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Linguistics Circle 2010-2011
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Linguistics Circle occasional seminar series 2010/2011 

 

Claudia Borg (Institute of Linguistics), Ray Fabri (Institute of Linguistics), Albert Gatt (Institute of Linguistics), Mike Rosner (Department of Intelligent Computer Systems), Maltese and the digital age: Developing electronic language resources for the Maltese Language

  • Date: Friday 3rd June 2011, 18:00
  • Venue: Gateway Building (GW) Hall E
How many new word formations are there with the suffix –ar (e.g. bilanċar ‘balance/balancing’)? In what context are verbs like ra (‘to see’) typically used? How many nouns have a broken plural? Where can you find reliable answers to questions like these? One obvious place to look is an electronic corpus.
An electronic corpus is a large, representative, machine-readable collection of texts in electronic form. In contemporary linguistics, as well as related areas such as ICT and stylistics, it is considered an essential resource for the study of language. It is also crucial for the development of language-sensitive tools, such as part of speech taggers, parsers, machine translation systems, and context-sensitive spellcheckers.
Many are aware of the fact that the development of electronic resources and tools is essential for a language to grow and develop. Unfortunately Maltese remains one of the most under-resourced among the official languages of the European Union.
The Institute of Linguistics, together with the Department of Intelligent Computer Systems, has been working and carrying out research in this area for a number of years, through projects such as Maltilex and MLRS. Now, the work on the electronic corpus of written Maltese, which is one of the fundamental resources, has been completed. In this talk, we would like to ‘officially’ launch the corpus and give information about the work that led to its development, as well as inform the public on how it can be accessed.  Apart from discussing the construction of the corpus itself, the talk will also describe ongoing work on the development of linguistic tools for the Maltese language, including a part of speech tagger, which classifies lexical items according to their morpho-syntactic properties, and a spellchecker that makes use of the corpus to identify alternatives to a user’s input which make sense in context.

 

Kristyn Mohr (Fullbright English Teaching Assistant), English Language Competence and the Area Secondary School: Presentation of an Innovative Pilot Project

  • Date: Wednesday 25th May 2011, 14:00
  • Venue: Lecture Centre (LC) Room 119
A passing score (1-5) on the Secondary Education Certificate (SEC) English Language exam is required for entry eligibility into Form VI. In 2010,
3,248 students received a passing grade on the English Language SEC exam. Of 3,248 passes in total, only 106 were obtained from students hailing from area secondary schools.
The aim of this presentation is to share an innovative project piloted at an area secondary school during the 2010 – 2011 academic year. With the
primary objective of re-motivating students to harness their English language skills at a critical point in their academic careers, a collaborative project between a group of Form 4 students and a group of high school students from Manhattan, New York provided a new interface through which these students built confidence and competence in their English language skills. This presentation will discuss the need for attention to be given to a
pocket of students currently underperforming their peers of Junior Lyceum, Church and Independent schools. It will provide an overview of the project piloted, including the planning, development and execution stages, obstacles and outcomes. It will conclude by opening a discussion for recommendations for improvement, with the hopes of beginning a dialogue for continued sustainability of similar initiatives in the future.

 

Maria Mifsud (Institute of Linguistics), A study of superordinates and hyponyms in Maltese Sign Language

  • Date: Wednesday 18th May 2011, 16:00
  • Venue: Lecture Centre (LC) Room 217

 Abstract. The aim of this presentation is to shed some light on how Maltese Sign Language (LSM) expresses different levels of abstraction. It will show how the Maltese Deaf differentiate between signs or sign expressions that refer to specific entities such as apple, red apple or table and those that refer to groups of entities such as berries, fruit or furniture. Thus it will show how signs are used in LSM to express specific meaning and more general and abstract meaning. The presentation is based on an investigation of LSM signs within the classes of food, animals, appliances, furniture and tools.   Three distinct levels of abstraction are considered: the subordinate level, which refers to a specific entity such as red apple; the basic level, which refers to a group of similar entities such as apples; the superordinate level, which is the general level that refers to different entities such as apples, oranges, bananas, when they form part of a particular group, that is, fruit. The study involves an analysis of the structure (i.e. composition) and meaning of signs in LSM: single signs and complex sign expressions are identified through the different levels of generalization.  The structure of such signs is investigated and related to the meaning across levels of abstraction.

The talk will be given in English.  No knowledge of Maltese Sign Language is required.

