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URPP Language and Space

Guest lectures and discussions 2019

Prof. Dr. Thomas Krefeld (LMU München)

Interlinguale Geolinguistik und Digital Humanities: das Projekt VerbaAlpina

14. März 2019

Seit ca. 15 Jahren, d.h. seit der zügigen Durchsetzung interaktiver und kollaborativer Strukturen im Internet (Web 2.0) durchlaufen zahlreiche wissenschaftliche Disziplinen einen Prozess tiefgreifenden Wandels, denn im Gefolge der medialen Revolution haben sich die Rahmenbedingungen der Wissenschaftskommunikation substantiell verändert. Daraus ergeben sich neue Optionen der Dokumentation, Publikation, Datenerhebung und - vielleicht an erster Stelle - der Kooperation. Gerade die
vielversprechende Erwartung einer ortsunabhängigen breiten Zusammenarbeit konkretisiert sich jedoch nicht automatisch, sondern erfordert die Beachtung einiger elementarer forschungspraktischer und -ethischer Regeln, die neuerdings auf den (etwas unscharfen aber plakativen) Nenner der FAIR-Prinzipien gebracht wurden. Demzufolge müssen Forschungsdaten F_indable, A_ccessible, I_nteroperable) und R_eusable sein, sowohl für die Maschine-Maschine-Kommunikation (machine readable) als auch für die Mensch-Maschine-Mensch-Kommunikation (human readable). Der Vortrag will am Beispiel des Projekts VerbaAlpina ( zeigen inwieweit virtuelle Forschungsumgebungen den genannten Optionen unter konsequenter Beachtung der FAIRness derzeit gerecht werden können. Gerade die Dialektologie mehrsprachiger Räume, wie der Alpen, ist in der Lage hier nützliche Impulse zu vermitteln.

Dr. Philippe Boula de Mareuil (LIMSI, CNRS, Orsay)

Towards a speaking atlas of dialects and minority languages of (Western) Europe

28. März 2019

In this communication, we will describe a speaking atlas that takes the form of a website presenting interactive maps, where it is possible to click on 260 survey points to listen to as many speech samples and read a transcript of what is said, in regional and minority languages of Hexagonal (i.e. Metropolitan) France and its Overseas Territories. We will show how an attractive website enables us to collect more data in underresourced and endangered languages and how these data may be used for phonetic analyses and dialectometry purposes. A one-minute story ("The North Wind and the Sun") was used, phonetically transcribed automatically by grapheme-to-phoneme converters and forced aligned with the audio signal: a methodology which can be applied to other languages and dialects. In particular, we will show maps of Italy (including a hundred survey points) and Belgium (including almost 20 survey points), looking forward to extending this project to Switzerland.

Prof. Dr. Pilar Prieto (ICREA-Universitat Pompeu Fabra)

Enacting prosody in the classroom: How the prosody in our hands helps us learn pronunciation in a second language

23. Mai 2019

When we speak, we use a type of rhythmic hand gestures which are coordinated with prominent parts of speech which have been called beat gestures (or also prosodic gestures). In this talk we discuss several experiments carried out in our research group that deal with how beat gestures and other embodied rhythmic movements facilitate the learning of second language pronunciation. Even though most of the research on the benefits of gesture in the second language classroom has analyzed the effects of meaningful representational gestures (for example for the acquisition of vocabulary), little is known about the potential beneficial effects of embodied rhythmic movements on the learning of pronunciation. The results of a set of four experiments will be presented. Experiments 1 and 2 will assess the potential benefits of observing and performing beat gestures on L2 pronunciation. Experiments 3 and 4 will assess the benefits of hand-clapping on L2 pronunciation learning. Based on the positive findings from these experiments, I will conclude that a multimodal approach is essential to understanding L2 language learning and that rhythmic trainings with beat gestures or hand-clapping procedures can be successfully applied to language teaching and language treatment contexts.

