School of Languages and Linguistics - Theses
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Street movements as media vehicles of the Brazilian New Right
The right-wing movements that dominated the streets in Sao Paulo, Brazil, from 2014 to 2018 are often viewed through a political lens. This thesis, which primarily focuses on Movimento Brasil Livre, VemPraRua and NasRuas (‘the movements’), takes a different approach and examines them from a media perspective. It exposes how the movements’ online discourses helped to form publics of the New Right through the popular sharing of their Facebook posts among their followers. These online discourses and publics have shown to have influenced the election of far-right president Jair Bolsonaro. By analysing the movements’ 2017 Facebook posts, interviewing their leaders and carrying out ethnographic fieldwork at street protests and other political events during the 2018 electoral period, this thesis reveals how the movements play a vital role in producing political commentary and constructing right-wing narratives, all which help to shape political debate in the public sphere. Through their usage of social media and production of online content, the movements act as media and propaganda vehicles of the New Right. Following an analysis of the movements’ Facebook posts, three broad discourses are identified including issues relating to corruption, economic arguments, and social and cultural debates, which make up the chapters of the thesis. The popular sharing of the movements’ Facebook posts among their followers signifies the formation of publics in line with the rhetoric they employ, including anti-corruption, neoliberal, punitive, conservative and anti-elite publics. However, detailed examination of the posts and ethnographic data reveal how these discourses are used strategically to engage in power struggles and cultural conflicts. Indeed, the movements are at once media, corruption accountability, cultural, as well as political institutions. This view of the movements, which focuses on their use of social media, increases understanding about them, their influence on public political debate and the formation of right-wing publics in Brazil.
Automated video difficulty assessment
Automated assessment of text difficulty has been recognized as one method for assisting language teachers, textbook publishers, curriculum specialists, test developers, and researchers to make more informed decisions when selecting texts for use in instruction and assessment. While there is a substantial body of work on written and spoken texts, research on videotext difficulty is very scarce. Through a series of studies, the aim of this research program was twofold: to investigate what makes a videotext difficult for language learners and to develop automated measures to help predict difficulty in videotexts. Constructed to be used in this thesis, the Second Language Video Complexity (SLVC) corpus contains 320 academic lectures and 320 government advertisements which were annotated by 322 intermediate language learners. In Study 1, the relative contribution of verbal complexity to videotext difficulty was examined. The results demonstrated that videotext difficulty was predicted by variation in pitch, lexical frequency and sophistication, and syntactic complexity. Study 2 sought to investigate the impact of visual complexity on learners’ perception of videotext difficulty. To this end, innovative computational measures to gauge visual complexity in videotexts were developed and integrated into the Automated Video Analysis (AUVANA) software. The findings of the study suggested that visual complexity contributes to videotext difficulty and their impact is on a par with that of verbal complexity. Moreover, the result of principal component analysis demonstrated that visual complexity is more likely a multifaceted and multidimensional construct, rather than a unitary construct. While Study 1 and Study 2 looked at verbal and visual complexity independently, Study 3 focused on the integration of multimodal complexity features into ensemble machine learning models. The findings showed that ensemble multimodal models outperformed unimodal models in predicting difficulty in both video genres. Finally, Study 4 sought to develop an unsupervised approach for forecasting video segment difficulty in real-time. Through leveraging more advanced and sophisticated AI algorithms, several neural network models were trained to forecast difficulty in a corpus of 34,363 video segments. Quantitative and qualitative analyses showed that the trained model performed very well in forecasting difficulty in unseen video segments. Taken together, this thesis makes clear contributions to the investigation of videotext difficulty assessment. In short, the findings of this thesis revealed the usefulness of automated measures for assessing and predicting videotext difficulty. Also, introduced and developed in this thesis new measures of videotext complexity and computational tools for analyzing, computing, and visualizing complexity in videotexts which may help researchers to perform fine-grain analysis of videotext complexity.
