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You are here: Home / News & Events / CLS Speaker Series / Fall 2007 - Spring 2020 / Spring 2018

Spring 2018

January 12, 2018 - Grant Berry (Penn State)

Title: On the Cognitive Processing Strategies Underlying the Propagation of Sound Change 

Abstract: A wealth of research has identified several social categories (e.g., sex, socioeconomic status, age) that reliably characterize the leaders of sound change, but individuals within a given social category are far from uniform in their use of linguistic variables. Which other factors might be relevant for predicting who is most likely to acquire new variants when language variation leads to language change? Usage-based approaches assert that an individual’s patterns of exposure and language use are integral to their behavior during language processing and, moreover, that the mechanisms utilized when processing language stem from domain-general cognitive functions. Indeed, psycholinguistic research over the last two decades has established links between cognitive control or executive function and language processing in the laboratory. In this talk, I will argue that cognitive processing strategies, when interpreted under a dual mechanisms framework, can also be used to predict whether an individual will adopt sound changes underway in their community. I will then demonstrate how the hypotheses that arise from this approach are supported in naturalistic discourse, focusing on two sound changes in-progress with varying degrees of social awareness in the speech of Puerto Rican Philadelphians. Finally, I will discuss a model of sound change intermixing social categories and individual differences in cognitive processing to arrive at expected patterns of use. 

January 16, 2018 - Amelia Dietrich (The Forum on Education Abroad)

CLS Anniversary Alumni Speaker Series

Title: Beyond Language Science:  Skills for Transitioning Out of the Academy

Abstract: After finishing a Ph.D. in Spanish and Language Science in 2014, Amelia J. Dietrich was awarded the Mellon/ACLS Public Fellowship to work at non-profit, membership organization The Forum on Education Abroad. As Associate Director for Programs and Resources, she edits the academic journal Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, develops resources to support high-quality study abroad programming, leads data collection and reporting efforts, and facilitates professional development workshops. She has presented her post-language-science work at conferences in Austin, Houston, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. and will publish a chapter in the upcoming Routledge Handbook of Study Abroad Research and Practice. Dr. Dietrich's presentation will focus on her transition from academia to the non-profit association, highlighting the transferable skills she gained during her years as a CLS graduate student and offering advice to students and faculty mentors who may be considering the same transition.

January 26, 2018 - Christina Tortora (CUNY)

Title: Infinitival Perfects With and Without [ə(v)] in Appalachian English

Abstract: In this talk I discuss a number of empirical and theoretical questions revolving around a phenomenon observed in the Audio-Aligned and Parsed Corpus of Appalachian English (AAPCAppE), namely, the variable appearance of the form [ə(v)] in infinitivalperfects embedded under modals (1) and infinitival to (2):

Infinitival perfect embedded under modal:

(1)            a. You could heared a pin drop.

                b. You could [əv] heared a pin drop.


(2)            a. She had to been up in her sixties.

b. If we had candles, we had to [əv] made them. 

Our study reveals unexpected quantitative differences between perfects embedded under modals (1) vs. to-perfects (2), and qualitative differences between to-perfects with and without [ə(v)] (typically spelled have / ’ve in formal writing, or of / a in informal writing). This suggests that infinitival perfects are not structurally or semantically homogeneous, at least in some Englishes. I explore the possibility that to-perfects without [ə(v)] in Appalachian English grammatically encode a kind of Sequence of Tense, providing evidence for the natural continuity of a grammatical phenomenon found in earlier Englishes but which had a history of rigorous proscription in formal Englishes starting in the 18th century.

My aim is to show that a corpus of vernacular speech such as the AAPCAppE can serve as a rich resource, in terms of (i) the opportunity to search over syntactic structures of a particular type; (ii) the opportunity to check the speech signal against the transcription, to ensure accuracy; (iii) the speech signal’s ability to provide relevant phonological features not necessarily readily available with purely orthographic transcription; and (iv) the opportunity to study aspects of natural language that are not detected in more formal and standardized versions of linguistic behavior. At the same time, I aim to show that research on a little-studied and infrequent structure requires very careful attention to the larger grammatical system within which the object of inquiry is embedded, and that the AAPCAppE exhibits enough cases of structural ambiguity in this regard to raise the difficult but important question of “what to count.”

