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Theses - Theoretical and Applied Linguistics


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  • ItemEmbargo
    Text-Picture Integration during Inferential Processing by L1 and L2 English and Chinese Speakers: Individual Differences and Script Effects
    Zhang, Chenyi
    Much research has demonstrated that inference processing is critical to understanding verbal narratives. In recent years, empirical studies have offered evidence that inference generation is also crucial to visual narrative comprehension. Given the similarities between verbal and visual narratives, it is reasonable to argue that readers might be able to integrate information across different codalities during inference processing. Meanwhile, given the differences in both verbal and visual narratives across languages, people from different language backgrounds might perform differently in cross-codal inference processing. Other individual differences like working memory capacities and visual language fluency might also play significant roles in this process. The PhD project focuses on two specific types of inference, namely the anaphoric inference and the bridging inference. Three online behavioural experiments and one event-related potential (ERP) experiment were conducted. The first online experiment focused on the anaphoric inference processing by L1 and L2 English and Chinese speakers, which serves as a background for further study on cross-codal anaphoric inferential processing. Interesting results were revealed. First, concerning the controversy on Chinese anaphora resolution, our results support the theory that the null elements and overt pronouns are pragmatically constrained. Regarding L2 anaphora resolution, the results are consistent with the claim that even the advanced L2ers are susceptible to transfer errors as they “misanalyse” the L2 data to make them compatible with the transferred L1 data. The second behavioural experiment then further investigated the cross-codal processing of the anaphoric inference in English and Chinese, by both L1 and L2 speakers. Results show that all groups of speakers achieved higher accuracy when the information was compatible. However, the English L1 speakers struggled to keep pictorial information active when processing textual information, probably because they failed to regard the picture as the context for anaphoric inference processing. The third behavioural experiment investigated the integration of cross-codal information when processing bridging inferences. 4 groups of participants (Chinese monolingual speakers, English monolingual speakers, Chinese learners of English, and English learners of Chinese) read pictorial or textual stories where the bridging event was 1) in the same codality as the context, 2) conveyed in the other codality, or 3) replaced by a blank panel. The results indicated that cross-codal bridging inferential processing could be achieved, but alphabetic texts and L2 texts might be more difficult to process than pictures. A possible explanation is that the alphabetic texts require phonological processing, whereas orthography is first activated in Chinese visual word recognition, followed by semantics, and phonology may be activated at a later stage. To test this hypothesis, a meta-analysis was conducted with a total of 27 studies. The results confirmed this hypothesis, suggesting that it is indeed possible to retrieve meaning from orthography of the Chinese characters, leading to less challenges in Chinese textual processing. To further scrutinise the topic, an ERP experiment with the same design was conducted on the Chinese L1 speakers, to see whether there are any nuances in Chinese cross-codal processing that the reaction time failed to reveal. During early processing, the text-to-picture switch requires a higher attention level, indicated by the larger P1 and posterior P200 components. Textual processing involves orthography-phonology mapping, suggested by larger N170 and frontal P200 amplitudes. These components, however, were not observed in the picture-to-text switch, probably due to the phonological activation being suppressed. Larger P300 effects were also found in the text-to-picture switch, demonstrating automatic semantic processing of the pictures. Picture-to-text switch, on the other hand, elicited higher N400 amplitudes, signalling deeper semantic processing of the texts. Text-to-picture switch also led to a larger P600 component, which could be due to the larger surprisal effect, or may further support the shared neurological mechanism between P300 and P600. All experiments demonstrated significant effects of individual differences such as language background, verbal and visuo-spatial WM capacity, exposure to visual languages such as comics, and socioeconomic status, indicating that these variables collectively play a crucial role in text and picture integration during inferential processing.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Individual Differences in Multilingualism and Language Learning: Effects on Cognitive Flexibility and Structure Learning
    Vassiliu, Chrysoula; Vassiliu, Lina [0000-0001-9514-5074]
    The effects of bilingualism on cognitive control have been significantly debated, with studies reporting both positive and null/negative findings. The lack of consensus is due to inconsistent experimental instantiation of key constructs. Researchers usually employ binary approaches, reducing linguistic diversity to a dichotomous and mono-factorial categorisation, viz., monolinguals vs. bilinguals. Such comparisons fail to capture the multifactorial nature of the bilingualism continuum. Cognitive control is assessed with limited tasks, which cannot reliably measure the underlying processes. Research typically concentrates on selected groups of participants, that is, it is restricted to the Global North, even though most of the world’s population resides in the Global South, and there is also an intense focus on young university students. This generates bias and limits the interpretability of existing literature. The present dissertation seeks to advance the field from an unfruitful debate on the existence of a “bilingual advantage”. Bilingualism in this thesis is viewed as a complex multifactorial phenomenon, comprising numerous continuous variables. Similarly, multiple cognitive tasks have been used to fractionate and accurately measure Executive Function (Cognitive Flexibility, Working Memory, Inhibition) and Structure Learning, a novel statistical learning framework involving learning under uncertainty. Furthermore, various age groups, including children, young and middle-aged adults have been assessed, as well as diverse sociolinguistic contexts (United Kingdom, Singapore, Greece). Finally, apart from cross-sectional designs measuring the effects of individual differences in bilingual experience on cognitive control, longitudinal or training studies have been employed, evaluating the effects of language-switching training and second-language (L2) learning. Our cross-sectional studies in the UK and Singapore showed that context mediates the relation between bilingualism and cognition. Effects were more apparent in the multilingual environment of Singapore. Proficiency and frequency of language switching were found to be two of the most influential factors, so we further investigated them with longitudinal/training studies. Language-switching training in an experimental setting with Singaporean adults led to benefits outside the language domain and “penetrated” executive task-switching aspects of Cognitive Flexibility, but not more abstract aspects such as rule learning, nor Structure Learning. Conversely, Greek children learning an L2 in a naturalistic setting (school) for seven months showed enhanced performance in Structure Learning and abstract Cognitive Flexibility aspects. These tasks entail the uncertainty, rule discovery, and adaptation to change that is present in real-life language learning. By breaking down both bilingualism and cognitive ability into composing factors, we managed to identify precise links between the two. This thesis does not speak of an ill-defined, overall “bilingual advantage” but demonstrates how different linguistic practices can influence different aspects of cognition.
