School of Languages and Linguistics - Research Publications

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    Aboriginal linguistic exchange in an Australian city
    Mansfield, J (Walter de Gruyter GmbH, 2022-09-01)
    Abstract Tropical northern Australia is a region of high linguistic diversity, with dozens of language varieties each spoken by a small number of people. Traditionally, this level of diversity has been supported by egalitarian linguistic ecologies, where Aboriginal people use multiple languages alongside one another in each local region. In this study, I explore new types of multilingual practices that are emerging in Darwin, the only major city in the area. Aboriginal people from the homelands often visit Darwin, and some become permanent residents, which provides the context for new types of multilingual encounters. Kriol and English are also used as a ‘fall-back’ languages to mitigate gaps in understanding, which allows multilingual interaction to occur between people who have only partial knowledge of eachothers’ languages. I characterise these practices as ‘linguistic exchange’, used by speakers to establish their links to kin and country, while also showing respect for their interlocutor’s social connections. Linguistic exchange also supports the distinctive Aboriginal mode of demand-driven resource sharing. Aboriginal language use in Darwin suggests that urban mobility is not necessarily detrimental to the future vitality of the region’s rich linguistic heritage.
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    Fricative contrasts and neutralization in Marri Tjevin
    Mansfield, J ; Green, I (ROUTLEDGE JOURNALS, TAYLOR & FRANCIS LTD, 2021-10-05)
    Marri Tjevin is the language of the Rak Thangkurral and Rak Nadirri people of the Daly River region in northern Australia. Unusually for an Australian language, Marri Tjevin has fricatives at all points of articulation /β, ð, ʐ, ʒ, ɣ/, contrasting with phonetically long, voiceless stops /p, t̪, t, ȶ, k/. These series are only contrastive word-medially, while most word-initial obstruents vary freely in stricture and voicing, which constitutes a typologically unusual form of obstruent manner neutralization. Additionally there are two contrastive voiced stops /b, d/, which occur both medially and initially. In this paper we present the first detailed analysis of Marri Tjevin’s system of obstruent contrasts and positional neutralization, as well as reporting an interesting association between phonemic stops and prosodic prominence. We argue that the Marri Tjevin stop/fricative contrast shows distributional and phonetic commonalities with fortis/lenis obstruent contrasts in some other Australian languages, while the association of phonemic stops with prosodic prominence also echoes patterns observed elsewhere in Australia. Thus, while Marri Tjevin’s system of fricative contrast and neutralization is typologically unusual, it shows striking parallels with other Australian phonologies.
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    The word as a unit of internal predictability
    Mansfield, J (DE GRUYTER MOUTON, 2021-01-01)
    Abstract A long-standing problem in linguistics is how to defineword. Recent research has focused on the incompatibility of diverse definitions, and the challenge of finding a definition that is crosslinguistically applicable. In this study I take a different approach, asking whether one structure is more word-like than another based on the concepts of predictability and information. I hypothesize that word constructions tend to be more “internally predictable” than phrase constructions, where internal predictability is the degree to which the entropy of one constructional element is reduced by mutual information with another element. I illustrate the method with case studies of complex verbs in German and Murrinhpatha, comparing verbs with selectionally restricted elements against those built from free elements. I propose that this method identifies an important mathematical property of many word-like structures, though I do not expect that it will solve all the problems of wordhood.
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    Category Clustering and Morphological Learning
    Mansfield, J ; Saldana, C ; Hurst, P ; Nordlinger, R ; Stoll, S ; Bickel, B ; Perfors, A (WILEY, 2022-02-01)
    Inflectional affixes expressing the same grammatical category (e.g., subject agreement) tend to appear in the same morphological position in the word. We hypothesize that this cross-linguistic tendency toward category clustering is at least partly the result of a learning bias, which facilitates the transmission of morphology from one generation to the next if each inflectional category has a consistent morphological position. We test this in an online artificial language experiment, teaching adult English speakers a miniature language consisting of noun stems representing shapes and suffixes representing the color and number features of each shape. In one experimental condition, each suffix category has a fixed position, with color in the first position and number in the second position. In a second condition, each specific combination of suffixes has a fixed order, but some combinations have color in the first position, and some have number in the first position. In a third condition, suffixes are randomly ordered on each presentation. While the language in the first condition is consistent with the category clustering principle, those in the other conditions are not. Our results indicate that category clustering of inflectional affixes facilitates morphological learning, at least in adult English speakers. Moreover, we found that languages that violate category clustering but still follow fixed affix ordering patterns are more learnable than languages with random ordering. Altogether, our results provide evidence for individual biases toward category clustering; we suggest that this bias may play a causal role in shaping the typological regularities in affix order we find in natural language.
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    Epistemic authority and sociolinguistic stance in an Australian Aboriginal language
    Mansfield, J (De Gruyter Open, 2019-04-01)
    Abstract Murrinhpatha, an Aboriginal language of northern Australia, has an initialk-alternation in verbs that has hitherto been resistant to grammatical analysis. I argue thatk-does not encode any feature of event structure, but rather signals the speaker’s epistemic primacy over the addressee. This authority may relate to concrete perceptual factors in the field of discourse, or to socially normative authority, where it asserts the speaker’s epistemic rights. These rights are most salient in the domains of kin, country and totems, as opposed to other topics in which speakers are habitually circumspect and co-construct knowledge. My analysis of thek-alternation thus brings together the typology of epistemic grammar (Evans, Bergqvist, & San Roque, 2018a, 2018b), and a sociolinguistic perspective on stance (Jaffe, 2009).
