2nd Annual Linguistics Department Undergraduate Research Colloquium
Friday, March 15th
American Sign Language Roots
University of Washington
Psychology Major, ASL Minor
The exact origin of American Sign Language is unclear. Most of what is known about the origins of the language comes from historical speculation. Some historians hypothesize that American Sign Language developed more than two hundred years ago from the intermixing of village sign languages, the American Indian nations of the Great Plains sign language, and Langue des Signes Francaise or LSF. These languages melded together when deaf men and women from different cities of New England came together at America’s first successful school for the deaf in Hartford, Connecticut. This intermixing of languages in the development of American Sign Language will be further explored and the backgrounds of several American Sign Language signs will be identified.
The Frequency of Diminutive Use in Polish between Men and Women and among Different Ages in Discourse with Children
Anna Kristina Moroz
University of Washington
Linguistics and East European Languages, Literature, and Culture Majors
This study investigated whether the gender and age of a speaker and his or her interlocutor affects the frequency of diminutive usage for native Polish speakers when talking to children. In Polish one uses diminutives when wanting to express closeness or affection to the item they are talking about or to the person to whom they are talking. They are formed by adding a diminutive suffix to a noun, adverb, or adjective, but they are most commonly seen with nouns. There is a lack of sociolinguistic studies regarding diminutive use in Polish. For this study, a survey was administered to native Polish speakers living near or around Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington. For each question, there was a short discourse situation where the age and gender of the interlocutor was described and a list of possible answers which included the standard or diminutive form in question. The participants chose from the list or wrote another utterance which they would most likely use. The results of the survey found that participants use fewer diminutives with older children and that generally men and women use diminutives more with female interlocutors. Despite the perception that women use more diminutives than men (Andrews, 1999), both men and women reported a similar number of diminutives in the study.
Are These Compounds? Initial Analysis of ASL-STEM Forum Math Contributions
University of Washington
Mathematics Major, ASL Minor
All languages have the capacity to express any concept regardless of conceptual complexity. For some languages, a lack of exposure to particular concepts or relative language youth prevents some vocabulary from forming. American Sign Language (ASL) experiences an underdeveloped technical vocabulary in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields due to its relative youth and dispersed user base. The ASL-STEM Forum is a project which seeks to connect ASL users in a collaborative effort to develop any necessary vocabulary for STEM fields.
One common and accessible means of adding to a lexicon is by compounding. When Klima and Bellugi (1979) started their analysis of ASL composite expressions, they were uncertain of the existence of ASL compound signs. They concluded that ASL compounds do exist. I therefore expect to find STEM compounds in ASL, and thus ask, “Can I find compounds amongst the ASL-STEM Forum submissions?”
Many mathematical terms on the ASL-STEM Forum have yet to receive any video submissions. Despite the sparseness of mathematics submissions, I analyzed 13 composite mathematics signs on the ASL-STEM Forum, and conclude that there exist math compounds in ASL. For example, I conclude that the term, abelian group, glossed as COMMUTATIVE-GROUP, is an ASL compound. (The term abelian group is named after a famous mathematician, Niels Henrick Abel. Abelian groups arise in abstract algebra and are required to have the commutative property.)
As ASL continues to develop its technical vocabulary, it will be useful to use our initial analysis to gauge future development of the ASL math lexicon.
P’urépecha Fortis v. Lenis Consonants
University of Washington
Linguistics Major, Spanish Minor
The terms “fortis” and “lenis” have been the source of controversy in phonetic and phonological descriptions. At the base of this controversy is the ambiguous definition of the terms themselves, which claim that fortis consonants are produced with greater “force of articulation” than their lenis counterparts (Jaeger 1983). The assertion that fortis/lenis pairs differ in their force of articulation implies that fortis phonemes are produced with greater constriction of the articulators (DiCanio 2012). Acoustically, greater constriction of the articulators is expected to begin with greater pulmonic effort which generates a greater airflow through the oral passage. The increased build-up in pressure during a fortis stop closure produces indirect correlates of longer voice onset timing, higher amplitude and increased intensity (Leander 2012).
To investigate distinctions within fortis and lenis phonemes, this study focuses on the language P’urépecha, a language isolate from the state of Michoacán, México. This pilot study, based on data collected from wordlist recordings from 2 native speakers of P’urépecha, aims to determine what is the nature of fortis/lenis in the language. While the available corpus of P’urépecha phonetic descriptions attest that aspiration distinguishes fortis and lenis phonemes, thus far no formal measurements have been undertaken to determine the nature of the contrast.
Therefore, this study examines VOT between fortis and lenis pairs to establish that fortis phonemes display a longer VOT than their lenis counterparts. Additionally, this research has compared the amplitude of stop release bursts with the peak amplitude of the following vowel for each token; these normalized energy results were then analyzed to determine the effect of amplitude on the fortis/lenis distinction. Based on the articulatory definition of fortis consonants as being produced with a stronger force, this study anticipated to find higher normalized energy among fortis phonemes. The final acoustic feature examined in this research was the development of f0 from the vowel onset to vowel midpoint, with the expectation that lenis tokens would display a rise pattern from a low f0 at onset and fortis tokens would exhibit a converse pattern.
The results of this study indicate that VOT reliably differentiates fortis/lenis in P’urépecha as proposed in previous literature. While preliminary analysis of change in f0 from vowel onset to vowel midpoint does not suggest a correlation between f0 development and fortis/lenis, normalized energy has been found to contribute to the fortis and lenis distinction in P’urépecha, as anticipated. This study has determined that distinctions between the fortis/lenis phonemes are not confined to VOT. The realization that further acoustic clues add to the fortis/lenis distinction supplements linguistic descriptions of P’urépecha as well as adds to the fortis/lenis conversation.
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