From Afropea to the Afro-Atlantic: A study of four novels by Léonora Miano and Fatou Diome
Recent research in the field of Francophone African literature has suggested that contemporary Sub-Saharan authors living and writing in Europe present in their works a fundamentally devalorising image of their continent of origin. This is said to be reflective of their inherently negative rapport with their Africanicity, a degraded collective identitarian perception that finds its roots in the French colonial project South of the Sahara. Other scholars have argued that Africa no longer features, as it did in the works of previous generations of Sub-Saharan authors, as an important reference point for contemporary African authors who have turned their literary attention towards their own individual lives and to those of other African migrants in Europe. These writers are, according to some, relatively disinterested in their continent of origin and in the people who live there. This thesis considers the textual representation of the African continent and Africanicity in the novels of two contemporary Sub-Saharan authors writing in French on Africa from Europe – Leonora Miano from Cameroon and Fatou Diome from Senegal. Although these two authors are readily making names for themselves in the French and African literary scenes, they remain less studied in academia than many Francophone African male writers and other Francophone African women writers who have been writing for longer. The study seeks to determine whether Diome and Miano present in their texts a devalorising image of Sub-Saharan Africa and Africanicity more broadly or, conversely, whether there is evidence in their fiction of a commitment to a project of collective Afro-identitarian revalorisation. This study demonstrates a marked evolution across four novels by Miano and Diome through the theoretical concept of Afro-diasporic consciousness informed and developed upon by theory drawn from postcolonial, diaspora and feminist literary studies. It comparatively analyses Diome’s Le Ventre de l’Atlantique (2003) and Miano’s L’interieur de la nuit (2005) followed by Diome’s Celles qui attendent (2010) and Miano’s Les aubes ecarlates: Sankofa cry (2009) to reveal the authors’ increasingly ardent commitment to rehabilitating and revalorising contemporary Africanicity through fiction. This revalorisation is shown to be dependent on movement beyond the bounds of binary and colonially-referential Afropea and towards transnational engagement with Africa’s Black Atlantic diaspora. The study ultimately suggests that Africa remains very much present in the literary and affective sensibilities of Miano and Diome.
The discursive construction of risk in Vietnamese communities
The concept of risk has become more central to contemporary societies, as we struggle to manage a range of perceived threats based on our understandings and associated practices under the discourses of risk. Studies of risk discourses, however, are often based on Western assumptions of rationality and individuality, which have not been deeply examined outside of Western cultures. Situated in the literature of risk and discourse, the study aims to investigate the discursive construction of risk in the contexts of non-Western societies. To fulfil this aim, the study examines how the discourse of risk is constructed in the media and in everyday life of Vietnamese communities via three case studies set in Vietnam. The case studies focus on the construction of risk discourses in the media and in the lived experiences of members of Vietnamese communities, with a particular focus on the experience of women vis-a-vis gender expectations in daily lives. In the case studies, I use the methodologies of multimodal discourse analysis based on Systemic Functional Theory, while drawing from ethnography and autoethnography to understand the situated meanings of risk as embedded in the lived experiences of Vietnamese women. Findings of the study highlight sociocultural values and practices in the construction of risk in Vietnamese communities, which extend beyond Western-centric epistemologies which currently dominate the field. The study informs new theories in risk discourse, forges new approaches to discourse research and holds significance for further work in risk communication.
‘For noble and valiant France’: French-Australian relations, French Australian identities during the First World War
This thesis investigates the perception, projection, and mobilisation of French identity in Australia during the First World War. Australia’s participation on the Western Front from 1916 onwards meant that more Australians than ever before had a tangible connection with France, and it became a place of trauma as well as fascination. Yet, from the beginning of the conflict, French identity, language, and culture took on a heightened significance in Australia. French-Australians and their networks of francophones and francophiles played an important role in shaping this mobilisation of identity and culture, despite their numerically small proportion of the population. Drawing on a wide variety of French and Australian sources, this thesis examines the responses of French-Australians to the war and analyses how French identity was expressed in both civilian and military contexts. This thesis represents the first study to incorporate an extensive use of French sources to examine Australia’s First World War experience, and to analyse the role played by French-Australian relations. The French sources, notably the French diplomatic archives, demonstrate that the discourse regarding French identity was driven by a diverse range of people, in multiple spheres, and on many levels of society. French-Australian connections and networks based on social, political, cultural, and linguistic identities reveal a transnational influence which is not widely known. From diplomats and government officials, to businessmen, soldiers, charity workers and the ordinary man on the street, many people took part in, and were influenced by, the discourse. In the public domain, French national identity, French cultural imagery and essentialised images of France and French people were linked to the rhetoric of patriotism and were used to influence public opinion and support for the war. On the home front, the French-Australian fundraising organisations drew on transnational connections and successfully combined cultural representations with patriotism and fundraising. In the military sphere, French national identity had implications for men of military age who were subject to French military service obligations, and their experiences reveal a wide range of opinions and attitudes towards French identity. Examining how French identity was projected and mobilised, by whom, and for what purpose, provides a new perspective from which to understand this pivotal period of Australian and French shared history.
