Submitted Theses

Thesis: The relationship between speech perception and word learning at the initial state of second language acquisition

Samra Alispahic

PhD: Samra Alispahic

Submission year: 2017

Supervisors: Paola Escudero

CoEDL node: Western Sydney University 

CoEDL program: Processing

Abstract:

The goal of most adult second language (L2) learners is to confidently and efficiently communicate in their target L2. However, this task is not easy. In order to produce new L2 words a learner first needs to perceive the sounds that comprise these words. Considered effortless in one’s native language (L1), distinguishing novel L2 phonemes can be quite difficult for adult learners, and difficulties in L2 speech perception are often attributed to the negative transfer effects of the L1. Research suggests that the size of the L2 vowel inventory relative to the L1 inventory may affect the discrimination and acquisition of L2 vowels. Specifically, if the L1 has a smaller L1 vowel inventory than the L2 this may obstruct L2 vowel perception, while if the L1 has a larger vowel inventory it often facilitates vowel perception. However, the Second Language Linguistic Perception (L2LP) model specifies that it is the L1-L2 acoustic relationships that predict L2 vowel perception, regardless of L1 vowel inventory size. 

Thesis: The core of Mangarla grammar

PhD: Brigitte Agnew

Submission year: 2020

Supervisors: Nick Thieberger

CoEDL node: University of Melbourne

CoEDL program: Archiving/Shape

Abstract:

Mangarla is a Pama-Nyungan language of the Marrngu subgroup, originally spoken in the Great Sandy Desert of Western Australia. Today, the language is severely endangered with a small number of speakers living in disparate communities outside of traditional lands. This work describes the core grammatical features of Mangarla and examines its linguistic connections to other languages in the region, both related and typologically unrelated, providing insight into the fluidity of individual language varieties in contact.

Thesis: Temporal, aspectual and modal expression in Anindilyakwa, the language of the Groote Eylandt Archipelago, Australia

James BednallPhD: James Bednall

Submission year: 2020

Supervisors: Jane Simpson & Patrick Caudal

CoEDL node: Australian National University

CoEDL program: Shape

Abstract:

This thesis provides an empirically driven and theoretically informed examination of temporal, aspectual and modal (TAM) expression in Anindilyakwa, an underdescribed and underdocumented Gunwinyguan language of the Groote Eylandt archipelago, north-east Arnhem Land, Australia. The goals of the thesis are both descriptive and theoretical. The first is to provide a detailed description of some of the core grammatical properties of Anindilyakwa, particularly related to the verbal complex. This descriptive goal is linked to, and builds the infrastructure for, the second goal of the thesis: to provide a theoretically-informed examination of temporal, aspectual and modal expression and interaction in Anindilyakwa, thus contributing towards (and building upon) research in the area of TAM semantics and pragmatics (and their interfaces with morpho-syntax). The original contribution of this thesis lies in the cross-section between theoretically-informed morpho-syntactic, semantic and pragmatic approaches to TAM expression in natural languages, and the exploration and examination of this domain in a fieldwork and language documentation setting: how do underdescribed languages inform our understanding of this domain, and how should we approach the documentation of these concepts in the field? Anindilyakwa is a particularly interesting language to examine in this regard, given the polysynthetic nature and complex morphological make-up and combinatorics of the verb. Inflectionally, TAM expression is realised through the combination of (at least) two discontinuous morphological slots of the verb structure. In addition to the complex morphological combinatorics of the verbal structure, this inflectional system displays widespread aspectuo-temporal underspecification, coupled with a widespread lack of contrastiveness in many of the paradigmatic forms (i.e. syncretism). Thus, unpacking and understanding these inflectional verbal properties, with respect to TAM expression, is where the core of this thesis lies. This comprehensive semantic and morpho-syntactic investigation into the TAM system of Anindilyakwa contributes not only to the description of this underdocumented language, but it also bolsters the representation of understudied (particularly non-European) languages that have received detailed TAM study, ensuring that future cross-linguistic typological work on TAM has access to richer data in a wider sample of the world's languages.

Rosey Billington

Thesis: The phonetics and phonology of the Lopit language

PhD: Rosey Billington

Submission year: 2017

Supervisors: Janet Fletcher & Brett Baker

CoEDL node: University of Melbourne

CoEDL program: Processing

Abstract:

This thesis is an investigation of the sound system of Lopit, an Eastern Nilotic (Nilo-Saharan) language traditionally spoken in South Sudan. The primary aim of this study is to develop a phonetically-based description of aspects of Lopit segmental and tonal phonology, with a focus on the Dorik variety of the language.

Thesis: Semantic scaffolding: the co-construction of visualization meaning through reader experience

Lydia Byrne

PhD: Lydia Byrne

Submission year: 2018

Supervisors: Daniel Angus & Janet Wiles

CoEDL node: University of Queensland

CoEDL program: Technology

Abstract:

This thesis is an investigation of the sound system of Lopit, an Eastern Nilotic (Nilo-Saharan) language traditionally spoken in South Sudan. The primary aim of this study is to develop a phonetically-based description of aspects of Lopit segmental and tonal phonology, with a focus on the Dorik variety of the language.

