Detailed 2019 Conference Abstracts with Slides

2nd Annual Conference
NSF-Research Experience for Undergraduates Program
Intersection of Linguistics, Language & Culture
June 21st, 2019, LIU-Downtown Brooklyn


Session One: 9:30 AM – 10:50 AM

  1. Use of Definite and Indefinite Articles by Monolingual and Bilingual (Hebrew-English and Russian-English) Preschoolers

Student author: Chana Karp
Mentor author: Isabelle Barrière, Long Island University- Downtown Brooklyn & Yeled V’Yalda Early Childhood Center

In English, definite articles (the) tend to precede a previously introduced referent while indefinite articles(a/an) tend to be used when new information is introduced. Previous research on monolingual children has shown that children overuse definite articles in contexts that require indefinite articles in the early stages of acquisition (Maratsos, 1974; Van Hout, Harrigan & DeVilliers, 2010). Zdorenko and Paradis (2008) have documented the acquisition patterns of bilingual children acquiring languages without articles including Chinese, Korean, and Japanese and with articles including Spanish, Romanian, and Arabic.  Their results reveal that the influence of the first language is limited to the very early stages of acquisition, and that the speed at which bilingual preschoolers acquire articles is faster than that of adult’s second language learners. The present study extends the study of Zdorenko and Paradis (2008) by documenting the acquisition patterns of bilinguals exposed to Russian (that expresses definiteness and specificity using word order and demonstratives) or Hebrew (that has a definite but no indefinite article) as an L1 and investigating the role of working memory in that process.  Three groups of participants- monolingual English, Hebrew-English bilinguals, Russian-English bilinguals- between the ages of three and five were administered three tasks with a variety of visual and auditory stimuli for the purpose of eliciting articles and a working memory task that enabled us to investigate whether the children are using an incorrect article due to not recalling if the given noun has been previously introduced.  The results that reveal the limited role of Working Memory in the accurate selection of articles and reveal effects of the influence of the first language contribute to a better understanding of the language development of the growing proportion of preschool dual language learners.
Link to slides

  1. The Acquisition of Subject Verb Agreement by Dominican Spanish-speaking Preschoolers: Cross-Dialectal Perspectives

Student author: Yerania Poline
Co-authors: Sally Ng & Katsiaryna Aharodnik
Mentor author: Isabelle Barrière, Long Island University- Downtown Brooklyn & Yeled V’Yalda Early Childhood Center

While in Mexican Spanish, the difference between 3rd person singular and plural subject-verb agreement involves a phonological distinction (e.g. canta-SG ‘s/he sings’ vs cantan-PL ‘they sing’), in Dominican Spanish, this contrast gives rise to different phonological realizations for the plural: Ø (that neutralizes the differences between plural and singular), dental /n/, nasalized vowel combined with velarization (e.g. /kantãŋ/) (Lipski, 1986).  The present study investigates whether dialectal variation impacts the acquisition of 3rd person Subject Verb agreement in Dominican Spanish-speaking preschoolers. Thirty-one 3-5-year-old monolingual Spanish speakers residing in the Dominican Republic were administered a comprehension and a production task. During the comprehension video-matching task, children listened to a sentence and had to select the stimulus.  Both stimuli depicted two boys; in the singular one, only one boy was involved in the action or state described by the verb while in the plural both boys perform the action (e.g. agarra el objecto ‘he grabs the object’ versus agarran el objecto ‘they grab the object’).  In the elicitation task, children had to complete a sentence starting with either a singular or a plural subject, illustrated with pictures, and thereby fostered the production of either singular or plural agreement markers. The comprehension data were analyzed considering the proportion of times children selected the matching stimuli. The production data were analyzed taking into account the proportion of times singular and plural agreement markers were overtly produced with singular and plural subjects. Our results provide evidence of comprehension of the singular and plural agreement markers only when it appears in medial position in transitive constructions but not in intransitive constructions and with nonce-verbs.  Similarities and differences with results of studies conducted on Dominican Spanish (Perez-Leroux, 2005) and Mexican Spanish (Gonzalez et al., 2017 and Hsin et al, under review) will be discussed in light of methodological and dialectal differences. The results have implications for the importance of the consideration of the language variety in the assessment of Spanish-speaking children.
Link to slides

