Monthly Lectures 2014

Date Title Speaker (Affiliation)
Dec 13 Towards a typology of focus positions: Two types of focus in Colombian Spanish José Camacho(Rutgers University)
Nov 8 Automated writing evaluation: Grammar, usage, mechanics, and beyond Martin Chodorow (Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY)
Oct 11 The last ray of the empire: Creolized tongues and lusophonic ideologies of purity in a former Portuguese colony Aurora Donzelli (Sarah Lawrence College)
Apr 12 Explain me something: How we learn what not to say Adele Goldberg (Princeton University)
Mar 8 Qué revolú: The ¡Atrévete y Dilo! Campaign and Language Legitimation in Puerto Rico Elaine Shenk (Saint Joseph's University)
Feb 8 Looking holistically in a climate of partiality: Identities of students labeled 'Long-term English Language Learners' Tatyana Klein (City College, City University of New York)

December 13, 2014

Towards a typology of focus positions: Two types of focus in Colombian Spanish

José Camacho, Rutgers University

Time: 11am - 12noon
Venue: Borough of Manhattan Community College, Room N452, 199 Chambers Street, New York, NY 10007, USA

Speakers of languages signal the relative importance of the information they convey by changing the order of sentences, or by giving some constituents more prominence than others. Whenever information is new, it is termed as focus, and one important way to indicate focus entails the copular verb be, in constructions that have been called clefts. Certain varieties of Central Colombian Spanish (CCS) have a particular kind of cleft where the copular verb appears towards the end of the clause (as in (1)), where the focused constituent is "the potatoes". This option will be called low focus, because it targets constituents that are located in the lower structure of the clause.
	(1)	Marta	compró	fue		las		papas. 
		Marta	bought	was		the		potatoes 
		'It was the potatoes that Marta bought.' 
The same dialects have a construction with a demonstrative eso 'that', illustrated in (2). This construction has the exact opposite distribution as the one in (1), namely it targets constituents located high in the clause. In this talk, I attempt to explain why this distribution is complementary, proposing that they share a common discourse configuration related to how focus is expressed, but that their different distribution comes from different syntactic properties: in the first case, focus is associated with a clausal structure, in the second case, with a nominal phrase
	(2)	(Eso)   La	gente	no	respeta	los	semáforos	(*eso).
		DEM     the	people	not	respect	the	traffic-lights	 EXP  
		'People don't respect traffic-lights.' 
The proposed analysis of these two constructions argue in favor of the representation of focus using an assertion structure that includes a presupposition clause and a focus clause. At the same time, the analysis of these two constructions provides a cautionary tale against taking complementary distributions as an infallible method for determining direct connections between two linguistic items.



November 8, 2014

Automated writing evaluation: Grammar, usage, mechanics, and beyond

Martin Chodorow, Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY

Time: 11am - 12noon
Venue: Borough of Manhattan Community College, Room N452, 199 Chambers Street, New York, NY 10007, USA

Advances in Natural Language Processing (NLP) have led to improvements in automated systems which identify writing errors involving grammar, word usage, spelling and punctuation. Detecting these errors is an important part of automated essay scoring for high-stakes tests, and it is also valuable in low-stakes instructional settings for providing feedback to writers. This talk presents some of the challenges that researchers face in automatically identifying and correcting even relatively low-level errors. It also describes how NLP techniques are being used to evaluate higher-level writing constructs, such as discourse coherence.



October 11, 2014

The last ray of the empire: Creolized tongues and lusophonic ideologies of purity in a former Portuguese colony

Aurora Donzelli, Sarah Lawrence College

Time: 11am - 12noon
Venue: Borough of Manhattan Community College, Room N452, 199 Chambers Street, New York, NY 10007, USA

In Portugal, the discourse of "Lusophony" has been instrumental in repackaging the national colonial nostalgia as an apparently inclusive, progressive, and cosmopolitan form of postcolonial identity. In this vein, Pessoa's famous line "My homeland is the Portuguese language" has been often deployed to reconcile a Romanticist nationalist language ideology (Bauman and Briggs 2000; Silverstein 2000) with the ideal of a 'pluri-continental' cultural community encompassing metropolitan Portugal and its former colonies. However, this metaphorical representation of "language" as "place" and the "ecumenical" (Pina-Cabral 2010) transformation of "Lusophony" into "Lusotopy", enthusiastically embraced by many Portuguese intellectuals and politicians, leaves a fundamental question unanswered: "whose Portuguese?" This talk seeks to answer this question by examining the tension between standard and non-standard varieties of Portuguese in Portugal's easternmost ex-colony (East Timor), where Portuguese was recently (2004) and somewhat unexpectedly proclaimed the official medium of instruction.

Drawing on interviews with Eastern Timorese and Portuguese language teachers and planners, I discuss how East Timor's choice of "returning" to the language of a former colonial elite confronted local teachers with the dilemma of either teaching Portuguese as a "native language" to students who barley spoke it, or resorting to L2 pedagogical techniques that undermined the Lusophonic beliefs in the local existence of a native Portuguese speech community. At the same time, classroom interactions video-taped in East Timor in 2008 reveal strong attachments to a purist view of standard Portuguese. These data show how a diffuse concern for the potential creolization of the standard resulted in linguistic routines and exercises centered on rote memorization of verbal paradigms. These exercises aimed at countering the risk of the erosion of Portuguese's verbal morphology while reaffirming a colonial linguistic regime based on the exoticization and elevation of Portuguese's radical otherness and higher morphological "complexity" vis-à-vis the tenselessness of the local languages.

My multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork in Portugal and East Timor suggests that the cosmopolitan and liberal discourse of "Lusophony" is fraught with profound anxieties and contradictions. While recent scholarship highlighted how colonial regimes in Southeast Asia produced modes of governmentality geared to increasing racial distinction (Anderson 1995, 2006; Rafael 1993, 1995; Stoler 1989, 1991, 1995, 2001) through the management of everyday life, relatively little attention has so far been paid to linguistic practices and ideologies. This talk offers a contribution in this direction via a microscopic analysis of the practices currently deployed in East Timor to foster the role of Portuguese as the official language of teaching and learning. In so doing, it problematizes the equivalence between language, culture, and place underlying the Portuguese postcolonial fantasy of a transnational speech community and shows how, once relocated in a former colony, the inclusive multiracial and multicultural celebration of Portuguese as a world language may reveal its colonial matrix: i.e., an exclusionist ideology of linguistic and racial purism.



April 12, 2014

Explain me something: How we learn what not to say

Adele Goldberg, Princeton University

Time: 11am - 12noon
Venue: Borough of Manhattan Community College, Room N452, 199 Chambers Street, New York, NY 10007, USA

Although many constraints are motivated by general semantic or syntactic facts, in certain cases, formulations are semantically sensible and syntactically well-formed, and yet noticeably dispreferred (e.g., ??She explained me something; ??the afraid boy). I will argue that competition in context—statistical preemption--plays a key role in learning what not to say in these cases. I will also suggest a domain-general mechanism that may underlie this process, and offer a speculative proposal as to why L2 learners may have more trouble avoiding these dispreferred utterances.



March 8, 2014

Qué revolú: The ¡Atrévete y Dilo! Campaign and Language Legitimation in Puerto Rico

Elaine Shenk, Saint Joseph's University

Time: 11am - 12noon
Venue: Borough of Manhattan Community College, Room N452, 199 Chambers Street, New York, NY 10007, USA

Language ideologies that disparage 'non-standard' varieties are frequently based on socially- and politically-determined values rather than on a descriptivist framework, and even linguists can be unprepared to circulate research to those outside their discipline or even outside academia. A relatively recent effort to facilitate dialect awareness and counter discriminatory language ideologies is the ¡Atrévete y dilo! radio campaign and publicity spots created by the Academia puertorriqueña de la lengua española. This campaign seeks to celebrate Puerto Rican Spanish with a particular focus on its lexicon. Language use in Puerto Rico is noteworthy and complex for political, social, and historical reasons, including its commonwealth status, extended Spanish-English language contact, and the relative status of Puerto Rican Spanish vis a vis other varieties of Spanish. The campaign was designed to counteract negative evaluation of Puerto Rican Spanish in its legitimation of specific features of the spoken vernacular-a legitimation not only of Spanish vis a vis English on the island, but also of a uniquely Puerto Rican Spanish that demonstrates phonological, morphological, lexical, and syntactic features that differ from other dialects of Spanish. This paper investigates the intent and impact of the radio campaign by exploring public sphere response through frameworks of inquiry that combine Critical Discourse Analysis and language legitimation. Using these frameworks, the paper analyzes how, although altering the status of particular language varieties may well be carried out through official, legislative, or educational policy, it may also occur through alternative or unconventional means in the public sphere. The materials and data analyzed in this paper come from the fifty ¡Atrévete y dilo! radio spots aired in Puerto Rico and twenty interviews conducted with Puerto Ricans regarding the campaign's impact. Although online discussion of the radio campaign does indeed draw out discourses in the public sphere that openly counter some Puerto Ricans' linguistic insecurity, these discourses do not seem to constitute extended interaction. Results showed that although most participants were in fact unfamiliar with the campaign, they nevertheless demonstrated strategies of language legitimation of lexical variants, including loanwords from English. This paper contributes to current research on the application of sociolinguistic principles to dialect and language diversity by investigating the impact of materials designed for a non-specialist audience outside academic settings.



February 8, 2014

Looking holistically in a climate of partiality: Identities of students labeled 'Long-term English Language Learners'

Tatyana Klein, City College, City University of New York

Time: 11am - 12noon
Venue: Borough of Manhattan Community College, Room N452, 199 Chambers Street, New York, NY 10007, USA

In recent years there has been growing awareness about a sub-group of students labeled 'Long-Term English Learners' (LTELL). Our study seeks to show how students who fall within the LTELL category see themselves through the lens of their lived experiences as (emergent) bilinguals, students, family/community members and transnational individuals. Countering discourses which frame these students as deficient, we apply the discourse of partiality framework as a lens through which to better understand how these students perceive themselves via their languages, ethnic-connectivity and academic trajectories. We argue that the discourse around the label can be understood as a racial project that serves to perpetuate white supremacy through the marginalization of the language practices of communities of color. We conclude by exploring how schools can take a broader view of this population to create positive learning opportunities that build on who they are and how they see themselves.

This study comes out of a comprehensive research project intended to offer a portrait of instructional practices and views of a biliteracy program implemented in New York City high schools to meet the academic needs of the 'LTELL' population. The larger study used a mixed-methods approach, while the data presented in this study is drawn from the qualitative dataset. The crux of the data presented comes directly from the students themselves, via interviews and written artifacts. (Study in collaboration with Nelson Flores and Kate Menken)



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