Motivation and demotivation in second language learning at Australian universities
This research aims to identify the main factors underlying the motivation and demotivation of beginner students learning French, German, Italian and Spanish at Australian universities considering the context in which L2 learners are embedded. The theoretical basis for this research project is provided by previous studies on motivation and demotivation as listed by Dornyei (2001b; 2020b). The analysis of psychological/internal, pedagogical and socio-contextual/external variables involved in L2 learning (for an overview see Dornyei & Ushioda, 2011; Ushioda, 2020) is structured into three levels: micro, meso and macro (cf. Gayton, 2018; Gruba et al., 2016). The three levels correspond to three factors which emerged from a principal components analysis: the Psychology of the Language Learner (PLL), the Learning Experience (LE) and the Socio-cultural Environment (SCE). The continuous interaction of L2 learners with dynamics of power, trends and social fashions within the society (Larsen-Freeman, 2001) where they actively construct their own identities (Norton, 2013) aligns with mainstream poststructuralist views of learning processes (McNamara, 2011). Mixed methods design was utilised to explore students’ motivation and demotivation over two semesters. A questionnaire (cf. Oakes, 2013; Sakai & Kikuchi, 2009; Kikuchi, 2015) was completed by 719 students enrolled in a number of Australian universities in April/May 2018. 206 students out of the 719 students who participated in the first phase of the data collection then completed a second questionnaire in September 2018. A small group of students enrolled at the University of Melbourne were interviewed after the end of the first (June 2018) and the second semesters (October/November 2018). Both quantitative and qualitative data analysis support the idea that all three factors at the three levels of analysis play a crucial role in student motivation and demotivation. Changes in motivation and demotivation were also observed during a year of L2 studies at university. Psychological and pedagogical reactions to the L2 learning process are deemed increasingly important for students over time, while the socio-cultural environment affects students’ interest in learning an L2 depending on their personal experience of an L2 in a specific context. Differences across the four L2 cohorts were also identified and explored.
Teaching Standard Australian English as a second dialect to Australian Indigenous children in primary school classrooms
Second Dialect Acquisition (SDA) might represent a conceptually different task to that of Second Language Acquisition (SLA) for three main related reasons. Firstly, the learner’s ability to ‘notice’ dialect differences due to the shared linguistic features of the two dialects, might make separation more difficult (Siegel, 2010b, p. 68; Wolfram & Schilling-Estes, 1998, p. 287). Secondly, due to the linguistic overlap between two related dialects, it is thought that speakers make themselves generally understood by one another and dialect differences can be considered ‘communicatively redundant’ (Long, 2007, p. 62). It has also been said that this can impact upon the learner’s motivation (Berry & Hudson, 1997) or levels of ‘investment’ (Peirce, 1995; Nero, 2014) in acquiring a second dialect. Lastly, the relationship between the two dialects can represent societal systems of inequality (Bourdieu, 1991) and therefore the identities of second dialect learners and their investment to learn the standard form needs to be positioned within this power dynamic (Malcolm & Koningsberg, 2001, p. 27; Peirce, 1995). In this thesis, two cross-sectional studies were undertaken. Firstly, Indigenous primary school aged children (6 to 12-years old) in Far North Queensland who spoke English as an additional language and/or dialect (EAL/D) (n = 54) participated in two tasks designed to understand whether dialect differences were noticed: elicited imitation of Standard Australian English (SAE) target sentences and an alternative forced choice task that asked participants whether two utterances were, verbatim, the “same” or “different”. Results were compared with native monolingual SAE speakers (n = 44) who did