  1. Neural Indices in Speech Discrimination of Monolinguals and Bilinguals    

Student Author: Melissa Baker
Co-authors: Clara Liberov, Katherine Wang &Yan Yu
Mentor Author: Valerie Shafer, Graduate Center, City University of New York

The purpose of this study is to examine speech processing in the auditory context of competing background speech “noise” to elucidate how early Spanish-English bilingual experience modulates speech processing. For the present study we used electroencephalography, which collects neurological data emitted from the depolarization of neurons in the brain. The Mismatch Negativity (MMN) and Late Negativity (LN) components of event related potentials (ERPs) were recorded. MMN reflects discrimination of auditory or speech contrasts (Näätänen, et al., 2007) and can be elicited at a fairly automatic level but can be modulated by attention. LN appears to reflect reorienting to the stimulus change.   We hypothesized that bilinguals would monitor the auditory environment differently than American English monolinguals because of their different auditory experience and because studies indicate differences in performance between bilinguals and monolinguals on executive function tasks. Specifically, we predicted that bilinguals would show less “suppression” of a non-target speaker voice. ERPs to speech stimuli were recorded from 64 scalp sites in two conditions. In the Passive condition, participants’ attention was directed away (by watching a muted movie) from the speech, which consisted of a female voice uttering /ɑpə/ as standard and /æpə/ as deviant mixed with a male voice uttering /epə/ as standard and /ɑpə/ as deviant. In the Attend condition, participants were required to focus on the female voice /æpə/ by counting the deviants and to ignore the male voice.  Preliminary results, which includes six monolinguals and four bilinguals, revealed that attention enhanced neural discrimination of the target /æpa/ for all participants, as expected. For the non-target deviant (male voice /ɑpə/) in the Attend condition, the MMN and LN were 60% smaller for monolingual listeners. In contrast, the bilingual listeners showed no reduction in amplitude in the MMN and the LN in the Attend condition. These findings suggest that bilingual experience leads to differences in monitoring speech information in the auditory environment. There was little to no difference between the bilinguals and monolinguals in terms of neural discrimination (with the exception of the reduced amplitude for the male deviant) but attention to target stimulus enhances neural discrimination. These results cannot determine whether this pattern is related to difference in how monolinguals and bilingual listeners inhibit interfering information in the Attend condition or rather to differences in how monolingual and bilingual participants attend to speech in the classic “passive” condition, where they are instructed to ignore the speech and watch a movie.
Link to slides

  1. Script Training for Co-occurring Dysarthria and Apraxia of Speech

Student Author: Radhika Patel
Mentor Author: Gina Youmans, Long Island University- Downtown Brooklyn

The production of language is compromised in individuals with aphasia, apraxia and dysarthria of speech, for whom it is a constant struggle to produce words that convey their ideas. For such individuals, speech production is no longer automatic. Traditional speech therapy approaches to aphasia treatment isolate impaired components of speech, such as word finding or use of grammatical rules, and focus on drilling these skills outside of a natural, linguistic context. Although demonstrated to be fairly effective in increasing linguistic competence, such approaches to therapy do not concentrate specifically upon reintroducing automaticity and clarity to the speech production of adults with speech and language disorders, and also do not easily generalize to non-therapy contexts (Hinckley, Patterson & Carr, 2001; Jacobs & Thompson, 2000; Nickels, 2000).  The present study investigates a script training approach to speech/language treatment. The specific goal of this therapy is to facilitate automatic, precise production of specific, trained scripts. In script training, the clinician works with the client to practice short 4 to 8-sentence scripts of personal importance to the client. A single subject, multiple baseline design was used to examine the acquisition of personally relevant, short scripts for one individual with mild to moderate unilateral-upper motor neuron dysarthria, mild apraxia of speech, and anomia. Prior to participation, the participant completed formal testing comprised of the Western Aphasia Battery (Kertesz, 1988), The Assessment of Dysarthric Speech (Yorkston and Bukelmann, 1984), and the Apraxia Battery for Adults (Dabul, 1979). Script training occurred during 30–45-minute sessions once per week using a cueing hierarchy to train new material: phrase repetition, reading of phrases with the clinician, and then independent production. In addition to treatment sessions, the participant was expected to practice scripts at home for 15 minutes per day.  Script performance was judged based upon speech naturalness, relatively errorless and clear speech production, and the participant’s confidence in their speech performance. The therapy sessions were recorded, transcribed, and coded for errors and clear speech production and speech naturalness while the participant’s confidence was self-reported. The findings of the study will address the relative success of script training with an emphasis as a functional approach to therapy that will help patients with dysarthria and apraxia of speech easily generalize to non-therapy contexts.
Link to slides