Thesis: I’m Talking tú vos: A Comparative Study of Morphosyntactic Variation and Change in the Chilean Second-person Singular

Matthew CallaghanPhD: Matthew Callaghan

Submission year: 2020

Supervisors: Catherine Travis

CoEDL node: Australian National University

CoEDL program: Evolution

Abstract:

This thesis reports a real and apparent time Variationist study of a change in progress in the second person singular (2sg) system in Chilean Spanish. In this variety, speakers manage two 2sg familiar pronominal and verbal paradigms: tu and corresponding tuteo verb forms as in (1), and vos with corresponding voseo verb forms (2), although both occur most frequently with a 0 pronoun (3). The two familiar paradigms can also mix, as seen in (4). (1) Tu tienes ahorros. You -TU have-TUTEO savings. (2) o sea vos no tenis ningun concierto. In other words you-VOS have-VOSEO no concert. (3) ..cuando tengas la posibilidad de conocer, When you-0 have-TUTEO the chance to see, tenis que ir. You-0 have-VOSEO to go. (4) ... Pero tu tenis que trabajar po. But you-TU have-VOSEO to work. (From CCSS) Traditionally described as stigmatised and restricted to lower socio-economic groups (e.g. Alonso and Lida, 1940: 54), since the 1960s voseo verb forms (often disguised by a tu or 0 pronoun) have expanded to the speech of all social classes (e.g. Morales Pettorino, 1972). Indeed, Torrejon (1986: 682) hypothesised that they might one day replace tuteo as the universal standard form of address for educated Chileans in informal situations with familiar interlocutors. Although there has been some recent Variationist work (e.g. Bishop and Michnowicz, 2010, Rivadeneira Valenzuela, 2016, Fernandez-Mallat, 2018), there is still much to be learned about the real usage of voseo in spontaneous conversation. Analysing approximately 3200 tokens from two stratified corpora of conversational Chilean Spanish recorded in the 1970s (the Habla culta ('educated speech') corpus (Rabanales and Contreras, 1979, 1990)) and 2010s (the Corpus of Conversational Santiago Spanish (CCSS) recorded by the researcher), respectively, this study explores three main themes: (i) the nature of the reported change; (ii) the relative degree of stigmatisation of the vos pronoun and voseo verb forms (e.g. Stevenson, 2007: 93); and given the rapid change, mixing of the paradigms and general lack of metalinguistic awareness about voseo (e.g. Hummel, 2010: 111-12), (iii) the extent to which speakers distinguish two separate paradigms, or conflate them into a single paradigm. As well as confirming an increasing rate of voseo in real and apparent time, multivariate analyses of social factors examine stigmatisation, while priming and subject expression results address the question of speaker awareness. Subsequent analyses, using the Variationist Comparative Method (Poplack and Tagliamonte, 2001), compare the social and linguistic constraints governing variation in the speech of speakers 35 or under versus those over 35 in the CCSS, to provide a fine-grained picture of grammatical change. Not only do rates differ, but we see weakening of constraints, with some lost entirely, and others completely reversed. Analyses of speaker effects highlight the impact of data distribution across different contexts on the observed patterns. Inspection of lexical effects reveals the key role that one highly frequent fossilised form, cachai, may have played in promoting the change. Results show that (1) the reported change is well advanced; (2) linguistic behaviour is not inconsistent with claims of stigmatisation, but effects are much more pronounced with the pronoun than the verb forms; and (3) despite a reported emphasis on pronouns and relative obliviousness to verbal morphology, speakers of Chilean Spanish are highly sensitive to the existence of two separate 2sg paradigms, which they are able to keep separate, and use adeptly for negotiating sociolinguistic meaning.

Thesis: The Ngkolmpu Language with special reference to distributed exponence

Matthew Carroll

PhD: Matthew Carroll

Submission year: 2016

Supervisors: Nicholas Evans & I Wayan Arka

CoEDL node: Australian National University 

CoEDL program: Shape

Abstract:

The Ngkolmpu language of southern New Guinea is notable for the remarkable extent to which grammatical values are distributed across multiple morphosyntactic systems in the language. This is most apparent in the extremely complex inflectional morphology of verbs, where the exponence of morphosyntactic feature values is distributed over a number of inflectional sites, such that determining the exact value of any given feature requires unification at multiple structural locations. Moreover, this phenomenon is not restricted to the inflectional morphology, and permeates the morphology, syntax and semantics of the language. This thesis provides the first comprehensive description of the phonology, morphology and nominal and clausal syntax of Ngkolmpu.

Thesis: Placing spatial language and cognition in context through an investigation of Bininj Kunwok navigation talk

Claudia CialonePhD: Claudia Cialone

Submission year: 2019

Supervisors: Nicholas Evans, Evan Kidd, Danielle Barth & Mark Ellison

CoEDL node: Australian National University 

CoEDL program: Shape & Learning

Abstract:

The broad questions asked in this PhD thesis are: How do Bininj Kunwok people from Western Arnhem Land navigate in the bush? Why do they navigate that way, and how do they verbalize their orientation systems? The motivation behind these questions is to expand our understanding of the way humans rely on and use language during spatial navigation. Spatial navigation is more than a decision-making, memory, and planning process. 