the same tasks. Secondly, a teaching intervention of three lessons that employed the ‘contrastive approach’ to SDA was conducted with Yarrie Lingo (YL) speaking participants in years 1, 3 and 5 (n = 27) to explore differences between YL and SAE and hopefully, improve participants’ ability to “notice” the differences. Findings showed that dialect differences were not always noticed for all participants, but for the EAL/D groups it was far more difficult to notice the grammatical features of SAE, and some features were more salient or readily acquired than others. Over the years of schooling, participants’ ability to notice the targeted SAE grammatical items improved. The teaching intervention showed that the YL group found it very difficult to effectively separate the two languages and code-switch between them, despite their explicit knowledge of the grammatical rules, suggesting SDA is potentially more difficult due to the slight linguistic distance between their first dialect, D1 and their second, D2. The argument for communicative redundancy is less convincing. In the space of a simple sentence, dialect differences were found to be communicatively redundant 29-30% of the time, which seems like a lot, but more often than not, the meaning was lost. In longer stretches of communication that extend beyond a simple sentence, particularly in the context of the academic demands of schooling, it is very likely that there will be a breakdown in communication between a YL speaker and an SAE speaker. Findings suggest that SDA presents a greater challenge not just for the slight linguistic differences between D1 and D2, but also for the complex social, cultural, historical and political factors that underpin D1 and D2 as nonstandard and standard languages. The argument presented is that children’s linguistic identities are crucial in SDA and that instruction must start there. Consequently, traditional hierarchical understandings of language awareness developmental processes, such as those described in the language awareness continuum (Angelo & Carter, 2015) need to be rethought. They position an examination of the social and historical factors influencing language in society as a higher order skill that is developed after language awareness and standard language proficiency is gained through contrastive analysis. This study suggests that students are unlikely to engage with contrastive analysis and standard language acquisition in a meaningful way, without first addressing their social and cultural realities. It is evident, however, that the learning needs of Indigenous Australian children who are acquiring SAE as a second dialect in the Australian schooling system, are not fully understood. Current research lacks evidence. This study sought to address this void, in doing so, it illustrates how linguistically and socially complex the situation is. SDA appears to significantly differ from traditional SLA in some very important and challenging ways, but much more research is urgently needed to address present-day inequities for Indigenous EAL/D learners in the schooling system.
Heroides ventriloquism in the Italian Baroque
Sixteen-hundred years after the Roman elegist Ovid’s ‘Heroides’ (c15–5 BCE) articulated the lament of abandoned heroines (and one historical figure: Sappho) writing and responding to their heroes, several male baroque poets re-ventriloquised Ovid’s epistolary interlocutors. Leading seventeenth-century literary presence Giambattista Marino was himself an early exponent of the form, which he describes as “imitated from Ovid” (“imitate da Ovidio”) in his ‘Lira’ (1614 CE). My research considers why and how these little-studied Seicento texts—produced by Marinist circles affiliated with the libertine Venetian Accademia degli Incogniti—reinterpret Ovid’s ventriloquism, and what this indicates about seventeenth-century attitudes toward gendered writing. A largely overlooked niche in the reception of Ovid’s unique elegies, many of these baroque poems are yet to be examined by scholars. My close readings compare the new ‘updates’ to popular early modern Latin and vernacular Italian ‘Heroides’ editions of the seventeenth century, revealing the significance of Ovid's collection for the dominance of elite men in Marinist literary culture.
