Open Access Publications

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Open access versions of publications by faculty, postdocs, and graduate students in the Department of Linguistics and Cognitive Science.


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    The Role Classifiers Play in Selecting the Referent of a Word
    (Languages, 2023-03-14) Ma, Weiyi; Zhou, Peng; Golinkoff, Roberta Michnick
    An important cue to the meaning of a new noun is its accompanying classifier. For example, in English, X in “a sheet of X” should refer to a broad, flat object. A classifier is required in Chinese to quantify nouns. Using children’s overt responses in an object/picture selection task, past research found reliable semantic knowledge of classifiers in Mandarin-reared children at around age three. However, it is unclear how children’s semantic knowledge differs across different types of classifiers and how this difference develops with age. Here we use an arguably more sensitive measure of children’s language knowledge (the intermodal preferential-looking paradigm) to examine Mandarin-reared three-, four-, and five-year-olds’ semantic knowledge of four types of classifiers indicating animacy (human vs. animal distinction), configuration (how objects are arrayed), object shape, and vehicle function. Multiple factors were matched across classifier types: the number of classifiers, perceived familiarity and perceived typicality of the target, and the visual similarity of the two images paired together. Children’s performances differed across classifier types, as they were better with animacy classifiers than with configuration and vehicle function classifiers. Their comprehension was reliable for animacy, object shape, and vehicle function classifiers but not for configuration classifiers. Furthermore, we did not find conclusive evidence for an age-dependent improvement in the child’s performance. The analysis, including the oldest (five-year-olds) and youngest (three-year-olds) children, revealed a marginally significant age effect.
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    Conceptions of play by children in five countries: towards an understanding of playfulness (Las concepciones acerca del juego de niños de cinco países: hacia un mejor conocimiento de la actividad lúdica)
    (Journal for the Study of Education and Development, 2022-12-19) Mukherjee, Sarah J.; Bugallo, Lucía; Scheuerb, Nora; Cremin, Teresa; Montoro, Virginia; Ferrero, Martha; Preston, Marcia; Cheng, Doris; Golinkoff, Roberta; Popp, Jill
    Drawing on a mixed-methods cross-cultural study undertaken in five locations in Argentina, Denmark, Hong Kong, England and the United States in 2018, this paper explores how children (aged five and seven) conceive of playfulness. Following a card-sorting task, 387 children selected familiar activities that they felt were most representative of play and not-play and explained their reasons. The children’s justifications were fully transcribed, and five corpora were created (one per site). Lexicometry was applied, generating sets of the characteristic responses per age in each site. In-depth qualitative interpretation of these modal responses revealed nine dimensions across play and not-play: pleasure, social context, materials, movement, agency, risk, goal, time and focus. Commonalities revealed that children’s ideas around play are not aligned with specific activities but with the sense of agency in a secure physical and social context when carrying out an activity experienced as an end in itself. Implications for playful pedagogies highlight the need to open up play with opportunities for children’s choice and initiative, confident exploration and immersion in the activities in which they participate. RESUMEN: A partir de un estudio multicultural de métodos mixtos realizado en 2018 en cinco localidades de Argentina, Dinamarca, Hong Kong, Reino Unido y Estados Unidos, en este artículo se exploran las concepciones acerca de la actividad lúdica de niños de cinco y siete años. Tras una tarea de clasificación de tarjetas, 387 niñas y niños seleccionaron aquellas actividades familiares que consideraban más representativas de juego y aquellas más ajenas al juego y explicaron sus razones. Se realizó una transcripción completa de sus justificaciones y se crearon cinco corpus (uno por localidad). Mediante la lexicometría, se generaron conjuntos de respuestas características por edad en cada localidad. Una interpretación cualitativa detallada de las respuestas reveló nueve dimensiones lúdicas y no lúdicas: disfrute, contexto social, materiales, movimiento, agencia, riesgo, meta, tiempo y focalización. Las coincidencias revelaron que las ideas que los niños albergan en torno al juego no están vinculadas a actividades específicas sino a un sentido de agencia en un contexto físico y social seguro a la hora de realizar una actividad como fin en sí misma. Las implicaciones para las pedagogías lúdicas subrayan la necesidad de incorporar al juego oportunidades de elección e iniciativa para los niños, así como una exploración e inmersión segura en las actividades en las que participan.
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    Gender expansive listeners utilize a non-binary, multidimensional conception of gender to inform voice gender perception
    (Brain and Language, 2022-01-01) Hope, Maxwell; Lilley, Jason
    Highlights: • People of all genders rated themselves and voices on continuous gender scales. • Men and those with higher masculine identity perceived voices as less masculine. • Women and those with higher feminine identity were more flexible in gender perception. • Increase in “other” gender identity facilitates “other” voice gender perception. • Gender expansive people have a distinct “neutral” voice gender reference point. Abstract: Few studies on voice perception have attempted to address the complexity of gender perception of ambiguous voices. The current study investigated how perception of gender varies with the complexity of the listener’s own gender conception and identity. We explicitly recruited participants of all genders, including those who are gender expansive (i.e. transgender and/or non-binary), and directed them to rate ambiguous synthetic voices on three independent scales of masculine, feminine, and “other” (and to select one or multiple categorical labels for them). Gender expansive listeners were more likely to use the entire expanse of the rating scales and showed systematic categorization of gender-neutral voices as non-binary. We propose this is due to repeated use of reflective processes that challenge pre-existing gender categories and the incorporation of this decision-making process into their reflexive system. Because voice gender influences speech perception, the perceptual experience of gender expansive listeners may influence perceptual flexibility in speech.
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    Differences in Sibilant Perception between Gender Expansive and Cisgender Individuals
    (Seminars in Speech and Language, 2023-03-07) Hope, Maxwell; Lilley, Jason
    Acoustic cues of voice gender influence not only how people perceive the speaker's gender (e.g., whether that person is a man, woman, or non-binary) but also how they perceive certain phonemes produced by that person. One such sociophonetic cue is the [s]/[ʃ] distinction in English; which phoneme is perceived depends on the perceived gender of the speaker. Recent research has shown that gender expansive people differ from cisgender people in their perception of voice gender and thus, this could be reflected in their categorization of sibilants. Despite this, there has been no research to date on how gender expansive people categorize sibilants. Furthermore, while voice gender expression is often discussed within a biological context (e.g., vocal folds), voice extends to those who use other communication methods. The current study fills this gap by explicitly recruiting people of all genders and asking them to perform a sibilant categorization task using synthetic voices. The results show that cisgender and gender expansive people perceive synthetic sibilants differently, especially from a “nonbinary” synthetic voice. These results have implications for developing more inclusive speech technology for gender expansive individuals, in particular for nonbinary people who use speech-generating devices.
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    Licensing unergative objects in ergative languages: The view from Polynesian
    (Syntax, 2022-05-20) Tollan, Rebecca; Massam, Diane
    Transitive and unergative verbs have long received a uniform syntactic analysis, where they differ in whether an overt object is present (in transitives) or absent (in unergatives). We examine how objects of unergative verbs are case licensed when they are present, focusing on a contrast between two related Polynesian languages: Samoan and Niuean. Both languages have ergative case systems, with subjects of intransitive verbs receiving absolutive case. When unergatives have an overt object, however, a difference emerges. In Samoan, ergative case is absent: the subject of a transitivized unergative is absolutive, and the object receives “middle case.” In Niuean, the resulting transitive exhibits an ergative–absolutive frame. Working within a split-vP system, we propose that the contrast between Samoan and Niuean results from the interaction of three parametric differences. This comparative analysis highlights the importance of considering unergative constructions when determining the underlying syntax of any given case system.