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Multilingualism seminar

MEITS Multilingualism Seminar: Deepthi Gopal/Fernanda Barrientos and Jingting Xiang/Boping Yuan

24 May 2018, 13:00 – 14:30

Faculty of English, room SR24

Deepthi Gopal (University of Cambridge) and Fernanda Barrientos (University of Konstanz)

What information do speakers access in loanword adaptation, and what determines the final form of a loan? Are differences driven by variation in L1 phonological grammars, by the shape of the perceptual space, or by overt L2 knowledge? We consider the adaptation of English /ʌ/ across Spanish varieties. Spanish-speaking regions ostensibly share the well-known five-vowel underlying system, but differ substantially in both acoustic realisation and perceptual response (see Boersma & Chládková 2011). There is significant variation in the selection of repaired /ʌ/; the overall winner–/a/, /o/, or /u/–varies significantly across Spanish-speaking region.

Our results draw on two online experiments. The first presented images corresponding to English loans ('punk', 'Tupperware'), and asked subjects for their preferred repair; results were strongly geographically-dependent, with Chilean subjects typically preferring /a/, and Mexican and Puerto Rican subjects preferring /o/ and /u/. The second survey tested categorisations of 14 synthesised acoustic stimuli. Chilean listeners consistently admit centralised tokens as instances of /a/, suggesting a neat surface correspondence between the Chilean acoustic space, perceptual space, and loanword repair; Mexican listeners' behaviour is less straightforward, and the relationship to the state of loans less overt; we argue that this shows recourse to a further tier of abstract information.


Jingting Xiang and Boping Yuan (University of Cambridge): The Processing of Indefinite Subjects in L2 and L3 Mandarin

The study of L3 acquisition within formal linguistics perspectives is still in its infancy as compared with the decades of development in the study of L2 acquisition. In recent years, several models in L3 morphosyntax has been proposed, and they argue for different sources of transfer in consideration of L1/L2 status, structural proximity among the triad, processing complexity, construction frequency, etc. However, preliminary agreement, even on the initial stages of L3 development, is yet to be reached. In our study, by investigating a less-studied combination of English, Cantonese and Mandarin, we examine the differential learnability of properties related to the encoding of definiteness and specificity in noun phrases.

As we know, articles are one of the locations for marking referentiality and are found in languages like English. Without the support of articles, learners of Mandarin with different linguistic backgrounds may express the above two universal features differently. In today’s presentation, I am focusing on the well-known definiteness constraints on subjects in Mandarin. With our preliminary data with Mandarin native speakers, L1 English-L2 Mandarin speakers, and L1 Cantonese-L2 English-L3 Mandarin speakers, we examine the processing of (in)definite subjects in L2 and L3 Mandarin grammars.

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Deepthi Gopal (University of Cambridge) and Fernanda Barrientos (University of Konstanz)
Jingting Xiang and Boping Yuan (University of Cambridge)

13:00 - 14:30


SR24, Faculty of English, University of Cambridge, 9 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DP

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