10:50 AM – 11:15 AM:
Coffee break in Humanities Lobby

Session Two: 11:15 AM – 12:15 PM in LLC 124

  1. Translatability of Humor Via a Socio-linguistic Lens: an Empirical Study of Hasidic Yiddish

Student Author:  Libby Pollak
Mentor Author: Isabelle Barrière, Long Island University- Downtown Brooklyn & Yeled V’Yalda Early Childhood Center

Theories of our reactions to humor have assigned different weights to the contribution of the original language in which the joke is formulated and the culture with which it is associated as well as to their degree of translatability. The aim of the present study was to empirically test whether and to what extent these theories apply to Hasidic Yiddish jokes by assessing the funniness ratings of Hasidic Yiddish jokes by two groups of participants.  Fifteen  individuals who are native or native-like fluent speakers of Yiddish, and current or former members of the Hasidic Jewish community in Brooklyn completed a background information questionnaires that collected information on individuals’ Yiddish proficiency, familiarity with Hasidic culture and degree of religiosity, and a telephone interview in Yiddish during which the participants were asked to rate on a Likert scale the degree of humor of 15 jokes and explain after each joke what they found funny about it. The jokes were translated into English and similar background information questionnaires and interviews were administered to fifteen individuals who are not fluent in Yiddish and have different degrees of familiarity with Hasidic and/or other Jewish cultures and degrees of religiosity.  The results reveal significant differences in funniness ratings for most jokes that require familiarity with Hasidic Jewish culture.  The examination of the correlations between familiarity with Hasidic Jewish culture and funniness ratings is enabling us to start disentangling the respective roles of culture versus linguistic factors in the appreciation of jokes and their degree of translatability.
Link to slides

  1. Exploring Language Attitudes Toward Diglossia in Arabic

Student Author: Marwa Elraey
Mentor Authors: Jonathan Nissenbaum, Brooklyn College, City University of New York, Syelle Graves, Long Island University- Downtown Brooklyn and Brooklyn College, City University of New York, and Isabelle Barrière, Long Island University- Downtown Brooklyn

Diglossia is the situation where two language varieties are spoken within the same speech community but in different contexts. Some example cases of this phenomenon are High and Swiss German in Switzerland, Greek, and French and Haitian Creole. In the case of the Arabic language, Standard Arabic (alfuṣḥá) is spoken in formal situations and taught in academic settings, while the Non-Standard Varieties (al-‘ammiya) are used in informal situations and are spoken on a daily basis. Linguists have been interested in the nature of Arabic diglossia in the Arab world, including the settings in which each variety is used, as well as the attitudes that speakers have toward this phenomenon and/or toward the two varieties of the language. Some Linguists have been interested in tackling diglossia as an issue since it may result in an oral-literacy gap.  The present study focuses on the language attitudes and feelings that Arabic-speakers residing in New York have toward Arabic, such as whether they think movies should be in al-fusha or whether they think it is considered odd to speak al-fusha with their friends.  A survey was usedto ask fluent speakers of Arabic three different sets of questions. The first asks about their attitudes, preferences, and feelings toward each variety. The second asks about their attitudes toward diglossia and whether they would rather speak a monoglossic language. Lastly, the third section asks about their demographic information.  The discussion will focus on the association between language attitudes toward the Arabic varieties on one hand and some nonlinguistic factors, such as educational level and age, on the other hand.
Link to slides

  1. Resolving the Debates on Null Subjects in Yiddish

Student Author:  Samuel Liff
Mentor Author: Isabelle Barrière, Long Island University- Downtown Brooklyn & Yeled V’Yalda Early Childhood Center