Thesis: Symbolic Play and Language Acquisition: The Dynamics of Infant-Caretaker Communication during Symbolic Play

Noelie CreaghePhD: Noelie Creaghe

Submission year: 2020

Supervisors: Evan Kidd

CoEDL node: Australian National University 

CEDL program: Processing

Abstract:

Infant symbolic play and language acquisition have long been linked. While both activities are inherently social and their acquisition is typically scaffolded by a competent other (Vygotsky, 1978), most studies investigating the symbolic play-language link have considered it in contexts of solitary play. This thesis examines the dynamic nature of the relationship in a semi-naturalistic setting. Fifty-two infant-caretaker dyads engaged in a 20-minute play session that manipulated play type through the use of different toy sets (symbolic versus non-symbolic).

Thesis: Allies and adversaries: categories in Murrinhpatha speaking children's talk

Lucinda Davidson

PhD: Lucinda Davidson

Submission year: 2018

Supervisors: Gillian Wigglesworth, Barbara Kelly, Rachel Nordlinger & Joe Blythe

CoEDL node: University of Melbourne

CoEDL program: Learning

Abstract:

This thesis investigates the linguistic and cultural resources that eight Indigenous children draw on when they pursue affiliative and disaffiliative actions in talk with peers. These children are L1 speakers of Murrinhpatha, a traditional Australian language spoken in and around the remote Aboriginal community of Wadeye, in the north of Australia. Just as the linguistic context these children are growing up in is unique, so is their sociocultural context. While increasingly informed by Western culture, Murrinhpatha speaking society at Wadeye is still to a large degree organised around traditional Aboriginal identity categories, involving connections to ‘country’ and ‘totem’, as well as more universal categories such as gender.

Thesis: Alyawarr children's variable present temporal reference expression in two, closely-related languages of Central Australia

Sally Dixon

PhD: Sally Dixon

Supervisors: Jane Simpson, Gillian Wigglesworth, Catherine Travis & Johanna Rendle-ShortSubmission year: 2017

CoEDL node: University of Queensland

CoEDL program: Shape

Abstract:

In a small, remote central Australian community, young children go about their daily lives mainly speaking Alyawarr English (AlyE), a new Central Australian contact language. At school they are acquiring Standard Australian English (SAE) as a second language. Much of what they encounter in SAE will seem familiar and much will be obviously different. In between, there will be many subtle differences that are possibly harder to detect, parse and maintain. This study investigates this remarkable bi-varietal language use, considering whether separate ‘codes’ are indeed evidenced, how they can be quantitatively modelled, and what they tell us about the impact of formal similarity between languages and emerging bilingualism.

Open access: https://openresearch-repository.anu.edu.au/handle/1885/125033

Thesis: Variation in Raga A quantitative and qualitative study of the language of North Pentecost, Vanuatu

Marie-France DuhamelPhD: Marie-France Duhamel

Supervisors: Nick Evans

Submission year: 2020

CoEDL node: Australian National University 

CoEDL program: Wellsprings

Abstract:

If we are to understand global linguistic diversity, we must first understand the mechanisms which engender and maintain it. This is what the Wellsprings of Linguistic Diversity project (Australian National University, 2014-2019) aims to examine by studying variation in small communities of the Australasia-Pacific region. Within the framework of the Wellsprings project, this thesis investigates the existence and spread of linguistic variation in the speech community of Raga, on the island of Pentecost, in linguistically diverse Vanuatu. It is primarily a field study, firmly grounded in the survey of social and linguistic data collected in 2015-2017 in north Pentecost, from 58 men and women representing three generations of speakers. This thesis examines variables in three different linguistic domains: use of possessive classifiers (morpho-syntactic); frequency of borrowing from Bislama and nativisation strategies (lexical); and deletion of the phonemic velar fricative (phonological). Quantitative analysis has confirmed intergenerational and intergender variation for the lexical and phonological variables. In a corpus demonstrating an overall low rate of borrowing (1.6%), the findings show that women and younger speakers borrow more frequently from Bislama than the other speakers. Young men are more prone to deleting the velar fricative, perhaps modelling their speech on consonant-dropping prestigious older men. Raga presents no regional diversity and little innovation from the reconstructed proto forms. These features set the language apart within the Vanuatu high-diversity context, and this study also investigates the mechanisms of uniformisation that inhibit the spread of innovative variants in this community of 6,500 speakers. Several factors combine to favour the linguistic conservatism exhibited by Raga. Endogamous marriage practices, maintenance of strong ties with relatives over long distances and generations, reliance on customary mutual obligations, high socio-historical status of the Raga society, and practice of a single religion all impact on the homogeneity of avoana ata raga 'the language of Raga'. With the notable exception of Meyerhoff's studies of Nkep (Meyerhoff 2015, 2016, 2017a, 2017b), there has been little attempt at probing linguistic variability in the recorded natural speech of diverse speakers of a language of Vanuatu. This thesis adds to the body of research that addresses this gap. The thesis also highlights the value of investigating languages in their social context, and in close collaboration with native speakers. This bottom-up approach is essential in identifying and untangling the factors at play in the complex history of Vanuatu's linguistic diversity.