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    Inflectional predictability and prosodic morphology in Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara
    Wilmoth, S ; Mansfield, J (SPRINGER, 2021-03-26)
    Lexically stipulated suppletive allomorphy, such as that found in inflection class systems, makes wordforms unpredictable because any one of several exponents may be used to express some morphosyntactic property set. However, recent research shows that apparently complex inflectional paradigms can be organised in such a way that knowing one inflected form of a lexeme greatly reduces the uncertainty of other forms (e.g. Ackerman and Malouf 2013). Further typological work is required to investigate the ways in which inflectional interpredictability is achieved, and what aspects of wordforms may be informative. In this paper we present a case study of interpredictability in verbal inflection in Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara (Pama-Nyungan; Australia). We show that a combination of suffix allomorphy, prosodically conditioned stem augmentation, and the prosodic structure of verbal roots all conspire to achieve a paradigm that is totally interpredictable: hearing one inflected verb enables a speaker to produce with certainty any other form of that verb. We also provide a detailed description of metrical structure in the language, clarifying previous analyses.
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    Clause chaining and the utterance phrase: Syntax-prosody mapping in Matukar Panau
    Mansfield, J ; Barth, D (DE GRUYTER POLAND SP Z O O, 2021-07-17)
    Clause chaining is a form of syntactic dependency holding between a series of clauses, typically expressing temporal or causal relations between events. Prosodic hierarchy theory proposes that syntactic constituents are systematically mapped to prosodic constituents, but most versions of the theory do not account for clause chain syntax. This article presents original data from Matukar Panau, a clause-chaining Oceanic (Austronesian) language of Papua New Guinea. The clause chain is a syntactic constituent in which final-clause TAM scopes over preceding clauses. There are also other types of multi-clausal structures, encompassing subordinate adverbial clauses, and verbless copula clauses, and we analyse all these as instances of the “syntactic sentence.” The syntactic sentence maps to a distinct prosodic domain, marked by the scaling of L% boundary tones, and we equate this domain with the “utterance phrase” posited in some versions of prosodic hierarchy theory. The prosodic characteristics of the Matukar Panau utterance phrase are similar to those found in non-chaining languages, but while other languages use this prosody to mark pragmatically related groups of clauses, in Matukar Panau it most commonly maps to a syntactic sentence.
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    Positional dependency in Murrinhpatha: expanding the typology of non-canonical morphotactics
    Nordlinger, R ; Mansfield, J (Walter de Gruyter GmbH, 2021-01-27)
    Principles of morphotactics are a major source of morphological diversity amongst the world’s languages, and it is well-known that languages exhibit many different types of deviation from a canonical ideal in which there is a unique and consistent mapping between function and form. In this paper we present data from Murrinhpatha (non-Pama-Nyungan, northern Australia) that demonstrates a type of non-canonical morphotactics so far unattested in the literature, one which we call positional dependency. This type is unusual in that the non-canonical pattern is driven by morphological form rather than by morphosyntactic function. In this case the realisation of one morph is dependent on the position in the verbal template of another morph. Thus, it is the linearisation of morphs that conditions the morphological realisation, not the morphosyntactic feature set. Positional dependency in Murrinhpatha thus expands our typology of content-form interactions and non-canonical morphotactics with implications for our understanding of morphological structure cross-linguistically.
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    Demorphologization and deepening complexity in Murrinhpatha.
    Mansfield, J ; Nordlinger, R ; Arkadiev, P ; Gardani, F (Oxford University Press, 2020-09-24)
    This volume explores the multiple aspects of morphological complexity, offering typological, acquisitional, sociolinguistic, and diachronic perspectives.
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    UniMorph 3.0: Universal morphology
    McCarthy, AD ; Kirov, C ; Grella, M ; Nidhi, A ; Xia, P ; Gorman, K ; Vylomova, E ; Mielke, SJ ; Nicolai, G ; Silfverberg, M ; Arkhangelskij, T ; Krizhanovsky, N ; Krizhanovsky, A ; Klyachko, E ; Sorokin, A ; Mansfield, J ; Ernštreits, V ; Pinter, Y ; Jacobs, CL ; Cotterell, R ; Hulden, M ; Yarowsky, D ; Calzolari, N (European Language Resources Association (ELRA), 2020-01-01)
    The Universal Morphology (UniMorph) project is a collaborative effort providing broad-coverage instantiated normalized morphological paradigms for hundreds of diverse world languages. The project comprises two major thrusts: a language-independent feature schema for rich morphological annotation and a type-level resource of annotated data in diverse languages realizing that schema. We have implemented several improvements to the extraction pipeline which creates most of our data, so that it is both more complete and more correct. We have added 66 new languages, as well as new parts of speech for 12 languages. We have also amended the schema in several ways. Finally, we present three new community tools: two to validate data for resource creators, and one to make morphological data available from the command line. UniMorph is based at the Center for Language and Speech Processing (CLSP) at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. This paper details advances made to the schema, tooling, and dissemination of project resources since the UniMorph 2.0 release described at LREC 2018.