Field Linguistics & Language Documentation
Many students, faculty, and alumni of Yale linguistics, as well as colleagues from nearby Haskins Laboratories, presented their work at the International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS) in Melbourne, Australia, earlier this month. They contributed at least 14 talks and posters to the conference and enjoyed a full week of presentations about phonetics, connecting with colleagues and friends from all over the world.
Rikker Dockum and Claire Bowern have a new paper in the open access journal Language Documentation and Description, entitled “Swadesh lists are not long enough: Drawing phonological generalizations from limited data.” They look at the amount of data (e.g. number of words in a wordlist) required to accurately recover phonological inventory distributional generalizations and show that the typical 100-word or 200-word Swadesh lists frequently used by linguists are not usually sufficient.
The most recent issue of Studia Linguistica includes an article by PhD candidate Matthew Tyler. The paper is entitled “Choctaw as a Window into the Clitic/Agreement Split”. In this paper he draws on original fieldwork he has been conducting in Mississippi on Choctaw in connection with his dissertation work. He develops a series of tests, some specific to Choctaw, to argue that most “agreement” morphemes on the Choctaw verb are really clitics (essentially pronouns like I/you/we/etc. that are attached to the verb).
Claire Bowern adds an article on the origins of Pama-Nyungan to The Conversation.
Members of the Pama-Nyungan lab recently published a write-up of their results on forced alignment algorithms. Their paper on “A Robin Hood approach to forced alignment: English-trained algorithms and their use on Australian languages” was recently published in the proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Linguistic Society of America. They show that for some purposes, English-trained models can be used without crucial loss of accuracy.
2018 marked the 20th anniversary of the publication of the article by Nikolaus Himmelmann, which introduced the distinction between “language documentation” and “language description” (or analysis). In this Open Access special publication in the journal Language Documentation and Conservation, linguists reflect on the changes to the field, to fieldwork practices, and to the state of language records and endangerment across the world.
Many members of the Yale linguistics department made a mass exodus to the the recent LSA annual meeting in New York City, where they gave 19 oral and poster presentations at the main meeting, workshops, and sister society meetings. These included:
Ph.D. candidate Matthew Tyler has recently published two journal articles concerning his work on clitics in Choctaw (Muskogean). One, published in Natural Language & Linguistic Theory, is titled “Absolutive Promotion and the Condition on Clitic Hosts in Choctaw”; this article proposes a morphosyntactic analysis of Choctaw clitics.
PhD candidate Rikker Dockum presented at the 28th meeting of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society (SEALS), where he discussed his fieldwork on Khamti, a language spoken in Myanmar and India. Rikker has spent a substantial amount of time in the region documenting various languages, as he conducts his dissertation research on tone systems in Tai-Kadai, a family of languages that includes Khamti and Thai.
As a Presidential Visiting Fellow, Stephanie has spent the past year at Yale teaching the Mohegan language and raising interest in language revitalization.
Based on field research and a translation of the Bible, Joshua’s paper investigates the difference between the first-person pronouns ai and mi.
Sixteen presentations and posters from current and former Yale faculty and students were showcased at the annual meeting of the LSA.
Claire and Rikker showcased their results from the Pama-Nyungan Laboratory at the Association for Linguistic Typology.
Rikker talked about how tonal systems change over time, using statistical analysis on a large dataset he compiled to identify a strong phylogenetic signal.
Scholars from a wide range of institutions and disciplines came to Yale to discuss the cognitive foundations of variation and change in meaning.
Luke spent the summer at the University of Texas at Austin, working on the Texas German Dialect Project.
We are delighted to welcome Samuel Andersson, Sigríður Sigurðardóttir, and Randi Martinez to our department!
Two linguists were honored at this year’s Yale University Commencement.
Matt’s talk is “In Choctaw, everyone’s a clitic.” Rikker’s is “Prosodic context in computational modeling of tone: citation tones vs. running speech.”
He provides an overview of Mayan phonology and, together with Jessica Coon and Robert Henderson, an introduction to Mayan linguistics.
Rashad Ullah, Martín Fuchs, Josh Phillips, Andy Zhang, Dan Schwennicke, Yiding Hao, and Rikker Dockum presented their work at four different conferences and workshops.