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Chien, Y-F., Yang, X, Fiorentino, R., & Sereno, J.A. (2020). The role of the surface and underlying forms when processing tonal alternations in Mandarin Chinese: A mismatch negativity study. Frontiers in Psychology: Language Sciences, 11, #646, 1-17.

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Phonological alternation (sound change depending on the phonological environment) poses challenges to spoken word recognition models. Mandarin Chinese T3 sandhi is such a phenomenon in which a tone 3 (T3) changes into a tone 2 (T2) when followed by another T3. In a mismatch negativity (MMN) study examining Mandarin Chinese T3 sandhi, participants passively listened to either a T2 word [tʂu2 je4] /tʂu2 je4/, a T3 word [tʂu3 je4] /tʂu3 je4/, a sandhi word [tʂu2 jen3] /tʂu3 jen3/, or a mix of T3 and sandhi word standards. The deviant in each condition was a T2 word [tʂu2]. Results showed an MMN only in the T2 and T3 conditions but not in the Sandhi or Mix conditions. All conditions also yielded omission MMNs. This pattern cannot be explained based on the surface forms of standards and deviants; rather these data suggest an underspecified or underlying T3 stored linguistic representation used in spoken word processing.

Cho, S., Jongman, A., Wang, Y., & Sereno, J.A. (2020). Multi-modal cross-linguistic perception of fricatives in clear speech. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 147(4), 2609-2624.

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Research shows that acoustic modifications in clearly enunciated fricative consonants (relative to the plain, conversational productions) facilitate auditory fricative perception, particularly for auditorily salient sibilant fricatives and for native perception. However, clear-speech effects on visual fricative perception have received less attention. A comparison of auditory and visual (facial) clear-fricative perception is particularly interesting since sibilant fricatives in English are more auditorily salient while non-sibilants are more visually salient. This study thus examines clear-speech effects on multi-modal perception of English sibilant and non-sibilant fricatives. Native English perceivers and non-native (Mandarin, Korean) perceivers with different fricative inventories in their native languages (L1s) identified clear and conversational fricative-vowel syllables in audio-only, visual-only, and audio-visual (AV) modes. The results reveal an overall positive clear-speech effect when visual information is involved. Considering the factor of AV saliency, clear speech benefits sibilants more in the auditory domain and non-sibilants more in the visual domain. With respect to language background, non-native (Mandarin and Korean) perceivers benefit from visual as well as auditory information, even for fricatives non-existent in their respective L1s, but the patterns of clear-speech gains are affected by the relative AV weighting and “nativeness” of the fricatives. These findings are discussed in terms of how saliency-enhancing and category-distinctive cues of speech sounds are adopted in AV perception to improve intelligibility.

Dmitrieva, O., Jongman, A., & Sereno, J.A. (2020). The effect of instructed second language learning on the acoustic properties of first language speech. Languages, 5(4), 44-77. 

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This paper reports on a comprehensive phonetic study of American classroom learners of Russian, investigating the influence of the second language (L2) on the first language (L1). Russian and English productions of 20 learners were compared to 18 English monolingual controls focusing on the acoustics of word-initial and word-final voicing. The results demonstrate that learners’ Russian was acoustically different from their English, with shorter voice onset times (VOTs) in [−voice] stops, longer prevoicing in [+voice] stops, more [−voice] stops with short lag VOTs and more [+voice] stops with prevoicing, indicating a degree of successful L2 pronunciation learning. Crucially, learners also demonstrated an L1 phonetic change compared to monolingual English speakers. Specifically, the VOT of learners’ initial English voiceless stops was shortened, indicating assimilation with Russian, while the frequency of prevoicing in learners’ English was decreased, indicating dissimilation with Russian. Word-final, the duration of preceding vowels, stop closures, frication, and voicing during consonantal constriction all demonstrated drift towards Russian norms of word-final voicing neutralization. The study confirms that L2-driven phonetic changes in L1 are possible even in L1-immersed classroom language learners, challenging the role of reduced L1 use and highlighting the plasticity of the L1 phonetic system.

Garg, S., Hamarneh, G., Jongman, A., Sereno, J.A., & Wang, Y. (2020). ADFAC: Automatic detection of facial articulatory features. MethodsX, 7, 101006, 1-12. 

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Using computer-vision and image processing techniques, we aim to identify specific visual cues as induced by facial movements made during monosyllabic speech production. The method is named ADFAC: Automatic Detection of Facial Articulatory Cues. Four facial points of interest were detected automatically to represent head, eyebrow and lip movements: nose tip (proxy for head movement), medial point of left eyebrow, and midpoints of the upper and lower lips. The detected points were then automatically tracked in the subsequent video frames. Critical features such as the distance, velocity, and acceleration describing local facial movements with respect to the resting face of each speaker were extracted from the positional profiles of each tracked point. In this work, a variant of random forest is proposed to determine which facial features are significant in classifying speech sound categories. The method takes in both video and audio as input and extracts features from any video with a plain or simple background. The method is implemented in MATLAB and scripts are made available on GitHub for easy access.

  • Using innovative computer-vision and image processing techniques to automatically detect and track keypoints on the face during speech production in videos, thus allowing more natural articulation than previous sensor-based approaches.
  • Measuring multi-dimensional and dynamic facial movements by extracting time-related, distance-related and kinematics-related features in speech production.
  • Adopting the novel random forest classification approach to determine and rank the significance of facial features toward accurate speech sound categorization.

Redmon, C., Leung, K., Wang, Y., McMurray, B., Jongman, A., & Sereno, J.A. (2020). Cross-linguistic perception of clearly spoken English tense and lax vowels based on auditory, visual, and auditory-visual information. Journal of Phonetics, 81.

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The effect of clear speech on the integration of auditory and visual cues to the tense-lax vowel distinction in English was investigated in native and non-native (Mandarin) perceivers. Clear speech benefits for tense vowels /i, ɑ, u/ were found for both groups across modalities, while lax vowels /ɪ, ʌ, ʊ/ showed a clear speech disadvantage for both groups when presented in the visual-only modality, with Mandarin perceivers showing a further disadvantage for lax vowels presented audio-visually, and no difference in speech styles auditorily. English perceiver responses were then simulated in an ideal perceiver model which both identified auditory (F1, F2, spectral change, duration) and visual (horizontal lip stretch, duration) cues predictive of the clear speech advantage for tense vowels, and indicated which dimensions presented the greatest conflict between cues to tensity and modifications from clear speech (F2 and duration acoustically, duration visually). Altogether, by combining clear speech acoustics, articulation, and perception into a single integrated framework we are able to identify some of the signal properties responsible for both beneficial and detrimental speech style modifications.

Reetz, H., & Jongman, A. (2020). Phonetics: Transcription, Production, Acoustics, and Perception. (2nd ed.). Wiley-Blackwell Publishers (316 pages). [The Chinese translation of this book was published in March 2019].

Tupper, P., Leung, K., Wang, Y., Jongman, A., & Sereno, J.A. (2020). Characterizing the distinctive acoustic cues of Mandarin tones. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 147, 2570-2580.

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This study aims to characterize distinctive acoustic features of Mandarin tones based on a corpus of 1025 monosyllabic words produced by 21 native Mandarin speakers. For each tone, 22 acoustic cues were extracted. Besides standard F0, duration, and intensity measures, further cues were determined by fitting two mathematical functions to the pitch contours. The first function is a parabola, which gives three parameters: a mean F0, an F0 slope, and an F0 second derivative. The second is a broken-line function, which models the contour as a continuous curve consisting of two lines with a single breakpoint. Cohen's d, sparse Principal Component Analysis, and other statistical measures are used to identify which of the cues, and which combinations of the cues, are important for distinguishing each tone from each other among all the speakers. Although the specific cues that best characterize the tone contours depend on the particular tone and the statistical measure used, this paper shows that the three cues obtained by fitting a parabola to the tone contour are broadly effective. This research suggests using these three cues as a canonical choice for defining tone characteristics.

Wang, Y., Sereno, J.A., & Jongman, A. (2020). Multi-modal perception of tone. In H-M. Liu, F-M. Tsao, and P. Li (Eds.), Speech Perception, Production, and Acquisition: Multidisciplinary Approaches in Chinese Languages. Springer series on Chinese Language Learning Sciences, Ch.8 (159-173). 

Yan, H., Chien, Y-F., & Zhang, J. (2020). Priming the representation left-dominant sandhi words: a Shanghai dialect case study. Language and Speech, 63(2), 362-380.

The paper aims to examine how the acoustic input (the surface form) and the abstract linguistic representation (the underlying representation) interact during spoken word recognition by investigating left-dominant tone sandhi, a tonal alternation in which the underlying tone of the first syllable spreads to the sandhi domain. We conducted two auditory-auditory priming lexical decision experiments on Shanghai left-dominant sandhi words with less-frequent and frequent Shanghai users, in which each disyllabic target was preceded by monosyllabic primes either sharing the same underlying tone, surface tone, or being unrelated to the tone of the first syllable of the sandhi targets. Results showed a surface priming effect but not an underlying priming effect in younger speakers who used Shanghai less frequently, but no surface or underlying priming effect in older speakers who used Shanghai more often. Moreover, the surface priming did not interact with speakers’ familiarity ratings to the sandhi targets. These patterns suggest that left-dominant Shanghai sandhi words may be represented in the sandhi form in the mental lexicon. The results are discussed in the context of how phonological opacity, productivity, the non-structure-preserving nature of tone spreading, and speakers’ semantic knowledge influence the representation and processing of tone sandhi words.

Zhang, J., San D., & Chen Y. (2020). Chinese and Siberia. In Carlos Gussenhoven and Aoju Chen (eds.), The Oxford handbook of language prosody, 332-343. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.




Chien, Y-F., & Jongman, A. (2019). Tonal neutralization of Taiwanese checked and smooth syllables: An acoustic study. Language and Speech, 62, 452-474.

Taiwanese tonal alternation is realized in a circular chain shift fashion for both smooth and checked syllables. Debate regarding the processes of less productive Taiwanese tonal alternation has centered on whether a surface tone is derived from an underlying tone, or whether a surface tone is selected without undergoing any derivation. The current study investigates this controversial issue by examining Taiwanese checked tone and smooth tone sandhi neutralization in production. In particular, we analyzed whether checked citation and sandhi tone 53 (C21→C53), checked citation and sandhi tone 21 (C53→C21), smooth citation and sandhi tone 55 (S51→S55), and smooth citation and sandhi tone 21 (S33→S21) are acoustically completely neutralized in fundamental frequency (F0) height, contour, and duration. A non-sandhi exception was also included to evaluate the effect of position-in-word on F0 height and duration given that citation tones always appear in phrase-final position. Any trace of influence from the underlying representation would indicate a computational mechanism, whereas the absence of any trace would suggest a lexical mechanism for the production of Taiwanese tonal alternation. Results did not show any influence of F0 height, F0 contour, or tone duration from the underlying representation for both checked and smooth tones, supporting a lexical mechanism in speech production for less productive tonal alternations.

Coughlin, C.E., Fiorentino, R., Royle, P., & Steinhauer, K. (2019). Sensitivity to inflectional morphology in a non-native language: Evidence from ERPs. Frontiers in Communication, 4(21).

The extent to which non-native speakers are sensitive to morphological structure during language processing remains a matter of debate. The present study used a masked-priming lexical decision task with simultaneous electroencephalographic (EEG) recording to investigate whether native and non-native speakers of French yield similar or different behavioral and brain-level responses to inflected verbs. The results from reaction time and EEG analyses indicate that both native and non-native French speakers were indeed sensitive to morphological structure, and that this sensitivity cannot be explained simply by the presence of orthographic or semantic overlap between prime and target. Moreover, sensitivity to morphological structure in non-native speakers was not influenced by proficiency (as reflected by the N400); lower-level learners show similar sensitivity at the word level as very advanced learners. These results demonstrate that native-like processing of inflectional morphology is possible in adult learners, even at lower levels of proficiency, which runs counter to proposals suggesting that native-like processing of inflection is beyond non-native speakers' reach.

Fiorentino, R. (2019). Issues in neurolinguistic studies of morphology. In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Linguistics. Oxford University Press.