Russian word order: the pragmatics of unconventional verb-initial types
In Russian, the statistically dominant order of the subject and the verb in the clause is SVO. However, in a number of linguistic environments, the verb precedes the subject, either following a language convention or establishing an unconventional pattern. This research project provides an account of unconventional verb-initial patterns (VIPs) – namely, VSO, VOS and VS – considering both the syntactic and the pragmatic factors that influence their occurrence in written discourse. Building on previous research of early Russian texts, this study extends the scope of investigation and analyses texts from six different genres and/or time periods: 15th-century travel diary, 18th-19th-century travel diaries, 19th-century classic folk tales, 20th-century narratives, 21st-century modern tales, and 21st-century blog entries. It is argued that unconventional VIPs are best understood within a single analytical framework which addresses pattern variation, information structure and communicative effects of VSO, VOS and VS word order combinations. Previous research accounted, to some extent, for the use of verb-initial word order variations in oral and written discourse, as grammatical, syntactic and, above all, stylistic means of information packaging. Specifically, the theory of functional sentence perspective has provided valuable insight into the information structure of Russian sentence elements, with individual studies outlining the pragmatic effects of using particular VIPs. However, there has been limited empirical investigation of unconventional VIPs across a range of genres and time periods, and little to no attention given to the significance of pattern variation within and across VIPs. Overall, the results of this study show that the use of unconventional VIPs has not only declined over the modern Russian period, but that there is substantial variation across genres, both in terms of the VSO, VOS and VS groups of patterns and in terms of their correlation with information structure and communicative effects. Furthermore, the study reveals that across the six corpora: VOS patterns are infrequent, compared to VSO and VS combinations; VS modified by adjuncts is the most frequently occurring VIP; and VSO without adjuncts (i.e. pure VSO) with Split Rheme information structure is the strongest correlation of word order and information structure. Furthermore, VSO combinations also strongly correlate with discourse management effects in all corpora and with syntactic communicative effects in the 18th-19th-century travel diaries, while VS patterns produce both syntactic and stylistic communicative effects in the 15th-century travel diary. Moreover, the second most prominent group of communicative effects is discourse management devices, particularly, in the 20th-century narratives and the 21st-century modern tales, which are produced by unconventional VIPs with Split Rheme information structure. Rhematised Verb information structure producing stylistic communicative effects was found to be a feature of the 19th-century classic folk tales, whereas Clause Focus producing stylistic effects were found to be a feature of 21st-century blog entries. Finally, this study shows that the 15th-century travel diary stands apart from the five modern Russian corpora in terms of pattern variation, information packaging and pragmatic use, signalling that more research of this early Russian period is warranted.
Linguistic landscapes of Chinese communities in Australia
Deeper and wider processes of globalisation have contributed to increased mobility in society. As more people move across borders along with their personal histories, cultures and languages, transnational places and diaspora communities have become ideal sites of research (Arnaut, Blommaert, Rampton, & Spotti, 2016; Pennycook & Otsuji, 2015). Recently, there has been unprecedented interest in sociolinguistic phenomena in superdiverse, metropolitan cities, giving rise to the emergence of linguistic landscape research. Linguistic landscape originally referred to the languages used on publicly visible street signs, such as shop signs, advertisements and road signs (Ben-Rafael, Shohamy, Amara, & Trumper-Hecht, 2006). Later, the definition was expanded to account for the use of all semiotic resources, including linguistic forms, in the public arena (Jaworski & Thurlow, 2010). Despite ongoing efforts to document and describe urban landscapes in different parts of the world (Blackwood, Lanza, & Woldemariam, 2016), little work to date has attempted to formulate a comprehensive response to recent trends in linguistic landscape research. As a fledgling field of study, linguistic landscape research has received wide criticism for employing a crude type of quantitative analysis that regards languages as clearly definable units (Blommaert, 2019). The fact that the linguistic landscape perspective can incorporate different fields of sociolinguistics, such as research on minority languages, also raises questions about its theoretical and methodological paths (Van Mensel, Vandenbrouke, & Blackwood, 2017). Drawing on frameworks grounded in geosemiotics (Scollon & Scollon, 2003), superdiversity (Blommaert, 2013) and metrolingualism (Pennycook, 2017), this thesis aims to interrogate the theory, methodology, framing of power and relevance of linguistic landscape research. For this purpose, I employ an ethnographically oriented approach to examine three complex case studies of the linguistic landscapes of Chinese communities in Victoria, Australia. Throughout the thesis, I gradually construct the coherent argument that linguistic landscape research benefits from a geosemiotic theory, an ethnographic methodology, a social semiotic perspective to power relations and an exploration of social media landscape. Findings of the three case studies shed light on how semiotic resources are purposefully employed to construct nostalgia, power and identity. Overall, the thesis expands the theoretical and methodological reach of linguistic landscape research by interrogating the urban-centric perspective, adopting an assemblage view of sign systems, offering a triadic framework for power relations, and pushing the boundaries of linguistic landscapes.
