All ACLC members are invited (and encouraged!) to join us for the RMA Linguistics Graduation Ceremony on August 30 in the Doelenzaal.
|15:15||Doors open - coffe/tea and cookies|
|15:35||Opening by Jeannette Schaeffer|
|15:45||Cindy van Boven|
|15:55||Laudatio: Roland Pfau|
|16:15||Laudatio: Suzanne Aalberse|
|16:25||Heleen de Vries|
|16:35||Laudatio: Alla Peeters|
My thesis is about imperatives in Sign Language of the Netherlands (Nederlandse Gebarentaal, NGT). Imperatives are sentences in which the speaker tells the hearer to do something, for instance, “open the door!”. This sentence type is very well-researched for spoken languages, and
it has even been claimed to be universal for all languages. However, imperatives have barely been researched for sign languages, although it is by now known that sign languages are complex, natural languages, fully comparable to spoken languages in terms of linguistic structure. Therefore, this study investigated the characteristics of imperatives in NGT. Two data sets were analyzed: corpus data (a data-base containing videos of semi-spontaneous signing) and elicited data (signers conducted a task in which they were asked to sign imperatives). The results show that the imperative exists as a sentence type in NGT, and that it has some features that spoken language imperatives also have: specific particles, prosodic markers, and subject omission. Two other imperative markers that are common in spoken languages – reduced verbal morphology and word order – were not found in NGT imperatives. We can therefore conclude that NGT imperatives are, in some ways, similar to spoken language imperatives. Yet, importantly, variation between languages can also be identified.
Language is like a living organism; it is ever-changing, and variation can often be seen between generations or different populations of speakers. The linguistic field of heritage languages (HL) is one in which linguistic variation is studied in the context of an immigrant language – where a heritage speaker (HS) might speak a language at home that is not the dominant language of society. In comparison to other types of language variation that occurs naturally within one setting over an extended period of time, studying the variation that exists between the way a HS
speaks their home language versus how their parents (first-generation speakers) or grandparents (perhaps homeland speakers) speak the language, can actually provide insight into cognitive development and language acquisition, or even, provide a greater understanding of the systematic way in which contact with a second (more dominant) language might change the first. This study looks into heritage speakers of Hindi in Canada, and compares their wordorder in ditransitive structures – i.e. clauses containing both a direct and indirect object, such as Mary gave the book to John – to the word-order of first-generation (FG) Hindi speakers also living in Canada. Whereas FG Hindi speakers who were born and raised in India preferred word-orders with the verb-phrase (VP) at the end of the clause, heritage speakers placed the VP earlier in the clause and the indirect object at the end, much like in English (e.g. ‘Mary gave the book to John’), approximately 20% of the time.
My thesis is about the relation between language and number acquisition: I specifically wanted to know how the form of Russian ordinals (like ‘second’ and ‘third’ in English or tweede and derde in Dutch) affects the way in which children learn them. Ordinal numbers are interesting for linguists, because many languages use cardinal numbers (such as ‘one’, ‘two’ and ‘three’) to form ordinals. In English, for example, fourth is derived from four through a linguistic rule, Previous research has shown Dutch- and English-speaking children are helped by such linguistic rules when they learn ordinals. You can see this in the order in which children learn the ordinals: children learn fourth and sixth, which follow the rule, before they learn second and third.
However, in order to learn a rule like this, a child needs enough examples that follow the rule: too many exceptions like second and third could make rule-learning more difficult. I predicted that this the case for Russian. To test this prediction, I made a computer game in which Russian children had to pack different items in a line of pictures; the third banana, or seven dolls. The answers of the children indicated that they had learned low, irregular ordinals, before they had learned the two rule-following ordinals pjatyj ‘fifth’ and šestoj ‘sixth’. In other words, instead of using the rule, the Russian children in my study learned the ordinals one-byone. This means that language can affect the way in which we learn ordinals.