Research in neurolinguistics examines how language is organized and processed in the human brain. The findings from neurolinguistic studies on language can inform our understanding of the basic ingredients of language and the operations they undergo. In the domain of the lexicon, a major debate concerns whether and to what extent the morpheme serves as a basic unit of linguistic representation, and in turn whether and under what circumstances the processing of morphologically complex words involves operations that identify, activate, and combine morpheme-level representations during lexical processing. Alternative models positing some role for morphemes argue that complex words are processed via morphological decomposition and composition in the general case (full-decomposition models), or only under certain circumstances (dual-route models), while other models do not posit a role for morphemes (non-morphological models), instead arguing that complex words are related to their constituents not via morphological identity, but either via associations among whole-word representations or via similarity in formal and/or semantic features. Two main approaches to investigating the role of morphemes from a neurolinguistic perspective are neuropsychology, in which complex word processing is typically investigated in cases of brain insult or neurodegenerative disease, and brain imaging, which makes it possible to examine the temporal dynamics and neuroanatomy of complex word processing as it occurs in the brain. Neurolinguistic studies on morphology have examined whether the processing of complex words involves brain mechanisms that rapidly segment the input into potential morpheme constituents, how and under what circumstances morpheme representations are accessed from the lexicon, and how morphemes are combined to form complex morphosyntactic and morpho-semantic representations. Findings from this literature broadly converge in suggesting a role for morphemes in complex word processing, although questions remain regarding the precise time course by which morphemes are activated, the extent to which morpheme access is constrained by semantic or form properties, as well as regarding the brain mechanisms by which morphemes are ultimately combined into complex representations.

Garg, S., Hamarneh, G., Jongman, A., Sereno, J.A., & Wang, Y. (2019). Computer-vision analysis reveals facial movements made during Mandarin tone production align with pitch trajectories. Speech Communication, 113, 47-62.

Using computer-vision and image processing techniques, we aim to identify specific visual cues as induced by facial movements made during Mandarin tone production and examine how they are associated with each of the four Mandarin tones. Audio-video recordings of 20 native Mandarin speakers producing Mandarin words involving the vowel /3/ with each of the four tones were analyzed. Four facial points of interest were detected automatically: medial point of left eyebrow, nose tip (proxy for head movement), and midpoints of the upper and lower lips. The detected points were then automatically tracked in the subsequent video frames. Critical features such as the distance, velocity, and acceleration describing local facial movements with respect to the resting face of each speaker were extracted from the positional profiles of each tracked point. Analysis of variance and feature importance analysis based on random forest were performed to examine the significance of each feature for representing each tone and how well these features can individually and collectively characterize each tone. Results suggest alignments between articulatory movements and pitch trajectories, with downward or upward head and eyebrow movements following the dipping and rising tone trajectories respectively, lip closing movement being associated with the falling tone, and minimal movements for the level tone.

Lee, H., & Jongman, A. (2019). Effects of sound change on the weighting of acoustic cues to the three-way laryngeal stop contrast in Korean: Diachronic and dialectal comparisons. Language and Speech, 62, 509-530.

Both segmental and suprasegmental properties of the South Kyungsang dialect of Korean have changed under the influence of standard Seoul Korean. This study examines how such sound change affects acoustic cues to the three-way laryngeal contrast among Korean stops across Kyungsang generations through a comparison with Seoul Korean. Thirty-nine female Korean speakers differing in dialect (Kyungsang, Seoul) and age (older, younger) produced words varying in initial stops and lexical accent patterns, for which voice onset time and fundamental frequency (F0) at vowel onset were measured. This study first confirms previous findings regarding age and dialectal variation in distinguishing the three Korean stops. In addition, we report age variation in the use of voice onset time and F0 for the stops in Kyungsang Korean, with younger speakers using F0 more than older speakers as a cue to the stop distinction. This age variation is accounted for by the reduced lexical tonal properties of Kyungsang Korean and the increased influence of Seoul Korean. A comparison of the specific cue weighting across speaker groups also reveals that younger Kyungsang speakers pattern with Seoul speakers who arguably follow the enhancing F0 role of the innovative younger Seoul speakers. The shared cue weighting pattern across generations and dialects suggests that each speaker group changes the acoustic cue weighting in a similar direction.

Li, Y., Lee, G., & Sereno, J.A. (2019). Comparing monosyllabic and disyllabic training in perceptual learning of Mandarin tone. In A. Nyvad, M. Hejná, A. Højen, A. Jespersen, & M. Hjortshøj Sarensen (eds.), A Sound Approach to Language Matters – (In Honor of Ocke-Schwen Bohn), 303-319.

McKenzie, A., & Newkirk, L. (2019). Almost at-a-distance. Linguistics and Philosophy. Online August 2019, 1–38.

We claim that the meaning of the adverbial almost contains both a scalar proximity measure and a modal that allows it to work sometimes when proximity fails, what we call the at-a-distance reading. Essentially, almost can hold if the proposition follows from the normal uninterrupted outcomes of adding a small enough number of premises to a selection of relevant facts. Almost at-a-distance is blocked when the temporal properties of the topic time and Davidsonian event prevent normal outcomes from coming true when they need to. This approach to almost differs from the two general approaches that have emerged in the literature, by replacing the negative polar condition (not p) with a positive antecedent condition that entails not p while avoiding the numerous well-documented complications of employing a polar condition. Since this approach to almost involves a circumstantial base with a non-interrupting ordering source, almost behaves in certain ways like the progressive, and shows contextual variability of the same kinds that we see with premise sets.

Pye C., & Pfeiler, B. (2019). The Acquisition of Directionals in Two Mayan Languages. Frontiers in Psychology, 10(2442).

We use the comparative method of language acquisition research in this article to investigate children’s expression of directional clitics in two Eastern Mayan languages – K’iche’ and Mam (Pye and Pfeiler, 2014Pye, 2017). The comparative method in historical linguistics reconstructs the grammatical antecedents of modern languages and traces the evolution of each linguistic feature (Paul, 1889Campbell, 1998). This history informs research on language acquisition by demonstrating how phonological and morphological features interact in the evolution of new uses for common inherited traits. Children acquiring modern languages must learn the arbitrary constraints imposed on their language by its history.

Pye, C., Berthiaume, B., & Pfeiler, B. (2019). Northern Pame-Spanish Language Acquisition in the Context of Incipient Language Loss. International Journal of Bilingualism.

Northern Pame (autonym: Xi’iuy) is an Otopamean language situated in the Mexican state of San Luís Potosí. Today over 90% of the Pame population speaks Spanish, and two-year-old children only speak Northern Pame in two Northern Pame villages. The paper explores differences in two-year-old Pame children’s production of words in Northern Pame and Spanish in order to assess the possibility that developmental constraints and/or language shift influence the form and distribution of the children’s words in the two languages.

Qin, Z., Tremblay, A., & Zhang, J. (2019). Influence of within-category tonal information in the recognition of Mandarin-Chinese words by native and non-native listeners: An eye-tracking study. Journal of Phonetics, 73, 144-157.

This study investigates how within-category tonal information influences native and non-native Mandarin listeners’ spoken word recognition. Previous eye-tracking research has shown that the within-category phonetic details of consonants and vowels constrain lexical activation. However, given the highly dynamic and variable nature of lexical tones, it is unclear whether the within-category phonetic details of lexical tones would similarly modulate lexical activation. Native Mandarin listeners and proficient adult English-speaking Mandarin learners were tested in a visual-world eye-tracking experiment. The target word contained a level tone and the competitor word contained a high-rising tone, or vice versa. The auditory stimuli were manipulated such that the target tone was either canonical (Standard condition), phonetically more distant from the competitor (Distant condition), or phonetically closer to the competitor (Close condition). Growth curve analyses on fixations suggest that, compared to the Standard condition, Mandarin listeners’ target-over-competitor word activation was enhanced in the Distant condition and inhibited in the Close condition, whereas English listeners’ target-over-competitor word activation was inhibited in both the Distant and Close conditions. These results suggest that within-category tonal information influences both native and non-native Mandarin listeners’ word recognition, but does so differently for the two groups.

Tremblay, A., Cho, T., Kim, S., & Shin, S. (2019). Phonetic and phonological effects of tonal information in the segmentation of Korean speech. Applied Psycholinguistics, 40, 1221–1240.

This study investigates how the fine-grained phonetic realization of tonal cues impacts speech segmentation when the cues signal the same word boundary in the native and unfamiliar languages but do so differently. Korean listeners use the phrase-final high (H) tone and the phrase-initial low (L) tone to segment speech into words (Kim, Broersma, & Cho, 2012; Kim & Cho, 2009), but it is unclear how the alignment of the phrase-final H tone and the scaling of the phrase-initial L tone modulate their speech segmentation. Korean listeners completed three artificial-language (AL) tasks (within-subject): (a) one AL without tonal cues; (b) one AL with later-aligned phrase-final H cues (non-Korean-like); and (c) one AL with earlier-aligned phrase-final H cues (Korean-like). Three groups of Korean listeners heard (b) and (c) in three phrase-initial L scaling conditions (between-subject): high (non-Korean-like), mid (non-Korean-like), or low (Korean-like). Korean listeners’ segmentation improved as the L tone was lowered, and (b) enhanced segmentation more than (c) in the high- and mid-scaling conditions. We propose that Korean listeners tune in to low-level cues (the greater H-to-L slope in [b]) that conform to the Korean intonational grammar when the phrase-initial L tone is not canonical phonologically.




Alemán Bañón, J., Fiorentino, R., & Gabriele, A. (2018). Using event-related potentials to track morphosyntactic development in second language learners: The processing of number and gender agreement in Spanish. PLoS ONE, 13(7): e0200791.

We used event-related potentials to investigate morphosyntactic development in 78 adult English-speaking learners of Spanish as a second language (L2) across the proficiency spectrum. We examined how development is modulated by the similarity between the native language (L1) and the L2, by comparing number (a feature present in English) and gender agreement (novel feature). We also investigated how development is impacted by structural distance, manipulating the distance between the agreeing elements by probing both within-phrase (fruta muy jugosa “fruit-FEM-SG very juicy-FEM-SG”) and across-phrase agreement (fresa es ácida “strawberry-FEM-SG is tart-FEM-SG”). Regression analyses revealed that the learners’ overall proficiency, as measured by a standardized test, predicted their accuracy with the target properties in the grammaticality judgment task (GJT), but did not predict P600 magnitude to the violations. However, a relationship emerged between immersion in Spanish-speaking countries and P600 magnitude for gender. Our results also revealed a correlation between accuracy in the GJT and P600 magnitude, suggesting that behavioral sensitivity to the target property predicts neurophysiological sensitivity. Subsequent group analyses revealed that the highest-proficiency learners showed equally robust P600 effects for number and gender. This group also elicited more positive waveforms for within- than across-phrase agreement overall, similar to the native controls. The lowest-proficiency learners showed a P600 for number overall, but no effects for gender. Unlike the highest-proficiency learners, they also showed no sensitivity to structural distance, suggesting that sensitivity to such linguistic factors develops over time. Overall, these results suggest an important role for proficiency in morphosyntactic development, although differences emerged between behavioral and electrophysiological measures. While L2 proficiency predicted behavioral sensitivity to agreement, development with respect to the neurocognitive mechanisms recruited in processing only emerged when comparing the two extremes of the proficiency spectrum. Importantly, while both L1-L2 similarity and hierarchical structure impact development, they do not constrain it.

Aljasser, F., Jackson, K., Vitevitch, M. S., & Sereno, J.A. (2018). The influence of phonemic inventory on elicited speech errors in Arabic speakers of English. The Mental Lexicon, 13(1), 26–37.

Previous studies have shown that nonnative phonemic contrasts pose perceptual difficulties for L2 learners, but less is known about how these contrasts affect speech production in L2 learners. In the present study, we elicited speech errors in a tongue twister task investigating L1 Arabic speakers producing L2 English words. Two sets of word productions were contrasted: words with phonemic contrasts existing in both L1 Arabic and L2 English (e.g. tip vs dip, sing vs zing) or words with phonemic contrasts existing in English alone (pit vs bit, fat vs vat). Results showed that phonemic contrasts that do not exist in Arabic induced significantly more speech errors in L2 Arabic speakers of English compared to native English speakers than did phonemic contrasts found in both languages. Implications of these findings for representations in L2 learners are discussed.

Chu, C.-Y., & Minai, U. (2018). Children’s demonstrative comprehension and the role of non-linguistic cognitive abilities: a cross-linguistic study. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research.