February 2, 2018 - Laura Rodrigo (Penn State)

Title: A Cross-Linguistic Analysis of Sentence Production: Exploring the Interplay of Structural and Lexical Planning in Languages with Different Word Order

Abstract: Speech planning involves different steps in order to transform a conceptual message into speech. These include establishing structural relations among constituents (i.e., relational information), and selecting the appropriate lexical items to convey the intended message (non-relational elements). These two types of information are often interrelated and confounded. Therefore, the precise way relational and non-relational information are computed when undertaking linguistic encoding is still not clear. In this talk I will explore how the pre-linguistic message undergoes linguistic encoding, and what kind of information (relational or non-relational) is prioritized in doing so. To do so, I will present data from two projects aimed to teasing apart the effects of word order in sentence planning. First, I will present data in Kaqchikel language, a Mayan language spoken in Guatemala, which canonical word order is VOS, with SVO being widely used. After it, I will present data in the production planning of Relative Clauses in Japanese (a head-final language), in comparison with Spanish (a head-initial language). Sentence planning was explored by means of the eye-tracking method while participants described pictures. Results in both cases point to a planning process that prioritizes structural relations over access to lexical elements in order in the planning of complex structures, with room for flexibility when the grammar of the language, or the order selected, allows so. Implications of these results for models of speech production will be discussed.

February 9, 2018 - Frances Blanchette (Penn State)

Title: Linguistic Evidence and Stigmatized Structures: The Case of English Negative Concord 

Abstract: Traditional theoretical models assume a grammatical distinction between Negative Concord (NC) and Double Negation (DN) languages (Zeijlstra 2004). In NC, two or more syntactic negations yield a single semantic one (e.g., the ‘I ate nothing’ reading of “I didn’t eat nothing”), and in DN each negation contributes to the semantics (e.g. ‘It is not the case that I ate nothing’). English NC is associated with a heavy social stigma (Horn 2010). As such, traditional forms of usage and acceptability judgment data may obscure speakers’ grammatical knowledge of the construction. This paper contributes controlled experimental data to inform theoretical models of English NC and DN. 

A growing body of experimental work demonstrates that DN is possible in prototypical NC languages, including Spanish, Catalan, and French (Espinal & Prieto 2011; Prieto et al. 2013; Déprez et al. 2015; Espinal et al. 2016). In these languages, DN readings are associated with denial contexts (Geurts 1998), as well as marked prosody and gesture. We present data from two experiments that corroborate these findings for “Standard English”, typically assumed to be a DN language. We explore the roles of syntax, pragmatic context, and prosody in shaping the production, interpretation, and perception of English sentences with two negatives. Our results demonstrate that, like in prototypical NC languages (Espinal et al. 2016), English speakers reliably exploit both syntactic and pragmatic cues in selecting an NC or a DN interpretation.

February 16, 2018 - Janet Van Hell (Penn State)

Title: Code-Switching in Bilingual Speakers: Behavioral and Electrophysiological Evidence

Abstract: A unique feature of bilingual speech is that bilinguals often produce utterances that switch between languages. The large majority of psycholinguistic and neurocognitive studies examining switching between languages have focused on the processing of a series of single, unrelated items (e.g., unrelated words, numbers, or pictures) rather than switching between languages in a meaningful utterance (e.g., a sentence). However, an emergent body of studies seek to examine the cognitive and neural correlates of language switching in more naturally occurring situations: language switching within meaningful sentences. I will present recent psycholinguistic and electrophysiological studies that examined the cognitive and neural mechanisms associated with intra-sentential code-switching in production and comprehension. I will also discuss evidence showing that switching direction (switching from the first language to the second language, or vice versa) and accented speech modulate switching costs when bilinguals read or listen to code-switched sentences. Together these studies attest to the value of integrating linguistic and neurocognitive approaches to gain more insight into the neural, cognitive, and linguistic mechanisms of intra-sentential code-switching in comprehension and production.

February 19, 2018 - Josh Brown (University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire)

CLS Anniversary Alumni Speaker Series

Title: Multilingualism in Nineteenth Century Pennsylvania 

Abstract: Historical language contact and multilingualism contribute both to sociolinguistic identities and to language ideologies. For the early Pennsylvania Dutch, the distance from their European homeland and the adoption of American regional identities created and resulted in a shift in linguistic hegemony. Knowledge of European German, which held literary and educational prestige, was largely receptive and, in time, a variety of European German called Pennsylvania High German emerged in the publications and schools of Pennsylvania. Because the emphasis was only on its comprehension, Pennsylvania High German was not held up to prescriptive control and is characterized by loanwords from English and Pennsylvania Dutch and structural features that diverge from standard German. Moreover, its sociolinguistic history is one of “dismantling” a European standard language. For Pennsylvanians, the period of Pennsylvania High German use represents both a tenacious yet precarious hold on their European roots and a bridge to their new sociocultural and linguistic identities in America.