Open access: https://openresearch-repository.anu.edu.au/handle/1885/205516

Thesis: The role of the native language in non-native perception and spoken word recognition: English vs. Spanish learners of Portuguese

Jaydene Elvin

PhD: Jaydene Elvin

Submission year: 2016

Supervisors: Anne Cutler

CoEDL node: Western Sydney University

CoEDL program: Processing

Abstract:

The ultimate goal for adult learners of a second language (L2) is successful communication. If learners cannot perceive, recognise and produce sounds and words in the L2 they may struggle to understand speakers of that language, who may in turn struggle to understand L2 learners. Not all learners will attain the same level of proficiency and even when immersed in the L2 environment, difficulties in L2 speech perception, spoken word recognition and L2 production persist. These difficulties in L2 speech are often attributed to the influence of the native language on the acquisition of L2 speech perception, spoken word recognition and production. This thesis investigates the role of the native language in Australian English (AusE) and Iberian Spanish (IS) listeners’ non-native vowel perception and spoken word recognition of Brazilian Portuguese (BP) and the interrelation between these two abilities. The thesis also investigates whether or not individual listeners follow different developmental patterns when perceiving and recognising BP. 

Open access: https://researchdirect.westernsydney.edu.au/islandora/object/uws%3A37801

Thesis: Nominal and pronominal morphology of Ngardi: A Ngumpin-Yapa language of Western Australia

Thomas Ennever

MPhil: Thomas Ennever

Submission year: 2018

Supervisors: Felicity Meakins & Mary Laughren

CoEDL node: University of Queensland

CoEDL program: Evolution

Abstract:

This thesis is a comprehensive analysis of the nominal and pronominal morphology of Ngardi, an endangered Pama-Nyungan language of the Ngumpin-Yapa subgroup spoken in the western regions of the Tanami Desert in Western Australia. On the basis of the author’s 2016–2017 recordings of grammatical elicitation and narratives and pre-existing legacy materials of Lee Cataldi, Tom Green and Tasaku Tsunoda; this thesis provides a detailed analysis of two core aspects of the Ngardi grammatical system: nominal case morphology and subclasses (Chapters 2 and 3); and the complex system of pronominal clitics (Chapter 4). The culmination of these three chapters is a unified analysis of the interaction of the nominal and pronominal systems and their role in Ngardi morphosyntax. 

Open access: https://espace.library.uq.edu.au/view/UQ:6a962d8

Thesis: A description of the rhythm of Barunga Kriol using rhythm metrics and an analysis of vowel reduction

MPhil: Amit German

Amit German

Submission year: 2018

Supervisors: Caroline Jones, Rachel Hendery, Ann Burchfield & Vincent Aubanel

CoEDL node: Western Sydney University

CoEDL program: Learning

Abstract:

Kriol is an English-lexifier creole language spoken by over 20,000 children and adults in the Northern parts of Australia, yet much about the prosody of this language remains unknown. This thesis provides a preliminary description of the rhythm and patterns of vowel reduction of Barunga Kriol - a variety of Kriol local to Barunga Community, NT – and compares it to a relatively standard variety of Australian English. The thesis is divided into two studies. Study 1, the Rhythm Metric Study, describes the rhythm of Barunga Kriol and Australian English using rhythm metrics. Study 2, the Vowel Reduction Study, compared patterns of vowel reduction in Barunga Kriol and Australian English. This thesis contributes the first in depth studies of vowel reduction patterns and rhythm using rhythm metrics in any variety of Kriol or Australian English. The research also sets an adult baseline for metric results and patterns of vowel reduction for Barunga Kriol and Australian English, useful for future studies of child speech in these varieties. As rhythm is a major contributor to intelligibility, the findings of this thesis have the potential to inform teaching practice in English as a Second Language.

Open access: https://researchdirect.westernsydney.edu.au/islandora/object/uws%3A50582

Thesis: Inspired by nature: timescale-free and grid-free event-based computing with spiking neural networks

Amy Gibson

PhD: Ting Ting Amy Gibson

Submission year: 2018

Supervisors: Janet Wiles & Ola Olsson

CoEDL node: University of Queensland

CoEDL program: Technology

Abstract:

Computer vision is enjoying huge success in visual processing applications such as facial recognition,
object identification, and navigation. Most of these studies work with traditional cameras which produce frames at predetermined fixed time intervals. Real life visual stimuli are, however, generated when changes occur in the environment and are irregular in timing. Biological visual neural systems operate on these changes and are hence free from any fixed timescales that are related to the timing of events in visual input.

Inspired by biological systems, neuromorphic devices provide a new way to record visual data. These devices typically have parallel arrays of sensors which operate asynchronously. They have particular potential for robotics due to their low latency, efficient use of bandwidth and low power requirements. There are a variety of neuromorphic devices for detecting different sensory information; this thesis focuses on using the Dynamic Vision Sensor (DVS) for visual data collection.