Previous studies have shown that young children often fail to comprehend demonstratives correctly when they are uttered by a speaker whose perspective is different from children's own, and instead tend to interpret them with respect to their own perspective (e.g., Webb and Abrahamson in J Child Lang; Clark and Sengul in J Child Lang. In the current study, we examined children's comprehension of demonstratives in English (this and that) and Mandarin Chinese (zhe and na) in order to test the hypothesis that children's non-adult-like demonstrative comprehension is related to their still-developing non-linguistic cognitive abilities supporting perspective-taking, including Theory of Mind and Executive Function. Testing 3 to 6-year-old children on a set of demonstrative comprehension tasks and assessments of Theory of Mind and Executive Function, our findings revealed that children's successful demonstrative comprehension is related to their development of Theory of Mind and Executive Function, for both of the language groups. These findings suggest that the development of deictic expressions like demonstratives may be related to the development of non-linguistic cognitive abilities, regardless of the language that the children are acquiring.

Connell, K., Hüls, S., Martínez-García, M. T., Qin, Z., Shin, S., Yan, H., & Tremblay, A. (2018). English learners’ use of segmental and suprasegmental cues to stress in lexical access: An eye- tracking study. Language Learning, 68, 635–668.

This study investigated the use of segmental and suprasegmental cues to lexical stress in word recognition by Mandarin‐speaking English learners, Korean‐speaking English learners, and native English listeners. Unlike English and Mandarin, Korean does not have lexical stress. Participants completed a visual‐world eye‐tracking experiment that examined whether listeners’ word recognition is constrained by suprasegmental cues to stress alone or by a combination of segmental and suprasegmental cues. Results showed that English listeners used both suprasegmental cues alone and segmental and suprasegmental cues together to recognize English words, with the effect of stress being greater for combined cues. Conversely, Mandarin listeners used stress in lexical access only when stress was signaled by suprasegmental cues alone, and Korean listeners did so only when stress was signaled by segmental and suprasegmental cues together. These results highlight the importance of a cue‐based approach to the study of stress in word recognition.

Covey, L., Gabriele, A., & Fiorentino, R. (2018). Can learners use morphosyntactic cues to facilitate processing? Evidence from a study of gender agreement in Hindi. Language Acquisition, 25, 327-337. 

This study investigates L2 learners’ ability to use morphosyntactic gender as a predictive cue during the processing of Hindi agreement dependencies. Nine L2 learners of low-intermediate proficiency and nine highly proficient multilingual speakers who consider Hindi one of their dominant languages were tested using a speeded picture-selection task. Results indicate that both L2 learners and multilingual speakers of Hindi used gender information to rapidly facilitate access to a target noun during processing, although because the facilitative effects were at the target noun, rather than preceding it, these facilitative effects do not provide unambiguous evidence for prediction. Participants’ processing speed in a control condition was also correlated with sensitivity to the gender cue, which is in line with accounts that posit that the ability to use linguistic cues during processing is modulated by individual differences.

Fiorentino, R., Covey, L., & Gabriele, A. (2018). Individual differences in the processing of referential dependencies: evidence from event-related potentials. Neuroscience Letters, 673, 79-84.

The present study examines the processing of referential ambiguity and referential failure using event-related potentials (ERPs). Participants read sentences with pronouns (he, she) which contained either one, two, or no potential gender-matching antecedents. Participants also took tests of working memory (Count Span/Reading Span) and attentional control (Number Stroop). In contexts of referential ambiguity with two potential gender-matching antecedents, two different responder types emerged, with some participants yielding a sustained negativity (Nref) and others a sustained positivity. For individuals who elicited Nref, the size of the effect was related to working memory such that higher Count Span scores were related to a larger Nref. For individuals who elicited a positivity, the effect was marginally related to attentional control such that better performance on the Stroop was related to a less positive, or increasingly negative-going ERP effect. Contexts of referential failure, with no gender-matching antecedents, yielded P600 for all participants, suggesting that participants may treat the failure of the pronoun to agree in gender with the antecedents as a violation despite the absence of an explicit acceptability judgment task

Kasisopa, B., Antonios, L. E-K, Jongman, A., Sereno, J.A., & Burnham, D. (2018). Training children to perceive non-native lexical tones: Tone language background, bilingualism, and auditory and visual information. Frontiers in Psychology: Language Sciences, 9(1508), 1-14.

This study investigates the role of language background and bilingual status in the perception of foreign lexical tones. Eight groups of participants, consisting of children of 6 and 8 years from one of four language background (tone or non-tone) × bilingual status (monolingual or bilingual)—Thai monolingual, English monolingual, English-Thai bilingual, and English-Arabic bilingual were trained to perceive the four Mandarin lexical tones. Half the children in each of these eight groups were given auditory-only (AO) training and half auditory-visual (AV) training. In each group Mandarin tone identification was tested before and after (pre- and post-) training with both auditory-only test (ao-test) and auditory-visual test (av test). The effect of training on Mandarin tone identification was minimal for 6-year-olds. On the other hand, 8-year-olds, particularly those with tone language experience showed greater pre- to post-training improvement, and this was best indexed by ao-test trials. Bilingual vs. monolingual background did not facilitate overall improvement due to training, but it did modulate the efficacy of the Training mode: for bilinguals both AO and AV training, and especially AO, resulted in performance gain; but for monolinguals training was most effective with AV stimuli. Again this effect was best indexed by ao-test trials. These results suggest that tone language experience, be it monolingual or bilingual, is a strong predictor of learning unfamiliar tones; that monolinguals learn best from AV training trials and bilinguals from AO training trials; and that there is no metalinguistic advantage due to bilingualism in learning to perceive lexical tones.

Krueger, B., Storkel, H., & Minai, U. (2018). The influence of misarticulations on children's word identification and processing. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research.

The results of the present studies indicate that the commonness of substitutions influences children's identification of misarticulated words. Children hear common substitutions more frequently and therefore were supported in their identification of these words as real objects. The presence of substitutions, however, slowed reaction time when compared with accurate productions.

McKenzie, A., Eziz, G., & Major, T. (2018).  Latent homomorphism and content satisfaction: The double life of Turkic auxiliary -(I˙)p bol-. Glossa: A journal of general linguistics, 3(1), Article no. 47, 1–34.

This paper argues that the Turkic auxiliary construction –(İ)p bol–, at least in Uyghur and Uzbek, is actually a pair of auxiliaries with distinct meanings. The first auxiliary is described as expressing “full completion” of the event, but its use is highly restricted, to events with incremental or universally quantified themes. Using targeted context-based elicitation, we find that the expression of completion is indirect. Instead, the auxiliary asserts that the event description is homomorphic, in that all of its events are both event-mapped and theme-mapped. Homomorphism requires every part of the theme to undergo a part of the event, and this derives the reported sense of completion. The second auxiliary is not attested in the literature. It applies to all kinds of events, and expresses what we call “content satisfaction,” the conventional implicature that the event as described satisfies some salient propositional content by rendering it true. For instance, it makes part of a plan come to fruition. This plan is presupposed, and the content is accessible through a content-generating function.We apply the methodologies of formal semantic fieldwork to tease these auxiliaries apart, including scope tests that apply differently to the two auxiliaries. Having distinguished them, we suggest new ways to typologically distinguish Turkic auxiliaries and auxiliaries cross-linguistically.

Redmon, C., & Jongman, A. (2018). Source characteristics of voiceless dorsal fricatives. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 144, 242-253.

Aerodynamic and acoustic data on voiceless dorsal fricatives [x/χ] in Arabic, Persian, and Spanish were recorded to measure the extent to which such productions involve trilling of the uvula, thus exhibiting a sound source which, contrary to assumptions for voiceless fricatives, is mixed rather than aperiodic. Oscillation in airflow indicative of uvular vibration was present more often than not in Arabic (63%) and Persian (75%), while Spanish dorsal fricatives were more commonly produced with unimodal flow indicative of an aperiodic source. When present, uvular vibration frequencies averaged 68 Hz in Arabic and 67 Hz in Persian. Rates of uvular vibration were highly variable, however, and ranged between 40 and 116 Hz, with oscillatory periods averaging 4–5 cycles in duration, with a range of 1–12. The effect of these source characteristics on dorsal fricative acoustics was to significantly skew the spectral shape parameters (M1–M4) commonly used to characterize properties of the anterior filter; however, spectral peak frequency was found to be stable to changes in source characteristics, suggesting the occurrence of trilled tokens is not due to velar-uvular allophony, but rather is more fundamental to dorsal fricative production.

Tremblay, A., Broersma, M., & Coughlin, C.E. (2018). The functional weight of a prosodic cue in the native language predicts speech segmentation in a second language. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 21, 640–652.

This study newly investigates whether the functional weight of a prosodic cue in the native language predicts listeners’ learning and use of that cue in second-language speech segmentation. It compares English and Dutch listeners’ use of fundamental-frequency (F0) rise as a cue to word-final boundaries in French. F0 rise signals word-initial boundaries in English and Dutch, but has a weaker functional weight in English than Dutch because it is more strongly correlated with vowel quality in English than Dutch. English- and Dutch-speaking learners of French matched in French proficiency and experience, and native French listeners completed a visual-world eye-tracking experiment in French where they monitored words ending with/out an F0 rise (replication of Tremblay, Broersma, Coughlin & Choi, 2016). Dutch listeners made earlier/greater use of the F0 rise than English listeners, and in one condition they made greater use of F0 rise than French listeners, extending the cue-weighting theory to speech segmentation.

Tremblay, A., Spinelli, E., Coughlin, C.E., & Namjoshi, J. (2018). Syntactic cues take precedence over distributional cues in native and non-native speech segmentation. Language and Speech, 61, 615–631.

This study investigates whether syntactic cues take precedence over distributional cues in native and non-native speech segmentation by examining native and non-native speech segmentation in potential French-liaison contexts. Native French listeners and English-speaking second-language learners of French completed a visual-world eye-tracking experiment. Half the stimuli contained the pivotal consonant /t/, a frequent word onset but infrequent liaison consonant, and half contained /z/, a frequent liaison consonant but rare word onset. In the adjective-noun condition (permitting liaison), participants heard a consonant-initial target (e.g., le petit tatoué; le fameux zélé) that was temporarily ambiguous at the segmental level with a vowel-initial competitor (e.g., le petit [t]athée; le fameux [z]élu); in the noun-adjective condition (not permitting liaison), they heard a consonant-initial target (e.g., le client tatoué; le Français zélé) that was not temporarily ambiguous with a vowel-initial competitor (e.g., le client [*t]athée; le Français [*z]élu). Growth-curve analyses revealed that syntactic context modulated both groups' fixations (noun-adjective > adjective-noun), and pivotal consonant modulated both groups' fixations (/t/ > /z/) only in the adjective-noun condition, with the effect of the consonant decreasing in more proficient French learners. These results suggest that syntactic cues override distributional cues in the segmentation of French words in potential liaison contexts.

Yang, X., Minai, U., & Fiorentino, R. (2018). Context-sensitivity and individual differences in the derivation of scalar implicature. Frontiers in Psychology, 9(1720).

The derivation of scalar implicatures for the quantifier some has been widely studied to investigate the computation of pragmatically enriched meanings. For example, the sentence “I found some books” carries the semantic interpretation that at least one book was found, but its interpretation is often enriched to include the implicature that not all the books were found. The implicature is argued to be more likely to arise when it is relevant for addressing a question under discussion (QUD) in the context, e.g., when “I found some books” is uttered in response to “Did you find all the books?” as opposed to “Did you find any books?”. However, most experimental studies have not examined the influence of context on some, instead testing some sentences in isolation. Moreover, no study to our knowledge has examined individual differences in the ability to utilize context in interpreting some, whereas individual variation in deriving implicatures for some sentences in isolation is widely attested, with alternative proposals attributing this variation to individual differences in cognitive resources (e.g., working memory) or personality-based pragmatic abilities (e.g., as assessed by the Autism-Spectrum Quotient). The current study examined how context influences the interpretation of some in a story-sentence matching task, where participants rated some statements (“I cut some steaks”) uttered by one character, in response to another character’s question (QUD) that established the implicature as relevant (“Did you cut all the steaks?”) or irrelevant (“Did you cut any steaks?”). We also examined to what extent individuals’ sensitivity to QUD is modulated by individual differences via a battery of measures assessing cognitive resources, personality-based pragmatic abilities, and language abilities (which have been argued to modulate comprehension in other domains). Our results demonstrate that QUD affects the interpretation of some, and reveal that individual differences in sensitivity to QUD are modulated by both cognitive resources and personality-based pragmatic abilities. While previous studies have argued alternatively for cognitive resources or personality-based pragmatic abilities as important for deriving implicatures for some in isolation, we argue that arriving at a context-sensitive interpretation for some depends on both cognitive and personality-based properties of the individual.