One critical but unsettled issue in the literature on Yiddish has been the language’s pro-drop status. Jacobs, Prince & van der Auwera (1994) argue that Yiddish permits the omission of “salient main clause initial subjects” (p. 408) and Prince 1998 confirmed this with the only corpus-based analysis of Yiddish null subjects to date (using the play Grine felder (Hirschbein 1923)). On the other hand, Speas (2006) and Koeneman (2006) argue that referential null subjects cannot be omitted at all (see also Rosenskvist 2009, and references cited therein). Further debate on the classification of null subject constructions depending on the relationship between their discourse-salience and permissibility to be null leaves additional questions regarding the allowance of Yiddish null subjects in salient (Huang 1984) and “out of the blue” (Trutkowski 2016) discourse contexts.   The present study seeks to address the debate on null subjects using further experimental data (specifically, the analysis of spontaneous speech and grammaticality judgment questionnaires) from speakers of understudied varieties of Yiddish spoken in Brooklyn. The participants in our study reside in the neighborhoods of Borough Park and Williamsburg, where speakers of Hasidic Yiddish make up a substantial proportion of the neighborhoods’ populations (Barrière, 2010).  First, an analysis of recordings of mothers speaking with their children in the context of symbolic play found that 49.7% (n=181) of discourse-salient 2SG subjects were omitted. Two grammaticality judgment surveys explore this further.  The first consisted of fifteen questions focused on 2SG subject constructions. The participants ranked how often they would say three different sentences in any of five different word orders, with the possible options being ‘Often’ (2), ‘Sometimes’ (1), and ‘Never’ (0). Forty six percent (n=106) of the total number of data points involving null subjects were evaluated as acceptable. A follow-up survey administered in the same Brooklyn neighborhood expands the range of syntactic contexts tested   The results so far contribute new evidence that null subjects are grammatical in contemporary Hasidic Yiddish. Our discussion will focus on the constraints, including the discourse and syntactic contexts in which 2nd person null subjects are grammatical.
Link to slides

12:15 PM – 1 PM
Lunch (buffet) and Exhibit Table in Humanities Lobby

1 PM – 2:40 PM in LLC 124
Essay Contest Awards


Dr. Syelle Graves, Program Coordinator, NSF-REU Site Intersection of Linguistics, Language & Culture

Dr. Syelle Graves holds a PhD in linguistics from the CUNY Graduate Center. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from SUNY New Paltz with a BA in French. Previously, she served as a Writing across the Curriculum fellow at both City Tech and Bronx Community College; she taught at the university level both as faculty and as a Graduate Teaching Fellow, at LaGuardia and Hunter College, respectively; she served as a linguistics index editor for the Modern Language Association; and she served as lab manager at the Language Acquisition Research Center at Hunter College. This past year (2018-2019), she taught full-time as a visiting lecturer of linguistics at CUNY Brooklyn College, and this month, she earned a SUNY New Paltz “40 under Forty” Alumni award. On the side, she is a contributing author to the Grammar Girl webguide/podcast.

& Dr. Rachel Szekely, NACLO Coordinator, Department of English, Long Island University-Post

Dr. Rachel Szekely is currently the only professor at Post whose specialty is linguistics. She is the director of curriculum for non-native speakers and Associate Professor of English. Szekely received her Ph.D. from the Graduate Center at the City University of New York and her undergraduate degree from Smith College. Her research is in the area of pragmatics, and its interfaces with syntax, semantics and philosophy of language. Topics of focus include existential sentences, noun-phrase interpretation, (in)definiteness, pronouns, the stage-level/ individual-level distinction, context, negation and negative polarity items, and romance syntax and the syntax of nominal expressions. She began teaching at LIU in the fall 2008 and is now teaching ENG2, (Writing II: Research and Argumen-tation), ENG3, (Grammar and Structure of English) and ENG787 (Introduction to Linguistics). In the Spring 2019, she hosted the NACLO (North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad) at Long Island-Post.

