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.
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.
Maya Barzilai on “Investigating the Relationship between Vowel Duration and Acoustic Salience”
Vowels have been claimed to be more perceptually salient than consonants, in large part to due to their acoustic properties. It has been claimed that the higher intensity, longer durations, and acoustic steady states of vowels contribute to their salience. However, recent results out of GU’s Ling Lab have suggested that there may not be a linear relationship between vowel duration and acoustic salience. This study uses an immediate serial recall experimental paradigm to investigate whether it is the case that higher duration necessarily correlates with higher acoustic salience. It is predicted that there may be an acoustic ‘sweet spot,’ or a duration range that is optimized for perceptual salience, such that vowels that are outside of this ‘sweet spot,’ either shorter or longer in duration, are less perceptually salient.
Dr. Hannah Sande with Maya Barzilai on “Archiving Nobiin”
We are currently working to archive data from Nobiin, an under-documented Nilo-Saharan language spoken in southern Egypt and northern Sudan, on the African Language Materials Archive (ALMA). The archived data will include lists of Nobiin words and sentences, as well as longer texts about Nobiin culture and history spoken in Nobiin with their English translations. In addition, our Nobiin consultants are working with us to create an introduction to the Nobiin language and culture, which will be included with our archived language data.
Bertille Baron with Ivy Wang on “Translating Ikpana Texts”
Bertille and Ivy are working on transcribing and annotating 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 texts were collected during a field trip to Logba Alakpeti (Volta region, Ghana) in Summer 2018. The collection consists of 10 video recordings of native speakers telling folktales that are culturally relevant to the Akpana people. The texts are segmented, transcribed, and annotated using ELAN. The resulting corpus of annotated texts will be used in phonological and morphosyntactic research on Ikpana. Additionally, once annotated, the texts will be returned to the Akpana community as a collection of subtitled videos destined to be shared with the youth in the community. This project is part of a larger scale documentation project on the Ikpana language, in collaboration with Jason Kandybowicz (CUNY), Harold Torrence (UCLA), Phil Duncan (University of Kansas), and Hironori Katsuda (UCLA).
Maya Barzilai with Emily Schluper on “Acoustic Salience in Immediate Serial Recall”
Vowels are said to be acoustically salient, due to their relatively long duration and high intensity. The purpose of this study is to investigate the impact of acoustic salience on accurate recall of vowel sequences. We use an immediate serial recall (ISR) task, and hypothesize that vowels with longer duration and higher intensity will be remembered with the most accuracy, due to their high acoustic salience. We also explore whether vowels that are lengthened or shortened to sound more like natural speech are recalled better than those that are manipulated to sound less natural.
Lara Bryfonski with Dulce Perez Briones on “Task-Based Teacher Training: Implementation and Evaluation in Honduran Bilingual Schools”
This study is Lara’s doctoral research which investigates the implementation of a task-based teacher training program for novice bilingual school teachers in a network of Honduran bilingual schools. Thanks to the GULRAP partnership we have been working in ELAN and NVivo to transcribe and code stimulated recall interviews of teachers reflecting on their teaching practice.
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 GULRAP 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”