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

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The influence of second language learning on speech production by Greek/English bilinguals

Date created: 
2007
Abstract: 

This study examined the voice onset time (VOT) of Greek and English voiceless stops (/p/, /t/, /k/) as produced by 20 late Greek/English bilinguals residing in the Greater Vancouver area. VOTs were examined in initially stressed disyllabic words of CVCV structure in five vowels contexts. The participants read 15 stimuli in Greek and English within a carrier phrase and three English sentences that were evaluated for accentedness. Statistical analyses indicated that the bilinguals produced intermediate English VOTs that were longer than those of Greek and shorter than those of English monolinguals. They distinguished stop categories in terms of VOT in the two languages, but not in all environments. Although English and Greek VOTs were correlated, English VOT values for /p/ and /t/ did not differ significantly, while the Greek values did. Accentedness ratings were correlated with age of learning English (0.67), chronological age (0.56) and length of residence in Canada (0.54), but not with English VOTs. These findings of the first study of Greek/English bilinguals indicate that the relationship between L1 and L2 language systems is bidirectional and more complicated than has been portrayed so far.

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

Vowel harmony in the speech of English-Hungarian bilinguals of Vancouver

Date created: 
2006
Abstract: 

The thesis aims at identifying the problematic issues of Hungarian vowel harmony and discussing the results of the sociolinguistic experiment. The objective of this study is to relate findings in the literature on Hungarian vowel harmony to the results of the experiment. Though there exists abundant research on Hungarian vowel harmony, there is relatively little known about the realization of vowel harmony in the speech of bilingual Hungarian speakers. In my experiment I recorded the responses of 30 participants in order to determine their selection of suffix vowels, their use of vowel harmony and their deviation from the standard responses. I examined vowel harmony in three speaker groups with different lengths of stay in Canada and hypothesized that differences in the use of vowel harmony could be attributed to them. Based on the results of the experiment, I propose that there is evidence of language change in progress.

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

Semantics of nouns and the specification of number in Turkish

Author: 
Date created: 
2012-12-06
Abstract: 

This thesis is an investigation of the semantic and morpho-syntactic properties of nouns and noun phrases in Turkish. Adopting a hybrid model of formal and lexical semantic views on noun semantics and nominal number as a theoretical basis, the primary objective of this work is to account for why nouns and noun phrases behave the way they do in the language. The arguments laid out in this work constitute an alternative to the claims that nouns in Turkish are no different from adjectives as they have the same distributional properties and are used interchangeably. Thus the current study aims to characterize the denotational and number related properties of nouns in a unified framework. The semantic as well as the morpho- syntactic characteristics of nouns in Turkish reveal the fact that nouns pattern with what are often referred to as set nouns as a noun subtype within the broad typology of noun subcategories. The analysis also shows that certain grammatical elements that are generally regarded as typical number markers need to be reclassified as nominal aspect markers in the language. Moreover, a careful examination indicates that even though there is hardly any difference between nouns with respect to their morpho-syntactic distribution, there are still certain distinctions between nouns that point to a count-mass distinction. Specifically, it is shown that the referential properties of NPs headed by set nouns and mass nouns are significantly different from one another in Turkish. This distinction is captured by proposing that there are in fact two processes that are relevant to number specification, namely singularization that applies to NPs headed by set nouns and unitization that applies to NPs headed by mass nouns. Last but not least, the claim that languages with set nouns display number discord which takes place between plural subject NPs and verbal elements is also confirmed by data from Turkish. The conclusions not only show the fact that number discord is correlated with the semantic/pragmatic parameters such as distinctness and topicality, but also provide further evidence for the classification of nouns as set nouns in the language.

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

Azeri morphosyntax: the influence of Persian on a Turkic language

Author: 
Date created: 
2012-11-28
Abstract: 

Azeri, the second largest language in Iran, is a Turkic language, but its lexicon is heavily influenced by Persian, an Indo-European language. This thesis examines the effect of Persian on Azeri morphosyntax. Turkic languages are head-final: in noun phrases, modifiers appear before head nouns. In contrast, Persian is head-initial: modifiers follow head nouns. Azeri allows both head-final and head-initial structures. A field study conducted with ten Azeri speakers in Tabriz, Iran, revealed that in two domains—relative clauses and noun compounds—the two types of structures are used almost equally. However, older, monolingual speakers prefer head-final structures, while younger, educated, bilingual speakers prefer head-initial structures. This shows that Azeri is becoming persified, as predicted in such situations of language contact involving a politically-dominant language. However, all speakers accept head-final structures, showing the persistence of Turkic morphosyntax despite a millennium of intense social and cultural contact with Persian.

