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

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Linguistic effects on the contact between Greek and Bulgarian languages for recent Bulgarian immigrants to Northern Greece

Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2009
Abstract: 

This study presents the results of an analysis of code-switching behavior observed in bilingual Bulgarian-Greek conversations. On the basis of eight hours of recorded conversations with eight participants, a corpus of 234 instances of intra-sentential code-switching were extracted with the complementizer phrase being a unit of analysis. All these instances are analyzed structurally in accordance with the Matrix Language Framework. Code-switching patterns are also discussed in relation to the shared features within the Balkan Sprachbund to which both Bulgarian and Greek belong. The structural analysis focuses on instances of lexical insertions and more specifically, pays attention to single-switch morpheme such as the definite article. It is found that variation between the Bulgarian and Greek definite article combined with Greek noun is probably determined by the language of the preceding lexical item.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
P
Department: 
Dept. of Linguistics - Simon Fraser University
Thesis type: 
Thesis (M.A.)

Juncture phrasing thresholds: a constraint-based approach to speech rate effects on Mandarin tone sandhi

Author: 
Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2009
Abstract: 

This thesis investigates the effect of speech rate on Mandarin tone sandhi. This effect is argued to be the result of hypothesized thresholds on the duration of junctural units that lie between phonological phrases. A new type of constraint, *WrapSD(nmsec), is proposed that assigns a violation to every juncture that exceeds a specified durational threshold. The *WrapSD(nmsec) constraints are incorporated within recent constraint-based approaches to phonological phrasing and shown to be superior to alternative approaches that require either cyclic rule application or constraint re-ranking. This approach also leads to an empirical exploration of four new sentence types, which are documented with eleven native Mandarin speakers and shown to be consistent with juncture thresholds.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
J
Department: 
Dept. of Linguistics - Simon Fraser University
Thesis type: 
Thesis (M.A.)

The function of Spanish and English relative clauses in discourse and their segmentation in Centering Theory

Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2009
Abstract: 

This study explores the processing of English and Spanish relative clauses (RCs) in discourse. The main goal is to understand how RCs contribute to the textuality of a text and, on the basis of this understanding, to propose the most adequate method for their segmentation in Centering Theory. Centering Theory is a theory of discourse structure that models textual cohesion from one “utterance” to the next. The definition of “utterance” is thus instrumental to the application of the Centering algorithm. It is also a key step for any theory of discourse structure. To this point, there is no consensus on what the basic unit of analysis of discourse should be, though the sentence and the clause tend to be the most widely accepted proposals. An analysis of complex clauses reveals that the choice between these two segmentation categories is not always straightforward. In particular, RCs present a challenge for the discourse analyst: While they are finite clauses, they are either embedded in or dependent on another clause. In order to address this challenge, this study investigates the processing of 200 RCs selected from English and Spanish texts belonging to four different genres. It evaluates five different approaches to their segmentation following Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL). The evaluation takes into consideration different functional properties of RCs that are associated with their restrictiveness. The adequacy of the different segmentation approaches is measured in two ways: (a) by assessing the degree with which the focus of attention is maintained from an utterance to the next, following Constraint 1 and Rule 2 of Centering Theory; and (b) by identifying the frequency of subsequent mentions of RC entities in the unfolding discourse. The results of a factorial mixed-design ANOVA show that the segmentation approach that identified independent clauses and/or finite clauses in paratactic relations as the unit of analysis had the highest scores in all measures. Based on these findings, we are able to specify the notion of “utterance” in Centering Theory at the same time as we move towards a more systematic approach to the segmentation of discourse.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
M
Department: 
Dept. of Linguistics - Simon Fraser University
Thesis type: 
Thesis (Ph.D.)

