Schedule Update

We now have an *almost* full schedule for the rest of the semester.

March 22: Meronymy (Tim, Alice, Yen-Ting)

March 29: Cut & Break Verbs (Xia)

April 5: German Causality (Juergen dry-run)


April 19: Iconicity of Adpositional Phrases in Southern Min (Yen-Ting)

April 26: OPEN!!

We have a few possible topics to discuss on April 26, but if you have other topics you’d like to discuss, please contact me.

  • A recent Language article “Sound correspondences in the world’s languages” (Brown, Holman, & Wichmann. 89.1)
  • A dry-run of Juergen’s ICLC presentation “Iconicity in event representation across languages”

March 22: Meronymy

This week (March 22) we’ll hear from Tim, Alice, and Yen-Ting about meronymy in English, Datooga, and Endo, respectively.

First Tim will present a more formal presentation (description below), then Alice will lead the discussion on body part terms used as prepositions in Datooga, along with data that suggests Datooga makes use of a zoomorphic spatial model as well as an anthropomorphic one. This is in line with Heine’s observation that zoomorphic models are characteristic of pastoralist societies (Heine 1989). Time allowing, she’ll also present on partitive uses of body part terms. We’ll then be able to compare the Datooga data with what Yen-Ting has found in another Southern Nilotic language, Endo.

This talk deals with a topic in meronymy, the study of lexical items for the parts of entities. Across languages, it is common for the terms for human body parts to also be used for referring to the parts of inanimate objects. This phenomenon been described for Tseltal (Levinson 1994) and Ayoquesco Zapotec (MacLaury 1989), which, like other Mesoamerican languages, have highly productive and consistent strategies for assigning body part terms to the parts of inanimates, although their strategies differ in key ways. The Tseltal strategy involves local mappings that are sensitive to the object’s orientation, whereas the Zapotec strategy involves a global mapping that is independent of orientation. The range of variation across the languages of the world in terms of mapping from the body to inanimate objects is unknown. In particular, there is no published account of how this process works in English. This presentation examines English body part terms, and to what extent their use for the parts of inanimates is systematic or arbitrary. It addresses the issue of local vs. global mapping. Also, it is proposed that small sets of abstract meanings for terms like ‘head,’ ‘eye,’ and ‘foot’ govern the application of these terms to the parts of objects, on the basis of shape, structural position, and function.

Athanasopoulos 2006 & 2009

This week Juergen and I will lead discussion of Panos Athanasopoulos’ two papers on the effects of bilingualism on cognition. The articles are available on the UBlearns site. Below I’ve provided the abstracts:

Effects of the grammatical representation of number on cognition in bilinguals (Language & Cognition. 9(1): 89-96.)

Research investigating the relationship between language and cognition (Lucy, 1992b) shows that speakers of languages with grammatical number marking (e.g. English) judge differences in the number of countable objects as more significant than differences in the number or amount of non-countable substances. On the other hand, speakers of languages which lack grammatical number marking (e.g. Yucatec) show no such preference. The current paper extends Lucy’s (1992b) investigation, comparing monolingual English and Japanese speakers with Japanese speakers of English as a second language (L2). Like Yucatec, Japanese is a non-plural-marking language. Results show that intermediate L2 speakers behave similarly to the Japanese monolinguals while advanced L2 speakers behave similarly to the English monolinguals. The results (a) provide support for the claim that grammatical representation may influence cognition in specific ways and (b) suggest that L2 acquisition may alter cognitive dispositions established by a first language (L1).

Cognitive representation of colour in bilinguals: The case of Greek blues (Language & Cognition. 12(1): 83-95.)

A number of recent studies demonstrate that bilinguals with languages that differ in grammatical and lexical categories may shift their cognitive representation of those categories towards that of monolingual speakers of their second language. The current paper extended that investigation to the domain of colour in Greek–English bilinguals with different levels of bilingualism, and English monolinguals. Greek differentiates the blue region of colour space into a darker shade called ble and a lighter shade called ghalazio. Results showed a semantic shift of category prototypes with level of bilingualism and acculturation, while the way bilinguals judged the perceptual similarity between within- and cross-category stimulus pairs depended strongly on the availability of the relevant colour terms in semantic memory, and the amount of time spent in the L2-speaking country. These results suggest that cognition is tightly linked to semantic memory for specific linguistic categories, and to cultural immersion in the L2-speaking country.

Stats and archiving summary

In last week’s meeting we discussed implementation of archiving best practices for the large amount of material MesoSpace deals with. From out individual researchers there is raw data (audio and video recordings), transcriptions, and spreadsheets of coded data (frames of reference used). From the stats team we have consolidated data files (mostly excel spreadsheets that are fed into R).

Problems have occurred in the past with changes in coding and versions not being noted and applied universally. A solution for this is to keep an archive with a detailed log, which includes versions of files and the changes that have resulted in different versions. Importantly, a sealed (or read-only) archive should be kept and backed up on external harddrives, and only working versions should be kept on the RA laptop as an active workspace. The archive should include the data produced by team members as well as all versions of publications, which serve as a log of our ongoing analyses.

For the stats team, the problem of simultaneous work was brought up, and we decided to implement a more careful system of work delegation (i.e. researchers have pre-set times to work on shared files and changes are noted and logged, so that overlapping versions are not created). We discussed potentially using GitHub for file storage and sharing, but we decided that it won’t more adequately address the simultaneous work issue any better than dropbox, so we’ll keep using dropbox.

We discussed additional analyses that are in the works:

  1. Run the generalized linear mixed-effects model (GLMM) on the matcher’s demographic data. This is in response to a suggestion made by Dr. Fertig at our colloquium presentation Feb. 22. To date we’ve run GLMM on the director’s demographic data, but there may be an effect of the matcher’s demographic factors (i.e. the director accommodating the matcher).
  2. Run the analysis for Sets 1 & 3. (GLMM, similarity matrix).  To date we’ve run analyses on data from B&C sets 2 & 4. This new analysis would address concerns about the extent to which there are strategy effects.
  3. Analysis for effect of order of pictures described. (What do directors use when they’re not understood? (interesting follow up to (1).  Based on what he’s observed in his own Yucate data set, Juergen predicts that when the director uses relative, the matcher first asks about ‘left’ and ‘right’, then they use the rel. And when the director uses cardinal directions, they then switch to landmark.
  4.  Is there a set effect? Ball & Chair was designed largely following the protocol of the designers of Men & Tree, where each set of pictures targets different types of reference frames. For example, Set 1 is resolvable intrinsically. We should see evidence of such an effect in the order of description study (3).
  5.  Run analyses with New Animals (recall) data. This step is crucial for the upcoming CogSci submission.
  6. Run analyses that include orientation descriptions (in addition to locative descriptions).