Zhang, J., & Yan, H. (2018). Contextually dependent cue realization and cue weighting for a laryngeal contrast in Shanghai Wu. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 144(3), 1293-1308.

Phonological categories are often differentiated by multiple phonetic cues. This paper reports a production and perception study of a laryngeal contrast in Shanghai Wu that is not only cued in multiple dimensions, but also cued differently on different manners (stops, fricatives, sonorants) and in different positions (non-sandhi, sandhi). Acoustic results showed that, although this contrast has been described as phonatory in earlier literature, its primary cue is in tone in the non-sandhi context, with vowel phonation and consonant properties appearing selectively for specific manners of articulation. In the sandhi context where the tonal distinction is neutralized, these other cues may remain depending on the manner of articulation. Sonorants, in both contexts, embody the weakest cues. The perception results were largely consistent with the aggregate acoustic results, indicating that speakers adjust the perceptual weights of individual cues for a contrast according to manner and context. These findings support the position that phonological contrasts are formed by the integration of multiple cues in a language-specific, context-specific fashion and should be represented as such.




Chien, Y-F., Sereno, J.A., & Zhang, J. (2017). What’s in a word: Observing the contribution of underlying and surface representations. Language and Speech, 60(4), 643-657.

Abstract underlying representations play a crucial role in capturing predictable relations among different phonetic categories in phonological theory. Tone sandhi is a tonal alternation phenomenon in which a tone changes to a different tone in certain phonological environments. This study investigates whether Taiwanese listeners are more sensitive to the surface form of the tones or the underlying tonal representations of tone sandhi words. An auditory lexical decision experiment was conducted to examine priming effects between monosyllabic primes and disyllabic target words (tone sandhi T51 → T55 and sandhi T24 → T33). Each target was preceded by either a surface-tone prime (e.g., ping55-ping55tsun24; pue33-pue33jong51), an underlying-tone prime (e.g., ping51-ping55tsun24; pue24-pue33jong51), or an unrelated control (e.g., ping21-ping55tsun24; pue21-pue33jong51). Results showed significant differences in the natue of the priming effects across the two sandhi types, with productivity of the tone sandhi rule influencing how listeners’ process and represent tone sandhi words.

Gabriele, A., Fiorentino, R., & Covey. L. (2017). Understanding the symptoms and sources of variability in second language sentence processing (commentary). Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 1-2.

Cunnings (2016) proposes that differences between native (L1) and second language (L2) sentence processing can best be explained in terms of susceptibility to effects of interference and an overreliance on discourse level cues during memory retrieval. Cunnings’ argument that difficulty in retrieval operations may provide a better explanation than a syntactic deficit account for explaining certain L1-L2 differences is convincing. However, the proposal for the ‘overuse’ of discourse is too broad and needs to be refined in terms of the specific contexts and conditions under which learners have difficulty. We also believe that difficulty with cue-based retrieval is still a characterization of the symptoms of differences between L1-L2 processing, and does not necessarily address the source of the variability.

Hannah, B., Wang, Y., Jongman, A., Sereno, J.A., Cao, J., & Nie, Y. (2017). Cross-modal association between auditory and visuospatial information in Mandarin tone perception in noise by native and non-native perceivers. Frontiers in Psychology: Language Sciences, 8(2051), 1-15.

Speech perception involves multiple input modalities. Research has indicated that perceivers establish cross-modal associations between auditory and visuospatial events to aid perception. Such intermodal relations can be particularly beneficial for speech development and learning, where infants and non-native perceivers need additional resources to acquire and process new sounds. This study examines how facial articulatory cues and co-speech hand gestures mimicking pitch contours in space affect non-native Mandarin tone perception. Native English as well as Mandarin perceivers identified tones embedded in noise with either congruent or incongruent Auditory-Facial (AF) and Auditory-FacialGestural (AFG) inputs. Native Mandarin results showed the expected ceiling-level performance in the congruent AF and AFG conditions. In the incongruent conditions, while AF identification was primarily auditory-based, AFG identification was partially based on gestures, demonstrating the use of gestures as valid cues in tone identification. The English perceivers’ performance was poor in the congruent AF condition, but improved significantly in AFG. While the incongruent AF identification showed some reliance on facial information, incongruent AFG identification relied more on gestural than auditory-facial information. These results indicate positive effects of facial and especially gestural input on non-native tone perception, suggesting that cross-modal (visuospatial) resources can be recruited to aid auditory perception when phonetic demands are high. The current findings may inform patterns of tone acquisition and development, suggesting how multi-modal speech enhancement principles may be applied to facilitate speech learning.​

Jongman, A., & McMurray, B. (2017). On invariance: Acoustic input meets listener expectations. In A. Lahiri & S. Kotzor (Eds.), The speech processing lexicon: Neurocognitive and behavioural approaches. Germany: Mouton DeGruyter.

Speech perception has been classically framed in terms of the widespread variability in speech acoustics. Factors like speaking rate, coarticulation, and speaker affect virtually all phonetic measurements or “cues”. However, our understanding of this problem has been built on the basis of small-scale phonetic work, one cue and context at a time. We present findings based on a large corpus of fricatives that suggest that the massive variability in speech may not be insurmountable, but rather can be described as the simple additive product of multiple known factors. At any given moment, listeners have expectations about the anticipated value of cues like formant frequency or fricative spectrum as a function of contextual factors like talker and vowel. Perception is then based on the difference between the actual cue values heard and these expectations. We briefly describe two additional experiments that demonstrate that manipulation of listeners’ expectations can change the accuracy of fricative identification, and improve listeners’ ability to predict the subsequent vowel. Finally, we present new data on the relative contributions of place and voicing cues which suggest that there are several acoustic cues that can be considered invariant. However, this information alone is not sufficient to account for listeners’ identification of fricatives. To approximate the performance of human listeners requires many cues, and these cues need to be interpreted relative to expectations derived from context.

Jongman, A., Qin, Z., Zhang, J., & Sereno, J.A. (2017). Just noticeable differences (JNDs) for pitch direction, height and slope for Mandarin and English listeners. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 142(2), EL163-169.

Previous studies on tones suggest that Mandarin listeners are more sensitive to pitch direction and slope while English listeners primarily attend to pitch height. In this study, just noticeable differences were established for pitch discrimination using a three-interval, forced-choice procedure with a two-down, one-up staircase design. A high rising and a high falling Mandarin tone were manipulated in terms of pitch direction, height, and slope. Results indicate that, overall, Mandarin listeners are more sensitive to pitch slope and English listeners to pitch height. However, these effects are modulated by both the direction (falling/rising) and slope of the pitch contours.

Li, M., & Zhang, J. (2017). Perceptual distinctiveness between dental and palatal sibilants in different vowel contexts and its implications for phonological contrasts. Laboratory Phonology 8(1), 18: 1-27.

Mandarin Chinese has dental, palatal, and retroflex sibilants, but their contrasts before [_i] are avoided: The palatals appear before [i] while the dentals and retroflexes appear before homorganic syllabic approximants (a.k.a. apical vowels). An enhancement view regards the apical vowels as a way to avoid the weak contrast /si-ɕi-ȿi/. We focus on the dental vs. palatal contrast in this study and test the enhancement-based hypothesis that the dental and palatal sibilants are perceptually less distinct in the [_i] context than in other vowel contexts. This hypothesis is supported by a typological survey of 155 Chinese dialects, which showed that contrastive [si, tsi, tsʰi] and [ɕi, tɕi, tɕʰi] tend to be avoided even when there are no retroflexes in the sound system. We also conducted a speeded-AX discrimination experiment with 20 English listeners and 10 Chinese listeners to examine the effect of vowels ([_i], [_a], [_ou]) on the perceived distinctiveness of sibilant contrasts ([s-ɕ], [ts-tɕ], [tsʰ-tɕʰ]). The results showed that the [_i] context introduced a longer response time, thus reduced distinctiveness, than other vowels, confirming our hypothesis. Moreover, the general lack of difference between the two groups of listeners indicates that the vowel effect is language-independent.

McKenzie, A. (2017). On the limited set of evidentiality types. Chapter in The Leader of the Pack: A Festschrift in Honor of Margaret Speas. Rodica Ivan (ed.). University of Massachusetts Occasional Papers in Linguistics, vol. 40. Amherst, Mass.: GLSA.

Minai, U. (2017). 幼児の意味解釈はなぜ大人のそれとは異なるのか [Why children’s meaning comprehension differs from adults’]. In K. Takami, I. Gyoda, & K. Mizuno (eds.), 不思議に満ちた言葉の世界, A Festschrift for Prof. Heizo Nakajima, Kaitakusha.

Minai, U., & Nadtochiy, N. (2017). Native and non-native comprehension of the Japanese existential quantifier nanko-ka. To appear in M. Nakayama, & Y.-C. Su (eds.), Studies in Chinese and Japanese Language Acquisition, John Benjamins Publishing Company (Language Acquisition and Language Disorders series).

This paper discusses native and non-native speakers’ comprehension of the Japanese quantifier nanko-ka, which is viewed as an existential quantifier (cf., some in English) in Japanese. The existential quantifier is argued to be ambiguous at the semantics-pragmatics interface: at the semantic level, it means ‘at least one, possibly all’; at the pragmatic level, it is interpreted as ‘at least one, but not all’. Nanko-ka, as an existential quantifier in Japanese, is expected to exhibit this ambiguity, although there is no data that we are aware of which demonstrates that native speakers indeed access these two interpretations of nanko-ka. Thus, the first goal of the study reported in this paper is to examine native comprehension of this quantifier. As regards the acquisition of the existential quantifier, research in first language acquisition has suggested that children initially have limited access to the pragmatic interpretation of some, in comparison to adults. However, once it comes to adult second language acquisition, how adult L2 learners may cope with the ambiguity of the existential quantifier is not well-known. Given this, the second goal of the current paper is to investigate how nanko-ka is interpreted by English-speaking L2 learners of Japanese.

Minai, U., Gustafson, K., Fiorentino, R., Jongman, A., & Sereno, J.A. (2017). Rhythm-based language discrimination by pre-natal infants: A fetal magnetocardiography study. NeuroReport. 28(10), 561-564.

Using fetal biomagnetometry, this study measured changes in fetal heart rate to assess discrimination of two rhythmically different languages (English and Japanese). Two-minute passages in English and Japanese were read by the same female bilingual speaker. Twenty-four mother–fetus pairs (mean gestational age=35.5 weeks) participated. Fetal magnetocardiography was recorded while the participants were presented first with passage 1, a passage in English, and then, following an 18 min interval, with passage 2, either a different passage in English (English–English condition: N=12) or in Japanese (English–Japanese condition: N=12). The fetal magnetocardiogram was reconstructed following independent components analysis decomposition. The mean interbeat intervals were calculated for a 30 s baseline interval directly preceding each passage and for the first 30 s of each passage. We then subtracted the mean interbeat interval of the 30 s baseline interval from that of the first 30 s interval, yielding an interbeat interval change value for each passage. A significant interaction between condition and passage indicated that the English–Japanese condition elicited a more robust interbeat interval change for passage 2 (novelty phase) than for passage 1 (familiarity phase), reflecting a faster heart rate during passage 2, whereas the English–English condition did not. This effect indicates that fetuses are sensitive to the change in language from English to Japanese. These findings provide the first evidence for fetal language discrimination as assessed by fetal biomagnetometry and support the hypothesis that rhythm constitutes a prenatally available building block in language acquisition.

Peter, L., Hirata-Edds, T., Feeling, D., Kirk, W., Mackey, R., & Duncan, P.T. (2017). Multilingual perspectives on second language learning in the Cherokee Immersion School. Journal of American Indian Education, 56(1), 5-31.