March 2, 2018 - Jonathan Steuck (Penn State)

Title: The Prosodic Structure of Code-Switching in the New Mexico Spanish-English Bilingual Community

Abstract: This study examines code-switching, broadly defined as the alternation of languages in the same conversation. While recent research suggests that bilinguals may utilize certain phonetic or syntactic features to anticipate an upcoming language switch (e.g. Fricke, Kroll, & Dussias, 2016; Tamargo, Kroff, & Dussias, 2016), studies of prosodic patterns in code-switching have been lacking. A sample of spontaneous multi-word code-switches (MWCS; = 407) comprised of at least two words in English and Spanish is taken from the New Mexico Spanish-English Bilingual corpus (Torres Cacoullos & Travis, in prep). The data are prosodically transcribed in Intonation Units (see Du Bois et al., 1993), which enables the analysis of the linguistic properties of MWCS at the interface of prosody and syntax. This study utilizes a novel unit for analysis: The prosodic sentence (PS), defined using intonation (Chafe, 1994). The PS is the basis for characterizing intra-sentential MWCS according to prosodic factors: Prosodic position of MWCS, pause expression, transitional continuity, and length measures. Prosodic factors are furthermore assessed according to switch direction. The MWCS (i.e. bilingual PSs; = 323) are compared with two sets of PSs: (a) Otherwise monolingual PSs containing a noun of other-language origin--Spanish-origin (= 78) or English-origin (= 216); and (b) entirely monolingual PSs (= 584) with a lexical Spanish (= 231) or English (= 238) noun, serving as monolingual benchmarks. Overall, clear prosodic-syntactic properties of spontaneous MWCS emerge and findings highlight the unique prosodic-syntactic signature of MWCS as compared to monolingual stretches without MWCS, part of the norms for combining two languages in bilingual communities.

March 13, 2013 Dora LaCasse (Penn State)

Title: The Subjunctive in New Mexican Spanish:  Measures of Productivity

Abstract: Studies of the Spanish mood system almost unanimously report rapid loss or simplification of the subjunctive wherever Spanish exists in contact with English. The current study assesses variable mood choice within complement clauses in the New Mexico Spanish-English Bilingual corpus (NMSEB; Torres Cacoullos & Travis, in preparation). All complement clauses in the subjunctive, indicative, and in English (N=678) under main clause verbs that govern the subjunctive at least once were extracted. The most common justification given for claims of accelerated subjunctive loss in bilingual Spanish varieties is a lower overall subjunctive rate, though we know that overall rates can be misleading in assessing language change, contact-induced or not (Poplack & Levey, 2010:400).  Here, I apply measures developed by Poplack and colleagues (e.g., Poplack 1992, Poplack et al. 2013) to assess the productivity of the subjunctive in NMSEB when compared to a monolingual benchmark from the Corpus sociolingüístico de la Ciudad de México  (CSCM Martín Butragueño & Lastra 2011-2015). While a lower type frequency of subjunctive-selecting matrices in NMSEB (N=42) than in CSCM (N=111), suggests a possible loss of productivity, a more detailed comparison of subjunctive distributions according to matrix verb reveal similar patterns between the two corpora. Conditioning factors previously shown to relate to the structural routinization of the subjunctive (Poplack et al. 2018, Torres Cacoullos et al. 2018) are operative here as well. Results reveal comparable levels of subjunctive productivity between NMSEB and the monolingual benchmark, despite differences in overall rates.