Katariina Harjunpää (University of Helsinki)

Factuality and agency of an imaginary object: Instructing the Chekhovian acting technique of ‘invisible body’

3. Oktober 2019

Prof. Dr. em. Naomi S. Baron (American University, Washington, DC, USA)

Wayfaring on the Ground and Onscreen: What to Abandon, What to Embrace​​​​​​​

17. Oktober 2019

Computer-based technologies have been redefining many facets of everyday life, including how we move from place to place and how we read. In the case of physical movement through space, the growing adoption of GPS systems is challenging assumptions about the importance of using internal cognitive skills to determine where we are geographically and how to get from Point A to Point B. In the case of reading, the availability of millions of text pages online is leading educators to shift their focus from teaching students to read longform linear prose to emphasizing online skills for navigating across shorter documents.

Research on physical wayfaring continues to indicate that reliance upon GPS may be compromising the brain’s hippocampus, with potential serious consequences, particularly as we age. Regarding reading online, the overwhelming emphasis on navigating across documents reduces attention to linear reading, especially as students are shifting their reading platform from print to digital screen.

This talk reviews current research on both domains on wayfaring and offers recommendations for learning and for living.

Dr. Lonneke van der Plas (University of Malta)

Where computational linguistics and theoretical linguistics meet: Testing features from linguistic theory with machine learning and constructing multilingual resources

14. November 2019

(based on joint work with Gianina Iordǎchioaia, Patrick Ziering, and Glorianna Jagfeld)

In this talk, I will present an interdisciplinary study between theoretical and computational linguistics on the interpretation of deverbal compounds. The deverbal compounds in our study are noun-noun compounds whose head noun is derived from a verb, for example border protection, or police protection. The non-heads of these compounds (i.e., border, police) may be understood as objects or other dependents of the original verb (cf. to protect a border; the police protect the people). The focus of this work is on determining to what extent the morphosyntactic and lexico-semantic properties of the deverbal noun head (i.e., protection) can help in predicting the interpretation of the compound, as mediated by the syntactic-semantic relationship that the head establishes with the non-head (here, object vs. non-object).

We conducted experiments with simple machine learning models to test the predictive power of features presented in linguistic literature, and combined frequency counts from a large corpus with evidence from human judgements. We found support for the linguistic features, however, the study raises interesting discussion points on the relevance of individual features and the reliability of corpus-based features.

In addition, I will demo a resource we recently constructed: a multilingual database of English compound nouns and their translations in ten languages : Danish, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, Swedish. I will show how we constructed the database and show what it contains.

Prof. Dr. Christiane von Stutterheim (Universität Heidelberg)

From time to space: The impact of grammatical aspect on motion event descriptions – data from L1 and L2 speakers

28. November 2019

Motion events and their linguistic form have been studied extensively over the past decades from a typological as well as a psycholinguistic point of view. While many studies take Talmy’s (2000) distinction as the starting point of their theoretical considerations, an extensive range of cross-linguistic analyses has revealed a high degree of variation (Beaver et al 2012). Recent analyses have indicated that the initial twofold, lexicon-based typology should be extended to capture the range of variation languages display. While it has been shown that the specifics of motion event encoding across languages depend also on factors other than spatial concepts there are few studies on the implications of temporal categories. The aim of the present study is to investigate the construal of motion events cross typologically and cross developmentally. It contrasts speakers of typologically distant languages, German (satellite-framed, no verbal aspect), French (verb-framed, no verbal aspect), Tunisian-Arabic (verb-framed, 4 partite aspectual system) and Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), (verb-framed, 2-partite aspectual system) and investigates conceptual transfer effects in the description of motion events: L1 speakers of Tunisian Arabic with Modern Standard Arabic as L2 (early acquisition onset), Arabic-German L2 (late acquisition onset) and French-German L2 (late acquisition onset).Descriptions of different types of motion events were elicited on the basis of a set of video clips for all languages. The data were analyzed with respect to the spatial and temporal categories encoded and with respect to the formal means used. We interpret the contrasts observed across languages in terms of what we call the cognitive diversity hypothesis given the role of grammaticalised concepts in structuring processes of conceptualization in the context of language production. The learner data show that the question of conceptual transfer is not a simple case of ‘either – or’. Concepts are tied to form, with this the hierarchies they entail within the language. We have to assume a complex network in which some components and relations are less readily restructured than others. Our aim is to gain insight into the cognitively complex underpinnings of these principles. In conclusion we argue for including temporal categories, in particular grammaticalized aspect, in approaches to spatial typology.