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Article

Sign languages in the Romance-speaking countries constitute a rather representative sample of the languages in the visual–gestural modality documented to date throughout the world in many respects. The types of historical and thus linguistic relations that exist among them have to do with the history of education for the deaf, colonization, and missionary work. Contact phenomena with spoken languages are attested in certain parts of the grammar and the lexicon, but they also arise among sign languages. The existing language types can be classified into urban versus rural sign languages, which determines certain aspects of the languages and their sociolinguistic setup. The transmission patterns rely on educational institutions and Deaf organizations because most deaf people are born into hearing and non-signing families. Despite non-negligible differences among regions in the world (e.g., between European and West African countries), the underlying sociolinguistic issues in Deaf communities are similar, and the cross-linguistic and typological variation and similarities observed among them are comparable to those found in other sets of sign languages but also reflect the range of variation found across spoken languages. The state of research, still incipient but steadily growing, also reflects the overall situation of the field more generally.

Article

Phonetic transcription represents the phonetic properties of an actual or potential utterance in a written form. Firstly, it is necessary to have an understanding of what the phonetic properties of speech are. It is the role of phonetic theory to provide that understanding by constructing a set of categories that can account for the phonetic structure of speech at both the segmental and suprasegmental levels; how far it does so is a measure of its adequacy as a theory. Secondly, a set of symbols is needed that stand for these categories. Also required is a set of conventions that tell the reader what the symbols stand for. A phonetic transcription, then, can be said to represent a piece of speech in terms of the categories denoted by the symbols. Machine-readable phonetic and prosodic notation systems can be implemented in electronic speech corpora, where multiple linguistic information tiers, such as text and phonetic transcriptions, are mapped to the speech signal. Such corpora are essential resources for automated speech recognition and speech synthesis.

Article

Spanish and Portuguese are in contact along the extensive border of Brazil and its neighboring Spanish-speaking countries. Transnational interactions in some border communities allow for ephemeral language accommodations that occur when speakers of both languages communicate during social interactions and business transactions, facilitated by the lack of border control and similarities between the languages. A different situation is found in northern Uruguay, where Spanish and Portuguese are spoken in several border towns, presenting a case of stable and prolonged bilingualism that has allowed for the emergence of language contact phenomena such as lexical borrowings, code-switching, and structural convergence to a variable extent. However, due to urbanization and the presence of monolingual dialects in the surrounding communities, Portuguese and Spanish have not converged structurally in a single mixed code in urban areas and present instead clear continuities with the monolingual counterparts.

Article

This article investigates the structural properties of interrogative clauses in the Romance languages. Interrogative clauses are typically produced by the speaker in order to elicit information from the addressee; depending on the kind of information requested by the speaker, one can distinguish between two basic types of interrogatives: polar interrogatives and constituent interrogatives. In Romance main polar interrogatives, the interrogative interpretation of the utterance may be triggered only by prosodic means, through a final raising tone. While main polar interrogatives may employ different morphosyntactic strategies, embedded polar interrogatives display a greater degree of uniformity and are invariably introduced by the interrogative complementizer. As for constituent interrogatives, across Romance we find languages employing different strategies: Beside the ordinary fronting of the wh-item in the sentence-initial position, we also find wh-clefting, in which the sentence-initial wh-item is followed by an inflected copula and the complementizer; wh-in situ, with the wh-item appearing in sentence-internal position; wh-doubling, with two wh-items appearing, one in sentence-initial position and the other in sentence-internal position; and multiple wh-fronting, with both wh-items sitting in a left-peripheral position. In nonstandard questions the wh-item is obligatorily fronted, even in the languages that allow for wh-in situ in standard questions.

