School of Languages and Linguistics - Research Publications

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    Bridging Australian Indigenous language learner’s guides with SLA materials development frameworks
    Chiang, Y-T ; Zhao, Y ; Nordlinger, R (Taylor and Francis Group, 2022)
    The learner’s guide (LG) is a genre of pedagogical materials for Australian Indigenous languages, but LGs developed by field linguists are often questioned regarding their capacity to effectively facilitate language learning and, eventually, language revitalisation. This reflects a gap in the literature where applied linguistics perspectives are limited in Indigenous language studies, and vice versa. This study aims to address this gap by examining nine existing LGs published over the past four decades using a modified framework based on Tomlinson’s guidelines for second language acquisition (SLA) materials development. Findings show that the LGs are designed based on one of the three model types: (1) Type 1: non-communicative grammar-based, (2) Type 2: practice-integrated grammar-based, and (3) Type 3: text-driven meaning-based, among which the text-driven model has, theoretically speaking, the best potential to achieve pedagogical purposes. Yet, in general, existing LGs likely fail to equip learners with communicative competence. Other issues of greater complexity are also raised, including material comprehensibility and limited resources. A critical implication for the field is the necessity of empirical needs analyses for future LG development.
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    Sentence planning and production in Murrinhpatha, an Australian 'free word order' language
    Nordlinger, R ; Rodriguez, GG ; Kidd, E (Linguistic Society of America, 2022-06-01)
    Psycholinguistic theories are based on a very small set of unrepresentative languages, so it is as yet unclear how typological variation shapes mechanisms supporting language use. In this article we report the first on-line experimental study of sentence production in an Australian free word order language: Murrinhpatha. Forty-six adult native speakers of Murrinhpatha described a series of unrelated transitive scenes that were manipulated for humanness (±human) in the agent and patient roles while their eye movements were recorded. Speakers produced a large range of word orders, consistent with the language having flexible word order, with variation significantly influenced by agent and patient humanness. An analysis of eye movements showed that Murrinhpatha speakers’ first fixation on an event character did not alone determine word order; rather, early in speech planning participants rapidly encoded both event characters and their relationship to each other. That is, they engaged in relational encoding, laying down a very early conceptual foundation for the word order they eventually produced. These results support a weakly hierarchical account of sentence production and show that speakers of a free word order language encode the relationships between event participants during earlier stages of sentence planning than is typically observed for languages with fixed word orders.
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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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    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.