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

Effects of visual speech information on native listener judgments of L2 speech consonants

Author: 
Date created: 
2012-08-02
Abstract: 

Research on the intelligibility of non-native (L2) speech productions has focused on native listener judgments of auditorily presented L2 productions. However, little research has explored how visual information in L2 speech productions affects native listeners’ perception. In the present study, native Canadian English perceivers were asked to identify six English phonemes /b, v, s, θ, l, ɹ/ produced by native speakers of Japanese and native speakers of Canadian English as controls under three input modalities: (1) audiovisual (AV), with simultaneous presentation of speaker voice and facial/mouth movements, (2) audio-only (AO), with speaker voice only, and (3) visual-only (VO), with speaker face only. The results show facilitative effects of visual speech information on the intelligibility of non-native productions as well as deteriorative effects due to lack of visible lip-rounding in the Japanese-produced /ɹ/. These results suggest visual speech information may either positively or negatively affect the intelligibility of L2 productions.

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

A construction analysis of [be done X] in Canadian English

Date created: 
2012-07-24
Abstract: 

This thesis is an analysis of the Canadian English construction ‘be done X’ [bdX], where X is a direct object noun phrase, as in ‘I’m done my homework’. The study is grounded in a cognitive linguistics framework, which examines the relation of language structure to cognitive principles and mechanisms not specific to language, including pragmatic and interactional principles. It is based on a corpus created from Canadian web blogs and investigates the syntactic, semantic, and discourse level properties of the construction. The results provide empirical evidence that a cognitive approach can account for the many layers of meaning that are conveyed in this construction. It asks the larger question of how constructional meaning is arrived at, and suggests that the current cognitive theory needs to be expanded to allow for a fuller account of meaning in a constructional framework.

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

A cross-language investigation of phonetic and phonological processing of lexical tone

Author: 
Date created: 
2012-05-24
Abstract: 

In an investigation of how lexical tone is perceived and processed at the phonetic and phonological levels, listeners from diverse language backgrounds participated in three perceptual studies. In the first, native Mandarin and Thai listeners assimilated non-native tones to their native tone categories. Results indicated that occurrence of a lower-level phonetic and a higher-level phonological assimilation process was related to listeners’ tone experience, as inexperienced listeners recognized only the phonetic distinctions, whereas experienced listeners were sensitive to both the phonetic and phonological distinctions between native and non-native tone categories. In the second study, native Mandarin, Thai and English listeners participated in a forced-choice tone perception test in which they identified the four Mandarin tone categories. Identification accuracy and confusion patterns revealed that previous tone experience predicted tone perception at the phonetic and phonological levels. Better performance was demonstrated for native than non-native, and experienced than inexperienced listeners. Experienced Thai listeners also showed more native-like performance than experienced English listeners. Tone 2 and Tone 3 were the most confusable tone pair for all but the inexperienced English listeners. Lexical information from the carrier words was also found to help Mandarin and English listeners recognize difficult tones. In the third study, participants from the second one completed a dichotic listening test assessing tone lateralization in the brain. The results demonstrated a strong influence of acoustic properties, as tones with dynamic F0 contours were lateralized to the left hemisphere while those with flatter F0 contours were lateralized to the right hemisphere. Meanwhile, native and non-native tone experience was associated with a larger degree of left hemisphere activation for Mandarin and experienced Thai listeners relative to those in the remaining groups. In summary, these three studies indicate tone perception and processing at both the phonetic and phonological levels. In relation to tone experience, inexperienced listeners may attach more importance to phonetic variation while experienced listeners are sensitive to both the phonetic and phonological differences. In terms of theoretical contributions, tone perception results extend the current models of speech perception to the suprasegmental level while tone lateralization results provide evidence supporting the acoustic and functional hypotheses.

