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Linguistics Circle occasional seminar series

The Institute of Linguistics organises an occasional series of seminars, where local and international speakers are invited to present the results of recent research which is of interest to both professional (computational) linguists and members of the broader public.

The seminars take place in an informal setting and their primary aim is to encourage discussion. Students and members of the public are welcome to attend!

Upcoming seminars (2016-2017): 

I am always looking for speakers in the Linguistics Circle Seminar. Please contact Lonneke van der Plas if you have something to present.




Adam Ussishkin, University of Arizona

Title: What can auditory masked priming tell us about the role of morphology in auditory word recognition?

Date: Wednesday 8 March 2017 at 13:00 hrs

Venue: DGZ108

Words consist of a phoneme or letter sequence that maps onto meaning. Most prominent theories of word recognition (auditory and visual) portray the recognition process as a connection between these small units and a semantic level. However, there is a growing body of evidence suggesting in the priming literature that there is an additional, morphological level that mediates the recognition process. In morphologically linear languages like English, however, morphemes and letter or sound sequences are co-extensive, so the source of priming effects between related words could be due to simple phonological overlap as opposed to morphological overlap. In Semitic languages, however, the non-linear morphological structure of words reduces this confound, since the morphemes are interdigitated in a non-linear fashion. Semitic words are typically composed of a discontiguous root (made up of three consonants) embedded in a word pattern specifying the vowels and the ordering between consonants and vowels. Active-passive pairs of Semitic verbs in Maltese illustrate this relationship (the root is underlined); e.g., fetaħ ‘open’-miftuħ ‘opened’.
In this talk, I report on a number of experiments our lab has carried out in Maltese and Hebrew investigating the extent to which the non-linear morphemes used in Semitic facilitate auditory word recognition, and to what extent potential priming effects are independent of the phonological overlap typically inherent in morphological relationships. These experiments make use of the auditory masked priming technique (Kouider and Dupoux, 2005). I show that not only do roots facilitate auditory word recognition in these languages, but that these morphological effects are independent of phonological overlap effects.


Andy Wedel, University of Arizona

Title: Signal evolution within the word

Date: Friday 10 March 2017 at 13:00 hrs

Venue: GW214

Languages appear to optimize the amount of segmental information allocated to words: words that are are less contextually predictable tend to be longer, while words that are more predictable tend to be shorter (Zipf 1935, Piantadosi et al 2011). In this talk I'll show evidence from English that the average informativity of segments inside of words is also optimized. 

Listeners incrementally process words as they are heard, progressively updating inferences about what word is intended as the phonetic signal unfolds in time. As a consequence, phonetic cues at the beginning of a word are more informative about word-identity, because they are less predicted by previous segmental context. This suggests that languages should not only optimize the amount of segmental information in words, but also optimize the distribution of that information across the word. Specifically, words that are on average less predictable in context should contain more highly-informative segments overall, and also position more informative segments earlier in the word. 

More generally, we know that languages show a strong tendency to develop phonological patterns which enhance phonetic cues at word beginnings, while reducing cues later in words. I will argue that this typological tendency plausibly arises from the word-level phenomena described here.


Dominique Lagorgette, Université de Savoie-Mont Blanc

Title: French medieval corpora : including the diatopic and diastratic variation in French medieval linguistic studies - a methodologic approach

Date: Wednesday 15 March 2017 at 12:00 hrs

Venue: DGZ108

Medieval French studies developed linguistic approaches over the last century mostly in studying literary texts. Considering the rarity of data in Early Old French (9th-11th C.) and then the primacy of courtly literary texts until the 13th-14th C., a history of speech registers (diastratic variation) still remains to be written: how do we know if a word was felt as vulgar, acceptable or taboo ? How do we measure the pragmatic force of  transgressive speech ? This paper will question the methodology necessary to such a research, i.e. the relevant corpora, theoretical frame and treatment of data.



Roman Klinger, University of Stuttgart

Title: An Empirical, Quantitative Analysis of Differences between Sarcasm and Irony

Date: Friday 17 March 2017 at 12:00 hrs

Venue: GW214

A variety of classification approaches for the detection of ironic or sarcastic messages has been proposed in the last decade to improve sentiment classification. However, despite the availability of psychologically and linguistically motivated theories regarding the difference between irony and sarcasm, these typically do not carry over to a use in predictive models; one reason might be that these concepts are often considered very similar.

In this presentation, I discuss a data-driven, empirical analysis of Tweets and how authors label them as irony or sarcasm. The experiments suggest that authors do not use these concepts interchangeably and that differences can be detected with automatic methods with a surprisingly high accuracy.


Uwe Reyle, University of Stuttgart

Title: Perfect Tense Forms in English, German and French

Date: Wednesday 29 March 2017 at 12:00 hrs

Venue: GW156

Most of the literature on English tense and aspect (and therewith of tense and aspect simpliciter)  is on the English Present Perfect. The facts that makes this form so special and for the theorist outstanding almost as a sore thumb are easy to describe, but to come up with a theoretically satisfactory account of it is much more involved. We will present a result-state based, compositional analysis that accounts for the peculiarities of the English Present Perfect and explains why this form is different from other perfect forms in English on the one hand and its counterpart in Geman and French on the other.


Maris Camilleri, University of Vienna

Title: Relative clause types in Maltese

Date: Friday 7 April 2017 at 12:00 hrs

Venue: GW214


Holger Mitterer, University of Malta

Title: TBA

Date: Friday 12 May 2017 at 12:00 hrs

Venue: GW214


Past seminars:

(Seminars from previous years: 2015-20162014-20152013-20142012-20132011-20122010-2011

Catherine Pelachaud,  LTCI, TELECOM ParisTech

Title: Modeling conversational nonverbal behaviors for virtual characters

Date: Wednesday 26th of October at 12:00 hrs

Venue: GWHD1

In this talk I will present our on-going effort to model virtual character with nonverbal capacities.
We have been developing Greta, an interactive Embodied Conversational Agent ECA platform. It is endowed with socio-emotional and communicative behaviors. Through its behaviors, the agent can sustain a conversation as well as show various attitudes and levels of engagement.
The ECA is able to display a large variety of multimodal behaviors to convey communicative intentions. We rely on a lexicon that contains entries defined as multimodal signals temporally coordinated. At run time, the signals for given communicative intentions and emotions are instantiated and their animations realized. Communicative behaviors are not produced in isolation from one another. We have developed models that generate sequences of behaviors; that is behaviors are not instantiated individually but the surroundings behaviors are taken into account.




Class timetables are now available from this page.

For study-units LIN1063, LIN1065, LIN2013 and LIN5063, please click on this page to check the Academic English timetable.

Ethical approval
Deadlines for submission of ethical approval forms to the Institute Research Ethics Committee are now available on the Research page.
Last Updated: 22 March 2017

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