Acoustic cues to prominence and phrasing in bilingual speech
This dissertation investigates the prosodic structure of French and the Oceanic language Drehu, spoken by a small bilingual community on the island of Lifou, in the South Pacific. Lifou is a remote island belonging to the archipelago of New Caledonia, localised more than 16000 km away from mainland France. Although officially a French overseas territory, live in Lifou is to a large degree organised according to customary tradition of the indigenous population, the Kanak people. There is no obvious societal majority language on the island and French and Drehu are commonly spoken by the indigenous population, who make up the majority of the inhabitants. The aim of this examination is to develop a phonetic prosodic model for the two languages and determine whether there are effects of prosodic transfer between the two languages of bilingual speakers. Of particular interest is the the phonetic description of prominence and phrasing of the two languages for a categorisation of their prosodic typology. This thesis presents five studies dealing with (i) the acoustics of Drehu word prosody, (ii) the acoustic correlates of intonational structure in Lifou French, (iii) the acoustic durational properties of Lifou French, (iv) the acoustics of prominence marking and phrasing in Drehu, and (v) acoustic cues used in word recognition in Drehu and French. The speech and perception data for these studies were collected during four field work trips to the island of Lifou, where more than 100 adult and teenage speakers participated. To investigate processing in the French language and incorporate a monolingual control group, additional experimental work was conducted in the facilities of the Laboratoire Parole et Langage, Aix Marseille University, CNRS, in Aix-en-Provence, in metropolitan France. A variety of methods, typically used in laboratory phonology, such as controlled reading tasks or a forced choice word identification experiment were employed. For exploration and interpretation of the data, all five studies include a statistical analysis. This work puts forward a revised model of Drehu word prosody and postulates an intonation phonological account of the language. In addition, the intonational phonology of Lifou French is documented, providing the first description of this previously undocumented variety. Building on this descriptive work and taking into consideration previous phonetic research on the speech production and prosody of bilingual speakers, the role of sociolinguistic motivations and functional constraints is discussed. This dissertation highlights the relevance of applying detailed acoustic descriptions to under-documented languages which are poorly understood regarding their prosodic systems. It contributes to the documentation of the languages in the Oceanic region and advances our understanding of bilingual speech processes.
Situated, embodied, distributed: interaction and cognition in the orchestra
The orchestral ensemble exists as a group of people who come together to prepare for public performance of music and has done so for several hundred years. In this thesis I examine the interactions which occur during this process in a current day professional orchestra. My focus is on analysing how members of the orchestra, the orchestral organisation and the conductor use their bodies, artefacts, time and space. My approach to examining these behaviours is informed by social interaction methodologies and theories of distributed cognition. Chapter 5 presents an ethnographic account of the construction of space and delineation of time for rehearsal. I examine how the City Symphony Orchestra (CSO) and their management use both space and time to prioritise and privilege the work of the orchestra. Chapter 6 focuses on conductor gestures and I use this analysis to argue that the gestures are complex with components occurring simultaneously as well as sequentially. I argue that conductor gesture creates its own context as it is deployed interactionally and is deeply embedded within social and cultural context. I use the theory of composite utterances to demonstrate that conductor gesture is more than a simple single sign per semantic unit. Chapter 7 considers how orchestral musicians organise their cognition within the physical and social environment of the rehearsal. I show that orchestral musicians distribute their cognition across their bodies, other interactants and culturally constructed artefacts. I further argue that understanding musician cognition in this way allows us to see that the very purpose of orchestral rehearsal is to transform the internal, individual cognition into the external and shared. Chapter 8 shifts the focus of analysis onto the talk-based interaction between conductor, concertmaster and other players within the rehearsal. I approach this talk using analysis which allows me to focus on the epistemic stance taking that occurs. I show that musicians are highly aware of sources of knowledge and knowing within the rehearsal process. I argue that musicians use their own bodies as sources of knowing and orient to them as important to the rehearsal interaction. Chapter 9 presents an ethnographic account of a CSO performance and considers the orchestra as a social situation. I argue that observability and monitoring occur across the social situation in both visual and aural modalities but that the access to others is asymmetrically constructed by the social roles of the orchestra. I focus on the first violin section using the leadership gestural actions as an example of this asymmetry. Chapter 10 discusses my analyses and proposes several novel contributions to existing research on how stance taking occurs in group interactions. This research is based on original fieldwork with an orchestra referred to by the pseudonym ‘City Symphony Orchestra’ (CSO) within this thesis.