Open access: https://espace.library.uq.edu.au/view/UQ:298c623

Thesis: A Documentation and Description of Yelmek

Tina GregorPhD: Tina Gregor

Submission year: 2021

Supervisors: Nick Evans & Wayan Arka

CoEDL node: Australian National University 

CoEDL program: Shape

Abstract:

Yelmek is a small endangered language spoken in the south-west of New Guinea. It is a member of the Yelmek-Maklew family, a maximal clade language family, which has less than a thousand fluent speakers by my estimation. The present work is the first in-depth description of any variety of this language family. It is based on a total of 12-month original fieldwork. In some ways, Yelmek is typical for a language of Southern New-Guinea. Its verbal morphology is exceedingly complex, while syntactic relations are expressed mainly by parataxis. In other ways, it is very different, not just compared to languages of the region. Its most striking grammatical feature, typologically speaking, is the suppletion for gender in the verbal paradigm. Yelmek distinguishes two genders, masculine and feminine, which align with biological sex but are also assigned to inanimate objects. The only agreement target for gender is the verb; nowhere else is gender expressed grammatically. This in itself is typologically rare. On the verb, the gender of both the subject and the direct object is indexed. The subject indexing uses affixes and pre-verbal particles for gender marking, but the object indexing expresses gender by stem change. The morphological nature of the stem change depends on the verb and ranges from vowel change to full suppletion. 

Open access: http://hdl.handle.net/1885/220032

Thesis: Evolving spatial and temporal lexicons across different cognitive architectures

Scott Heath

PhD: Scott Heath

Submission year: 2016

Supervisors: Janet Wiles & David Ball

CoEDL node: University of Queensland

CoEDL program: Technology

Abstract:

Communication between mobile robots requires a transfer of symbols, where each symbol signifies a meaning. However, in typical applications, meaning has been ascribed to the symbols by the engineers that have programmed the robots. This thesis explores an alternative: the use of algorithms and representations that allow mobile robots to evolve a shared set of symbols where the meanings of the symbols are derived from the robots' sensors and cognition.

Open access: https://espace.library.uq.edu.au/view/UQ:377716

Thesis: Universal and language-specific processing : the case of prosody

Martin IpPhD: Martin Ip

Submission year: 2019

Supervisors: Anne Cutler, Jason Anthony Shaw & Mark Antoniou

CoEDL node: Western Sydney University 

CoEDL program: Processing

Abstract:

In this thesis, I examined both the production and perception of prosodic cues to prominence and
phrasing in native speakers of English and Mandarin Chinese. In focus production, our research revealed that English and Mandarin speakers were alike in how they used prosody to encode prominence, but there were also systematic language-specific differences in the exact degree to which they enhanced the different prosodic cues (Chapter 2). This, however, was not the case in focus perception, where English and Mandarin listeners were alike in the degree to which they used prosody to predict upcoming prominence, even though the precise cues in the preceding prosody could differ (Chapter 3). Further experiments examining prosodic focus prediction in the speech of different talkers have demonstrated functional cue equivalence in prosodic focus detection (Chapter 4). Likewise, our experiments have also revealed both crosslanguage similarities and differences in the production and perception of juncture cues (Chapter 5). Overall, prosodic
processing is the result of a complex but subtle interplay of universal and language-specific
structure.

Open access: https://researchdirect.westernsydney.edu.au/islandora/object/uws%3A53200

Thesis: Prosody, prominence and segments in Djambarrpuyŋu

Kathleen JepsonPhD: Kathleen Jepson

Submission year: 2019

Supervisors: Janet Fletcher

CoEDL node: University of Melbourne

CoEDL program: Processing

Abstract:

This thesis is an investigation of the phonetics of prosodic structure and prominence in Djambarrpuyŋu, an Australian Indigenous language of the Pama-Nyungan language family spoken in northeast Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia. The aim of this study is to provide a phonetic description of aspects of prosody in Djambarrpuyŋu that contributes to the phonological and phonetic understanding of this language, and that will inform phonological and phonetic investigations of Australian languages in the future. Specifically, it provides a phonetic account of the effects of word- and phrase-level prominence on segments, and how information structure is expressed by intonational means. Working with controlled speech data collected with Djambarrpuyŋu speakers on the island community of Milingimbi (Yurrwi), and through a perception study, this thesis is the first substantial quantitative phonetic analysis of Djambarrpuyŋu.

Open access: https://minerva-access.unimelb.edu.au/handle/11343/227802

Thesis: A grammar of Kunbarlang

Ivan KapitonovPhD: Ivan Kapitonov

Submission year: 2019

Supervisors: Rachel Nordlinger & Ruth Singer

CoEDL node: University of Melbourne

CoEDL program: Shape

Abstract:

This thesis is a comprehensive description of Kunbarlang, an Aboriginal language from northern Australia. The description and analysis are based on my original field work, as well as build on the preceding body of work by other scholars. Between 2015 and 2018 I have done field work in Warruwi (South Goulburn Island), Maningrida, and Darwin. The data elicited in those trips and the recordings of narratives and semi- spontaneous conversation constitute the foundation of the present grammar. However, I was fortunate in that I was not working from scratch. Carolin Coleman did foundational work on Kunbarlang in central-western Arnhem Land from 1981, which resulted in the first grammar of the language (Coleman 1982). In her subsequent work in the area in the 1990’s, she carried on with lexicographic research in Kunbarlang, Mawng and Maningrida languages. More recently, Dr. Aung Si (Universität zu Köln), Dr. Isabel O’Keeffe (University of Sydney), and Dr. Ruth Singer (University of Melbourne / Australian National University) made a number of recordings of Kunbarlang speakers at Maningrida, Warruwi, Minjilang and Darwin. These recordings provided an invaluable extension to the empirical basis of this grammar.