We examine language revitalization as it unfolds in Tsalagi Dideloquasdi, a Cherokee immersion school in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Using qualitative and linguistic data collected over two years, we explore how students' meaning-making practices are influenced by macro-, meso-, and microlevel sociolinguistic dimensions. We find that Tsalagi Dideloquasdi is a quintessential translanguaging space, shaped by multiple competencies shared by students, teachers, and parents, as well as the fluid bilinguality characteristic of language-contact situations. We argue Cherokee language revitalization is a process of renewal, not a return to idealized notions of “speakerhood” and proficiency. Moreover, immersion students are agents of linguistic transformation as Cherokee is reinstated in traditional sociolinguistic domains, as well as in new domains traditionally devoid of the language, such as schools.

Pye, C. (2017). A metaphorical theory of meaning. Linguistik Indonesia 35:1-12.

Languages combine form and meaning in order to express an infinite number of ideas. Modern linguistics has developed sophisticated methods to probe the formal structure of languages from phonetics to syntax, but the study of meaning remains relatively unexplored. The lack of sophisticated methods to document the semantic structure of languages remains a significant problem for work with endangered languages. Research in semantics is limited by semantic theories that can be traced back to Plato and Aristotle. These theories assume that languages use a universal set of semantic elements to construct meaning.The classical theories cannot account for semantic change and an explanation of metaphor is completely beyond the scope of such theories. In this paper I propose a theory of semantics that puts metaphor at the center of semantics. Rather than create an artificial dichotomy between figurative and non-figurative language, the metaphorical approach to semantics assumes that all languagesarefigurative. This approach assumes that abasic sentence as “The cat is on the mat” combinesfigurative language with pragmatic information to communicate a basic proposition. Thisapproach differs from that of Lakoff (1993) in that its focus is on metaphoric mapping within cognitive domains rather than between domains. The trick in metaphorical semantics is to learn how todetect the metaphors used in basic linguistic expressions and to construct a theory of semantics based on metaphor.

Pye, C. (2017). The Comparative Method of Language Acquisition Research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

The Mayan family of languages is ancient and unique. With their distinctive relational nouns, positionals, and complex grammatical voices, they are quite alien to English and have never been shown to be genetically related to other New World tongues. These qualities, Clifton Pye shows, afford a particular opportunity for linguistic insight. Both an overview of lessons Pye has gleaned from more than thirty years of studying how children learn Mayan languages as well as a strong case for a novel method of researching crosslinguistic language acquisition more broadly, this book demonstrates the value of a close, granular analysis of a small language lineage to untangling the complexities of first language acquisition. Pye here applies the comparative method to three Mayan languages—K’iche’, Mam, and Ch’ol—showing how differences in the use of verbs are connected to differences in the subject markers and pronouns used by children and adults. His holistic approach allows him to observe how small differences between the languages lead to significant differences in the structure of the children’s lexicon and grammar, and to learn why that is so. More than this, he expects that such careful scrutiny of related languages’ variable solutions to specific problems will yield new insights into how children acquire complex grammars. Studying such an array of related languages, he argues, is a necessary condition for understanding how any particular language is used; studying languages in isolation, comparing them only to one’s native tongue, is merely collecting linguistic curiosities.

Pye, C., & Pfeiler, B. (2017). A comparative study of the acquisition of nominative and ergative agreement in European and Mayan languages. In Diane Massam, Lisa Travis and Jessica Coon (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Ergativity, 665-689. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pye, C., Pfeiler, B., & Mateo, P. (2017). The acquisition of Mayan languages. In Judith Aissen, Nora England and Roberto Zavala Maldonado (eds.), The Mayan Languages, 19-42. London: Routledge.

Pye, C., Pfeiler, B., & Mateo, P. (2017). The Acquisition of Negation in Three Mayan Languages. Estudios de Cultura Maya 49, 227-246.

We present data on the early forms of negation in three Mayan languages (K’iche’, Yucatec and Q’anjob’al). These languages mark different contrasts between discourse, clausal and existential contexts of negation. Negation in these languages also interacts with aspect and modality. Children acquiring K’iche’ use an internal form of clausal negation while children acquiring Yucatec and Q’anjob’al use an ex- ternal form of clausal negation. The K’iche’ and Yucatec children successfully mark the contrast between the discourse and clausal forms of negation. The data show that children in each language create their own forms of negation. 

Pye, C., Pfeiler, B., Mateo, P., & Stengel, D. (2017). Analysis of Variation in Mayan Child Phonologies. Lingua 198, 38-52.

This paper uses the methods of consonant inventories and discriminant analysis to examine the variation in word-initial consonants produced by 24 children acquiring six Mayan languages. The range of variation in the consonants that children produce has significant implications for theories that predict children follow universal processes of consonant development as well as theories that predict individual children exhibit unique developments. The results show variation exists between children acquiring the same language as well as between children acquiring different languages. Both the qualitative and quantitative results demonstrate the structure of the adult phonologies restricts the range of the children's variation within each language even though the children omit a variety of word-initial prefixes. The investigation of language acquisition in related languages reveals how children's attention to the adult language limits the operation of both universal and individual processes.

Qin, Z., Chien, Y-F., & Tremblay, A. (2017). Processing of word-level stress by Mandarin-Speaking second-language learners of English. Applied Psycholinguistics, 38, 541–570.

This study investigates whether second language learners’ processing of stress can be explained by the degree to which suprasegmental cues contribute to lexical identity in the native language. It focuses on Standard Mandarin, Taiwan Mandarin, and American English listeners’ processing of stress in English nonwords. In Mandarin, fundamental frequency contributes to lexical identity by signaling lexical tones, but only in Standard Mandarin does duration distinguish stressed–unstressed and stressed–stressed words. Participants completed sequence-recall tasks containing English disyllabic nonwords contrasting in stress. Experiment 1 used natural stimuli; Experiment 2 used resynthesized stimuli that isolated fundamental frequency and duration cues. Experiment 1 revealed no difference among the groups; in Experiment 2, Standard Mandarin listeners used duration more than Taiwan Mandarin listeners did. These results are interpreted within a cue-weighting theory of speech perception.

Reed, M., Duncan, P.T., & Halegoua, G. (2017). Engaging our student partners: Student leadership in a library-initiated experiential learning project. In M. Kaye Hensley & S. Davis-Kahl, (eds.), Undergraduate Research and the Academic Librarian: Case Studies & Best Practices. ACRL.

This chapter discusses aspects of Undergraduates Speak: Our Rights and Access, a library-initiated and student-led pilot project aimed at advancing educational initiatives in the realm of scholarly communication. The project provided undergraduate students with opportunities to engage in experiential learning. Experiential learning, commonly defined as “learning by doing,” emphasizes the role that experience and self-reflection play in the learning process. In recent years, universities across the country have increasingly committed to providing such opportunities for undergraduate students. One reason for this emphasis is because experiential activities have a demonstrated impact on student retention and engagement.1 Among these high-impact practices are undergraduate research, internship, and service-learning opportunities. This chapter examines all three via Undergraduates Speak, where undergraduate students actively participated in exploratory research at multiple stages along the research continuum.

Sereno, J.A. (2017). How category learning occurs in adults and children. In A. Lahiri and S. Kotzer (eds.), The Speech Processing Lexicon: Neurocognitive and behavioral approaches. De Gruyter Mouton, 193-210. ISBN 978-3-11-042265-8

A central issue in the field of speech perception involves phonetic category formation. The present chapter examines speech category learning in order to understand how linguistic categories develop. One productive approach has been to examine how second language categories are learned, with recent research showing that the adult perceptual system is more plastic then previously thought. The present chapter extends this research on the learning of second language contrasts by investigating how this learning occurs. Little is known about the acquisition pattern itself, that is the time course of learning. Is the learning of a new language contrast a slow gradual process or does learning exhibit spurts of rapid growth punctuated b periods of little change? This proposed chapter also examines age differences in te acquisition patterns, addressing whether acquisiton is faster and/or qualitatively different in adults as compared to children. The present chapter thus provides a view of the acquistion of novel language contrasts by adults and children, contributing to understanding how listeners are able to learn new phonetic categories and clarifying the temporal constraints in learning these new phoentic contrasts. 

Tremblay, A., & Coughlin, C.E. (2017). Cue-weighting mechanism and bilingualism. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 20, 708–709.

Cunnings’ proposed theory can explain why second language (L2) learners have difficulty resolving certain types of dependencies (i.e., backward-looking dependencies) but not others (i.e., forward-looking dependencies). However, his theory should be more explicit about the mechanism underlying late L2 learners’ and native speakers’ different weightings of retrieval cues, and research framed within his theory should strive to tease apart age-of-acquisition effects from bilingualism effects.

Tremblay, A., Namjoshi, J., Spinelli, E., Broersma, M., Cho, T., Kim, S., Martínez-García, M. T., & Connell, K. (2017). Experience with a second language affects the use of fundamental frequency in speech segmentation. PLoS One, 12, e0181709

This study investigates whether listeners’ experience with a second language learned later in life affects their use of fundamental frequency (F0) as a cue to word boundaries in the segmentation of an artificial language (AL), particularly when the cues to word boundaries conflict between the first language (L1) and second language (L2). F0 signals phrase-final (and thus word-final) boundaries in French but word-initial boundaries in English. Participants were functionally monolingual French listeners, functionally monolingual English listeners, bilingual L1-English L2-French listeners, and bilingual L1-French L2-English listeners. They completed the AL-segmentation task with F0 signaling word-final boundaries or without prosodic cues to word boundaries (monolingual groups only). After listening to the AL, participants completed a forced-choice word-identification task in which the foils were either non-words or part-words. The results show that the monolingual French listeners, but not the monolingual English listeners, performed better in the presence of F0 cues than in the absence of such cues. Moreover, bilingual status modulated listeners’ use of F0 cues to word-final boundaries, with bilingual French listeners performing less accurately than monolingual French listeners on both word types but with bilingual English listeners performing more accurately than monolingual English listeners on non-words. These findings not only confirm that speech segmentation is modulated by the L1, but also newly demonstrate that listeners’ experience with the L2 (French or English) affects their use of F0 cues in speech segmentation. This suggests that listeners’ use of prosodic cues to word boundaries is adaptive and non-selective, and can change as a function of language experience.

Wang, Y., Jongman, A., & Sereno, J.A. (2017). L2 acquisition of lexical tone. In Sybesma, R., Behr, W., Gu, Y., Handel, Z., Huang, C.-T., and Myers, J. (Eds.) Encyclopedia of Chinese Language and Linguistics (ECLL). Brill Publishers. ISBN 978 90 04 18643 9




Chien, Y-F., Sereno, J.A., & Zhang, J. (2016). Priming the representation of Mandarin tone 3 sandhi. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 31(2), 179-189.

Phonological alternation poses problems for spoken word recognition. In Mandarin Tone 3 sandhi, a Tone 3 syllable changes to a Tone 2 syllable when followed by another Tone 3 syllable. A traditional phonological account assumes that the initial syllable of Mandarin disyllabic sandhi words is Tone 3 (T3) underlyingly, but becomes Tone 2 (T2) on the surface. In an auditory–auditory priming lexical decision experiment, each disyllabic tone sandhi target word (e.g., chu3-li3) was preceded by one of three monosyllabic primes: a T2 prime (Surface-Tone overlap) (chu2), a T3 prime (Underlying-Tone overlap) (chu3), or a control prime (Baseline condition) (chu1). Results showed that Tone 3 primes (Underlying-Tone) elicited significantly stronger facilitation effects for the sandhi targets than Tone 2 primes (Surface-Tone), with little effect of target frequency. The data are examined in terms of the contribution of underlying representations for models of spoken word recognition.

Fiorentino, R., Naito-Billen, Y., & Minai, U. (2016). Morphological decomposition in de-adjectival nominal in Japanese: masked and overt priming evidence. Published online. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 45(3), 575-597.