Article

Gemma Rigau and Manuel Pérez Saldanya

Catalan is a Romance language closely related to Gallo-Romance languages. However, contact with Spanish since the 15th century has led it to adopt various linguistic features that are closer to those seen in Ibero-Romance languages. Catalan exhibits five broad dialects: Central, Northern, and Balearic, which pertain to the Eastern dialect block, and Northwestern and Valencian, which make up the Western. This article deals with the most salient morphosyntactic properties of Catalan and covers diachronic and diatopic variations. It also offers information about diastratic or sociolinguistic variations, namely standard and non-standard variations. Among the most characteristic morphosyntactic features are the following: 1. Catalan is the only Romance language that exhibits a periphrastic past tense expressed by means of the verb anar ‘go’ + infinitive (Ahir vas cantar ‘Yesterday you sang’). This periphrastic past coexists with a simple past (Ahir cantares ‘Yesterday you sang’). However, Catalan does not have a periphrastic future built with the movement verb go. 2. Demonstratives show a two-term system in most Catalan dialects: aquí ‘here’ (proximal) and allà or allí ‘there’ (distal); but in Valencian and some Northwestern dialects, there is a three-term system. In contrast with other languages that have a two-term system, Catalan uses the proximal demonstrative to express proximity either to the speaker or to the addressee (Aquí on jo soc ‘Here where I am’, Aquí on tu ets ‘There where you are’). 3. Catalan has a complex system of clitic pronouns (or weak object pronouns) which may vary in form according to the point of contact with the verb, proclitically or enclitically; e.g., the singular masculine accusative clitic can have two syllabic forms (el and lo) and an asyllabic one (l’ or ‘l): El saludo ‘I am greeting him’, Puc saludar-lo ‘I can greet him’, L’havies saludat ‘You had greeted him’, Saluda’l ‘Greet him’. 4. Existential constructions may contain the predicate haver-hi ‘there be’, consisting of the locative clitic hi and the verb haver ‘have’ (Hi ha tres estudiants ‘There are three students’) and the copulative verb ser ‘be’ (Tres estudiants ja són aquí ‘Three students are already here’) or other verbs whose behavior can be close to an unaccusative verb when preceded by the clitic hi (Aquí hi treballen forners ‘There are some bakers working here’). 5. The negative polarity adverb no ‘not’ may be reinforced by the adverbs pas or cap in some dialects and can co-occur with negative polarity items (ningú ‘anybody/nobody’, res ‘anything/nothing’, mai ‘never’, etc.). Negative polarity items exhibit negative agreement (No hi ha mai ningú ‘Nobody is ever here’), but they may express positive meaning in some non-declarative syntactic contexts (Si mai vens, truca’m ‘If you ever come, call me’). 6. Other distinguishing items are the interrogative and confirmative particles, the pronominal forms of address, and the personal articles.

Article

Over the past decades, psycholinguistic aspects of word processing have made a considerable impact on views of language theory and language architecture. In the quest for the principles governing the ways human speakers perceive, store, access, and produce words, inflection issues have provided a challenging realm of scientific inquiry, and a battlefield for radically opposing views. It is somewhat ironic that some of the most influential cognitive models of inflection have long been based on evidence from an inflectionally impoverished language like English, where the notions of inflectional regularity, (de)composability, predictability, phonological complexity, and default productivity appear to be mutually implied. An analysis of more “complex” inflection systems such as those of Romance languages shows that this mutual implication is not a universal property of inflection, but a contingency of poorly contrastive, nearly isolating inflection systems. Far from presenting minor faults in a solid, theoretical edifice, Romance evidence appears to call into question the subdivision of labor between rules and exceptions, the on-line processing vs. long-term memory dichotomy, and the distinction between morphological processes and lexical representations. A dynamic, learning-based view of inflection is more compatible with this data, whereby morphological structure is an emergent property of the ways inflected forms are processed and stored, grounded in universal principles of lexical self-organization and their neuro-functional correlates.

