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Modeling morphological knowledge: What counts as evidence?

Geert Booij, Leiden University, Mittwoch, 24.02.2021, 09:30 - 10:30

For an adequate model of morphological knowledge it does not suffice to design a set of rules that together define the notion ‘possible word’ of a language. Morphological knowledge is based on the knowledge of the existing simplex and complex words of a language. Generalizations about this set can be made by means of schemas of various degrees of abstraction. These schemas can also be used for the coining of new words. The pervasive role of paradigmatic relations between words requires sister schemas that express systematic relationships between words that correspond on the semantic and/or the formal level.

A proper modeling of this type of knowledge requires that evidence from related domains is taken into account, in particular from language acquisition, language processing, and language change. This implies a rich lexicon with redundant information, and no separation between lexicon and grammar. The model of Construction Morphology and its sister model Relational Morphology will be argued to allow for graceful integration of the available evidence concerning lexical knowledge in various subdomains of linguistics.

Autosegmental-metrical phonology – Not only pitch accents and edge tones

Martine Grice, Universität zu Köln, Freitag, 26.02.2020, 10:00 - 11:00

Autosegmental-metrical phonology has shown itself to be a highly successful framework for the description, analysis and comparison of the intonation of many of the world’s languages. A contributing factor to the success of this framework is the fact that there is widespread use of prepackaged units within the model – what Arvaniti calls “complex primitives”. The intonation systems of languages are described as having edge tones and, in some cases, also (post-lexical) pitch accents. These are defined in terms of their association properties and their cueing function within the prosodic system. Edge tones associate with an edge (or a TBU at the edge) and are a cue to the juncture between prosodic constituents. Pitch accents associate with a head (usually a stressed syllable) and are a cue to prominence. I shall argue that we need to unpack these definitions, providing evidence from languages in which association properties and cueing functions do not line up in this way.

Universals of phonological segment borrowing? Questions, evidence, methods, findings

Eitan Grossman, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Mittwoch, 24.02.2021, 11:30 - 12:30

Phonological segments are often 'borrowed,' or copied from one language to another. But is it the case that anything goes, or are there constraints on phonological segment borrowing? In fact, we still know very little about the typology of phonological segment borrowing in the world's languages, beyond basics such as consonants being borrowed more frequently than vowels. In this talk I present SegBo, a worldwide database of phonological segment borrowing, which allows us to ask, operationalize, and answer questions about the typology of contact-induced change.
I also present evidence suggesting that recent large-scale language contact, mainly due to the expansion of a small handful of colonial languages, has substantially changed the typological distributions of phonological segments in the world's languages. This finding challenges some versions of the Uniformitarian Hypothesis, according to which cross-linguistic distributions are time-independent.

What Shall We Model?

Marianne Mithun, University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), Donnerstag, 25.02.2021, 19:30 - 20:30

Thinking about the nature of modeling in linguistics raises some interesting questions for us. One  is just what we are modeling. An early assumption was that the most elegant formal description naturally matches speaker knowledge. Are we in fact modeling the data or the mind? A related question involves levels of abstraction. Models are inherently abstract to at least some degree. Just how abstract is human representation of language structure? Still another question is whether we expect our models to provide explanations. Optimal models will vary depending on the answers to such questions, as will the kinds of evidence that might help us shape them. Such issues will be explored here with examples from phonology, morphology, and syntax.

The exception proves the rule?: Sociolinguistic theory in a changing world

Devyani Sharma, Queen Mary University London, Freitag, 26.02.2020, 9:00 - 10:00

Core variationist sociolinguistic theory was developed half a century ago. For both practical and theoretical reasons, monolingual Western cities formed the empirical base for this modelling. How well does the model apply to communities that do not resemble those contexts, but that are increasingly common? I review classic tenets of sociolinguistic theory—pertaining to class, gender, social network, peer influence, and style-shifting—in the context of multilingual, diaspora and postcolonial communities. Do classic theoretical claims fall apart when we allow for such heterogeneity? I first offer evidence that mobile, multilingual, and culturally diverse populations need not undermine the original account of orderly heterogeneity in society. Indeed, in some cases such groups confirm the power of early claims. I also present more challenging evidence from these contexts, that forces us to re-calibrate some common assumptions about both language and society.