Welcome to Michael Sullivan! Michael is an undergraduate major in Linguistics. He is working with Bob Levine and Andrea Sims on his B.A. thesis project. For his thesis, Michael is developing a new, formal theory of the morphology-syntax interface and testing it on the relationship between passive and impersonal constructions in Croatian. Watch this space as the work develops!
Martha is interested in Bantu morphology and phonology. As a Fulbright Fellow to Tanzania she conducted fieldwork on Kihehe, adding to descriptive knowledge about the language. She is currently developing that work into a project on affix ordering in Kihehe verbs. Specifically, the order of subject agreement markers vs. TAM markers differs from the ordering in Swahili and other related languages, and seems to show variation. Martha is examining how this ordering has arisen as a result of morphologization of a former auxiliary as part of the main verb and resulting multiple exponence. She plans to return to Tanzania this summer for more fieldwork.
This semester Andrea Sims and Micha Elsner are holding joint meetings of Andrea’s graduate morphology seminar and Micha’s graduate computational linguistics seminar. The joint seminar, focusing on Models of Morphological Learning and Change, is designed to bring together students with backgrounds in morphology, computational linguists, language acquisition, and historical and sociolinguistics… but not necessarily more than one of these. It is an experiment in talking across subdisciplinary boundaries, with the hope that the whole will be more than the sum of its parts (not unlike morphological structure!). We are excited to see what projects will develop!
Seminar description: Where do languages come from, and how do they evolve? We learn the languages we speak as infants or students; as adults, we transmit them to new generations of speakers. In a variety of linguistic sub-areas, researchers have claimed that this process of iterated language learning influences the kinds of languages which exist in the world (language typology) and the process of language change over time. Many of these researchers have proposed computational models of this process, enabling the rapid simulation of “learners” exposed to different language inputs, and of many generations of “teaching” and “learning”.
This seminar will investigate the learning process, with special reference to the case of inflectional morphology (grammatical forms of a word, such as singular cat ~ plural cats). We will bring together research in several areas of linguistics in order to discover how the different perspectives taken across sub-communities combine (or fail to combine!) to address the problem. The reading list will cover:
- Typology of inflectional systems: what sort of languages are out there
- Learning-based theories of morphological typology and change
- Cognitive models of morphological learning
- Engineering models of inflection prediction
- Computational work on iterated language learning
The Biennial Conference on Balkan and South Slavic Linguistics, Literature and Folklore was, as always, a great time. It was full of Balkan food, dancing, nature and wildlife (courtesy of nearby Yellowstone National Park), and even some academic papers. (Andrea presented a talk, “Greek noun stress and the notion ‘head’ in morphology”. Linguistics grad student Rexhina Ndoci also gave a talk titled “Greetings and politeness in Albanian”.) And it was great to catch up with some OSU alums!
Thanks to Elena Petroska and Paul Foster for being great hosts at Montana State University, Billings.
Congratulations to Katja Kolbasova on completing her M.A. in Russian linguistics! Well done, Katja!
Congratulations to Michelle McKenzie, who has been awarded an Undergraduate Research Scholarship from OSU for her B.A. thesis project “Effects of relative frequency on morphological processing in Russian and English”.
Michelle also has received a Schwartz Award from the Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures, to subsidize the cost of studying abroad in Russia this summer.
Great job, Michelle!
There is a new co-conference to the LSA, the Society for Computation in Linguistics, that offers a new venue for researchers that apply computational approaches to linguistic questions. The first meeting of SCiL was a great success and we were happy to be a part of it!
Jeff Parker, Rob Reynolds, and Andrea Sims presented a poster at SCiL (“A Bayesian investigation of factors shaping the network structure of inflection class systems”) based on an iterated learning model that they have been building to model analogical change in inflection class systems. The goal of the project is to better understand the role played by the network structure of inflection class systems in analogical change. To what extent and how does this network structure provide structural motivation for how inflectional systems change? Do different kinds of networks lead to different changes and different emergent patterns?
An abstract for the poster is available in the SCiL proceedings. A full paper based on this work is forthcoming (in the Morphological Typology and Linguistic Cognition volume).
Thanks to the Institute for Linguistics at the University of Leipzig for an invitation to Andrea to give a colloquium talk in their Interaction of Grammatical Building Blocks colloquium series. It was a great chance to interact with the linguistics community there and talk about the morphology-syntax interface (not to mention attend a really fun department Christmas party). (Pictured here is Andrea’s side trip to Berlin to go to the Christmas markets — a definite ‘bonus’ of the trip!)
Andrea has published an article in the Journal of Slavic Linguistics (volume 25, issue 2). This issue, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the journal, includes state of the field articles for different subfields of linguistics. Check out Andrea’s contribution to the anniversary issue: Slavic morphology: New approaches to classic problems, illustrated with Russian.
Abstract: This state-of-the-field article traces some recent trajectories of morphological theory, illustrated via four classic problems of Slavic morphology: vowel-zero alternation, stem consonant mutations, paradigmatic gaps, and animacy-determined accusative syncretism. Using Russian as the primary illustrating data, one theme that emerges is that theories that leverage the distributional properties of the lexicon have made progress against previously intractable aspects of these phenomena, including idiosyncratic lexical distributions, unexpected (non)productivity, and distributions shared by distinct exponents. In turn, the analyses raise new questions.
Michelle is an undergraduate (majoring in Linguistics and Russian) who has begun working with Andrea to investigate the semantic properties of Russian and English derived words. In an earlier paper (“Lexical processing and affix ordering”, 2015), Andrea and Jeff Parker show based on corpus data that Russian derivational morphology has distributional properties that are indicative of high rates of decomposition during morphological processing — more so than for similar English derived words. Michelle plans to test predictions that these distributional facts make about the semantic transparency of derived words in each language. Are words with similar frequency profiles more semantically compositional in Russian than in English?
Watch this space for updates as the work progresses…