Open access: https://minerva-access.unimelb.edu.au/handle/11343/225743

Thesis: Language In My Mouth: Linguistic Variation in the Nmbo Speech Community of Southern New Guinea

Eri KashimaPhD: Eri Kashima

Submission year: 2020

Supervisors: Nicholas Evans

CoEDL node: Australian National University 

CoEDL program: Shape & Wellsprings

Abstract:

This thesis is a mixed-methods investigation into the question of the sociolinguistics of linguistic diversity in Papua New Guinea. Social and cultural traits of New Guinean speech communities have been hypothesised as conducive to language differentiation and diversification (Laycock 1991, Thurston 1987, 1992, Foley 2000, Ross 2001), however there have been few empirical studies to support these hypotheses. In this thesis I investigate linguistic micro-variations within a contemporary New Guinean speech community, with the goal of identifying socio-cultural pressures that affect language variation and change. The community under investigation is the Nmbo speech community located in the Morehead area of Southern New Guinea.

Open access: https://openresearch-repository.anu.edu.au/handle/1885/201927

Thesis: Kundangkudjikaberrk: Language variation and change in Bininj Kunwok, a Gunwinyguan language of Northern Australia

Alex MarleyPhD: Alexandra Marley

Submission year: 2020

Supervisors: Nicholas Evans

CoEDL node: Australian National University 

CoEDL program: Shape & Wellsprings

Abstract:

This thesis presents a pan-dialectal and cross-generational description and analysis of variation in Bininj Kunwok, a Gunwinyguan language of west Arnhem Land with a number of regional varieties. At around 2000 speakers and with children still acquiring it as a first language, is one of the strongest Australian Aboriginal languages. This thesis brings together a series of case studies on variation in Bininj Kunwok, examining linguistic and social variables and analysing them through a range of complementary theoretical frameworks. Sociolinguistic variationist approaches have heavily informed the methodology and analysis of the case study variables, with quantitative methods bringing to light both linguistic and social conditioning. From a qualitative perspective, language ideologies, linguistic anthropology, and language identity theories explain the socio-cultural mechanisms and motivations behind the distribution of the variables. The typological and historical linguistics literature, meanwhile, have been critical to the development of a methodological framework for analysing structural variation. The case studies cover a range of variables, including word-initial engma deletion, pronominal neutralisation and regularisation, loanword strategies, kin terms, and paradigm variation. Such an approach allowed for multiple linguistic levels to be analysed: phonological, morphosyntactic, syntactic, paradigmatic, lexical, and semantic. The analyses undertaken here build on the development of the Bininj Kunwok Corpus undertaken through this project. Combining my own recordings with those of previous researchers, I built a sizable corpus of around 27.5 hours of speech. As the corpus has an apparent time depth of a century, not only was a comprehensive analysis of synchronic variation possible, but also diagnosis of changes in progress. Cross-generational comparison of speaker data shows a phonological change in progress, increasing regularisation of pronominal forms, and vast variation in paradigmatic structures. The huge amount of variation in Bininj Kunwok points towards a society that permits and even promotes linguistic variation at the individual level, creating an environment highly favourable to fostering and maintaining diversity. Taken together, the above studies give a detailed picture of variation within an Australian language. By incorporating a number of complementary methodological and theoretical frameworks to examine a suite of variables, this thesis lays the groundwork for a new direction in variationist studies, and for an understanding of the socio-cultural forces that have shaped, and continue to shape, the great linguistic diversity found on the Australian continent.

Open access: https://openresearch-repository.anu.edu.au/handle/1885/216347

Thesis: Morphs in search of meaning: Southeast Solomonic transitive morphology in diachronic perspective

Kate NaitaroPhD: Katerina Naitoro

Submission year: 2019

Supervisors: Bethwyn Evans

CoEDL node: Australian National University

CoEDL program: Evolution

Abstract:

In this thesis I examine the distribution, functions and the development of transitive morphology in Southeast Solomonic languages, a subgroup of the Oceanic language family. The valency changing devices, and their allomorphs, are analysed both synchronically and diachronically. The synchronic transitivity marking and argument structure systems are compared with the reconstructed system of the ancestral language Proto Oceanic, and the thesis discusses processes which underpin the changes that have taken place, and their motivations.