  • ItemEmbargo
    L1 Transfer in the L2 Acquisition and Processing of the English Genitive Alternation: Combining Learner Corpus and Psycholinguistic Methodologies
    Algie, James
    The English genitive alternation allows two structures to express adnominal possession: the s-genitive (‘the company’s future’) and the of-genitive (‘the future of the company’). This domain is known to cause problems in L2 learning, which may be attributed to many factors, including: (a) the relative similarity of the target structure to an equivalent structure in the learner’s L1 (surface overlap); (b) the derivational complexity of the target structure itself; and (c) the particular demands of the L2 task. This thesis investigates the influence of L1 transfer on L2 production, comprehension and processing among L1 Japanese and Spanish speakers in this domain, combining learner corpus data with experimental data to address L1 transfer from multiple perspectives and to provide insight into the role of metalanguage in L2 learning. The learner corpus analyses indicate a strong influence of derivational complexity in written production, with learners consistently producing the derivationally simpler of-genitive structure more accurately than the complex s-genitive. L1 transfer effects are also observed, with L1 Japanese speakers outperforming L1 Spanish speakers in terms in their production of the s-genitive, a structure analogous to that of the Japanese L1, indicating that surface overlap plays a secondary role to derivational complexity. The experimental study, combining an on-line self-paced reading task with related off-line comprehension questions, also reveals L1 effects motivated by surface overlap, but with no indication of derivational complexity effects. L1 Spanish speakers show higher rates of comprehension in of-genitive contexts, which are equivalent to the structure available in their L1, while reading time measures indicate a processing advantage among L1 Spanish speakers for of-genitives and among L1 Japanese speakers for s-genitives. L1 differences are more pronounced in the off-line data – the corpus data and the comprehension responses – than in the on-line processing data. Since the off-line tasks, particularly the written examination data, afford learners greater opportunity to focus on linguistic form, it is argued that the degree to which learners can access explicit knowledge may play a crucial role in how L1 effects manifest in certain L2 domains.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Definite and Indefinite Articles in Learner English: Identifying the Learning Problem and Addressing It with Processing Instruction Intervention
    Derkach, Kateryna
    Articles in L2 English (“a”/“the”) are notoriously difficult to acquire, especially for learners with article-less, [-art], L1s. The purpose of this dissertation is to identify the potential causes of learner difficulty with articles and to suggest an effective teaching intervention. To identify the learner problem, I conducted a learner corpus-based study of English article use by L2 learners with four typologically distinct first languages (L1s): German and Brazilian Portuguese, both [+art], Chinese and Russian, [-art]. I coded and analysed 660 written scripts from the Education First Cambridge Open Database to investigate several semantic and morphosyntactic factors, such as specificity and prenominal modification. The key finding is the differential effect of specificity on definite and indefinite articles: learners tend to associate specificity with “a”, which results in article omission with non-specific indefinite singulars and overuse of “a” with specific indefinite mass nouns. Prenominal modifiers further contribute to perceived specificity leading to article overuse with modified indefinite mass nouns. However, in definite contexts, prenominal modifiers are associated with increased article omission. Drawing on Input Processing theory, I argue that learner difficulties might stem from the inappropriate processing of articles in the input, which leads to learners making incorrect mappings between form (articles) and meaning (identifiability). In addition, learners at different levels are subject to cognitive constraints of varying strength, which can make it difficult or impossible to attend to morphosyntactic information. I designed a Processing Instruction Intervention containing activities that force correct article processing. Seventy pre-intermediate to upper-intermediate learners, half [-art] and half [+art], participated in a three-week-long online intervention experiment with randomised control-group pre-test post-test design. The pre-test contained a timed grammaticality judgment task (GJT) and an elicited imitation (EI) task. Mixed-effects regression modelling revealed a significant improvement in article accuracy on the timed GJT for the Experimental group but not for the Control group for both [-art] and [+art] L1s, which was maintained by the delayed post-test (3 months later). The results of the EI were less robust but showed a similar trend of improvement for the Experimental group but not for the Control group, which was mediated by participants’ education level and potentially linked to working memory effects in younger participants. Overall, Processing Instruction appears to be an effective and practical way of addressing common difficulties with articles in learner English.