Perception of foreign-accented clear speech by younger and older English listeners

Author: 
Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2009
Abstract: 

Naturally produced English clear speech has been shown to be more intelligible than English conversational speech. However, little is known about the extent of the clear speech effects in the production of nonnative English, and perception of foreign-accented English by younger and older listeners. The present study examined whether Cantonese speakers would employ the same strategies as those used by native English speakers in producing clear speech in their second language. Also, the clear speech effects on sentence intelligibility of Cantonese-accented English for younger and older English-speaking listeners were explored. In the production study, native speakers of Cantonese and English produced English sentences conversationally and clearly. Some productions were subjected to acoustical measurements and selected for a subsequent perceptual task. Both groups of speakers showed a decrease in speaking rate and in articulation rate, and an increase in total pause time and in sentential fundamental frequency in their clear speech productions. However, the Cantonese speakers spoke slower in both speaking styles and lengthened the pauses significantly more than did the English speakers in clear speech. In the perception study, selected conversational and clear sentences were duplicated and mixed with 12-talker babble at a constant signal-to-babble ratio, and presented along with noise-free stimuli to English-speaking younger and older adults. The listeners assessed intelligibility by transcribing the sentences and verifying their truth value. Results showed that overall, clear speech was better perceived than conversational speech. The Cantonese speakers’ utterances were less intelligible than those of the English speakers in all conditions. The performance of the older listeners was poorer than that of the younger listeners, especially in noisy conditions. Native-produced English clear speech was more intelligible than conversational speech, but no significant difference in intelligibility was found between conversational and clear Cantonese-accented English for both groups of listeners. Overall, the findings suggest that the acoustic-phonetic characteristics of the conversational-to-clear speech transformations are in general similar for nonnative and native English speakers in producing clear speech. Nonetheless, a clear speaking style adopted by nonnative English speakers seems not to be an effective speech intelligibility enhancement strategy for native English listeners.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
M
Department: 
Dept. of Linguistics - Simon Fraser University
Thesis type: 
Thesis (Ph.D.)

Structural and social aspects of codeswitching among Iranian/Canadian bilinguals

Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2009
Abstract: 

This study investigates the codeswitching behavior in Persian/Canadian English conversations. The codeswitching data were collected from interviews with four homogeneous groups of 16 young adult men and women and middle-aged men and women. The analysis of 1,043 instances of intra-sentential codeswitching indicates no significant effect of age or gender on the CS patterns. In addition, the structural analysis of English lexical insertions shows that strict structural equivalence is not required for codeswitching to occur, as long as the inserted elements are congruent with the matrix frame. However, the lack of congruity between the verbal systems of Persian and English imposes some restrictions on the insertion of verbs. English verbs can only be inserted through light verb constructions. This study also provides evidence against the strict separation between borrowing and codeswitching and argues for a unified treatment of the two phenomena. Finally, the issue of motivations behind codeswitching is addressed.

Document type: 
Thesis
Senior supervisor: 
P
Department: 
Dept. of Linguistics - Simon Fraser University
Thesis type: 
Thesis (M.A.)

Logic and the comprehension of language

Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2009
Abstract: 

This thesis examines what is necessary to formally model a hearer's comprehension of a natural language sentence. Our theory of comprehension should at least explain how different words within the same grammatical class make different contributions to the meaning of a sentence. And, our theory should explain how the ``full propositional form'' that a speaker communicates is recovered from the relatively semantically underspecified acoustic signal. A model is provided which achieves this. A speaker is said to understand an utterance by, first, choosing the maximally ``relevant'' full propositional semantic enrichment of the underspecified acoustic signal, measured according to a formally defined comparison operator, and, then, computing the inferences that follow from that chosen propositional form in conjunction with their individual word-/world-knowledge. This model of comprehension apparently makes comprehension relative to an individual's idiosyncratic knowledge. So, I also discuss how conventionalized word-meanings co-ordinate individuals' knowledges to allow successful interpersonal communication.

Document type: 
Thesis
Senior supervisor: 
F
Department: 
Dept. of Linguistics - Simon Fraser University
Thesis type: 
Thesis (M.A.)

A semantic approach to automated text sentiment analysis

Author: 
Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2009
Abstract: 

The identification and characterization of evaluative stance in written language poses a unique set of cross-disciplinary challenges. Beginning with a review of relevant literature in linguistics and psychology, I trace recent interest in automated detection of author opinion in online product reviews, focusing on two main approaches: the semantic model, which is centered on deriving the semantic orientation (SO) of individual words and expressions, and machine learning classifiers, which rely on statistical information gathered from large corpora. To show the potential long-term advantages of the former, I describe the creation of an SO Calculator, highlighting relevant linguistic features such as intensification, negation, modality, and discourse structure, and devoting particular attention to the detection of genre in movie reviews, integrating machine classifier modules into my core semantic model. Finally, I discuss sentiment analysis in languages other than English, including Spanish and Chinese.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
M
Department: 
Dept. of Linguistics - Simon Fraser University
Thesis type: 
Thesis (M.A.)

