Posts in Academic
Emotions are relational: positioning and the use of affective linguistic resources

(Download my dissertation here)

To understand human beings is to understand the variety and complexity of emotional experiences they have. Understanding how language is both shaped by and used in creating and coping with these experiences is the focus of this dissertation. It offers three case studies about affective linguistic resources, advancing a theoretical framework (positioning) and a series of quantitative methodologies that grow out of information-theoretic approaches to language.

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Undergrad syntax course materials

Tom Wasow's class on syntax was "an introduction to the basic concepts of modern syntactic theory through the development of a rigorous grammar of a substantial fragment of English." In particular, the class introduces the HPSG syntactic framework (Head-driven Phrase Structure). The textbook is the very readable Bender, Sag, and Wasow (2003), Syntactic Theory: A Formal Introduction (recommendation: use the second edition).

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African American Vernacular English

Lecture and section notes for John Rickford's class on African-American Vernacular English. "The English vernacular spoken by African Americans in big city settings, and its relation to Creole English dialects spoken on the S. Carolina Sea Islands (Gullah), in the Caribbean, and in W. Africa. The history of expressive uses of African American English (in soundin' and rappin'), and its educational implications."

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The social meaning of tempo

(Download the paper! Or, for the presentation version of this from NWAV 2010)

Speech tempo can be deployed consciously to achieve particular effects, but it can also send cues to listeners that the speaker didn’t intend to convey. What this means for us is that tempo is a stylistic resource, expressive for both speakers and listeners— creating expectations about the speaker and their attitude toward a situation and audience. These expressions, however, don’t happen in a vacuum. The use of tempo reflects and constructs various ideologies, allowing tempo to signal emotional state, occupation, geographical origin, ethnic identification, and more.

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How do kids choose their syntax?

Marie-Catherine de Marneffe, Scott Grimm, Uriel Cohen Priva, Sander Lestrade, Gorkem Ozbek, Tyler Schnoebelen, Susannah Kirby, Misha Becker, Vivienne Fong and Joan Bresnan. 2007. “A statistical model of grammatical choices in children’s production of dative sentences.” Formal Approaches to Variation in Syntax, University of York, England.

One of the most well-studied questions in child language acquisition is what type of knowledge children possess to guide their syntactic production. 

Some posit that children are able to construct abstract representations to facilitate the acquisition of specific items, whereas others take the specific items as primary, claiming children learn each construction individually as anchored to a specific lexical item.

A less frequently pursued question is what is the range of influential factors which weigh upon a child’s production choice. Understanding which factors potentially motivate children’s production choices will broaden the context in which one can pursue questions about children’s acquisition of syntactic production capacity.

For instance, it is becoming increasingly clear that adult production is sensitive to multiple factors, including both discourse and grammatical factors (see representative studies by Wasow (2002), Szmrecsanyi (2005), Jaeger (2006), Hinrichs & Szmrecsanyi (2007) and references therein). It is thus important to test whether such factors play a role in children’s syntax, so as to gain a better understanding of what factors are at stake in the acquisition process.

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