  • ItemOpen Access
    L1 attrition in Italian: Pronominal reference and (pseudo-)relative parsing ambiguities
    Cairncross, Alexander
    The present thesis presents a series of experiments investigating potential (syntactic) attrition effects in Italian beyond traditional interface structures. This is motivated by a critical review of the previous literature on L1 attrition primarily focusing on the Interface Hypothesis (Sorace & Filiaci 2006). From this, we argue for two relevant patterns: (i) the often discussed relaxation of discourse constraints for specific forms (e.g., overt pronouns in null-subject languages) and (ii) a tendency, which we believe has so far gone largely unnoticed, for speakers to rely more heavily on other (interpretive) biases already present in L1. To explore this second pattern and disentangle the role of interpretive/processing biases from the syntax-discourse interface, we compare pronominal subjects which are often taken to sit at the syntax-discourse interface with (pseudo-)relative clause attachment ambiguities. We argue that this is an interesting comparison as such attachment ambiguities involve two ambiguities which are both conditioned by principles of computational efficiency at the level of the parser and are not related to discourse. In a language like Italian, when encountering an embedded CP of the relevant type, we will assume that the parser must decide whether the string contains a relative clause (RC) or a pseudorelative (PR) which are structurally distinct but string identical (PR-FIRST HYPOTHESIS, Grillo & Costa 2014). Moreover, in the case of a RC reading with multiple possible attachment sites, the parser must additionally decide where to attach the embedded CP (LATE CLOSURE, Frazier 1978). Should structures at more external interfaces (e.g., the syntax-discourse interface) be more vulnerable under attrition, we would expect the two phenomena to be affected deferentially under attrition. However, should attrition lead to an increased reliance on certain biases regardless of interface status, we might expect the two phenomena to pattern together. To compare the effects of attrition on the offline interpretive biases for the two phenomena, we carried out a sentence interpretation task with globally ambiguous items of both types in which we manipulated the pronominal forms and pseudorelative availability. To compare online processing biases, we conducted a self-paced reading task in which we additionally forced pronominal resolution and ‘RC' attachment. Given some unexpected results from the control group for the self-paced reading task, we additionally present a sister eye-tracking-while-reading task as a validation (albeit with a different methodology) of the control baseline. For the experiments in the present thesis, all participants reported growing up monolingually in Italy. However, experimental groups differed from control groups in that the former had immigrated to a majority English-speaking country (e.g., the UK) during adulthood and had lived there for a minimum of 5 years. Recent re-exposure to the L1 was controlled for. Results from the offline interpretation and online processing of both phenomena indicated that, where attested, attrition always surfaced an increased reliance on L1 biases. Strikingly this holds even for the prime syntax-discourse interface phenomenon, overt subject pronouns in a null-subject language like Italian. As such, we argue that future accounts for the attrition of syntactic phenomena should not focus on the specific cognitive demands of particular interface phenomena (e.g., pronominal forms and the integration of contextual information) but instead should seek a more parsimonious account couched in terms of increased reliance on L1 biases in ambiguity resolution more generally.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Rethinking Gricean and post-Gricean categories of meaning: Evidence from Sībawayhian and post-Sībawayhian pragmatics in the Arabic tradition
    Shahidullah, Sadiyah
    The aim of this thesis is to conduct a cross-cultural metapragmatic study that (i) considers fresh theories and philosophies of communication from the indigenous Arabic pragmatic tradition and (ii) reevaluates the Anglo-American lens through which contemporary pragmatic models and categories of discourse meaning are defined. In particular, this thesis consists of three parts: First, it draws from the original historical texts of Sībawayhian and post-Sībawayhian pragmatics in the Arabic tradition, with a focus on how the concepts of metapragmatic conventions (conventionsmp) and integrative context (contexti) figure in their pragmatics-centric, intuition-driven framework of meaning-making. Second, this thesis utilizes these novel insights to rethink and potentially reshape Gricean and post-Gricean categorizations of conventions vis-à-vis context; linguistic vis-à-vis social sources of information; defaults vis-à-vis inferences; as well as semantics vis-à-vis pragmatics. Third, this thesis proposes a unique integrative contextualisti (IC) model of interpretation à la Sībawayhian and post-Sībawayhian theory, which on the one hand can be further developed in its own right, but on the other hand advances post-Gricean pragmatics by (i) expanding the pragmatic source and nature of conventionality and contextuality; (ii) balancing out the intention-convention interface by emphasizing the explanatory role of conventions in inference-making and framing conventions as a part of rather than apart from context; and (iii) simplifying meaning representation by opening up all sources of information to default and inferential processing. In the bigger picture, this thesis represents a step in the direction of integrating metapragmatic insights of lingo-culturally diverse intellectual traditions to create a “positively eclectic” grounds for pragmatic research with greater potential for universal applications.
