ILIT Students Present Their Research

The past couple of weeks has been a busy time for our students. Not only are they completing their final exams, but they also recently presented their research to the public at the graduate research fair and the undergraduate symposium at Eastern Michigan University. Congratulations to Caylen Cole-Hazel, Brent Woo, Justin Petro, Sultan Asiri, Andrew Lamont, and Sarah Fox. Their presentation abstracts are included below. If you wish to know more about their work, send an email to [email protected] and we will put you in contact with them.

Graduate students posing after the research fair. FStarting from back left to front left: Mohammad Mahzari, Haroon Alsager, Justin Petro, Ousmane Cisse, Mohamed Beina, Sarah Fox, Sarah Asiri, Sultan Asiri, and Brent Woo

Some of our staff also attended the recent 18th Mid-Continental Phonetics and Phonology Conference (Mid-Phon), held at the University of Michigan. Aspiring linguist Caylen Cole-Hazel felt that “there were several talented presenters with stirring appeals to the imagination and other cognitive faculties… I liked these presentations because of their progressive appeal and exploration of thought-provoking issues in linguistics.”

Abstracts for Student Research Presentations:

Gender Effect in Code Alternation through Text Messages of Saudis

Sultan Asiri

Abstract: Code alternation has become a noticeable linguistic factor in Arabic text messaging owing to the growth in learning languages. This study aims to investigate the gender effects on Arabic-English code switching by analyzing a number of text messages of some Saudi participants. It also aims at figuring out which gender uses code alternation most in text messaging and measuring the frequency of the topics used through code switching for each gender. The subjects are 6 Saudi males and females from diverse levels of education. The paper concludes that female participants are applying code alternation more than male participants. It also reveals that the Arabic-English code alternation is applied through the extensive use of the system of writing Arabic with Latin alphabets or what is widely known as Arabizi. 

The Influence of Gender on Language Shift

Andrew Lamont

Abstract: This poster presents data on the role gender plays in the outcome of minority or endangered languages threatened with shift to a dominant code or linguicide on three levels: micro-internally, macro-internally, and externally. The endangered language Yanyuwa obligatorily morphologically genders its speakers, stigmatizing its use for the few remaining speakers of the wrong style. The gendering of Taiap fueled its male speakers’ switch to Tok Pisin avoiding the “feminine” home code. A Hungarian-German bilingual community in Germany whose female members shifted strictly to German to alleviate themselves of the “peasant” status of Hungarian. These cases illustrate self-inflicted wounds which ease dominant language infiltration in a divide-and-conquer fashion. Further, they suggest the permeability at various linguistic strata to gender.

Out of the Past: A Diachronic Corpus-Based Analysis of English Prepositions

 Justin Petro

Abstract: Unlike most English prepositions, the word “out” is not able to assign Case to its object in most utterances, requiring the insertion of the preposition of to satisfy the Case Filter (Chomsky 1981), e.g. He climbed out of the rubble (where *out the rubble is ungrammatical). However, out appears to be able to apply Case to certain objects, as evidenced by sentences like He walked out the door. Given that Case assigning prepositions such as up once required of-insertion as well (McRacken 2012), there is evidence that out is in the process of diachronic shift from the lexical category Adverb to Preposition. Further analysis of historical records, text corpora, and native speaker intuitions are presented to bolster these claims. This work will shed important light on the nature of language change and its consequences for syntactic theory.

Genetic Determinism and Grammar: When Language and Biology Collide

Caylen Cole-Hazel

Abstract: Language is contemporarily accepted as a mechanism that is inherent to human beings. Through taking a critical look at the purported genetic components of language in relation to mental grammar offers a chance to elucidate factors of language that are currently restricted to traditional empirical interpretation. Contrasting gene-based language hypotheses with traditional socio-cultural theory allows for a heightened understanding of the implications and repercussions of linguistic interpretation, and probes both the imagination and intellect in the search for linguistic understanding.

It’s all Whopperjawed: A Case Study of the Maumee Dialect

Sarah Fox

Abstract: This presentation describes the phonetic features that characterize the English dialect spoken in the speech community of Maumee, Ohio, focusing especially on the pronunciation of English vowels. It investigates the extent to which speakers in the Maumee speech community share these features and determines whether the Northern Cities Sound Shift (NCS) has established itself within Maumee. As evidenced by its history, Maumee was once isolated in terms of both diseases and geographical features such as the Black Swamp and the Maumee River. This isolation points to the possibility that Maumee could be a dialectal isolate. If Maumee is in fact an isolate, then the NCS is not as permeable as it was thought to be in the past.

Zero Copula in Russian

Brent Woo

Abstract: Russian is a zero copula language. The copula (the linking verb “is” in “John is happy”) is not pronounced in the present tense and it governs the nominative Case on the predicate. However, the copula is overt in the past and future tenses and it governs the instrumental Case on the predicate. This Case difference is not compatible with current conceptions of Case Theory. Investigation of evidence from modern Russian suggests that the zero copula is a lexical item separate from the overt copula and this research proposes an analysis explaining the predicate Case alternation that accords with the theoretical assumptions of X-bar theory and Case Theory. The overt copula is to be treated as a small clause raising verb and the zero copula is the sole member of a new category of silent verbs that assigns nominative Case to its complement.

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