A message from your QP Fest committee:
Remember to save the date for QP Fest: April 25th, 2-5 p.m., followed by a Friday Social. Check out the QP Fest 2014 web page here for the schedule of speakers, talk titles, and abstracts. And see you next Friday, April 25th, for grad student talks, snacks, and socializing!
Anna Greenwood (UCSC) will be giving a talk today at noon in the Greenberg Room for the phonology workshop. The abstract is given below.
Unpacking naturalness and complexity biases in stress pattern learning
Abstract: Complexity and naturalness biases are said to constrain the space of typological variation due to their effects on learnability (see Moreton and Pater 2012). Cross-experimentally, the effect of complexity is quite robust in that patterns that reference a single feature are learned more successfully than patterns that reference multiple features. The role that naturalness plays on pattern acquisition, however, is still highly contested in the literature.
The experiment adds to the complexity vs. naturalness debate by comparing subjects’ ability to acquire unattested stress patterns: one which is complex (but phonetically natural) and another which is unnatural (but simple). Participants learned one of three weight-based stress systems, where peninitial heavy syllables disrupted default initial stress. The two simple conditions deﬁned heavy syllables on one factor: presence (I) vs. absence (II) of a coda (C). In the two natural conditions, heavy syllables were closed (I), or closed with a nonhigh (a) vowel (III).
The experiment found an effect for both complexity and naturalness biases, the latter of which is anomalous due to the lack of a naturalness effect in other experiments (e.g. Pycha et al. 2003, Kuo 2009). The paper posits that the naturalness bias may arise due to a performance error: subjects are more likely to misperceive unnatural stress patterns than natural patterns. The robust effect of complexity likely arises from competence error.
Geoff Pullum (University of Edinburgh) will be presenting at SPLaT! April 24 at 4PM in the Greenberg Room. Come 15 minutes early for tea and snacks. The title and abstract are given below.
The stimulus poverty story: misconduct or incompetence?
Abstract: A reconsideration of the present state of the dispute about the so-called argument from poverty of the stimulus suggests that a similar situation in a discipline maintaining scientific standards would lead to retractions of papers, and charges of scientific misconduct or at least rank incompetence. Instead what we find among generative linguists and sympathetic cognitive sciences is a complacent consensus around placidly received wisdom repeated in looser and looser forms. This talk offers a reminder that linguists should be embarrassed about the situation.
I will assume that the audience is broadly familiar with the thesis of linguistic nativism and the claim that infant learners cannot learn a first language from experience because their environments provide insufficient information. As minimal preparatory reading I would suggest comparing the appallingly incompetent Wikipedia article on the topic with the early sections of Pullum and Scholz 2002. Payne et al. 2013 is also highly relevant, and detailed exemplification will be drawn from it, but since it is already published and widely accessible I will attempt to open up discussion of it rather than present its content in full.
Susan Gal (University of Chicago) will present a colloquium at 3:30 today in the Greenberg Room, with a social and dinner following.
Plain and Fancy: The Role of Qualities in the Analysis of Linguistic Variation
Abstract: Indexicality has been a key analytical term in the understanding of variation. Instead of correlations between co-occurring features and social categories, we now search for the way culturally-formulated identities are linguistically indexed or invoked. The concepts of style and indexicality have been important and productive analytical tools in the exploration of how social meaning is achieved. But some puzzles remain. How and why do people invariably attribute sensual qualities to the variants they recognize, and actually come to hear linguistic forms as being: plain or fancy, thin or thick, big or small, oily or plain, flat or curvy, good or bad? How come such qualities come in pairs? Why are matters of language apprehended in terms more suited to objects (e.g. flat, thick, oily)? This paper examines the construction of such sensuous metaphors for linguistic form and the arrangement of linguistic varieties on qualitative axes of differentiation. It suggests that speakers rely on specific cultural frameworks and a limited set of semiotic principles to recognize, produce and sometimes transform the qualities attributed to linguistic variants, to speakers themselves, and to an array of other, closely related expressive forms: sartorial and bodily signs; interactional “manner” and comportment. The paper presents ethnographic and linguistic evidence from German-Hungarian bilinguals in Hungary and from observations about English made by travelers in the United States in the early 19th century.
A message from your QP Fest committee:
Remember to save the date for QP Fest: April 25th, 2-5 p.m., followed by a Friday Social. We’ve got a great line-up of speakers: Sam Bowman, Phil Crone, Lelia Glass, Masoud Jasbi, and Bonnie Krejci. And just a reminder if you’re still considering a talk: Today’s the deadline to let us know, thanks! (please direct email to Robin Melnick)
Check out this article published today about new research on the language and psychology of online restaurant reviews, conducted by Dan Jurafsky and collaborators.
Two papers from the department will be presented at the International Conference on Learning Representations:
- Sam Bowman will present “Can recursive neural tensor networks learn logical reasoning?“
- Sida I. Wang, Roy Frostig, Percy Liang, and Christopher D. Manning will present “Relaxations for inference in restricted Boltzmann machines”
Penny Eckert presented at the University of Arizona on March 27 on “Looking for meaning in all the right places” as part of their School of Anthropology Distinguished Lecture Series.
Alum Rob Munro will be speaking at the Stanford Computational Social Science conference today on “Crowdsourcing and Natural Language Processing for the Social Good”.
Alum Philip Hofmeister is teaching a course on “The psycholinguistics of island effects” at the GLOW 37 Spring School in Brussels from April 7-11.
Dan Lassiter is an invited speaker at CLS 50 this weekend. He’ll present his paper “Information, cost, and monotonicity: Experiments on ought“.