  • ItemControlled Access
    Multilingualism and Diglossia in Hong-Kong Secondary Schools: Switching effects in cognition and language processing
    Li, Anthony; Li, Anthony [0000-0001-7189-7861]
    The bilingual advantage in cognitive switching has been extensively documented in the literature (e.g., Bialystok, 2011; Bialystok, 2015). This thesis focuses on the cognitive gains of bilinguals in task-switching, specifically. If we assume that bilinguals outperform monolinguals in non-verbal task-switching (e.g., Prior & MacWhinney, 2010; Barac & Bialystok, 2012) due to frequent switching between languages in different contexts of their lives, we would also expect bilinguals to experience cognitive gains in verbal task-switching tests and in switching between possible interpretations of potentially ambiguous sentences. However, the cognitive switching literature has thus far failed to establish a link between verbal switching and non-verbal switching to support the explanation that non-verbal switching advantages in bilinguals may be attributed to the manipulation of verbal resources. This thesis investigates the connection between non-verbal and verbal task-switching, as well as ambiguity resolution in complex sentences, in order to determine the level of domain-generality or domain-specificity of cognitive switching. Additionally, the thesis aims to examine whether switching ability is responsible for language processing, with a focus on transient ambiguity. Leveraging the complex linguistic backgrounds in secondary schools in Hong Kong, this thesis also investigates the impact of diglossia, biliteracy, and medium of instruction on cognitive and/or sentence processing switching abilities. After exploring the educational, linguistic, and SES backgrounds of secondary school students in Hong Kong, Part 1 of the dissertation examines the relationship between non-verbal task-switching and verbal task-switching using cued task-switching paradigms in the auditory modality. Part 2 of the dissertation explores the links between cognitive task-switching and the interpretation of auditorily presented subject and object relative clauses in Chinese L1. Students from Hong Kong secondary schools with different mediums of instruction participated in the study. Both empirical studies in the two parts of the dissertation failed to find convincing evidence of a strong link between different types of switching, either between cognitive verbal and non-verbal switching or between cognitive switching and language processing. By delving into inter-school and inter-L1 differences, this thesis was able to identify the adverse impact of a Chinese diglossic environment on a student’s switching ability, due to a low level of frequent switching between languages (in our diglossic students, between oral Cantonese and written Mandarin) in the same context. These results present key educational considerations for diglossic education systems, where the high language in diglossia is used for retrieval while another low language is used for learning in the same schooling system. The findings of this thesis can inspire future research on the relationship between diglossia, medium-of-instruction policies, and cognitive-linguistic switching.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Voice, Case and the External Argument: The perspective from Urdu
    Kidwai, Sana
    This dissertation explores the relationships between Voice, case and the external argument, as seen in Urdu. The dissertation investigates three broad connections between these phenomena. The first is that between the external argument and accusative case, as reported in Burzio's Generalisation (Burzio, 1986). I argue that the presence of an external argument does not play a role in accusative case assignment; instead, the crucial factor is the type of Voice head present. This brings us to the second connection explored in this thesis, Voice and case. I propose that the active/non-active distinction can be recast in terms of case. Non-active Voice heads assign an inherent oblique case to their specifier, while active Voice heads assign structural accusative case to an argument in their c-command domain, that is, the direct object. Assuming each functional head can only assign case once, the status of non-active Voice as an inherent case-assigner not only explains but predicts that it will not assign accusative case. Lastly, I investigate the effect of case on the notion of subjecthood. I show that the behaviour of an argument with respect to some subject properties is conditioned by its case; however, this connection is only indirect, and reflects the relationship or lack thereof between the argument and T. This dissertation provides new insights into the relationships between Voice, case assignment and the external argument in Urdu, specifically related to the nature of Voice heads, Burzio's Generalisation and notions of subjecthood. Analyses of several other phenomena, such as agreement, applicative constructions, light verb constructions, and ergative case assignment, are also presented as part of the discussion. The dissertation leaves us with big-picture questions surrounding the functional role of Voice, and the typology of Voice heads, both in Urdu and cross-linguistically, as well as questions about issues related to case, such as the structural representation of case, case assignment mechanisms, and the relationship between case and agreement. Through the course of the dissertation, I also highlight dialectal differences between Hindi and Urdu, and how these might be captured formally. The syntactic literature generally uses the umbrella term 'Hindi-Urdu', with little to no consideration of dialectal differences. Distinguishing between Hindi and Urdu is a first step in taking into account dialectal variation, bearing in mind, of course, that this is still an extremely broad division for what is a spectrum with many dialects within 'Hindi' and 'Urdu'.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Syntactic and Referential Ambiguity Resolution Under Cue Competition in Silent Reading: Effects of Implicit Prosodic Cues, L1-L2 and Individual Differences
    Tsoukala, Andromachi
    Research in the 80’s and 90’s had demonstrated that comprehenders consider multiple types of information, inclusive of syntactic, nonsyntactic as well as nonlinguistic, when parsing and interpreting ambiguous linguistic structures. Over the past two decades, more recent accounts of sentence processing argue that comprehenders do not just incrementally integrate bottom-up input; they use various types of information as predictive cues to pre-activate structural analyses. Within this growing body of research, it has become apparent that not all cues are created equal; structural biases have repeatedly been shown to be key determinants of syntactic and referential ambiguity resolution, whereas other cues may be less influential. Similarly, not all comprehenders exhibit equal cue sensitivity; research focusing on L1-L2 differences has typically reported absent, weaker or delayed effects in L2 populations. Finally, individual variability within L1 and L2 groups in terms of working memory, language experience and L2 proficiency, inter alia, has also been shown to modulate these effects. The present PhD thesis extends the work on L1 and L2 ambiguity resolution under conditions of cue competition in silent reading; this is achieved by investigating the influence of formal cues commonly found in poetry, namely rhyme, meter and lineation. Whereas previous studies have examined competition between structural preferences (e.g. syntax-based parsing principles, established biases in reference interpretation) and nonsyntactic information (e.g. lexical semantics, verb subcategorisation frequencies, discourse context), little is known about how formal features of text that introduce implicit prosodic regularities influence decisions about syntactic-prosodic analysis and reference interpretation. These features were manipulated in globally and locally ambiguous poem-like texts which were silently read by L1 comprehenders (self-paced reading and eye-tracking) as well as L2 participants (self-paced reading). To examine effects of rhyme and meter on global anaphoric ambiguity, competition was introduced by having a nonsubject pronoun antecedent be a rhymed element in regularly metered and rhyming versions of the stimuli. To examine effects of line breaks on local (direct object/subject) ambiguity, competition was introduced by altering the transitivity status of an optionally transitive line-final verb (line break and clause boundary match or mismatch), along with the structural completeness of lines preceding this region (complete or enjambed lines to prime match or mismatch, respectively). The findings of these studies bring attention to L1-L2 dissimilarities and within-group variability. The global ambiguity results suggest that L1 comprehenders who did not activate alternative referential interpretations (attributable to lower working memory) and L2ers were not as sensitive to the implicit prosodic cues (absent or delayed effects of rhyme and meter on anaphora resolution). Additionally, the evidence from the local ambiguity studies suggests that both L1 and L2 readers normally expect and benefit from having line breaks coincide with syntactic boundaries. In fact, this expectation for coterminality rather than line-break and clause boundary mismatch may be too strong to subvert. To the extent that some evidence of adaptation to mismatch was detected, this was more clearly observed in L1 rather than L2 readers. When preceding context signaled that this expectation may be falsified, L2ers were not as efficient as L1 readers at using these cues predictively, they took additional time to activate alternative parses and struggled more with reanalysis.