Whether morpheme-based processing extends to relatively unproductive derived words remains a matter of debate. Although whole-word storage and access has been proposed for some derived words, such as Japanese de-adjectival nominals with the unproductive (-mi) suffix (e.g., Hagiwara et al. in Language 75:739–763, 1999), Clahsen and Ikemoto (Ment Lex 7:147–182, 2012) found masked priming from de-adjectival nominals with productive (-sa) and unproductive (-mi) suffixes to their adjectivally-inflected base morpheme. Using masked and unmasked priming, we examine whether adjectivally-inflected base morpheme primes facilitate the processing of Japanese de-adjectival nominal targets with a productive or unproductive affix, including an orthographic-overlap condition and semantic relatedness measure that Clahsen and Ikemoto (2012) did not include. Our results replicate and extend Clahsen and Ikemoto (2012), revealing significant, statistically-equivalent morphological priming effects for -sa and -mi affixed targets, independent of orthographic and semantic relatednesss, suggesting that the processing of derived words with the unproductive -mi affix makes recourse to morpheme-level representations.

Gaillard, S., & Tremblay, A. (2016). Linguistic proficiency assessment in second language acquisition research: The Elicited Imitation Task. Language Learning, 66, 419–447.

This study investigated the elicited imitation task (EIT) as a tool for measuring linguistic proficiency in a second/foreign (L2) language, focusing on French. Nonnative French speakers (n = 94) and native French speakers (n = 6) completed an EIT that included 50 sentences varying in length and complexity. Three raters evaluated productions on five scales: meaning, syntax, morphology, vocabulary, and pronunciation. Participants also completed a cloze test and a language background questionnaire. Results from regression and principal component analyses showed a strong relationship between EIT performance and cloze test scores and significant relationships between EIT performance, sentence length, and learners’ knowledge of and experience with French. Ratings were internally consistent, and all test items discriminated well between lower- and higher-level learners. We argue that this EIT exhibits good validity and reliability, discriminates among French learners of different proficiencies, and is a practical tool for L2 proficiency assessment.

Johnson, A., & Minai, U. (2016). Children’s knowledge of structure-dependent semantic interactions between logical words. Language Acquisition 23(4), 407-415.

The current study examined preschool children’s ability to evaluate the entailment patterns yielded by sentences containing two downward entailing (DE) operators, every and no. When no precedes every, the entailment pattern typically licensed by every changes, but only if no also c-commands every in the hierarchical structure of the sentence. While children had been shown to be sensitive to the effect of a preceding and c-commanding negation on every, it had not been shown whether children were sensitive to the c-command relation between these elements or simply to their linear order. We demonstrate that children’s evaluation of the entailment patterns engendered by sentences with no and every makes recourse to hierarchical structural representations. These findings run counter to models positing that young children lack such representations and instead suggest that young children possess both detailed syntactic representations and knowledge of logical operators such as no and every.

Johnson, A., Fiorentino, R., & Gabriele, A. (2016). Syntactic constraints and individual differences in native and non-native processing of wh-movement. Frontiers in Psychology, 17.

There is a debate as to whether second language (L2) learners show qualitatively similar processing profiles as native speakers or whether L2 learners are restricted in their ability to use syntactic information during online processing. In the realm of wh-dependency resolution, research has examined whether learners, similar to native speakers, attempt to resolve wh-dependencies in grammatically licensed contexts but avoid positing gaps in illicit contexts such as islands. Also at issue is whether the avoidance of gap filling in islands is due to adherence to syntactic constraints or whether islands simply present processing bottlenecks. One approach has been to examine the relationship between processing abilities and the establishment of wh-dependencies in islands. Grammatical accounts of islands do not predict such a relationship as the parser should simply not predict gaps in illicit contexts. In contrast, a pattern of results showing that individuals with more processing resources are better able to establish wh-dependencies in islands could conceivably be compatible with certain processing accounts. In a self-paced reading experiment which examines the processing of wh-dependencies, we address both questions, examining whether native English speakers and Korean learners of English show qualitatively similar patterns and whether there is a relationship between working memory, as measured by counting span and reading span, and processing in both island and non-island contexts. The results of the self-paced reading experiment suggest that learners can use syntactic information on the same timecourse as native speakers, showing qualitative similarity between the two groups. Results of regression analyses did not reveal a significant relationship between working memory and the establishment of wh-dependencies in islands but we did observe significant relationships between working memory and the processing of licit wh-dependencies. As the contexts in which these relationships emerged differed for learners and native speakers, our results call for further research examining individual differences in dependency resolution in both populations.

Lee, G., & Jongman, A. (2016). Perceptual cues in Korean fricatives. In A. Agwuele & A. Lotto (eds.), Essays in Speech Processes - Language Production and Perception. United Kingdom: Equinox Publishing.

The current study explores the production and perception of two Korean  - fortis [s’] and non-fortis (plain) [s]. Production data from 10 speakers were examined to investigate the acoustic cues that distinguish the two  fricatives  in different  vowel  contexts (high  vowel  /i/ vs. low  vowel  /a/). Measures  included rise time, intensity, center of gravity (COG), F0, H1-H2, and CPP, as well as frication, aspiration, and subsequent  vowel  duration. COG and  vowel duration consistently distinguished the two  fricatives; additional cues varied across  vowel  contexts. For the /i/ context, intensity and F0 differed across the  fricatives;  for the /a/ context, rise time, H1-H2 and CPP differed across the  fricatives.  Four perceptual identification experiments were conducted with sixty native Korean listeners. Experiment 1 established that listeners can distinguish the two  fricatives  in intact natural syllables. In Experiments 2 and 3, listeners heard only the excised consonantal or vocalic segment. For the /a/ context,  fricative  identification was successful based on both consonantal and vocalic segments. In the /i/ context,  fricative  identification exceeded chance level only for the consonantal segment. In Experiment 4, cross-spliced stimuli revealed that speakers are more sensitive to vocalic cues than consonantal cues, but only in the /a/ context.

Lee, H., & Jongman, A. (2016). A diachronic investigation of the vowels and fricatives in Korean: An acoustic comparison of the Seoul and South Kyungsang dialects. Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 46, 157-184.

Although the segmental properties of Kyungsang Korean have been known to be distinct from those of standard Seoul Korean, the increased influence of Seoul Korean on the regional variety casts doubt on the homogeneity of the dialect. The current study investigated whether the acoustic properties of the vowels and fricatives in Kyungsang Korean are retained by both younger and older generations through a comparison with Seoul Korean. Results of acoustic analyses with 38 female Korean speakers differing in dialect (Kyungsang, Seoul) and age (older, younger) showed that the younger Kyungsang speakers did not maintain the vowel and fricative features unique to their regional dialect, but rather approximate those of standard Seoul Korean. In the acoustic study of vowels, measures of formant frequencies showed that the younger Kyungsang and Seoul speakers share seven vowels, which result from the split of /ʌ/–/ɨ/ in Kyungsang and the merger of /e/–/ε/ in Seoul Korean. In the acoustic study of fricatives, measures of fricative duration and center of gravity showed that while the two-way fricative contrast is less distinct for older Kyungsang speakers, younger speakers clearly distinguish the two fricatives similar to Seoul speakers. As a consequence of these generational changes in Kyungsang Korean, the six vowels and lack of a fricative contrast exhibited by older generations have given way to seven vowels and a clear distinction between fortis and non-fortis fricatives for younger generations. Based on the similarities in segmental properties between younger Kyungsang and Seoul speakers, it appears that the diachronic sound change is underway in South Kyungsang Korean under the influence of Seoul Korean.

Lee, H., Jongman, A., & Zhang, J. (2016). Variation and change in the nominal pitch accent system of South Kyengsang Korean. Phonology, 33, 325-351.

This paper considers whether the phonology of the lexical pitch accent of Kyungsang Korean is being maintained by younger innovative speakers. We examine the pitch-accent patterns of nouns with various suffixes by comparing the speech of innovative Kyungsang speakers to that of older conservative speakers. It will be shown that while innovative speakers maintain the underlying distinction in the lexical pitch accent found with conservative speakers, the acoustic difference across the contrastive accent classes is substantially weaker in the speech of innovative speakers, for both noun stems and suffixes. Observation of individual differences in the phonetic realisation of the pitch accent and comparison with tonal patterns of Seoul Korean provide an insight into this sound change, offering evidence for how and why the acoustic distinction has weakened. This study thus documents a process of diachronic change in the prosody of Kyungsang Korean.

Leung, K., Jongman, A., Wang, Y., & Sereno, J.A. (2016). Acoustic characteristics of clearly spoken English tense and lax vowels. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 140, 45- 58. 

The acoustic features of clearly produced vowels have been widely studied, but a less explored area concerns the difference in the adaptations of tense and lax clear vowels. This study explored the clear production of three pairs of English tense and lax vowels (/i-ɪ/, /ɑ-ʌ/, /u-ʊ/) to determine whether tense vowels show a larger clear versus conversational speech difference than lax vowels. Vowel space, individual formant frequency values, dynamic formant information and vowel duration of tense and lax vowels were examined. Results suggest there was more conversational-to-clear vowel lengthening for tense vowels than for lax vowels. However, an opposite effect was found for spectral measures. Lax vowels yielded greater vowel space expansion, formant frequency change, and dynamic formant movement than tense vowels in clear speech. 

McKenzie, A. (2016). Switch-reference. Chapter in Oxford Bibliographies Online, Linguistics. 27 October 2016.

Switch-reference (SR) describes morphemes associated with clause junctures that typically indicate whether the subjects of those clauses corefer. If the subjects corefer, the juncture expresses SS (same-subject) marking. If the subjects are disjoint, they are marked with DS (different-subject) marking. In clauses without overt nominal expressions, SR is often the only indication in a discourse of who is doing what. While SR typically involves subject reference, in many languages, SR can ignore subjects altogether. In these “noncanonical” cases, SR is usually sensitive to continuity or discontinuity of the events in the discourse. SS and DS are still used as abbreviations even if subjects are not involved. While linguists had noticed SR early in the 20th century (e.g., Edward Sapir’s grammar of Southern Paiute in 1930) that conjunctions in a few languages were sensitive to subject coreference, William Jacobsen was the first to notice SR cross-linguistically and to propose it as an actual morpheme, in his “Switch-Reference in Hokan-Coahuiltecan” (Jacobsen 1967, cited under Early Descriptive Accounts from North America). Since then, it has been found in countless languages all over the world outside Europe. The literature on SR can be difficult to classify because much of it has a toe in three distinct streams. First is descriptive work on SR, which can be split on the basis of language and language area. Virtually all SR languages require fieldwork, and the literature on SR reflects the areal focus of field linguists. Second, SR highlights the interface between modules of the grammar by directly involving the syntax, semantics, and the discourse. Third, SR study offers a space where descriptive, formal, and functional traditions converse with each other.

McMurray, B., & Jongman, A. (2016). What comes after [f]? Prediction in speech results from data explanatory processes. Psychological Science, 27(1), 43-52.

Acoustic cues are short-lived and highly variable, which makes speech perception a difficult problem. However, most listeners solve this problem effortlessly. In the present experiment, we demonstrated that part of the solution lies in predicting upcoming speech sounds and that predictions are modulated by high-level expectations about the current sound. Participants heard isolated fricatives (e.g., “s,” “sh”) and predicted the upcoming vowel. Accuracy was above chance, which suggests that fine-grained detail in the signal can be used for prediction. A second group performed the same task but also saw a still face and a letter corresponding to the fricative. This group performed markedly better, which suggests that high-level knowledge modulates prediction by helping listeners form expectations about what the fricative should have sounded like. This suggests a form of data explanation operating in speech perception: Listeners account for variance due to their knowledge of the talker and current phoneme, and they use what is left over to make more accurate predictions about the next sound.

Pye, C. (2016). Mayan Negation Cycles. In Elly van Gelderen (ed.), Cyclical Change Continued, 219-247. Amsterdam:  John Benjamins.

The Jespersen Cycle (1917) remains the definitive example of the linguistic cycle. A reconstruction of the history of negation marking in the Mayan languages shows that while some Mayan languages exhibit the beginning of a typical Jespersen Cycle, the majority of Mayan languages evidence different types of negation cycles. Differences in the domain of negation strengthening and the absence of postverbal negation strengthening provide evidence of the unique structure of Mayan languages. The evidence suggests that constraints on negation cycles are just as important as the cycles themselves in examining cross-linguistic variation in the structure of negation. 

Qin, Z., & Jongman, A. (2016). Does second language experience modulate perception of tones in a third language? Language and Speech, 59, 318-338.