 

George Farrugia (University of Malta Junior College, Dept. of Maltese), L-għoti tal-ġens grammatikali fil-Malti f'kuntest usa'

  • Date: Wednesday 9th March, 17:00
  • Venue: University of Malta, Gateway Hall D2

 Abstract. Wieħed mis‑suġġetti ta’ natura lingwistika li kien u għadu joħloq kontroversja fost l‑istudjużi huwa dak li jiffoka fuq ir‑relazzjoni li teżisti bejn il‑lingwa u d‑dinja ekstralingwistika. F’dan il‑kuntest, id‑differenza bejn sess u ieħor titqies bħala fattur li jinfluwenza ħafna l‑perċezzjoni li għandna dwar id‑dinja. Bosta drabi din ir‑relazzjoni tkun assoċjata mal‑kategoriji semantiċi raġel/mara u mal‑kategoriji grammatikali maskil/femminil, distinzjoni li tistrieħ fuq is‑sistema tal‑ġens f’bosta lingwi, inkluż il‑Malti. Madankollu, il‑ġens huwa biss sistema waħda kif bosta il‑lingwi jikkategorizzaw lingwistikament in‑nomi fihom. Minbarra l‑ġens grammatikali nsibu wkoll is‑sistema tal‑klassifikaturi u tal‑klassijiet nominali.

F’ħafna ilsna l‑ġens jitqies bħala kategorija grammatikali li ma jidhirx li għandha xi forma ta’ sistemazzjoni. u li tista’ anke toħloq problemi lill‑kelliema mhux nattivi li jkunu qed jitgħallmu dawn il‑lingwi. Min‑naħa l‑oħra, il‑kelliema nattivi jidher li jippossedu numru ta’ kriterji u sistemi partikolari ta’ kif jagħtu l‑ġens lin‑nomi fi lsienhom. Iżda kif iħaddmuhom dawn l‑istrateġiji u kif jittrasferixxu t‑tagħrif marbut mal‑ġens tan‑nom għal elementi oħra fit‑taħdit u fil‑kitba tagħhom bħal, ngħidu aħna, il‑forma tal‑verb, tal‑aġġettiv jew tal‑partiċipju?

Xi mudelli psikolingwistiċi tal‑produzzjoni tal‑lingwajassumu li l‑ġens ma jinħadimx, iżda aktarx huwa maħżun bħala proprjetà tan‑nom stess fit‑tagħrif li jkollu l‑kelliem nattiv dwar il‑lingwa tiegħu. Din il‑konklużjoni hija bbażata fuq l‑assunzjoni li r‑relazzjoni bejn in‑nom u l‑ġens grammatikali tiegħu hija, fil‑prinċipju, arbitrarja.Din tissejjaħ il‑perspettiva Minimalista, li tiffoka fuq input minimu, jiġifieri l‑qbil bejn element u ieħor huwa operazzjoni purament sintattika. Iżda hemm ukoll possibilità oħra li tissejjaħ l‑ipotesi tal‑input massimu jew il‑perspettiva Massimalista.Din tassumi li l‑fatturi kunċettwali għandhom aktar saħħa fl‑ipproċessar tal‑qbil milli sempliċiment biex jintużaw ħalli jistabbilixxu l‑fatturi sintattiċi. Din l‑informazzjoni addizzjonali, biex insejħulha hekk, tassigura l‑akkuratezza u tippermetti kkodifikar aktar effettiv tas‑sentenza.

U l‑għoti tal‑ġens grammatikali fil‑Malti fejn jidħol f’dan il‑kwadru kumpless iżda daqstant ieħor interessanti?

 

Rosario Mizzi, A Speech Intelligibility Test for Maltese Speaking Children: A Pilot Study

  • Date: Tuesday 8th February, 17:00
  • Venue: Gateway Hall E
Abstract. Speech intelligibility is an essential feature of verbal communication and hence the assessment of speech intelligibility is an issue of fundamental clinical importance.The study of speech intelligibility of Maltese speakers has not been targeted yet, and in a preliminary study the researcher observed that speech intelligibility is not being formally assessed in Maltese speech and language clinics but only rated through subjective judgments. The talk presents a study aimed at initiating research in speech intelligibility of Maltese speakers and to develop and pilot an assessment tool that would measure speech intelligibility of Maltese speakers aged 5 to 10 years.
The “Rating of Maltese Speech Intelligibility Test” (ROMSIT) was developed and piloted on ten Maltese speakers aged 5 to 10 years; nine speakers with speech intelligibility problems and a normal speaker. The collected speech samples (including both single-word and connected-speech samples) were judged by four listeners for each speaker; including a familiar, unfamiliar trained and two unfamiliar untrained listeners. The data was analysed quantitatively, statistically and qualitatively to provide preliminary information about the performance of the ROMSIT in measuring speech intelligibility of Maltese speaking children, the linguistic factors affecting Maltese speech intelligibility and the difference in listeners’ performance according to the variables of familiarity and training. Results indicate that the ROMSIT was able to give a good indication of speech intelligibility scores at various levels of severity and was very positively rated by the Speech and Language Pathologists who participated in its piloting. Being a pilot study, this study generates more questions than answers but leads to a number of research questions for future studies in Maltese speech intelligibility.

 

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Last Updated: 1 November 2012

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