1st Prize Winner: Pravan Chakravarthy, Sophomore, Newark Academy, New Jersey
White Rhinos, Endangered Languages and the Power of Computational Linguistics
Link to Essay

2nd Prize Winner: Damaris Arevalo, Freshman, World Journalism Preparatory School, Queens
The Significance of Silence in our Lives

3rd Prize Winners (tie):
Aidan DiToro, Freshman, St. Edmund Preparatory High School, Brooklyn
Discrimination in the Courts
Dara Levy, Senior, Glen Cove High School, Long Island
North America Computational Linguistics Olympiad

Panel: Establishing an Advanced Placement Course in Linguistics

  1. Introduction to the LSA AP in Linguistics initiative by Dr. Richard Larson, Stony Brook

Dr. Richard Kurth Larson‘s research has spanned a wide range of topics in syntax and semantics, including relative and adverbial clauses, NP adverbs, disjunctions, quantifiers and quantifier scope, comparatives, prepositional phrases, double object and applicative constructions, psych verbs, pronoun interpretation, and clausal complementation. Languages of investigation include Warlpiri, Japanese, Turkish, Haitian, Russian, Mandarin, Iranian Persian, Gilaki and Zazaki. In addition to linguistics research, Larson has worked in undergraduate science education in connection with the NSF-sponsored Grammar as Science Project. His contributions to developing the Syntactica and Semantica software under GAS were recognized by a 1998 EduCom medal, awarded in partnership between EDUCAUSE  and the Linguistic Society of America. He has also received the MIT Graduate Council Teaching Award, the Stony Brook President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, and the Stony Brook Dean’s Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching. Richard Larson is the chair of the Linguistic Society of America’s newly established AP Linguistics Committee, which is working in partnership with the College Board and with students, teachers and faculty across the nation to create an AP Linguistics course and examination.
Link to video
Link to LSA publication

  1. Presentation on initiative in Long Island High School: Success and Challenges by Dr. Christina Tortora, College of Staten Island and Graduate Center, City University of New York

Dr. Christina Tortora is a Professor of Linguistics at The City University of New York (College of Staten Island and The Graduate Center), and author of A Comparative Grammar of Borgomanerese (2014, Oxford University Press) and Understanding Sentence Structure: An Introduction to English Syntax (2018, Wiley-Blackwell). She is a long-time collaborator on the Atlante Sintattico d’Italia project at the University of Padova (ASIt), and is editor of The Syntax of Italian Dialects (2003, OUP). She has published numerous papers in linguistics journals and in collections edited by Cambridge University Press and Oxford University Press. She has twice been awarded a NEH Research Fellowship (2001 and 2011-12), and has been the recipient of seven NSF and NEH grants, to support the creation of corpus tools for investigating grammatical variation and to support her research on understudied linguistic varieties more generally, with a heavy emphasis on under-graduate research. She is also Associate Editor for Syntax for the journal Language (LSA). In addition to her scholarly contributions, Tortora is active in outreach to Long Island high schools through the LSA’s Advanced Placement Linguistics Committee, is a strong advocate for recognizing the importance of Italian dialect diversity, and has promoted awareness of Southern Italian culture by organizing music concerts at CUNY by DisCanto (a group that performs traditional music of Southern Italy). She has given outreach talks in such venues as the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum, and has been recognized for her work by the New York State Chapter of Order Sons of Italy in America with the 2013 Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Award.
Link to video

  1. Perspectives from a Middle School Latin teacher by Mr. DeSalvo

Michael DeSalvo is a middle school Latin and French teacher on Long Island, New York. He holds graduate degrees in both linguistics and French/Education from Stony Brook University, where he also studied Latin. His research focuses on second language pedagogy in the secondary school context, especially with regard to metalinguistic awareness and student-centric, research-based, analytic approaches to language study. Michael employs these methods in his classes, and advocates at local and regional language educator conferences for other teachers to add such activities to their repertoires.
Link to video

  1. Integrating High School Students in Actual Research Projects (and what an AP in Linguistics could add) by Dr. Valerie Shafer, Graduate Center

Dr. Valerie L. Shafer is a full Professor in the PhD Program in Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences and Associate Director of the MS Program in Cognitive Neuroscience at The Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York. Her research focuses on the neurophysiological basis of speech perception and language in monolingual and bilingual populations. She also investigates language acquisition in children with typical development or disorders.
Link to video

  1. Interest and Benefits for Dual Language and Bilingual Program Students and Teachers: Dr. Fabrice Jaumont, French Embassy