It is unclear what roles native language (L1) and second language (L2) play in the perception of lexical tones in a third language (L3). In tone perception, listeners with different language backgrounds use different fundamental frequency (F0). While English listeners use F0 height, Mandarin listeners rely more on F0 direction. The present study addresses whether knowledge of Mandarin, particularly as an L2, results in speakers’ reliance on F0 direction in their perception of L3 (Cantonese) tones. Fifteen English-speaking L2 learners of Mandarin constituted the target group, and 15 English monolinguals and 15 native Mandarin speakers, with no background in other tonal languages, were included as control groups. All groups had to discriminate Cantonese tones either by distinguishing a contour tone from a level tone (F0 direction pair) or a level tone from another level tone (F0 height pair). The results showed that L2 learners patterned differently from both control groups by using F0 direction as well as F0 height under the influence of L1 and L2 experience. The acoustics of the tones also affected all listeners’ discrimination. When L2 and L3 are similar in terms of the presence of lexical tone, L2 experience modulates the perception of L3 tones.

Reichle, R., Tremblay, A., & Coughlin, C.E. (2016). Working Memory Capacity in L2 Processing. Special Issue of Probus: Language Acquisition in the 21st Century: Theory and Methodology, 8, 29–55.

In this paper, we review the current state of the second language (L2) processing literature and report data suggesting that this subfield should now turn its attention to working memory capacity as an important factor modulating the possibility of (near)-native-like L2 processing. We first review three major overarching accounts of L2 processing (Clahsen et al. 2006a, Grammatical processing in language learners. Applied Psycholinguistics 27. 3–42; Ullman 2001, The declarative/procedural model of lexicon and grammar. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research 30. 37–69; McDonald 2006, Beyond the critical period: Processing-based explanations for poor grammaticality judgment performance by late second language learners. Journal of Memory and Language 55. 381–401; Hopp 2006, Syntactic features and reanalysis in near-native processing. Second Language Research 22. 369–397, and Hopp 2010, Ultimate attainment in L2 inflection: Performance similarities between non-native and native speakers. Lingua 120. 901–931) and frame their predictions in terms of the qualitative and quantitative differences in processing expected between native speakers and L2 learners. We next review event-related potential (ERP) research on L2 processing and argue that the field’s current understanding of qualitative and quantitative differences in ERPs warrants an additional focus on variables other than L2 proficiency that can also predict individual differences in L2 processing. Recent L2 research (relying on ERPs, self-paced reading, and other online measures) suggests that the most promising such variable is working memory (WM) capacity. We summarize results from our recent L2 WM studies – and report new ERP findings – that point to the possibility of a modulatory effect of WM capacity on the nativelikeness of L2 processing. We conclude that the study of WM capacity is the logical next step for this L2 processing subfield.

Sereno, J.A., Lammers, L., & Jongman, A. (2016). The relative contribution of segments and intonation to the perception of foreign-accented speech. Applied Psycholinguistics, 37, 303-322.

The present study examines the relative impact of segments and intonation on accentedness, comprehensibility, and intelligibility, specifically investigating the separate contribution of segmental and intonational information to perceived foreign accent in Korean-accented English. Two English speakers and two Korean speakers recorded 40 English sentences. The sentences were manipulated by combining segments from one speaker with intonation (fundamental frequency contour and duration) from another speaker. Four versions of each sentence were created: one English control (English segments and English intonation), one Korean control (Korean segments and Korean intonation), and two Korean–English combinations (one with English segments and Korean intonation; the other with Korean segments and English intonation). Forty native English speakers transcribed the sentences for intelligibility and rated their comprehensibility and accentedness. The data show that segments had a significant effect on accentedness, comprehensibility, and intelligibility, but intonation only had an effect on intelligibility. Contrary to previous studies, the present study, separating segments from intonation, suggests that segmental information contributes substantially more to the perception of foreign accentedness than intonation. Native speakers seem to rely mainly on segments when determining foreign accentedness.

Tremblay, A. (2016). Linguistic convergence/divergence or degree of bilingualism? Journal of French Language Studies, 26, 167–170.

In their article, Mougeon, Hallion, Bigot, and Papen attempt to explain the similarities and differences among four varieties of Canadian French spoken outside Quebec (and New Brunswick) in the use of the restriction forms rien que, juste, seulement (que), and ne . . . que. Mougeon and colleagues focused on the French varieties spoken in Welland (Ontario), Saint-Boniface (Manitoba), Saint-Laurent (i.e., Mitchif French, Manitoba) and Bonnyville (Alberta) (see also Nadasdi & Keppie 2004). Using a variationist sociolinguistic framework, they examined the effect of linguistic and extralinguistic factors on speakers’ use of the aforementioned restriction forms, and compared their results to those reported in previous studies of the French varieties spoken in Montreal (Quebec) (Massicotte 1984, 1986; Thibault & Daveluy 1989) and in Hawkesbury, Cornwall, Northbay, and Pembroke (Ontario) (Rehner & Mougeon 1998). Based on their results, Mougeon and colleagues made hypotheses regarding linguistic convergence/divergence and raise relevant questions for future research. In this commentary, I briefly assess some of the contributions made by this research from a psycholinguistic perspective. In doing so, I raise additional questions concerning the source of the effects reported in the study.

Tremblay, A., Broersma, M., Coughlin, C.E., & Choi, J. (2016). Effects of native language on the learning of fundamental frequency in second-language speech segmentation. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 985.

This study investigates whether the learning of prosodic cues to word boundaries in speech segmentation is more difficult if the native and second/foreign languages (L1 and L2) have similar (though non-identical) prosodies than if they have markedly different prosodies (Prosodic-Learning Interference Hypothesis). It does so by comparing French, Korean, and English listeners’ use of fundamental-frequency (F0) rise as a cue to word-final boundaries in French. F0 rise signals phrase-final boundaries in French and Korean but word-initial boundaries in English. Korean-speaking and English-speaking L2 learners of French, who were matched in their French proficiency and French experience, and native French listeners completed a visual-world eye-tracking experiment in which they recognized words whose final boundary was or was not cued by an increase in F0. The results showed that Korean listeners had greater difficulty using F0 rise as a cue to word-final boundaries in French than French and English listeners. This suggests that L1–L2 prosodic similarity can make the learning of an L2 segmentation cue difficult, in line with the proposed Prosodic-Learning Interference Hypothesis. We consider mechanisms that may underlie this difficulty and discuss the implications of our findings for understanding listeners’ phonological encoding of L2 words.

Yakup, M., & Sereno, J.A. (2016). Acoustic correlates of lexical stress in Uyghur. Journal of the International Phonetics Association (JIPA), 46(1), 61-77.

The present study examined lexical stress patterns in Uyghur, a Turkic language. The main goal of this research was to isolate and determine which acoustic parameters provide cues to stress in Uyghur. A number of studies have investigated the phonetic correlates of lexical stress across the world's languages, with stressed syllables often longer in duration, higher in pitch, and greater in amplitude. The present study systematically investigated the acoustic cues to stress in Uyghur, examining duration, fundamental frequency, and amplitude. Three experiments were conducted: one utilizing minimal pairs in Uyghur, one examining disyllabic nouns in Uyghur that contrasted in the first syllable, and one investigating the interaction of lexical stress with Uyghur sentence intonation. The data consistently show that duration was a robust cue to stress in Uyghur, with less consistent effects for intensity. The data also clearly show that fundamental frequency was not a cue to lexical stress in Uyghur. Uyghur does not use the fundamental frequency to distinguish stressed from unstressed syllables. The results suggest that Uyghur does not pattern like a pitch-accent language (e.g. Turkish), but rather like a stress-accent language.

Yan, H., & Zhang, J. (2016). Pattern substitution in Wuxi tone sandhi and its implication for phonological learning. International Journal of Chinese Linguistics, 3(1), 1-45.

Tone sandhi in Wuxi Chinese involves “pattern substitution,” whereby the base tone on the first syllable is first substituted by another tone, then spread to the sandhi domain. We conducted a wug test to investigate native Wuxi speakers’ tacit knowledge of tone sandhi and found that the substituion aspect of the sandhi is not fully productive, but the extension aspect is, and sandhi productivity is influenced by the phonetic similarity between base and sandhi tones. These results are discussed in the context of how phonological opacity, phonetic naturalness, and lexical frequency influence phonological learning, and a grammatical learning model that can predict Wuxi speakers’ experimental behavior is proposed.


Zhang, J., & Liu, J. (2016). The productivity of variable disyllabic tone sandhi in Tianjin Chinese. Journal of East Asian Linguistics, 25(1), 1-35.

Tianjin Chinese has one of the more complex tone sandhi systems in Northern Chinese dialects. Due to its close contact with Standard Chinese, many of its tone sandhi patterns are also variable. This article first reports a detailed acoustic study of tone sandhi patterns in both real lexical items and novel words in Tianjin. The data were collected from 48 speakers of Tianjin, who were instructed to pronounce disyllabic sequences as real words based on voice prompts. The results showed that the productivity of the sandhis in novel words varied depending on the sandhi—some were less productive than in real words, and some were more productive, indicating a combination of underlearning, overlearning, and proper learning of the sandhis from the lexicon. A theoretical model that predicts the productivity patterns based on the phonetic properties of the sandhis and statistical generalizations about the sandhis over the lexicon is then proposed.

Zhang, J., & Meng, Y. (2016). Structure-dependent tone sandhi in real and nonce words in Shanghai Wu. Journal of Phonetics, 54(1), 169-201.

Disyllabic sequences in Shanghai Wu undergo different types of tone sandhi depending on their structure: phonological words (e.g., modifier–nouns) spread the initial tone across the disyllable, while phrases (e.g., non-lexicalized verb–nouns) maintain the final tone and level the contour of the nonfinal tone. We investigated the productivity of the two tone sandhi types through 48 speakers’ productions of real and nonce disyllables. Our results show that (a) the word-level tone sandhi in Shanghai indeed involves tone spreading, while the phrase-level sandhi is better interpreted as phonetic contour reduction, (b) the spreading sandhi generally applies productively to nonce words, but there are some differences in tone production between real and nonce words that are attributable to both categorical non-application and gradient application of the sandhi in nonce words, and (c) the structure dependency of Shanghai tone sandhi is also productive, as the speakers produced qualitatively different f0 patterns in modifier–noun nonce words and verb–noun nonce phrases. These results indicate that in order to arrive at a full picture of tone sandhi patterning, experimental data that shed light on the generalizations that speakers make from the speech input are necessary.




Coughlin, C.E., & Tremblay, A. (2015). Morphological decomposition in native and non-native French speakers. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 18, 524–542.

This study investigates whether late second/foreign language (L2) learners can rely on mechanisms similar to those of native speakers for processing morphologically complex words. Specifically, it examines whether native English speakers who have begun learning French around the onset of puberty can decompose -er (Class I) French verbs. Mid-to-high-proficiency L2 learners and native French speakers completed a masked-priming word-naming task. Latencies for morphologically related, orthographically related, and semantically related prime–target combinations were compared to latencies for identical and unrelated prime–target combinations. The results reveal the following effects: full morphological priming for both native and non-native speakers, with this effect increasing with French proficiency for L2 learners; partial orthographic priming for both groups; greater priming in the morphological condition than in the orthographic condition for both groups; and no semantic priming for either group. We conclude that L2 learners have access to similar mechanisms to those of native speakers for processing morphologically complex words.

Felker, E., Tremblay, A., & Golato, P. (2015). Traitement de l’accord dans la parole continue chez les apprenants anglophones tardifs du français. Arborescences, 5, 28–62.

This study examines the processing of agreement in continuous speech by English-speaking late learners of French as a second/foreign language (L2). It aims to tease apart three theories that attempt to explain why the processing of inflectional morphology is difficult for late L2 learners. Native English speakers who began learning French towards the age of twelve and native French speakers completed an auditory acceptability judgment task in French in which subject-verb agreement dependencies were either short (adjacent positions) or long (non-adjacent positions). Participants also completed a series of tests that could serve as individual variability measures: a French proficiency test (cloze test), two working memory tests (one in each of French and English), a word-familiarity questionnaire targeting the verbs used in the acceptability judgment task, and two language aptitude tests not specific to French or English (phonological memory and grammatical deduction). The results of the acceptability judgment task show lower sensitivity to agreement in L2 learners than in native speakers, and an effect of distance between the subject and the verb only in L2 learners. Regression analyses reveal that proficiency in French and phonological memory explain some of the variance in the acceptability judgments. We discuss the implications of these findings in relation to the three theories that attempt to explain the lack of sensitivity to agreement in late L2 learners.

