Issue 2013/10/18

Colloquium today (Friday October 18), 3:30PM: Alex Lascarides

Alex Lascarides (Edinburgh) will give a colloquium today (Friday Oct. 18) at 3:30PM in the Greenberg room, followed by a departmental social.


Abstract: In this talk I will present joint work with Nicholas Asher.  Our aim is to model conversation when people have conflicting goals; for instance, courtroom cross examination and political debate.  I’ll use naturally occurring dialogues to introduce a particular kind of deception, where the speaker doesn’t explicitly lie, but he implies a falsehood that he can subsequently deny was a part of his message. This motivates a new concept, that of SAFETY in discourse interpretation: one needs the means to test whether an implicature in non-cooperative conversation can be treated as a matter of public record.

We’ll propose two alternative ways of modelling both cooperative and non-cooperative conversation, both of which offer an analysis of safety.  The first model uses standard techniques from game theory. The second is a proof theoretic analysis which improves on the standard game theory version by fully supporting reasoning about what utterances need to be a part of the definition of the `interpretation game’.  In effect, it can distinguish between an utterance that a speaker contemplated but chose not to perform from an utterance that he didn’t contemplate performing at all.

This proof theoretic analysis not only models safety but also provides the means to prove a correspondence Gricean principles of cooperative conversation (e.g., Sincerity) and a situation where the preferences of the conversational participants are normally aligned.  Thus Gricean models of implicature are a special case in our framework.

Next colloquium: Esli Kaiser, November 1.

Phonology Workshop Meeting Today (10/18) at noon: Sarah Bakst

Please join the Phonology Workshop today (Friday October 18) at noon in the Greenberg Room for a talk by Sarah Bakst, (UC Berkeley).

A phonetic basis for the patterning of [χ]

The sonority hierarchy determines a segment’s sonority by its natural class, with obstruents registering low on the scale, followed by nasals, liquids, glides, and finally high-sonority vowels. The definition of sonority and existence thereof remain in dispute, but most definitions relate to syllable structure and phonotactics. The phonetic definition in Wright (2004) ranks segments based on the robustness of formant transitions. Other definitions rely on phonological patterning; Clements (1990) relates sonority to the ability of a segment to be a syllable peak.

Some phonetic realizations of the French rhotic are problematic for the sonority hierarchy. When the rhotic occurs in onsets following a voiceless stop, it is realized as a voiceless uvular fricative [χ]. French rhotics, regardless of the phonetic realization, pattern as high-sonority liquids and are one of only a few French segments allowed to occur between a consonant and a vowel; because of its rhotic status, [χ] is the only fricative in French that may occur in this position. There are two possibilities for the analysis of this segment: either the French sonority hierarchy is phonological and abstract, or there is some phonetic property of the voiceless uvular fricative, such as the ability to bear more robust perceptual cues to preceding segments, that allows this peculiar patterning. The present experiment tests whether [χ] is better than another fricative found in French, [f], at providing cues of a preceding stop in stop-fricative clusters.

Ivan Sag remembered by Geoff Pullum

Geoffrey Pullum posted a very nice obituary for Ivan this week on Linguist List, worth reading for both personal and historical/intellectual value.