  • ItemOpen Access
    The relationship between multilingualism and autism: a bidirectional approach to a complex issue
    Crockford, Sarah
    The relationship between multilingualism and autism is still a vastly under-explored topic. The research that has so far been published shows a positive relationship between multilingualism and cognitive abilities in autism (Gonzalez-Barrero & Nadig, 2018; Uljarevi ́c, Katsos, Hudry, & Gibson, 2016), replicating previous research on non-autistic children and adults (Bialystok, 2011). Furthermore, when surveyed, autistic adults have responded positively about learning multiple languages (Digard, Sorace, Stanfield, & Fletcher-Watson, 2020). However, there is no research that currently captures the choices autistic adults make when using and switching between their languages. Furthermore, even though positive relationships between multilingualism and cognition have been established, how multilingual language usage relates to autism is still poorly understood. Therefore, this thesis seeks to answer the following questions: • What multilingual language choices do autistic adults make, compared to their non- autistic counterparts? • Does multilingual language use predict differences in autistic traits, both in autistic children and in autistic and non-autistic adults? The first question is answered in Chapter 6, by investigating the self-reported multilingual language usage of autistic adults, compared to non-autistic adults. Differences between autistic and non-autistic participants in this chapter included, for example, the frequency with which they choose to switch between languages with different interlocutors and the self-reported effort of code-switching, reported by autistic adults as more strenuous than non-autistic adults. Chapters 2 to 5 and 7 answer the second research question by examining the association be- tween language usage on autistic traits in autistic children and autistic and non-autistic adults across five separately collected data-sets. Chapters 2 to 5 and 7 conclude that a higher degree of multilingual usage associates with lower autistic traits in autistic children and non-autistic adults but not in autistic adults. By using multinational data from multiple, independently collected sources, this thesis provides substantive evidence of a relationship between multilingual language usage in autistic traits. Therefore, this research presents a significant contribution to current understandings of multilingualism and autism. Finally, as outlined in Chapter 8, the findings in this thesis lay the foundation for future investigations into the relationship between multilingual language usage and autism.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Out of Action? – Re-evaluating Methodological Challenges in Embodied Semantics Research
    Heine, Julia
    Contrasting with disembodied theories of the mind, the Embodied Semantics Approach proposes that meaning inevitably needs to be grounded in action and perception. Over the last twenty years, an impressive body of evidence has been put forward in its favour. Particularly the seemingly highly reliable Action-Sentence Compatibility Effect (ACE), suggesting a congruency effect between an overt action and the action implied by a sentence, does now seem to be an agreed-upon fact of psycholinguistic research. Similarly, response time effects associated with important semantic psycholinguistic variables such as concreteness and valence have frequently been explained through the embodied grounding of semantic representations. This dissertation presents a series of challenges to apparent certainties: Whereas the theoretical discussion emphasises the need to overcome the sharp dichotomies between embodied and disembodied perspectives on cognition, Embodied and Associationist Accounts of semantics, as well as modal and amodal representations, the empirical section outlines shortcomings of different behavioural and neuroimaging approaches to the investigation of Embodied Semantics Theories, particularly in relation to the causal involvement of action, perception, and emotion systems. Even more crucially, the ACE as a key finding of the Embodied Semantics Approach as well as valence and concreteness effects have encountered serious replication issues in recent years (e.g. Papesh, 2015; Morey at al., 2022; Kousta et al., 2009; Brysbaert et al., 2016). The experimental part of this dissertation therefore considers possible design-related explanations for the observed challenges concerning these behavioural paradigms. Experiment 1 investigates whether overlapping and therefore potentially conflicting temporal and action information embodied on the same back–front spatial axis in the ACE paradigm could contribute to previous replication problems. Experiment 2 emphasises the vastly varying nature of the congruent condition of previous studies concerning the differential contribution of the effector and spatial information to the ACE, whereas Experiments 3 and 4 examine the potential influence of individual differences (Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS)) on the successful replication of these well-known effects. However, the evidence for the ACE as well as valence and concreteness effects remains weak. Are embodiment effects such as the Action-Sentence Compatibility Effect indeed out of action? Implications for Embodied Semantics Theories will be discussed.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Sensitivity to (sub)lexical cues as a function of cognitive profile and language abilities
    Schwarz, Julia
    To achieve efficient language comprehension, multiple linguistic cues have to be integrated rapidly by readers and listeners when they encounter morphologically simple and complex words. However, there is no compelling evidence to suggest that this process is identical for everyone. The aim of this thesis is to explore systematic inter-individual differences in the integration of form-based cues (i.e. phonological and orthographic) with morphological, semantic, and lexico-semantic cues during written and spoken word processing, as evidenced by behavioural and MEG data. The first part of the thesis shows that the processing of visual words and pseudowords in English varies considerably between individuals. Study 1 reveals that individual differences in vocabulary and spelling not only modulate overall processing speed and precision, but also readers’ processing strategy as evidenced by variable sensitivity to orthographic, morphological, and lexico-semantic information during lexical decision. Building on this, study 2 shows that processing speed and accuracy (as indicators of cognitive differences) also affect readers’ sensitivity to morphological information in visual priming. The second part of the thesis extends these findings to the auditory modality. Study 3 demonstrates for the first time that individual differences in processing speed also affect cue sensitivity in spoken word processing as seen in listeners’ strategic use of morpho-phonological and semantic information during an auditory judgment task. Study 4 expands the findings from language-unimpaired English speakers to Spanish speakers with a common language difficulty (dyslexia). Combined behavioural and MEG data show that phonological deficits impact the neural encoding not only of phonological information, but also lexico-semantic information. The findings from this thesis provide comprehensive evidence that the extent to which individuals rely on form-based information compared to other linguistic cues systematically varies as a function of cognitive profile and language abilities, with important implications for both theoretical accounts and language remediation practices.