Fiorentino, R., Politzer-Ahles, S., Pak, N., Martínez-Garcia, M.T., & Coughlin, C.E. (2015). Dissociating morphological and form priming with novel complex word primes: Evidence from masked priming, overt priming, and event-related potentials. The Mental Lexicon, 10, 413–434.

Gabriele, A., Alemán-Bañón, J., Lopez-Prego, B., & Canales, A. (2015). Examining the influence of transfer and prototypes on the acquisition of the progressive in L2 Spanish. In D. Ayoun (ed.), The Present Tense in Second Language Acquisition, 113-151. John Benjamins.

Gabriele, A., & Sugita Hughes, M. (2015). Tense and aspect in Japanese as a second language. In M. Nakayama (ed.) Handbook of Japanese Psycholinguistics, 271-302. Mouton de Gruyter.

Gabriele, A., Fiorentino, R., & Johnson, A. (2015). Attentional control and prediction in native and non-native speakers (commentary). Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism, 5(4), 470-475.

Herd, W., Sereno, J.A., & Jongman, A. (2015). Cross-modal priming differences between native and nonnative Spanish speakers. Studies in Hispanic and Lusophone Linguistics, 8(1), 135-155.

Training has been shown to improve American English speakers’ perception and production of the Spanish /ɾ, r, d/ contrast; however, it is unclear whether successfully trained contrasts are encoded in the lexicon. This study investigates whether learners of Spanish process the /ɾ, r, d/ contrast differently than native speakers and whether training affects processing. Using a cross-modal priming design, thirty-three Spanish learners were compared to ten native Spanish speakers. For native speakers, auditory primes with intervocalic taps (like [koɾo]) resulted in faster reaction times in response to matching visual targets (like coro) than to orthographically and phonemically similar targets (like corro and codo). American English speakers’ reaction times were not affected by the relationship between primes and targets before training. After training, trainees responded more quickly to matching targets than to mismatching /ɾ/-/r/ prime-targets (e.g., [koɾo] followed by corro) while controls’ reaction time patterns did not change. This indicates that native Spanish speakers and Spanish learners process words containing the /ɾ, r, d/ contrast differently and that improvements from training can be encoded in the lexicon.

Huensch, A., & Tremblay, A. (2015). Effects of perceptual phonetic training on the perception and production of second language syllable structure. Journal of Phonetics, 52, 105–120.

This study investigated the effect of perceptual training on second language (L2) learners' perception and production of syllable structure, thereby shedding light on the relationship between L2 speech perception and production and on the nature of stored representations. Korean L2 learners of English completed perceptual training on palatal codas in a pretest–post-test design. We compared the effects of training on improvements in perception and production for trained and new words and talkers. A control group who completed an unrelated perceptual training was included for comparison. Results indicated that learners who received perceptual training on palatal codas outperformed those who did not in perception and production tasks and generalized learning to new words and new talkers. Yet perception improvements were not directly linked to production improvements. The finding that perceptual training improved production and allowed for generalizability to new words and talkers in both perception and production provides evidence that L2 perception and production systems are linked. However, the lack of a one-to-one relationship between perception and production improvements suggests that the representations underlying L2 speech perception and production may be distinct.

Kim, E., Baek, S., & Tremblay, A. (2015). The role of island constraints in second language sentence processing. Language Acquisition, 22, 384–426.

This study investigates whether adult second language learners’ online processing of wh-dependencies is constrained by island constraints on movement. Proficiency-matched Spanish and Korean learners of English completed a grammaticality judgment task and a stop-making-sense task designed to examine their knowledge of the relative clause island constraint and their sensitivity to this constraint in online wh-dependency formation. The results showed that both learner groups have knowledge of the island constraint in English. However, unlike the Spanish speakers, who immediately applied the constraint to prevent the formation of an ungrammatical wh-dependency, the Korean speakers showed evidence of temporarily entertaining an ungrammatical dependency. These findings suggest that the properties of the native language influence the online processing of L2 sentences.

Lee, H., & Jongman, A. (2015). Acoustic evidence for diachronic sound change in the lexical pitch accents of Kyungsang Korean: A comparative study of the Seoul and Kyungsang dialects. Journal of Phonetics 50, 15-33.

This paper examined the acoustic properties of the pitch accent of South Kyungsang Korean, focusing on generational differences. Kyungsang Korean has lexical pitch accents, whereas standard Seoul Korean does not. However, whether the pitch accents are maintained by younger Kyungsang speakers is questionable given the influence of Seoul Korean. Through comparisons between older and younger speakers and between Seoul and South Kyungsang speakers, this study tested if and how sound change occurs in the pitch accent system of the regional dialect, and if the prosody of Kyungsang Korean shifts towards that of non-tonal Seoul Korean. We examined F0 scaling and alignment of pitch accents for the data collected from 40 female Korean speakers (10 younger and 10 older speakers each for Seoul and South Kyungsang dialects). Clear acoustic differences between generations provided evidence for diachronic sound change in the lexical pitch accent of South Kyungsang Korean. First, the differences in F0 scaling and alignment across accent contrasts are less distinct for younger Kyungsang speakers than for older speakers. Second, the F0 peak occurs later for younger Kyungsang speakers across all accent classes, resulting in a final rising accent pattern in disyllables similar to Seoul Korean. Third, despite the similarity with Seoul Korean, results from longer words revealed that Kyungsang Korean is still distinct from Seoul in terms of its maintenance of the lexical pitch accent. Based on these findings, we conclude that the sound change in lexical pitch accent is in progress by satisfying the prosodic properties of both Seoul and South Kyungsang Korean.

McKenzie, A. (2015). A Survey of Switch-Reference in North America. International Journal of American Linguistics. 81(3), 409–448, plus supplemental material.

This paper introduces a new survey of switch-reference in the languages of North America. The survey’s purposes are to provide a broad basis for future analysis of switch-reference (SR), spur further research on the languages included, and help revitalization efforts with a better understanding of what SR looks like and how it works.

The survey catalogs 33 facts about SR morphology, semantics, and syntax, organized around central questions in SR research. The paper discusses the major findings based on the survey, some of which have major implications for theories of switch-reference: SR is found in nearly 70 American language varieties, mostly in the western United States and Mexico, often spreading by areal diffusion. Cross-linguistically, SR usually indicates subject co-reference across clauses. It is associated with every type of clause juncture except disjunction and is found throughout the verbal morphology. Morphological homophony with case is not due to a common semantic core.

McKenzie, A. (2015). Deriving topic effects in Kiowa with semantics and pragmatics. Chapter in Methodologies in Semantic Fieldwork. M. Ryan Bochnak and Lisa Matthewson (eds.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. 269–286.

Minai, U., Isobe, M., & Okabe, R. (2015). Acquisition and deployment of the linguistic knowledge: scrambling in child Japanese as a test case. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 44(3), 287-307.

The current study investigates preschool-age children’s comprehension of scrambled sentences in Japanese. While scrambling has been known to be challenging for children, biasing them to exhibit non-adult-like interpretations (e.g., Hayashibe in Descr Appl Linguist 8:1–18, 1975; Sano in Descr Appl Linguist 10:213–233, 1977; Suzuki in Jpn J Educ Psychol 25(3):56–61, 1977), children are able to interpret scrambled sentences in an adult-like way when the pragmatics is enriched in the experiments (Otsu in Acquisition studies in generative grammar, John Benjamins, Amsterdam, pp 253–264, 1994). These findings suggest that children’s difficulty in comprehending scrambling may be due to processing difficulties (Suzuki in J Psycholinguist Res 42(2), 119–137, 2013), such as the Lexical-ordering Strategy bias (Bever in Cognition and language development, Wiley, New York, pp 279–352, 1970), rather than their lack of the linguistic knowledge of scrambling. The current study revealed that children are indeed able to utilize prosodic information to interpret scrambled sentences in an adult-like way. Our findings provide converging evidence in favor of the proposal that children’s grammatical knowledge of scrambling is intact, although they are more vulnerable than adults to processing difficulties that hinder their ability to successfully interpret scrambled sentences.

Sereno, J.A., & Lee, H. (2015). The contribution of segmental and tonal information in Mandarin spoken word processing. Language and Speech, 58(2), 131-151.

Two priming experiments examined the separate contribution of lexical tone and segmental information in the processing of spoken words in Mandarin Chinese. Experiment 1 contrasted four types of prime–target pairs: tone-and-segment overlap (ru4-ru4), segment-only overlap (ru3-ru4), tone-only overlap (sha4-ru4) and unrelated (qin1-ru4) in an auditory lexical decision task with 48 native Mandarin listeners. Experiment 2 further investigated the minimal segmental overlap needed to trigger priming when tonal information is present. Four prime–target conditions were contrasted: tone-and-segment overlap (ru4-ru4), only onset segment overlap (re4-ru4), only rime overlap (pu4-ru4) and unrelated (qin1-ru4) in an auditory lexical decision task with 68 native Mandarin listeners. The results showed significant priming effects when both tonal and segmental information overlapped or, although to a lesser extent, when only segmental information overlapped, with no priming found when only tones matched. Moreover, any partial segmental overlap, even with matching tonal cues, resulted in significant inhibition. These data clearly indicate that lexical tones are processed differently from segments, with syllabic structure playing a critical role. These findings are discussed in terms of the overall architecture of the processing system that emerges in Mandarin lexical access.

Tang, L., Hannah, B., Jongman, A., Sereno, J.A., Wang, Y., & Hamarneh, G. (2015). Examining visible articulatory features in clear and plain speech. Speech Communication, 75, 1-13

This study investigated the relationship between clearly produced and plain citation form speech styles and motion of visible articulators. Using state-of-the-art computer-vision and image processing techniques, we examined both front and side view videos of speakers’ faces while they recited six English words (keyed, kid, cod, cud, cooed, could) containing various vowels differing in visible articulatory features (e.g., lip spreading, lip rounding, jaw displacement), and extracted measurements corresponding to the lip and jaw movements. We compared these measurements in clear and plain speech produced by 18 native English speakers. Based on statistical analyses, we found significant effects of speech style as well as speaker gender and saliency of visual speech cues. Compared to plain speech, we found in clear speech longer duration, greater vertical lip stretch and jaw displacement across vowels, greater horizontal lip stretch for front unrounded vowels, and greater degree of lip rounding and protrusion for rounded vowels. Additionally, greater plain-to-clear speech modifications were found for male speakers than female speakers. These articulatory movement data demonstrate that speakers modify their speech productions in response to communicative needs in different speech contexts. These results also establish the feasibility of utilizing novel computerized facial detection techniques to measure articulatory movements.

Yakup, M., Abliz, W., Sereno, J.A., & Perea, M. (2015). Extending models of visual-word recognition to semi-cursive scripts: Evidence from masked priming in Uyghur. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. 41(6), 1553-1562.

One basic feature of the Arabic script is its semicursive style: some letters are connected to the next, but others are not, as in the Uyghur word ياخشى /ya xʃi/ (“good”). None of the current orthographic coding schemes in models of visual-word recognition, which were created for the Roman script, assign a differential role to the coding of within letter “chunks” and between letter “chunks” in words in the Arabic script. To examine how letter identity/position is coded at the earliest stages of word processing in the Arabic script, we conducted 2 masked priming lexical decision experiments in Uyghur, an agglutinative Turkic language. The target word was preceded by an identical prime, by a transposed-letter nonword prime (that either kept the ligation pattern or did not), or by a 2-letter replacement nonword prime. Transposed-letter primes were as effective as identity primes when the letter transposition in the prime kept the same ligation pattern as the target word (e.g., ئنتايىن - ئىتنايىن /inta_jin/-/itna_jin/), but not when the transposed-letter prime didn’t keep the ligation pattern (e.g., سوغۋات - سوۋغات /so_w_ʁa_t/-/so_ʁw_a_t/). Furthermore, replacement-letter primes were more effective when they kept the ligation pattern of the target word than when they did not (e.g., سوۋغات - سودچات /so_d_ʧa_t/-/so_w_ʁa_t/ faster than سوۋغات - سوچدات /so_ʧd_a_t/-/so_w_ʁa_t/). We examined how input coding schemes could be extended to deal with the intricacies of semicursive scripts. (APA PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)






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