Open access: https://openresearch-repository.anu.edu.au/handle/1885/163714

Thesis: Distributional Learning of Lexical Tone and Musical Pitch by Naive and Experienced Adult Learners

Jia Hoong Ong

PhD: Jia Hoong Ong

Submission year: 2016

Supervisors: Anne Cutler

CoEDL node: Western Sydney University 

CoEDL program: Processing

Abstract:

Language and music are two human universals that share many commonalities, including processes of statistical and distributional learning in acquiring knowledge of those domains. This thesis is concerned with the role of distributional learning in the acquisition of pitch-based building blocks of speech and music. In a series of five studies, questions of theoretical and empirical interest will be examined, whether: (i) distributional learning can be used to acquire lexical tone and musical pitch; (ii) domain-general or domain-specific pitch experience facilitates distributional learning of pitch; and (iii) distributional learning plays a role in cross-domain transfer. The results of all five studies suggest that distributional learning can be used to acquire the foundations of speech and music; using distributional learning, adult learners either shift existing category boundaries to which the perceptual items assimilate or form new categories if the perceptual items are not assimilated to any native (linguistic or musical) categories. While distributional learning appears to be sensitive to top-down interferences and is modulated by domain-specific experience, it is nonetheless a powerful learning mechanism that is generalisable across domain. This thesis thus advances our understanding of speech and music by providing evidence for the commonality between the two in terms of a common learning mechanism and shared pitch processing, both of which are compatible with accounts of a common origin for language and music.

Open access: https://researchdirect.westernsydney.edu.au/islandora/object/uws%3A37579

Thesis: Verbal morphology and syntax of Mudburra: an Australian Aboriginal language of the Northern Territory

David Osgarby

MPhil: David Osgarby

Submission year: 2018

Supervisors: Rob Pensalfini & Felicity Meakins

CoEDL node: University of Queensland

CoEDL program: Evolution & Shape

Abstract:

MPhil thesis described the verbal morphology and syntax of Mudburra, a neighbouring but unrelated Aboriginal language also spoken in the Northern Territory.

Open access: https://espace.library.uq.edu.au/view/UQ:ce2247a

Thesis: Revitalisation of an Australian Aboriginal Language: Archival Utterances as Scaffolding for Independent Adult Language LearningMark Richards

PhD: Mark Richards

Submission year: 2019

Supervisors: Caroline Jones

CoEDL node: Western Sydney University

CoEDL program: Learning

Abstract:

Increasingly, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are seeking to maintain, revitalise and reawaken their traditional languages. In contexts where there are few fluent speakers of the languages or few learning resources, this can present particular challenges. The goal of this thesis is to investigate how adult community members can be supported towards greater independence as language learners and teachers in their communities. This was explored in the context of Jilkminggan, a remote Aboriginal community in the western area of the Northern Territory, 135 km south-east of Katherine. A design-based methodology was adopted to investigate learning in its natural context, involving community members in resource creation across several iterations and allowing for a more collaborative approach to the research. The research was conducted in three phases.

Open access: https://researchdirect.westernsydney.edu.au/islandora/object/uws%3A55583

Thesis: Multilevel dynamics of language diversity and disparity in Oceania

Hedvig SkirgardPhD: Hedvig Skirgard

Submission year: 2021

Supervisors: Nick Evans

CoEDL node: Australian National University

CoEDL program: Shape & Wellsprings

Abstract:

There are more than 7,000 languages on our planet today and they are not evenly distributed over the population. Why might this be? This thesis explores the dynamics of language diversification in Remote Oceania, where some islands have 20 times the number of languages of others. In this thesis I investigate, first, environmental and social factors of language proliferation; second, grammatical and lexical dissimilarity of island groups; third, stability of grammatical features and grammatical conservatism of Oceanic languages; and fourth the particular case of language variation in Samoan. Remote Oceania consists of Temotu, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Fiji, Polynesia and Micronesia. The region was settled more recently than the rest of Oceania (3,500 years ago) and entirely by Austronesian speakers. Through studies in archaeology, history and linguistics much is known of migration patterns and societal organisation. The comparatively shallow time depth, relatedness of the languages and established knowledge about the history of this region makes it an ideal base for understanding of language diversification. There is a large discrepancy between the number of languages per island group in Remote Oceania. There are over 100 languages in Vanuatu and but one in Samoa. What could be the cause of this discrepancy? Scholars have suggested reasons such as societal organisation, environmental factors and settlement time. Statistically modelling languages per island group given environmental, archaeological and societal variables in this thesis shows that the primary factors in the proliferation of languages in the sample are likely to be political complexity, time depth and island area. The impact of political complexity is most probably due to the fact that more hierarchical societies lead to more interactions and cohesion over large distances, which reduces language splitting. However, counts of languages are not enough when studying language diversification, it is also important to consider linguistic dissimilarity. Do languages of certain island groups stand out as unusually varied in their structure or vocabulary? The results show that no island group stands out as containing unusually high levels of structural disparity, but that Temotu, New Caledonia and, to a lesser extent, Southern Vanuatu have higher levels of lexical divergence than the rest. This finding is consistent with previous literature on "aberrant" Oceanic languages. This thesis also explores the stability of structural features, and conservatism of Oceanic languages, using computational phylogenetic methods for ancestral state reconstruction. The two computational methods of Maximum Parsimony and Maximum Likelihood methods largely concur with findings in historical linguistics as to the grammar of Oceanic proto-languages. However there are few features which are consistently stable across both methods. The most conservative island group of the Oceanic subgroup is the Bismarck archipelago, which is consistent with established theories of the homeland of the Oceanic subgroup. Among the most structurally progressive are Central Pacific, which runs counter to measurements of the lexical retention rate of the languages there. Finally, we take a closer look at one language of the region in particular and the language variation there - Samoan. While we do not find regional variation that can cause a split, there is still substantial variation present - but tied to the social sphere. Samoa has not historically been centrally governed, but village district chiefly offices may have been more stable and may have been enough to retard internal diversification and splitting. In conclusion, change and diversity is conditioned by many local social, historical and environmental conditions - social structure potentially being one of the most powerful. Structure and lexicon, operate under different evolutionary constraints and can tell different stories of the past.