  • ItemOpen Access
    The Syntactic Structures of Relativisation
    Douglas, James Alexander
    This thesis examines the syntactic structures of restrictive relativisation in English. English exhibits a variety of different relative constructions with different syntactic properties. We pursue the hypothesis that these properties are accounted for by the systematic variation in the structural size of English relatives. We review the major competing analyses of relative clauses in the literature, with a particular focus on reconstruction effects, ultimately arguing in favour of the Matching Analysis (Chapter 2). The rest of the thesis is dedicated to the ‘size hypothesis’ and its application to finite, infinitival and reduced relatives in English, with cross-linguistic comparisons being made with Italian, Welsh, Malagasy and French where appropriate. We show that there is systematic variation in the structural size of finite and infinitival clausal relatives, i.e. variation in the degree of articulation of their C-domains, and uncover a categorial distinctness effect in the English C-domain (Chapter 3). Differences in structural size combined with anti-locality are argued to provide a novel perspective on subject-object asymmetries in relative clauses and other related phenomena in English, with a close formal similarity between relativisation and topicalisation emerging as an important result (Chapter 4). We describe and analyse a novel construction involving control into infinitival relatives which offers independent yet complementary insights into the structure of the English C-domain (Chapter 5). We argue that systematic size variation also plays a key role in accounting for the properties of reduced relatives, including their restrictions on auxiliaries and participles, the interpretation of the present/progressive participle and the subject restriction, whilst evidence from high adverbs indicates close similarities between the clausal and clause-medial left peripheries (Chapter 6). This thesis thus contributes a range of novel observations, generalisations and analyses with both empirical and theoretical implications for the nature of variation both within and across languages.
  • ItemOpen Access
    The MOAN-MOWN and MOAN-GOOSE mergers in Lowestoft English: Perception and production
    Butcher, Kerri-Ann
    This dissertation presents a sociophonetic analysis of vowel phonemes descended from Middle English /ɔ:/ and /ɔu/ (MOAN-MOWN) in Lowestoft English, the East Anglian variety spoken in the UK’s easternmost town. These phonemes started to merge under a single GOAT vowel in the vast majority of English varieties during the 16th or 17th century, but this collapse is reported as progressing in some East Anglian English varieties only since the 1970s. Whether the merger is complete in Lowestoft, which straddles – both linguistically and administratively – the regional divide between varieties with a merger versus a distinction, remains uncertain. I interrogate this issue and empirically evaluate an early claim by Trudgill (1988b) that the merging of MOAN and MOWN may have been delayed in some varieties of East Anglian English by a pre-existing merger between the MOAN and GOOSE vowels. This dissertation utilises and statistically models data from both production and perception for a holistic view of merger. Production data come from 30 interviews in which production of minimal pairs, word lists and spontaneous speech was elicited for both MOAN-MOWN and MOAN-GOOSE. Dynamic formant trajectories are analysed statistically using generalised additive mixed models to identify merger in production. Three perception tasks – AX discrimination, minimal pair judgements and vowel-continua categorisation – are used to identify perceptual merger, and detect any asymmetries synonymous with near merger. Results suggest that long-term resistance to the MOAN-MOWN merger is derived from structural incompatibility between the incoming GOAT form and the East Anglian system. A MOAN-MOWN merger is rapidly progressing amongst younger speakers, but remains incomplete. The MOAN-GOOSE merger is found to have never reached completion, with full distinction in the youngest generation in contrast to full or near merger in older speakers, who variably distinguish these via lowered F2 in MOAN. These findings show near/variable merger to play a powerful role in mitigating sound change.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Investigating the role of an indigenised variety of English in the acquisitional and sociolinguistic contexts of the Malaysian ecology
    Sie, Samantha; Sie, Samantha [0000-0002-9795-5043]
    The realm of New Englishes offers enriching avenues to explore the interplay between language acquisition and sociolinguistic influences in linguistically diverse ecologies. Yet research into this interdisciplinary arena remains lacking. Accordingly, this thesis addresses this paradigm gap by focusing on the Malaysian ecology. One of the three empirical studies conducted as part of this project is i) a CASE STUDY which examines the morphosyntactic properties of an indigenised variety of English viz., Colloquial Malaysian English (CME). The data generated from naturalistic conversations came from two pairs of adult Malaysians with different L1 backgrounds (i.e., Malay and Chinese). While many of the non-standard features supplied could be explained by substrate influence, there were also features resembling general second language (L2) behaviours and creative innovation. The MAIN STUDY adopts a concurrent embedded design, which comprises ii) an ACQUISITIONAL STUDY and iii) a SOCIOLINGUISTIC STUDY. The ACQUISITIONAL STUDY investigates the roles of the first language (L1) and CME in the ultimate acquisition of finiteness in Standard English (StE). The adult participants recruited for this study were 145 Malaysians and 30 British (control). Malaysians who acquired English as (one of) their L1(s) (L1-MalE(+)) were predicted to have less difficulty than their L1-Malay and L1-Chinese peers and perform more similarly to the British English (BritE) monolinguals. This is because, despite the prevalence of CME in the local environment, L1-MalE(+) learners would merely have to reset the optional features of finiteness in CME to obligatory, as required in StE. Meanwhile, L1-Malay and L1-Chinese learners would be faced with an additional learnability burden of acquiring finiteness as a new functional feature, given its absence in their L1s. Findings from a grammaticality judgement task and narrative task revealed that although the Malaysian cohort behaved statistically differently from the L1-BritE control, the L1-MalE(+) groups outperformed the L1-Chinese and L1-Malay groups across the board. That said, the L1-Malay group fared considerably better than its L1-Chinese counterpart and was about on par with the L1-MalE(+) peers. These findings indicated clear L1 effects modulated by typological proximity. Meanwhile, the SOCIOLINGUISTIC STUDY explores Malaysians’ attitudinal behaviours towards CME and StE. The same participants from the acquisitional study undertook a sociolinguistic survey administered for this study. Findings revealed that the participants were non-discriminatory towards CME and StE, and that they were aware of when to use these varieties across different social settings. Altogether, this thesis demonstrates the facilitative role of CME in the acquisition of StE, and concurrently vindicates the functional importance of CME and StE as legitimate varieties in the Malaysian milieu.
