Presenter: Cory Shain
Title: Measuring the perceptual availability of phonological features during language acquisition using unsupervised binary stochastic autoencoders (QP2)
Abstract: In this work, I deploy binary stochastic neural autoencoder networks as models of infant language learning in two typologically unrelated languages (Xitsonga and English). I show that the drive to model auditory percepts leads to latent clusters that partially align with theory-driven phonemic categories. I further evaluate the degree to which theory-driven phonological features are encoded in the latent bit patterns, finding that some (e.g. [+/-approximant]), are well represented by the network in both languages, while others (e.g. [+/-spread glottis]) are less so. Together, these findings suggest that many reliable cues to phonemic structure are immediately available to infants from bottom-up perceptual characteristics alone, but that these cues must eventually be supplemented by top-down lexical and phonotactic information to achieve adult-like phone discrimination. These results also suggest differences in degree of perceptual availability between features, yielding testable predictions as to which features might depend more or less heavily on top-down cues during child language acquisition.
Presenter: William Thomas
Title: The interaction of just with scalar predicates (QP1)
Abstract: The English discourse particle just has been analyzed as an exclusive, related to particles like only, merely, and exclusively (Horn 2000, Beaver and Clark 2008, Grosz 2012, Coppock and Beaver 2014). Beltrama (2018) has also provided an analysis for emphatic just, which strengthens extreme adjectives and certain other expressions. The existing literature, however, does not account for the full range of possible uses of just. Using data from the Corpus of Contemporary American English, I examine the meaning of just when it combines with scalar predicates. These uses of just differ from exclusives in that they place different constraints on the Current Question Under Discussion (CQ), and they do not comment that a contextually salient expectation is unmet. I argue that in general just increases the informativity of its prejacent, but how it does so depends on the CQ and properties of the scale associated with the predicate: In some cases, just reduces pragmatic slack to enforce a lower bound on the relevant scale, while in others it tightens truth conditions to enforce an upper bound on the scale. These observations are a step toward a complete template for the meaning of just.