Research

Each semester, multiple students carry out original research in the lab. Starting Fall 2018, the Linguistics Department has launched the Georgetown Undergraduate Linguistics Research Apprenticeship Program (GULRAP), where undergraduate research assistants are paired with graduate students carrying out original research projects. Below are some of the research projects happening now.


Current Research:

Bertille Baron with Nubantood Khalil on “Developing a Language Learning Application for Nobiin”

Nobiin (ISO:[fia], Nile Nubian, Nilo-Saharan) is an endangered Nilotic language spoken in Egypt and Sudan.
As part of a Nobiin documentation project and revitalization effort, Bertille is collaborating with Nubantood Khalil (a native speaker, language activist, and teacher of the language) in developing a series of Nobiin language courses, available both online and via a language learning smartphone application. The final product will include courses targeting a wide population of learners (heritage speakers as well as foreign language learners, from beginner to advanced).


Maya Barzilai on “The Relative Effects of Phonetic and Phonological Salience on Speech Sound Processing”

It has been argued that some sounds are easier to process than others due to their acoustic salience. For instance, sounds that are louder or higher in pitch are said to be more salient than those that are quieter or lower in pitch. However, it is also well-established that the phonological patterning of a speaker’s native language can influence the way they perceive and process speech sounds. This dissertation investigates cases in which, given two sounds, one is predicted to be more easily processed based on its acoustics, while the other is predicted to be more easily processed by speakers of a given language based on its phonological prominence in that language. The aim is to determine the relative effects of these phonetic and phonological properties on speech sound perception, providing a greater insight into the effect of phonology on speech sound processing, as well as a clearer view of whether acoustic salience is a universal, language-independent property of a given sound.


RULE Projects:

Bertille Baron with Emile Zahr on “Analyzing vowel hiatus resolution in Ikpana”

Bertille and Emile are working on annotating and analyzing a corpus of elicited data and a collection of folktales in Ikpana (ISO:[lgq], Kwa, Niger-Congo). Ikpana is spoken by approximately 7,500 people in the Volta Region of Ghana. The data was collected during two field trips to Logba Alakpeti and Logba Ayetu (Tota) (Ghana) in 2018 and 2019. The data is annotated in Praat, and used for phonetic and phonological analysis, addressing the following questions: What determines vowel hiatus resolution at word boundaries in Ikpana? How are vowel qualities and tones realized in the context of hiatus resolution?
This project is part of a larger scale documentation and description project on the Ikpana language, in collaboration with Jason Kandybowicz (CUNY), Harold Torrence (UCLA), Phil Duncan (University of Kansas), and Hironori Katsuda (UCLA).


Christiana McGrady with Sarah Reed and Caroline Caragine on “Phonetics and Phonology of Alaskan Russian”

This study is part of Christiana’s doctoral research documenting the phonetics and phonology of a moribund Russian dialect spoken by the descendants of Russian American Company traders that settled in the Kenai and Kodiak regions of Alaska in the 18th and 19th centuries. First, this research provides empirical, acoustic-based documentation of the language’s phonetics and phonology. Second, this study explores the extent to which AR speakers’ sounds systems overlap when they speak Russian and English, exploring transfer effects. It is anticipated AR will reflect many changes from Standard Russian due to extended contact with Alaska Native languages, development in relative isolation, obsolescence, recent exposure to English, and 20th century social pressures due to Americanization. This semester RULE participants have assisted in transcribing AR speakers’ Russian and English speech and documenting each speaker’s sociolinguistic history.


Nick Mararac with Nicole Rybak and Jacob Burger on “Constructing institutional identities: How veterans talk about transitioning from military to college”

The study is Nick’s doctoral research and investigates how veterans, in describing their experiences transitioning from the military to college, use language to construct their intersecting identities and depict aspects of their acculturation into college life. Current research on veteran populations tells us little about veteran identities and how individual veterans verbalize their experiences. In this study, we take a discourse analytic approach, specifically interactional sociolinguistics, to capture how veterans discursively adapt, change, or acquire identities as they move from the military to an educational institution. The analysis is qualitative and draws on frameworks for elucidating identity construction in discourse. The data consist of interviews with seven participants who served in the U.S. military. Each participant is interviewed over the course of the semester to capture changes in their discourse that may reflect the changes in their identities.


Madeleine Oakley with Ingrid Lillis on “Ultrasound tongue imaging and the L2 acquisition of French vowels”

Acquisition of French round vowels is a well-documented difficulty for L1 English learners of French. However, multiple articulatory strategies may be responsible for non-target like L2 productions. This project explores the articulatory processes involved in L2 speakers production of French vowels, and compares how a learner produces L1 phones to L2 phones. Acoustic data in addition to lip rounding and tongue position data are used to explore how learners are producing non-target like French vowels, and whether these errors are caused by using L1 articulatory strategies.


Madeleine Oakley with Katherine Russell on “Acoustic correlates of tone in Guébie”

This project investigates the acoustic correlates to tone and their interaction with vowel quality in Guébie. Guébie is a Kru language spoken in Côte d’Ivoire, and has 4 contrastive level tones and contour tones. This project is an acoustic analysis of tone, and looks at what the acoustic correlates are to tone in Guébie. Additionally, this project will provide information about voicing contrasts in Guébie. This work will help to provide further acoustic description of an endangered language.


Alexandra Pfiffner with Ryan Mannion on “Final Obstruent Devoicing in Minnesota”

Word-final obstruent devoicing has previously been noted as a dialectal feature in Minnesota. However, it is not a case of case of complete neutralization; obstruents can maintain voicing, partially devoice, or devoice entirely. This study uses a production experiment and analyzes voicing status in relation to various social and linguistic factors. While gradient productions are expected phonetically, patterns of predicting factors may hint at a phonological component influencing devoicing.


Lindley Winchester with Caroline Immroth on “The Morphosyntax of the Maltese DP”

The project focuses on the transcription and annotation of recorded spoken Maltese data collected during dissertation fieldwork in Maltese during the summer of 2018. The resulting corpus of transcriptions will be used to investigate the morphology and syntax of Maltese.


Other RULE projects this semester:

Jahurul Islam with Kareeda Kabir on “Phonetics and phonology of ‘voiced-aspirated’ stops: Evidence from production, perception, alternation and learnability”

Ashleigh Pipes with Molly Cooke on “Examining Cognitive Creativity as an Interlocutor Individual Difference”

Minnie Quartey with Jonathan Bigler-Lisch on “Transcribing and Extracting Vowels for African American Language”