  • ItemEmbargo
    Translation Policies of Minoritised Languages through Organised Activism: a Comparative Study of Catalan and Welsh
    Moreno-Rivero, Javier
    This thesis investigates the role of states and activist organisations in the development of translation policies aimed at promoting minoritised languages. Activists have been crucial in securing language rights in Catalonia and Wales over the last six decades, and their campaigns and initiatives have resulted in supportive legislation. While recent scholarship has recognised translation as a tool for social cohesion, little attention has been paid to the extent to which translation rights can contribute to language revitalisation and normalisation processes. This research identifies intersectional areas where translation is embedded in these processes by conducting a contrastive examination of the scope of existing policies and the priorities of language activists. Using a comparative approach, it investigates the work of five organisations that advocate for the rights of Catalan and Welsh speakers. This thesis includes a cross-sectorial analysis of translation management, practices, and ideologies in both Wales and Catalonia, combining policy analysis of international, supranational, and national legislation with an ethnographic study, involving observations and individual interviews. This study explores the macro and meso-level support for minoritised languages in each jurisdiction, as well as the micro-level policies developed by activists, revealing a misalignment between existing legislation and practices. While translation has traditionally been looked at from a communicative perspective, I argue that, in the context of minoritised languages, translation policies must encompass sociolinguistic principles of language equality, rights, and revitalisation. Therefore, as well as arguing for the importance of studying the societal implications of translation in order to formulate sociolinguistically-informed policies, my work makes two significant contributions. First, it contains the first cross-sectional analysis of minoritised language translation policies, arguing for an inclusive principle of translation equality. Secondly, it asserts that translation policy, frequently overlooked in language policy studies, is a dynamic concept with which to investigate tensions in diglossic societies and should be considered when researching the democratic participation of linguistic minorities. In this way, the thesis argues for the relevance of considering activists’ translation ideologies in shaping inclusive policies that address the needs of a specific linguistic community. Overall, this research argues that involving language advocates is critical in the formulation of translation policies supporting linguistic minorities.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Putting PPs into order - Understanding prepositionality in the predominantly postpositional language Lule Sami
    Ajer, Hanna Danbolt
    This thesis investigates PP-internal word-order variation in an endangered Uralic language, Lule Sami, which is indigenous to parts of Northern Norway and Sweden. The study focuses on the factors underlying prepositional occurrences in this predominantly postpositional language. It is mainly based on spoken data containing more than 4,000 occurrences of adpositions, elicited from eleven native speakers of Lule Sami in Divtasvuodna/Tysfjord, the Lule Sami heartland in Norway. The study aims to contribute to our knowledge of Lule Sami, which is severely understudied. I argue that prepositionality in this language can mark that (part of) the PP is either contrastive or belongs to a system of conventionalised alternatives, which I term a PREDEFINED ALTERNATIVE SET. The findings from Lule Sami may be relevant to the study of related languages as well, as there appear to be many similarities with other Sami languages and Finnic languages. Furthermore, in identifying factors related to semantics and information structure which may influence word order in the PP, and in seeking to account for the variation formally, it is hoped that the study might more generally add to our understanding of AMBIPOSITIONS – adpositions with variable word order (Libert 2006). Lastly, the study highlights the importance of studying variation in endangered languages on its own terms, as the systematic nature of the PP-internal word-order variation in Lule Sami and the similarities with related languages suggest that the prepositional usages cannot simply be attributed to influence from prepositional contact languages. Chapter 1 provides background information about Lule Sami language and history, whereafter chapter 2 outlines the theoretical background of this study. This pertains to Lule Sami grammar, adpositions in related languages, potentially relevant syntactic, semantic, and information-structural factors, and language contact and change. My methodology is laid out in chapter 3. The data and findings from the study are presented in chapter 4, drawing on the distinctions introduced in chapter 2. Chapter 5 puts the findings about PP-internal word-order variation in Lule Sami into a wider context, comparing them to what we know about prepositional usages in other Sami languages and in Finnic languages, and looking at how they may be formally accounted for within Minimalist syntax. I propose that prepositional order in Lule Sami arises through fronting to a Grounding projection in the style of Wiltschko (2021), and that this movement is triggered by definiteness and/or salience features. I argue that the fronting’s original function was to reinforce the relation expressed by the PP, yielding contrastive readings, but that it has also gained an extended function of marking membership in a predefined alternative set. Lastly, I discuss how my findings about prepositionality in Lule Sami relate to theories of language contact and change, drawing on the discussed parallels with related languages and the predictions made by the formal approach chosen. Chapter 6 concludes the thesis.
