Language  (Vol. 92, No. 2) June 2016

Modification of stative predicates

Thomas Ernst, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Dartmouth College

Manner and locative expressions modifying stative predicates, as in own (something) honestly and (be) quiet in the car, are rare compared to those modifying dynamic predicates, and it has been claimed (for example, inMaienborn 2005 and Katz 2008) that they are systematically excluded on semantic grounds. I argue here that this is not so: in fact, they are perfectly acceptable once the restrictions on them are understood. I propose further that these restrictions take the form of (i) a pragmatic condition that generally bans locative modification of stative predicates, but that may be overridden in certain defined contexts, and (ii) regular semantic incompatibilities between adverbs and stative predicates, which, being semantically ‘impoverished’, have relatively few modifiable semantic features compared to dynamic predicates. These proposals are supported by extensive examples. The conclusions indicate that there is no need to treat states as fundamentally different from other eventualities, whether by invoking Kimian states or by avoiding eventuality variables altogether in their representations.


Reactive effort as a factor that shapes sign language lexicons

Nathan Sanders, Swarthmore College & Donna Jo Napoli, Swarthmore College

Many properties of languages, including sign languages, are not uniformly distributed among items in the lexicon. Some of this nonuniformity can be accounted for by appeal to articulatory ease, with easier articulations being overrepresented in the lexicon in comparison to more difficult articulations. The literature on ease of articulation deals only with the active effort internal to the articulation itself. We note the existence of a previously unstudied aspect of articulatory ease, which we call reactive effort: the effort of resisting incidental movement that has been induced by an articulation elsewhere in the body. For example, reactive effort is needed to resist incidental twisting and rocking of the torso induced by path movement of the manual articulators in sign languages. We argue that, as part of a general linguistic drive to reduce articulatory effort, reactive effort should have a significant effect on the relative frequency in the lexicon of certain types of path movements.We support this argument with evidence from Italian Sign Language, Sri Lankan Sign Language, and Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language, evidence that cannot be explained solely by appeal to constraints on bimanual coordination. As the first exploration of the linguistic role of reactive effort, this work contributes not only to the developing field of sign language phonetics, but also to our understanding of phonetics in general, adding to a growing body of functionalist literature showing that some linguistic patterns emerge from more fundamental factors of the physical world.

The evolution of medial /t/ over real and remembered time

Jennifer Hay, University of Canterbury & Paul Foulkes, University of York

This article follows a change in pronunciation of word-medial intervocalic /t/ in New Zealand English, as it unfolds over 120 years. Data are analyzed in the context of questions about the role of experience-based lexical representations and their potential impact on the time course of sound change in progress. Three major results are reported. First, frequent words lead the change. Second, the distributions of individual words affect their participation in the change: words favored by younger speakers are produced with newer variants. Finally, the topic of conversation affects which variant is favored: older topics elicit older variants. Together, these findings provide evidence that phonetic distributions of word-level representations are implicated in the course of sound change.

The short answer: Implications for direct compositionality (and vice versa)

Pauline Jacobson, Brown University

This article is concerned with the analysis of ‘short’ or ‘fragment’ answers to questions, and the relationship between these and the hypothesis of direct compositionality (DC) (e.g. Montague 1970). DC claims that the syntax and semantics work ‘in tandem’ to prove expressions well formed, while at the same time assigning them a meaning (a model-theoretic object). DC makes it difficult to state any kind of identity condition for ‘ellipsis’ and would hence lead one to suspect that short answers do not contain hidden linguistic material. This article argues that they indeed do not. Rather, as proposed in Groenendijk & Stokhof 1984, the question and short answer together form a linguistic unit, which I call a Qu-Ans, whose semantics gives the proposition that is understood as following from the pair. Three new arguments are adduced for the Qu-Ans analysis over one making use of silent linguistic material, and a core class of traditional arguments for silent linguistic material are answered. Moreover, it is shown that many of the traditional arguments for silent linguistic material themselves presuppose a non-DC architecture. If (as is claimed) these arguments do not hold, the Qu-Ans analysis of short answers actually supports the DC view, under which no use is made of logical form, and no use is made of representational constraints on structure.

The early influence of phonology on a phonetic change

Josef Fruehwald, University of Edinburgh

The conventional wisdom regarding the diachronic process whereby phonetic phenomena become phonologized appears to be the ‘error accumulation’model, so called by Baker, Archangeli, and Mielke (2011). Under this model, biases in the phonetic context result in production or perception errors, which are misapprehended by listeners as target productions, and over time accumulate into new target productions. In this article, I explore the predictions of the hypocorrection model for one phonetic change (prevoiceless /ay/- raising) in detail. I argue that properties of the phonetic context underpredict and mischaracterize the contextual conditioning on this phonetic change. Rather, it appears that categorical, phonological conditioning is present from the very onset of this change.