Open access: https://openresearch-repository.anu.edu.au/handle/1885/218982

Thesis: The early development of young children's imitation of social robots

Kristyn Sommer (nee Hensby)PhD: Kristyn Sommer (nee Hensby)

Submission year: 2020

Supervisors: Janet Wiles

CoEDL node: University of Queensland

CoEDL program: Technology

Abstract:

Thesis is embargoed unitl 6 July 2023.

This thesis explored the nature and extent of young children's social learning from robots, principally investigating whether children will imitate a robot. Across three studies, this thesis revealed that 1- to 6-year-old children can imitate robots, but produce fewer actions than from a human model, providing the first evidence of what I term the ‘robot deficit.' Importantly, the robot deficit was found to diminish with increases in age. This thesis provides the most comprehensive investigation to date of 1-to 6-year-old children's social learning from a robot, in comparison to a human, documenting evidence of a robot deficit.

Open access: https://espace.library.uq.edu.au/view/UQ:d51791

Thesis: Phonological activation in Hong Kong deaf readers: Evidence from eye movements and event-related potentials

Philip ThierfelderPhD: Philip Thierfelder

Submission year: 2020

Supervisors: Gillian Wigglesworth

CoEDL node: University of Melbourne

CoEDL program: Processing

Abstract:

Understanding the roles of spoken and sign phonological code in reading processes is important for educators of deaf and hard-of-hearing students. However, the pool of data on this topic is limited and has mostly centered on readers of alphabetic languages. In places like Hong Kong, where deaf signers are relatively few, the shortage of research on phonological processing during reading is even more severe. This thesis addressed this problem by investigating the cognitive processes underlying Chinese reading in Hong Kong deaf readers using two methodological approaches, eye movements and event-related potentials, across four separate studies.

Open access: https://minerva-access.unimelb.edu.au/handle/11343/251332

Thesis: Acoustic cues to prominence and phrasing in bilingual speech

Catalina TorresPhD: Catalina Torres Orjuela

Submission year: 2020

Supervisors: Janet Fletcher & Gillian Wigglesworth

CoEDL node: University of Melbourne

CoEDL program: Processing & Learning

Abstract:

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.

Open access: https://minerva-access.unimelb.edu.au/handle/11343/258746

Thesis: Perception and production of Cantonese tones by speakers with different linguistic experiences

PhD: Mengyue Wu

Submission year: 2017

Supervisors: Janet Fletcher & Brett Baker

CoEDL node: University of Melbourne

CoEDL program: Processing

Abstract:

This study investigates the perception and production of Cantonese tones by speakers who differ systematically in their native prosodic systems and language learning experiences. These include native Cantonese speakers, Mandarin speakers (L1 tone language), English speakers (L1 non-tone language), English speakers who are intermediate Mandarin learners (L1 non-tone, L2 tone experience). Results suggest that both L1 and L2 prosodic experiences shape the perception and production of a new tone system. Mandarin learners outperform native Mandarin speakers in discrimination and imitation of Cantonese tones. Non-native perception and production abilities are positively linked for speakers with tone experience in either a first or a second language, while no correlation is found with English monolinguals.

Open access: https://minerva-access.unimelb.edu.au/handle/11343/194205

Thesis: Rescuing a Language from Extinction: Documentation and Practical Steps for the Revitalisation of (Western) Yugur

Yarjis Xueqing ZhongPhD: Yarjis Xueqing Zhong

Submission year: 2019

Supervisors: Jane Simpson

CoEDL node: Australian National University 

CoEDL program: Shape

Abstract:

The Yugur ethnic group, also known as the Yellow Uyghur, are one of the smallest ethnic minorities in north-western China. Yugur people speak three distinct languages: Western Yugur (also known as Saryg Yugur), a Turkic language with about 2,000 speakers; Eastern Yugur (also known as Shira Yugur), a Mongolic language with about 2,000 speakers; and the local Mandarin Chinese dialect. Both Western and Eastern Yugur are classified as critically endangered (Janhunen, 2010), and maintaining these languages faces challenges. One of the principal objectives of this research is to add to the currently small amount of documentation of Western Yugur.

Open access: https://openresearch-repository.anu.edu.au/handle/1885/173110

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