March 23, 2018 Rachel Hayes-Harb (University of Utah)

Title: Written Input and the L2 Lexical-Phonological Acquisition of German Final Devoicing by Native English Speakers

Abstract: I will talk about recent and ongoing research in our lab on the ways in which auditory and written input interact in second language lexical-phonological acquisition. In German, final obstruents are devoiced such that underlying voicing contrasts are (mostly) neutralized. For example, /rad/ ‘wheel’ and /rat/ ‘advice’, spelled <Rad> and <Rat>, are both pronounced [rat]).  In a previous study, colleagues and I have found that written forms in the input to native English learners can interfere with their acquisition of target-like pronunciation of underlyingly voiced final obstruents (e.g., the letter <d> in <Rad> caused learners to misremember the surface voicing of the final obstruent). However, these learners were not exposed to the alternations; that is, they did not also learn suffixed (plural-like) forms like [raden] and [raten] in which the underlying voicing contrast is maintained. More recently, we have investigated whether exposure to both the singular and plural forms of new words affects acquisition of final devoicing, and whether it interacts with the previously-observed interference effect of written input. We taught native English speakers with no prior German learning experience a set of singular and plural(-like) German nonwords with and without alternating surface forms, (e.g., [trop, troben] spelled <trob, troben> and [krat, kraten] spelled <krat, kraten>) along with pictured ‘meanings’ (e.g., butterfly, boot) in two conditions: with and without accompanying written forms. In a subsequent picture naming task, we measured the proportion of the time that learners produced underlyingly voiced final obstruents as voiceless. We predicted that all participants would produce underlyingly voiced obstruents as voiceless more often in singular than plural forms, but that the participants who were exposed to written input would be more likely than those who were not to (inappropriately) produce word-final obstruents as voiced. Both hypotheses were supported, suggesting that the availability of the surface alternation in the auditory input led participants to learn the final devoicing rule to some extent, and further that the availability of potentially misleading orthographic input interferes with the acquisition of the German pattern of surface voicing even when auditory evidence of the alternation is available. In a follow-up experiment we are currently investigating the acquisition of the process of final devoicing by determining whether participants devoice finally when they only have access to the plural forms of new words. I will discuss the findings of these studies as they relate to the effects of various sources of input in second language acquisition.

March 30, 2018 - Yan Jing Wu (Shenzhen University; University of Sheffield)

Young Language Scholar Speaker

Title: Bilingualism:  From Nonselective Access to Cognitive Benefits

Abstract: In the past two decades, research on bilingualism has been advanced with two major discoveries. Nonselective access refers to the finding that bilingual individuals activate lexical representations of both languages when using one alone. Cognitive benefits of bilingualism are the observation that experiences of using two languages on a daily basis lead to advantages, as compared to monolinguals, in executive performance involving inhibitory control, task switching, and conflict resolution. In this talk, I will discuss some studies that have made unique contributions to our understanding of the characteristics in bilingual language and cognitive processing. In particular, studies on parallel language activation have often focused on the processing of interlingual stimuli (e.g., cognates) which necessarily generate a dual-language context, compromising the nonselective access claim. Our studies demonstrated that bilinguals activate translation equivalent of the unintended language even in a single-language context. Research in bilingual advantage has often compared bilinguals with their monolingual counterparts, but between-subject design is inevitably complicated with variances in participants’ background factors. Our studies showed enhanced performance of executive control in a bilingual versus monolingual context with the same group of bilingual participants.

April 6, 2018 - Roxana Botezatu (University of Missouri)

CLS Anniversary Alumni Speaker Series

Title: Converging Evidence from Bilingualism and Aphasia Reveals a Link Between Lexical Selection in Comprehension and Production

Abstract: Bilingualism and aphasia have been traditionally employed as separate platforms for investigating the cognitive mechanisms underlying language production and comprehension. In the present study we take an innovative approach to analyze spoken word recognition as a function of production fluency in second language (L2) learners and individuals with aphasia for a common purpose: to evaluate whether resolving lexical competition during spoken word comprehension engages the same mechanisms as selecting an individual word from a set of candidates for production. We test this hypothesis in a novel way by examining whether narrative speech production fluency is associated with sensitivity to phonological neighborhood density -- a robust measure of resolving lexical competition during speech recognition that is otherwise unrelated to fluent language production. English learners of Spanish (N=24), individuals with aphasia (N=19), age-matched monolingual participants (N=24) and neurologically intact older adults (N=15) identified spoken English words presented in moderate noise. English learners of Spanish varied on measures of L2-Spanish proficiency. Individuals with aphasia varied on measures of fluency and receptive vocabulary, in the absence of comprehension deficits. The words either came from high-density neighborhoods (e.g., BAG) or low-density neighborhoods (e.g., BALL). Age-matched control participants exhibited the standard inhibitory effect of phonological neighborhood density on response times: slower recognition of spoken words from denser neighborhoods. Among English learners of Spanish, this inhibitory effect of phonological neighborhood density was greater for learners with lower L2 fluency. Among participants with aphasia, the inhibitory effect of phonological neighborhood density was similarly greater for participants with lower fluency. Additionally, the neighborhood effect was larger for individuals with aphasia with better receptive vocabulary knowledge, indicating that the fluency effect was not due to general lexical deficits. These converging results from bilingualism and aphasia are consistent with the view that language production and comprehension share a lexical selection mechanism.