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

Computer-assisted vocabulary learning: multimedia annotations, word concreteness, and individualized instruction

Author: 
Date created: 
2010-12-03
Abstract: 

This dissertation addresses research gaps in second / foreign language (L2) vocabulary learning by investigating issues surrounding multimedia annotations, word concreteness, and individualized instruction. Two experiments were conducted with beginner learners of L2 German who used Voka, an online flashcard-based multimedia program for intentional vocabulary learning designed by the author of this dissertation. Experiment 1 explored the effectiveness of annotations for vocabulary learning by also considering word concreteness and variation in annotation effectiveness among learners. Using a within-subjects design, 72 participants studied 15 abstract and 15 concrete German nouns. For each word, learners received a translation, an example sentence, and one of five annotation clusters that address the form, meaning and / or use of a word: PG) picture, gloss of example sentence, DG) definition, gloss, PA) picture, audio pronunciation, DA) definition, audio, or PAGD) picture, audio, gloss, definition. An immediate vocabulary posttest revealed that for both abstract and concrete words, annotation clusters containing a picture are significantly more effective than clusters without a picture. The delayed posttest data showed, however, that all annotation clusters are equally effective for abstract and concrete words. Furthermore, both posttests demonstrated that abstract words are significantly harder to learn than concrete words in all annotation clusters and that the effectiveness of annotation clusters varies across learners. Experiment 2 constructed an individualized learning environment by considering the effectiveness of different annotation clusters on learner performance in experiment 1 to then examine the additional effect of two presentation sequences of annotation clusters on L2 vocabulary learning. Using a between-subjects design, 68 participants studied another 28 nouns with Voka. The FIX group received a fixed presentation sequence that showed all words in each learner's most effective annotation cluster. The ALT group received an alternating presentation sequence of each learner's two most effective annotation clusters by studying 14 words in each cluster. The results showed that presentation sequence has no effect on L2 vocabulary learning. The dissertation discusses the implications of the findings of both experiments and identifies potential avenues for future research.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Trude Heift
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Linguistics
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Epistemic implicatures and inquisitive bias: a multidimensional semantics for polar questions

Author: 
Date created: 
2010-07-02
Abstract: 

This thesis motivates and develops a semantic distinction between two types of polar in- terrogatives available to natural languages, based on data from Persian and English. The first type, which I call an ‘impartial interrogative,’ has as its pragmatic source an ignorant information state, relative to an issue at a particular stage of the discourse. The second type, which I call a ‘partial interrogative’ arises from a destabilized information state, whereby the proposition supported by the information state conflicts with contextually available data. I show that the two types of interrogatives differ in their syntax, and can be distin- guished semantically via the logic of Conventional Implicatures in Potts (2005). I develop the proposal within the framework of inquisitive semantics (Groenendijk and Roelofsen (2009)), extended with Potts (2005)’s multidimensional logic.

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

A cross-linguistic account of reflexivity using synchronous tree adjoining grammar

Date created: 
2010-07-07
Abstract: 

This thesis examines the different ways in which reflexive relations are expressed across languages. Using the reflexive typology of Déchaine and Wiltschko (2002) as a starting point, case-studies of four languages are presented: English, Korean, Shona, and Plains Cree. These linguistic case-studies rely on a broad spectrum of data collection methods, including corpus research, psycholinguistic experimentation, and field-elicitation. Through these diverse methodologies, a sound empirical basis for the conclusions of the thesis is constructed, showing how the different methods can be combined to complement each other in the formulation of linguistic theory. Then, the data are treated in terms of Synchronous Tree Adjoining Grammar (STAG), showing that the STAG formalism is not only robust enough to handle a diverse selection of languages, but also showing how the various forms of reflexive expression can be formalised. Specifically, with English, reflexives are treated as functions which take predicates as arguments, establishing an explicit co-reference be- tween the arguments of the predicate. In STAG, it emerges that the familiar c-command relationship between a reflexive pronoun and its antecedent is a consequence of the analy- sis, rather than a stipulated constraint. Korean and Shona reflexivity is expressed in terms of Bound Variable Anaphora; the STAG implementation for these languages shows how parametric variation between languages in terms of binding restrictions (local, anti- local, or unconstrained) can be expressed in terms of a constraint on the derivation of sentences containing bound variables. Plains Cree, while having the simplest syntax in that its reflex- ives are intransitives, emerges to be the biggest challenge for STAG, exposing the need for further work in defining the STAG formalism at a finer syntactic and semantic level than present implementations allow.

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