English involving the lowering and/or retracting of the vowels /æ, ɛ, ɪ/. Twelve second-generation Filipinos between the ages of 19 and 30 took part in sociolinguistic interviews, and formant frequency data based on 408 tokens of /æ, ɛ, ɪ/ were constructed from recordings of Boberg’s (2008) word list. The results revealed that CS is robust, with evidence of women in the lead. These indicated that there are no substrate language transfer effects at least concerning this phonetic variable. This study ultimately demonstrates that despite remaining a marginalized demographic, second-generation Filipinos are linguistically integrated and are therefore rightful members of the region’s speech community.

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

Including Indigenous languages in education: An analysis of Canadian policy documents

Date created: 
2016-08-05
Abstract: 

Language policy may promote or reduce the use and acquisition of languages. Indigenous languages in Canada are endangered and the number of speakers of these languages is declining. In this thesis, I examine a number of Canadian language policies in order to analyse whether provisions exist for including Indigenous languages within educational programmes. Previous studies of Canadian language policies have often only briefly addressed Indigenous languages. My analysis considers some of the policy documents discussed in earlier studies (e.g. the 1969 Official Languages Act), some recent policy documents (e.g. the 1991 Canadian Heritage Languages Institute Act), as well as proposed legislation that failed to be enacted (e.g. the 2005 Kelowna Accord). Two of the important themes that emerged from this analysis are the general exclusion of Indigenous languages from Canadian language policy and limited local, Indigenous consultation and control within those policies that do include Indigenous languages.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
John D. Mellow
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Linguistics
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Politeness Theory and the Classification of English Speech Acts

Author: 
Date created: 
2016-07-21
Abstract: 

The field of speech act theory has seen increasing attention in recent years, as determining the illocutionary force of an utterance, or what its speaker means to accomplish by uttering it, has become important in the design of computational systems that process human speech. Many scholars of language, including J. L. Austin and John Searle, have proposed systems of classifying speech acts by their illocutionary features. However, these schemes are often non-hierarchical, and thus cannot fully describe the similarities between categories; and they tend not to consider the politeness features of utterances, an aspect of illocution which can have a great impact on a speaker’s choice of utterance. In this thesis, I develop a hierarchical taxonomy of English-language speech acts based on existing literature, and lay out the politeness-related features that differentiate speech act categories, with the aim of producing a classification system useful in computational applications.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Nancy Hedberg
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Linguistics
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Phonological acquisition by children with autism: a case study

Date created: 
2015-12-16
Abstract: 

This thesis investigates the phonological development of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) with the goal of identifying autism specific patterns of language development, if any such patterns exist. Previous research into the phonology of children with autism has provided conflicting profiles, arguing that this phonological development is either typical, typical but delayed, or atypical. The current study begins with a pilot study of six children with ASD between 20 months and seven years of age. The children were audio-recorded during play to document their spontaneous speech. All of the children were found to use some age appropriate phonological processes, and some children were also found to use delayed phonological processes. The second part of the study is a case study of the development of the youngest child over the course of eight months because the speech of this child exhibited atypical patterns of infelicitous pauses between and within syllables. The duration, frequency, and decline of these pauses were tracked for the period of the study and analyzed within contemporary phonology and psycholinguistics. While the pilot results show that children with ASD may exhibit both typical and delayed phonological development, the case study documents at least one case of phonological development unique to autism that cannot be characterized as typical or typical but delayed.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
John Alderete
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Linguistics
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

English Language Learning in Japan: Representations of the English Language and the Worlds of English Language Users

Author: 
Date created: 
2016-03-22
Abstract: 

The English language is changing due to the global spread of the language, and it is now used in culturally determined local contexts with culturally specific meanings (Kachru, 1991). The local contexts of English use also influence global communication. Due to these simultaneously global and local phenomena, or “glocalization” (Robertson, 1997), the needs of English language learners in Japan also diversify. In Japan, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) regulates education and authorizes textbooks used in schools. Since English is not an official language in Japan, textbooks can be the main source of learners’ input of the language, and therefore, may have the power to disseminate certain ideologies of the language and construct learners’ “realities” of their learning (e.g. Matsuda, 2012; Tajima, 2011). This dissertation research examines the extent to which the diversifying needs of learners are addressed in the curriculum guidelines of MEXT generally, and in English language textbooks used at junior high schools more specifically. My research questions address the power of textbook discourses and their possible influence on how learners speak and behave (Gee, 2005). Using Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) (Fairclough, 1995), I investigate more deeply how textbook discourses may be constructing learners’ realities and constitutive of those realities. This study reveals that the English language is often represented in textbooks as being owned by native speakers particularly from the United States, Canada, or Australia. Thus, the language is presented as independent of Japanese social and cultural influences. This conforms to MEXT discourses of English as a “foreign” language and seemingly denies the ownership of the language and the linguistic identity by learners in Japan. These representations may be perceived as static realities by learners despite the varied uses of English in the world today and the ongoing changes and hybridization of languages and cultures. When learners accept the essentialized realities made available in textbooks and act accordingly, the realities of the discourses surrounding English language learning can be intensified and reproduced through classroom practices and the learners’ conforming behaviours, thereby being stabilized by the learners’ own participation in the discourses.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Suzanne K. Hilgendorf
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Linguistics
Thesis type: 
(Dissertation) Ph.D.

Experimental Exploration of Ambisyllabicity in English

Date created: 
2015-11-17
Abstract: 

Some theories of the syllable predict that single intervocalic consonants will be ambisyllabic (acting simultaneously as the coda of one syllable and onset of another syllable) in certain contexts. However, these predictions are not borne out in experimental data. Previous research has found that ambisyllabicity occurs in some theoretically predicted contexts, but not others. This research looks at whether syllable onsets can be used to predict ambisyllabicity in an experimental setting. With recent research suggesting that onsets may contribute to syllable weight it is expected that variability in onset type will affect syllabification of intervocalic consonants, which is largely dependent to the weight of the preceding syllable. Participants performed a syllable reversal task in response to bisyllabic non-words. Non-word stimuli were used to control for the effects of orthography, morphology and frequency. Results from the first experiment, in which all stimuli had tense vowels, showed a significant relationship between the number of onset consonants and the syllabification response. While the occurrence of ambisyllabicity was low, it was more frequent than expected when stimuli had fewer onset consonants, and vice versa. In order to investigate this further, a second experiment was conducted using stimuli with both tense and lax vowels. Results from the second experiment showed the same significant relationship for stimuli with lax vowels only. As ambisyllabicity is expected to occur in contexts where syllables require codas for additional weight, the results suggest that onsets can also contribute to syllable weight. Overall, the occurrence of ambisyllabic responses was expected to be much higher based on previous research that used real-word stimuli. This indicates that the use of non-words affected participants’ syllabification judgements and demonstrates the important role of lexical effects in phonological tasks.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
John Alderete
Ashley Farris-Trimble
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Linguistics
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.