  • ItemControlled Access
    On the Evaluation and Modelling of Context-sensitive Lexical Semantics
    Liu, Qianchu
    A word can change its meaning in different contexts. The evaluation and the modelling of such contextual effect on lexical meaning are pivotal to natural language understanding. This thesis sets out to answer the following two-fold research question: (1) how can we design a reliable evaluation framework that accurately reflects the challenges in contextual lexical semantics? And (2) how can we improve contextual word representations in a data-efficient manner? To address the first question, the thesis starts with systematic analysis on the existing benchmark datasets and stresses the importance to assess the complex word-context interaction. I propose that the evaluation of crosslingual correspondence can effectively assess this interaction. Specifically, I introduced two datasets, i.e. BTSR (Bilingual Token-level Sense Retrieval) and AM2ICO (Adversarial and Multilingual Meaning in Context), to evaluate crosslingual word-in-context correspondences that require the accurate crosslingual modelling of both the target words and their context. BTSR and AM2ICO complement each other in task formulations and language/word coverage. Finally, I show that evaluating and modelling crosslingual word-in-context representations have direct benefit for downstream applications. In a case study, I apply the BTSR task formulation to improve machine translation for rare senses. While improving the current state-of-the-art contextual models typically involves labelled data which is not easy to obtain especially for low-resource languages, the second research question of this thesis aims to elicit better word in context representations from state-ofthe-art contextual models without resorting to labelled data. As an outcome, I designed two novel unsupervised methods (MIRRORWIC and STATICTRANSFORM) that improve either within-word or inter-word contextualisation of the pretrained contextual models both monolingually and crosslingually. In sum, the thesis contributes to the field of computational lexical semantics by providing challenging and accurate evaluation frameworks and efficient modelling techniques that avoid the need for labelled data.
  • ItemControlled Access
    Cross Target Generalization for Stance Detection
    Conforti, Costanza
    Stance detection is a popular NLP task which consists in automatically inferring the opinion expressed in a text with respect to a given target. Cross-target generalization is a known problem in stance detection, where systems tend to perform poorly when exposed to targets unseen during training.  Given that data annotation is expensive and time-consuming, finding ways to leverage other sources of knowledge to improve cross-target stance detection can offer great benefits. In this thesis, I suggest to improve the robustness of cross-target stance detection in three settings.First, I explore weak supervision through synthetically annotated samples as a means to provide knowledge about unseen targets to a stance detection system. To this end, I design a simple and inexpensive framework and show experimentally that integrating synthetic data is helpful for cross-target generalization. Secondly, I investigate cross-genre stance detection, where knowledge from annotated tweets is leveraged to improve news stance detection on targets unseen during training. Due to their peculiar stylistic characteristics, transferring knowledge between samples belonging to different genres is non-trivial. To allow the model to capture the useful stance-specific features, I propose to treat the task adversarially. Thirdly, I study multi-modality as a means to enhance cross-target generalization. Specifically, I design a robust multi-task BERT-based architecture that combines textual input with high-frequency intra-day time series from stock market prices. I show experimentally and through detailed result analysis that the proposed system benefits from financial information, and achieves state-of-the-art results: this demonstrates that the combination of multiple input signals is effective for cross-target stance detection, and opens interesting research directions for future work. In addition, I created the first multi-task, multi-genre and multi-modal resource for stance detection. It provides two aligned textual signals, composed of carefully selected and expert-annotated tweets and news articles; moreover, it contains aligned financial signal in the form of fine-grained intra-day stock market prices variations. This large and integrated resource provides a comprehensive framework for robust training and fair model evaluation of the above-mentioned algorithms. I released the entire resource for future research.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Non-native perception, production, and lexical processing of tone
    Lameris, Tim; Lameris, Tim [0000-0002-1365-3022]
    In this dissertation, I investigate how and why adults differ in the ease with which they learn tone in a non-native language. I examine the extent to which individual variability in tone learning facility depends on factors attributable to a learner’s first language, namely the function of pitch for lexical distinctions (‘L1 tonal status’) and the shapes of native tonal and intonational contrasts (‘tone type’), as well as extralinguistic factors, namely musical experience, working memory, and pitch perception aptitude. In doing so, I aim to provide a novel and integral account of the multiplicity and diversity of factors that influence non-native tone learning facility. The core of this dissertation consists of four empirical data chapters in the shape of journal manuscripts, which each zoom in on non-native tone learning through different lenses. Chapter 1 provides a general introduction. Chapter 2 reports a lab-based study in which 41 Mandarin and English speakers took part in a tone categorization and word identification task to investigate individual variability in pre-lexical and lexical tone perception. Chapter 3 reports two further lab-based studies to investigate pre-lexical and lexical tone processing in the spoken modality to zoom in on individual variability in production. Chapter 4 provides a comparative analysis between the perception and production tasks to discuss differences and similarities between performance in the listening and speaking modalities. Chapter 5 reports a web-based study which involved 114 speakers from typologically different languages (Dutch, Swedish, Japanese, and Thai) and which reassesses the degree to which L1-specific and extralinguistic factors determine tone perception and lexical processing. Chapter 6 provides a general discussion and conclusions. The findings from these empirical studies show that individuals differ greatly in the ease with which they learn non-native tones, particularly at a lexical level of tone processing. Both L1-specific and extralinguistic factors explain why some individuals learn tones with more ease than others do, but these factors interact with one another in dynamic ways to determine tone learning facility. An ‘L1-Modulated Domain-General Account’ is proposed to formally describe the empirical findings from these studies: individual variability in tone learning facility is best captured by extralinguistic factors, but the relative effect of these factors may be modulated by a learner’s language background.