Article

Romance–Slavic language contact in Central and Eastern Europe occurs in both directions of contact-induced change with Romance varieties as donor and as recipient languages. Latin influence on learned and cultural vocabulary, including derivation, occurred during the Middle Ages and early Modern Age, partly mediated by German. Italian and French played an important role as source languages for lexical borrowings in Czech, Sorbian, Polish, and Russian, although often restricted to special semantic fields such as cooking and music in the case of Italian. Romance loans in Slavic include internationalisms, whose exact provenience is difficult to determine, often with the possibility of multiple borrowing. As for Russian (and Polish), French contributed to a considerable extent to the development of the standard language at all levels, due to a high degree of bilingualism, characterizing the Russian aristocracy of the 18th and 19th centuries, even with French as their first language. In contrast, Russian, less so Polish, influenced Romance languages by means of a relatively small number of lexical items referring to the Slavic world and its cultural peculiarities and—after World War I—to the Soviet reality. Romance lexical items have, in general, been integrated into the existent grammatical systems of the recipient languages. The integration of foreign loans in Slavic was mainly based on formal principles such as final vowels and consonants of the nouns fitting to the traditional genders and declensions, with the gender of the source word itself playing only a secondary role. The Latin neuter gender was either replaced or it led to innovative paradigms. In contrast, the Slavic neuter served to integrate masculine nouns with incompatible endings. In the case of borrowed verbs, special integration suffixes developed. A special case is Romanian (including Moldovan), due to its direct contact with Slavic, spoken by people of its direct neighborhood, in part even forming linguistic enclaves. Contact with Ukrainian has been strongest since the Middle Ages in the northeastern parts of the Romanian language area. In general, influences are found in both directions: Romanian was an important source for shepherd and farming terminology, which is true also for Polish, Slovak, and even Moravian Czech as recipient languages. In contrast, Ukrainian as a donor language contributed to Romanian everyday vocabulary, especially in (Russian and independent) Moldova and the adjacent part of Ukraine. North-Slavic enclaves with strong Romanian influence also beyond the lexicon are of Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, and Czech origin. In grammar, Romanian influence has become visible here, for example, in the development of an analytical system of comparison, including a borrowed comparator. In contrast to the ancient Romanian–Bulgarian symbiosis in the southeast, the substrate type of language contact has played only a marginal role in Central and Eastern Europe, restricted, by and large, to the French-speaking aristocracy in Russia and to some Romanian–Ukrainian contact areas. So, the adstrate type has clearly prevailed, partially in the form of the special subtype of a (cultural) superstrate.

Article

Cognitive semantics (CS) is an approach to the study of linguistic meaning. It is based on the assumption that the human linguistic capacity is part of our cognitive abilities, and that language in general and meaning in particular can therefore be better understood by taking into account the cognitive mechanisms that control the conceptual and perceptual processing of extra-linguistic reality. Issues central to CS are (a) the notion of prototype and its role in the description of language, (b) the nature of linguistic meaning, and (c) the functioning of different types of semantic relations. The question concerning the nature of meaning is an issue that is particularly controversial between CS on the one hand and structuralist and generative approaches on the other hand: is linguistic meaning conceptual, that is, part of our encyclopedic knowledge (as is claimed by CS), or is it autonomous, that is, based on abstract and language-specific features? According to CS, the most important types of semantic relations are metaphor, metonymy, and different kinds of taxonomic relations, which, in turn, can be further broken down into more basic associative relations such as similarity, contiguity, and contrast. These play a central role not only in polysemy and word formation, that is, in the lexicon, but also in the grammar.

Article

André Thibault

The first French colonial era goes back to the 17th and 18th centuries. It encompasses North American territories, the Antilles, and the Indian Ocean. The second colonial era started in the 19th century and ended in the 1960s. It first reached the Maghreb and Lebanon, followed by sub-Saharan Africa, where two colonial powers, France and Belgium, exported the use of French. The last territories affected by the expansion of the French language are to be found in the Pacific.

Article

Yu-Ying Chuang and R. Harald Baayen

Naive discriminative learning (NDL) and linear discriminative learning (LDL) are simple computational algorithms for lexical learning and lexical processing. Both NDL and LDL assume that learning is discriminative, driven by prediction error, and that it is this error that calibrates the association strength between input and output representations. Both words’ forms and their meanings are represented by numeric vectors, and mappings between forms and meanings are set up. For comprehension, form vectors predict meaning vectors. For production, meaning vectors map onto form vectors. These mappings can be learned incrementally, approximating how children learn the words of their language. Alternatively, optimal mappings representing the end state of learning can be estimated. The NDL and LDL algorithms are incorporated in a computational theory of the mental lexicon, the ‘discriminative lexicon’. The model shows good performance both with respect to production and comprehension accuracy, and for predicting aspects of lexical processing, including morphological processing, across a wide range of experiments. Since, mathematically, NDL and LDL implement multivariate multiple regression, the ‘discriminative lexicon’ provides a cognitively motivated statistical modeling approach to lexical processing.