Repair organization in Chinantec whistled speech

Mark A. Sicoli, University of Virginia

This article examines how conversational repair is organized in the reduced communicative channel of whistled speech in San Pedro Sochiapam Chinantec of Oaxaca, Mexico. It argues that studies of language channeled through different modalities affect our understanding of human language more generally. While repair in whistled speech shares the same universal sequence organization as repair in spoken speech, there are noteworthy differences in the preference organization and the typology of repair in whistled speech: a reduction in the types of repair initiations; a lack of preference for self-initiated repair; and an inversion of the frequency relation of open and restricted repairs to favor open formats. I propose that these patterned differences are motivated by a reduced semiotic carrying capacity of the whistled channel.

On the cognitive basis of contact-induced sound change: Vowel merger reversal in Shanghainese

Yao Yao, The Hong Kong Polytechnic & Charles B. Chang, University Boston University

This study investigates the source and status of a recent sound change in Shanghainese (Wu, Sinitic) that has been attributed to language contact withMandarin. The change involves two vowels, /e/ and /ɛ/, reported to be merged three decades ago but produced distinctly in contemporary Shanghainese. Results of two production experiments show that speaker age, language mode (monolingual Shanghainese vs. bilingual Shanghainese-Mandarin), and crosslinguistic phonological similarity all influence the production of these vowels. These findings provide evidence for language contact as a linguistic means of merger reversal and are consistent with the view that contact phenomena originate from cross-language interaction within the bilingual mind.


Online-only: Phonological Analysis

Tone assignment in Hong Kong English

Lian-Hee Wee, Hong Kong Baptist University

This article provides an argument for Hong Kong English being a tonal language and informs the growing literature on word- and phrase-level prosody interactions. By teasing apart tonal effects that come from intonation and those that come from the word boundary, a clear picture emerges that H tones are assigned in all combinations to HKE di- and trisyllabic words. Tone spreading and blocking across words can also be seen in HKE, but syllables lexically specified for H never give up their tones. Complexity in HKE tone patterns arises when the H tones interact with boundary tones, such as the declarative final L% and the word-initial M.

From intensional properties to universal support

Birgit Alber, Università degli Studi di Verona, Natalie DelBusso, Rutgers University & Alan Prince, Rutgers University

An optimality-theoretic (OT) system is specified by defining its constraints and the structures they evaluate. These give rise to a set of grammars, the typology of the system, which emerges from the often complex interactions among constraints and structures. Every typology is determined by a finite collection of candidate sets (csets). How do we know that we have assembled a universal support, a collection of csets sufficient to distinguish all grammars of the system? Lacking a universal support, we do not have the typology and we cannot deal systematically with its structure and consequences. This concrete question can be answered in terms of an enhanced abstract understanding of typological structure. Under property theory (Alber & Prince 2015a,b), a typology is resolved into a set of properties: ranking conditions that have mutually exclusive values.When the structural correlates of each value are determined, the ranking values defining a grammar also determine the extensional traits exhibited in its optima. Suppose we have the property analysis of a typology derived from a proposed support for an OT system. If every consistent choice of values ensures that a single optimum is chosen in every cset admitted by the system, then no grammar derived from the proposed support can be split by consideration of further csets, and that support must be universal for the system. This method of proof is applicable to any OT system. Here we use it to analyze the prosodic system nGX (Alber & Prince 2015b), determining its universal supports and the shape of the forms made optimal by its grammars.

Online-only: Research Report

What sound symbolism can and cannot do: Testing the iconicity of ideophones from five languages

Mark Dingemanse, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Will Schuerman, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and Universiteit Utrecht, Eva Reinisch, Ludwig Maximilian University Munich, Sylvia Tufvesson, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics & Holger Mitterer, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and University of Malta

Sound symbolism is a phenomenon with broad relevance to the study of language and mind, but there has been a disconnect between its investigations in linguistics and psychology. This study tests the sound-symbolic potential of ideophones—words described as iconic—in an experimental task that improves over prior work in terms of ecological validity and experimental control. We presented 203 ideophones from five languages to eighty-two Dutch listeners in a binary-choice task, in four versions: original recording, full diphone resynthesis, segments-only resynthesis, and prosody-only resynthesis. Listeners guessed the meaning of all four versions above chance, confirming the iconicity of ideophones and showing the viability of speech synthesis as a way of controlling for segmental and suprasegmental properties in experimental studies of sound symbolism. The success rate was more modest than prior studies using pseudowords like bouba/kiki, implying that assumptions based on such words cannot simply be transferred to natural languages. Prosody and segments together drive the effect: neither alone is sufficient, showing that segments and prosody work together as cues supporting iconic interpretations. The findings cast doubt on attempts to ascribe iconic meanings to segments alone and support a view of ideophones as words that combine arbitrariness and iconicity.We discuss the implications for theory and methods in the empirical study of sound symbolism and iconicity.

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