Sunday, December 9, 2007

Observed: Natural Semantics Lesson in Positive Anymore

It's rare that real world sentence productions come out as nicely as numbered examples in papers, which is why I had to make not of a recent exchange I overheard. Their content is a little strange, but this is the real world, where women have more names than Mary, and they do more things than hit John.

On the semantics of positive anymore:

  1. People have bigger and bigger feet anymore these days.
  2. Michelle annoys me anymore.
  3. She used to be cute, now she's annoying.

Sentences 2. and 3. were produced back to back, and just minutes after 1.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Spread of Raising

When I finished my senior thesis some time in May last year, I took a deep sigh of relief. It was a lot of work, and the last week or two of writing it amidst all my other course work was probably the most stressful period of my academic life.

But I wasn't quite done with it yet. It got accepted to NWAV, so I went back, measured more speakers and improved my analysis, and I have to say that I am very pleased with the new and improved version.

In brief, I believe I found that Canadian Raising has lexicalized in Philadelphia because its distribution has shifted. Many words with following voiced consonants, like and spider, cider, cyberand tiny have raised onsets.

There's a whole bunch more to my analyis, including a brief review of Canadian Raising diachronically, in Philadelphia in particular, as well as suppositions as to why it has lexicalized and spread to these particular words. But rather than re-write the whole thing here, check out the full text on the Penn College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal here:

Read this doc on Scribd: Fruehwald2007 CUREJ

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On a side note, "College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal" seems really cumbersome. They should have put the "Electronic" in pre-position "Electronic College Undergraduate Research Journal," but then they wouldn't have gotten the nice acronym CUREJ.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Spoonerism → Freudian / Dialectal Merger __

I'll post about interface again at some point, although I'm feeling a little self conscious writing about something I'm so naive about. Today is a day for funny videos.

The video itself is an oldie but a goodie. Blake Bergstrom, a southern youth pastor tries to talk about how Lot "pitched his tents," but he says...

"pinch his tits." The poor guy!

Of course, this wouldn't have been an issue at all if he weren't a southern dialect speaker with a full blown pin~pen merger. Before /m/ and /n/, ɪ and ɛ have merged, to something close to ɪ, but a bit more tense. You can hear it elsewhere in his speech. Right at the beginning he says [ðɪn], and later on he says [frɪndz].

There are two reasons why the pastor would have been in less trouble if he didn't have the pin~pen merger. First, the shifted segments wouldn't have been as naughty. It's unclear whether just the /n/ was shifted, or whether it was the full vowel-/n/ sequence that shifted. Either way, neither [pɪnʧ.ɨz.tɛts] nor [pɛnʧ.ɨz.tɪts] are particularly risque.

The second reason, I have less well thought out, but it seems to me that [pɪʧ.ɨz.tɛnts] is less likely to experience a spoonerism than [pɪʧ.ɨz.tɪnts]. Myself as a non pin~pen merged speaker find "pitch his tints" to be a bit of a tongue twister. It would be interesting if this particular malapropism were some kind of evidence of the pastor's personal phonological representation of "tents" as /tɪnts/.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Chomsky and Cats

I've stumbled across a wonderful interview with Noam Chomsky from 1977 on YouTube, which I've bundled together into a playlist, which can be found here, or watched embedded below.

Tangentially related to things discussed in the interview, my mother said to me last night that "cats have the average intelligence of a toddler." It occurred to me that I hear many similar such things regarding animals and intelligence, and I'm not exactly sure who it is that says these things, and what they mean when they say them.

Certainly there isn't an intelligence scale from 0 to Human, with every creature ranked somewhere along the way. I don't know enough about general cognition to say for certain, but I believe that understanding "intelligence" as a monolithic trait is very misleading. If Chomsky is to be believed, then intelligence is very modular, and built for different purposes.

A cat's cognition, then, is terribly impoverished for a human, even a toddler, but particularly effective for a cat. It's like comparing apples and oranges. Strangely enough, though, I'd still want to say that humans are more intelligent than animals, and thinking so is more of a scientific fact than a cultural bias.

I think I'll try sticking more closely to linguistics in the future.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Cocktail Party

Part of what is described as the Cocktail Party Effect is how during a noisy cocktail party, you will be able to hear someone say your name in a conversation that you weren't attending to. It's an interesting phenomenon raising questions of how much information we're processing that we're unaware of, and of whether anyone ever has cocktail parties anymore.

I mention this to point out the fact that I have become susceptible to the Cocktail Party Effect for raised variants of /ay/, whether [əy], [ʌy] or [ɔy]. Occasionally, I whip around knowing someone somewhere has just said [ʌyd.l].

Monday, July 16, 2007

Another one?

It seems to border on ridiculous that I've set up yet another blog, especially a Linguistics blog, because I already have one of those.

However, as defined by the blog title: I'm a Linguistics Undergraduate, I am no longer eligible to post there. I could change the name of the blog and keep "underlinguist" as a strange relic (a calcified, lexicalized form which has undergone some semantic shift if you will), but that wouldn't be quite fair to the collaborators I have there.

I could, perhaps, post my occasional linguistic musings on my newer personal blog:

However, I don't think that would be quite appropriate for either my Linguistics thoughts or my personal thoughts. I'm using To Be Determined to record my personal thoughts, opinions and politics, and I don't think that my somewhat technically bent Linguistics posts would mesh well there. Also, I would like to insulate my Linguistics (as much as possible) from the whimsy of opinion and hold them to a higher degree of empiricism.

Thus, Val Systems. The title is a nod to my Philadelphian dialect, in which there is some confusion and growing merger between /au/, /au.l/, and /æl/, leading to perfect homophony between Powell and pal, and such interesting reanalyses as "wedding vowels" and the seasonal favorite "Deck the halls with bowels of Holly." I described in some detail how this homophony arises here at underlinguist.

Val Systems also reflects the fact that I am primarily interested in sociophonetics and phonological variation, although my interests stray rather broadly from those two points. Questions of acquisition, learnability, channel versus linguistic effects on language change, and the formal sufficiency of phonological theories are also points of interest for me.

This blog will probably explore these topics and others which arise in my Linguistics life.

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