Effect of L2 phonetic learning on L1 vowels

Author: 
Date created: 
2008
Abstract: 

This research examines the effect of L2 phonetic learning on L1 vowel production. Mandarin-English bilinguals differing in amount of L1 use produced Mandarin and English vowels. An acoustic analysis showed that both the Mandarin-English bilinguals of high L1 use and those of low L1 use deviated from the norm of Mandarin vowel /i/. The Mandarin-English bilinguals of low L1 use who successfully acquired English vowel /aj/ deviated from the norm of Mandarin vowel /aj/, indicating a carry-over effect of L2 vowel on L1 vowel production. In a perception test, Mandarin vowel production by the Mandarin-English bilinguals was presented to Mandarin as well as English listeners for goodness rating. The results showed that both Mandarin-English bilinguals of high L1 use and those of low L1 use differed significantly from Mandarin monolinguals in the production of /y/, a vowel with no counterpart in English. An analysis of inter-speaker variability indicated that some individual Mandarin-English bilinguals, including both speakers of high L1 use and low L1 use, were accented in the production of /y/, /aj/ and /aU/. Possible acoustic properties contributing to their accentedness included lower second formant frequency, larger first or second formant frequency movement, extremely short or long duration, and tone deviation. L2 English learning led to some Mandarin-English bilinguals carrying some English characteristics in their L1 Mandarin vowel production. In a follow-up perception test, the correlation between the ratings assigned to the Mandarin-English bilinguals’ production of Mandarin vowel /y/ and the ratings assigned to their production of English vowel /I/ and /E/ was examined. No inverse correlation was revealed, indicating that good L2 vowel production does not necessarily lead to poor L1 vowel production, and vice versa. This research suggests that the L1 phonetic system established in childhood does not remain static; instead, it may undergo reorganization when the L1 and L2 phonetic systems coexisting in a common phonological space interact.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Z
Department: 
Dept. of Linguistics - Simon Fraser University
Thesis type: 
Thesis (Ph.D.)

The semantics of vagueness: supertruth, subtruth, and the cooperative principle

Author: 
Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2008
Abstract: 

Experimental results are used to assess the predictions of supervaluation, subvaluation, and many-valued logic with regards to the problem of vagueness. Supervaluation predicts a truth-value gap in the borderline range of a predicate, thus assigning the predicate neither true nor false as value, subvaluation predicts a truth-value glut, where the predicate is both true and false, and many-valued logics assign at least three truth-values to propositions in their domain. The results of the experiment are analyzed and shown to oppose each of these frameworks, and instead to favor an approach in which the predicate and its negation are false in the borderline range, but where their conjunction is true.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Francis Jeffry Pelletier
Department: 
Dept. of Linguistics - Simon Fraser University
Thesis type: 
Thesis (M.A.)

An argument for process-based morphology: subtractive morphology in Tohono O’odham (Uto-Aztecan)

Date created: 
2008
Abstract: 

Subtractive morphology (SM) has been an important form of evidence for process-based theories of morphology. The evidence in the literature consists of broad surveys of plausible examples, but lacks either theoretical justification for selected examples or rigorous investigation of SM in the context of grammars of particular languages. Focusing on Tohono O’odham (TO, Uto-Aztecan), the aim is to determine (i) if the native rules alone can account for SM, (ii) if concatenative theories of morphology can account for all the facts without unmotivated assumptions. This study investigates options that make use of TO phonological and morphophonemic processes, as well as a number of approaches to SM intended to avoid process-based morphology. It concludes that all of these concatenative approaches lead to unnecessary stipulations or predictions of TO that are untrue. Finally, this study provides a process-based analysis of TO subtractive morphology in Antifaithfulness Theory to address criticisms to process-based morphology.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
J
Department: 
Dept. of Linguistics - Simon Fraser University
Thesis type: 
Thesis (M.A.)