Course information for Monday & Tuesday afternoon sessions

Running online experiments in linguistics

Dr Amy Perfors, The University of Melbourne

Linguistic research increasingly requires behavioural experiments, whether they involve teaching people artificial languages, crowdsourcing linguistic judgments, generating linguistic stimuli, or any of a huge number of potential applications. Online participant pools such as Prolific Academic or Amazon Mechanical Turk have made it possible to run such experiments extremely rapidly and reasonably cost-effectively. However, using these platforms requires researchers to be able to put their experiments online, which is not always straightforward – especially if the experiments are any more complicated than a simple survey. This course is designed to fill that gap.

In this course I’ll be focusing on giving you the basic skills you need so that you can bootstrap yourself the rest of the way up to designing, implementing, and hosting your own custom behavioural experiments. As such it is focused on technical skills and will not focus on linguistic content (except in the examples) but the skills that will be taught are those that are most important for people aiming to design linguistic experiments.

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Prof Janet Fletcher, Dr Debbie Loakes and Dr Rosey Billington, The University of Melbourne

Prosody is a fundamental feature of spoken language, yet aspects of speech prosody are often under-investigated in linguistic description, and can present specific kinds of analytical challenges. Our models of prosodic typology, for example, are still based on well-resourced languages for the most part, although this situation is rapidly changing. In this short course we will cover basic elements of speech prosody and explore current theoretical models of prosodic representation, including autosegmental-metrical approaches to intonation, and offer practical suggestions for getting started with prosodic analyses. Topics will include:

  • Definitions of prosody.
  • Components of prosody (stress, tone, rhythm, phrasing) and their phonological representation.
  • Phonetic expression of components of prosody and how they relate to and interact with one another.
  • Linguistic and paralinguistic functions of prosodic elements.
  • Ways of incorporating prosodic data collection in language documentation projects, and approaches to using existing corpora for analyses of prosodic patterns.
  • Modelling prosody and intonation in under-described languages, and procedures for establishing and refining intonation analyses of less well-resourced languages.

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Polynesian Languages

Dr Sally Akevai Nicholas, Massey University

The Polynesian language family is a subgroup of the large Austronesian language family and includes all the languages from with what’s called the Polynesian triangle, as well as some languages from other places to the west.  Polynesia is often described as being remote, but from the Polynesian perspective this seems backwards. In this short course we will learn about the history and some elements of the contemporary linguistic context for Polynesian peoples and languages. Many examples will come from Cook Islands Māori or New Zealand Māori.

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Semiotic diversity in sign languages and spoken languages

Prof Trevor Johnston, Macquarie University

Most linguists with no direct experience or knowledge of signed languages appear to take the lexical and grammatical descriptions of these languages, as well as statements as to their relevance to particular theoretical debates and theories of language, at face value. However, when encountering other spoken languages they have no personal experience of, they actively critically evaluate the accounts they read, especially when they represent first descriptions of previously undocumented languages. A major aim of this course is to encourage linguists to adopt more critical stance towards the mainstream view of signed languages structure that they will regularly find in linguistics textbooks or in the introduction to papers on psycholinguistic, neurolinguistic and typological studies comparing signed languages with each other, or with spoken languages.

To this end, in this short course I examine the claims made in the literature about the characteristics of sign languages that show them to be “just like spoken languages”, but I then argue that the types of spoken languages and the theoretical models of (spoken) language that lie at the basis of this conclusion have led to a number of misconceptions among otherwise well-informed linguists. I look at the type of semiotic diversity that neo-Peircean semiotics and the study of co-speech gesture and multi-modality in language are revealing about all face-to-face language communication to re-frame what is shared between both signed and spoken language and thus what it is we mean by what is language and what is linguistic.

Detailed course information

  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University