April 13, 2018 - Michael Dickey (University of Pittsburgh)

Title: Predictors and Mechanisms of Naming Treatment Response in Aphasia

Abstract: Semantically-oriented naming treatments such as Semantic Feature Analysis (Boyle & Coelho, 1995) can improve both word retrieval and broader communicative function among people with aphasia (PWA). However, there is considerable variability in how well individual PWA respond to SFA treatment (Boyle, 2010; Oh et al., 2016). This talk presents three complementary lines of evidence aimed at understanding and characterizing this variability.  First, results from a novel meta-analysis of SFA treatment studies (Quique et al., 2017) provide evidence for a person-level predictor of treatment response, as well as preliminary evidence regarding the dose-response relationship for SFA: how much benefit may be expected from varying amounts of SFA treatment? Second, results from a large-scale on-going group study of SFA response (Gravier et al., 2018) provide evidence for a practice-related predictor of SFA response: the number of client-generated features during treatment appears to be predictive of gains for both treated and untreated related stimuli.  Third, parallel results from the same group study (Dickey et al., in prep) indicate that pre-treatment semantic processing ability is predictive of improvement on both treated and untreated words. Together with the findings regarding practice-related predictors, these results suggest that SFA has its positive effects through facilitation of lexical-semantic aspects of word retrieval processes (Foygel & Dell, 2000).  Understanding the variability in SFA treatment response can therefore shed novel light on the mechanisms behind it.

April 20, 2018 - Amy Crosson (Penn State, College of Education)

Title: Effects of Vocabulary and Morphology Interventions with Adolescent Language Minority Learners

Abstract: In this presentation I will share my on-going, school-based intervention research with language minority adolescents, carried out in collaboration with the Pittsburgh Public Schools and the Salt Lake City School District. These studies, funded by the Spencer Foundation and the Institute for Education Sciences, are designed to investigate whether robust academic vocabulary instruction infused with morphological analysis of bound Latin roots (e.g., analysis of the relation between innovative and its bound root, nov) enhances word learning and comprehension outcomes for language minority (LM) adolescents.  Theory suggests that morphological knowledge is a critical component of lexical representations, binding a word’s phonological, orthographic and semantic features (Perfetti & Hart, 2007).  We hypothesized that instruction in bound Latin roots would a) produce stronger outcomes for learning academic words by strengthening semantic and orthographic representations, and b) equip students with morphological analysis skills to problem-solve new words. Measures included an experimental assessment of multidimensional word knowledge, a lexical decision task, and a dynamic assessment of morphological problem-solving, among others.  Results to date show large treatment effects for morphological problem-solving of unfamiliar words and suggest positive treatment effect on lexical access, lending partial support to the hypothesis that instruction about bound Latin roots contributes to LM adolescents’ word learning. In future work, I hope to draw on theory and methodological approaches from the language sciences to shed light on word learning and the effects of language-focused interventions with LM learners in public school settings. 

April 27, 2018 - Kinsey Bice (Penn State)

Title: Dynamics of Language Processing and the Consequences For New Language Learning:  A talk and dissertation defense

Abstract: Learning a new language as an adult is difficult and many fail to acquire high proficiency. Individual differences in late language learning have been partially, but not fully, accounted for by factors such as working memory and native language (L1) performance. An overlooked observation in research that attempts to characterize successful language learning is that bilinguals consistently outperform monolinguals in acquiring new languages. When bilinguals are learning a new language, they can draw on their past experience. That experience encompasses both language-specific skills, such as managing the dynamics of cross-language interaction, as well as domain-general learning skills that may enable language regulation and control. In contrast, for monolingual learners, there is only the opportunity to transfer existing L1 knowledge and general cognitive skills. The hypothesis tested in the research I will present is that previous language experience and individual differences guide the trajectory and outcome of new language learning. In one study, I consider how biases in domain-general learning contribute to individual differences in language processing for monolinguals and bilinguals with different language learning experience. In a second study, I examine the consequences of domain-general and language-specific biases for bilinguals and monolinguals as they learn a new language.