Dr. Fabrice Jaumont is the author of five books, including The Bilingual Revolution: The Future of Education is in Two Languages, which provides inspirational vignettes and practical advice for parents and educators who want to create a dual-language program in their own school. The book has been translated in 8 languages. Born in Valenciennes, France, Fabrice Jaumont is a French educator, researcher, and author living in New York since 2001. He currently serves as Education Attaché for the Embassy of France to the United States, a Program Director for FACE Foundation in New York, and a Research Fellow at Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme in Paris. He is the Chair of the Center for the Advancement of Languages, Education, and Communities, a nonprofit organization with a focus on multilingualism, cross-cultural understanding, and the empowerment of linguistic communities. Since October 2018, he is the host of Révolution Bilingue, a monthly podcast in French which features experts and practitioners in multilingual education. Fabrice Jaumont holds a Ph.D. in Comparative and International Education from New York University. He was made a Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes académiques by the Govern-ment of France and was awarded the Cultural Diversity Award by the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie and the Committee of French-speaking Ambassadors to the United Nations. He received the Medal of Recognition from the Committee of French-Speaking Societies in the United States.

  1. Interests and Benefits for Future Speech-Language Pathologists: Ms. Rochel Lieberman, CCC-SLP, University of Cincinnati and Dr. Moya-Gale, CCC-SLP, Long Island University-Downtown Brooklyn

Rochel Lieberman, MA CCC-SLP, is a PhD candidate in Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Cincinnati. Her research, publications, and presentations have addressed child language, social-emotional competence and graduate student stress. She is the author of a children’s book embedding social-emotional competence with language expression.

Dr. Gemma Moya-Galé, PhD, CCC-SLP, is Assistant Professor in the Communication Sciences and Disorders Department at Long Island University-Brooklyn. In 2016, she completed her PhD at Teachers College, Columbia University, which focused on the effects of intensive speech treatment on the conversational intelligibility of Spanish speakers with Parkinson’s disease. During her doctoral studies, Dr. Moya-Galé also worked as a speech-language pathologist with bilingual preschoolers. From 2016 to 2018, she worked as a clinical researcher and speech-language pathologist at UParkinson, a neurology center specializing in neurorehabilitation for Parkinson’s disease and Parkinsonian syndromes in Barcelona. During that time, she also worked as Assistant Professor at Universitat Oberta de Barcelona, where she taught undergraduate and graduate courses on language disorders in children and adults. Her primary research interests are treatment efficacy for motor speech disorders across languages, particularly for Parkinson’s disease, and acquired neurogenic language disorders.​
Link to video

  1. Interests and Benefits for Future Computational Linguists and Computers Scientists: Katsiaryna Aharodnik, MA, MPhiL, CUNY Graduate Center and YVY Research Institute

Katsiaryna Aharodnik received her BA and MA in Computational Linguistics from Montclair State University, New Jersey. Currently she is pursuing her PhD in Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences from CUNY, the Graduate Center. Her dissertation focuses on the development of automatic ways of assessing bilingual children with typical and atypical language. Katsiaryna works with Dr. Barriere at the Yeled vYalda Research Institute and provides guidance to undergraduate students in data collection and data analysis. Katsiaryna has also participated in various computational linguistics natural language processing research projects funded by NSF and she has worked in the industry as a linguist developer.
Link to video

  1. Establishing an AP in Linguistics: a way to increase diversity in STEM fields and among linguists, SLPs and computer scientists? Isabelle Barrière, Long Island University-Downtown Brooklyn and YVY Research Institute

Dr. Isabelle Barrière is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at LIU Brooklyn. She completed her PhD in Applied Linguistics at Birkbeck College at the University of London. She subsequently received training in Early Childhood Education, in Neuropsychology at Toulouse University and at the Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris, and in Cognitive Science at Johns Hopkins University. Her research on the acquisition of different languages (e.g. British Sign Languages, English, French, Haitian, Russian, Spanish and Yiddish) by monolinguals and bilinguals focuses on early grammatical development and the impact of cross-linguistic and cross-dialectal factors.  This work has been supported by numerous grant-giving organizations, both European, such as the UK Economic and Social Research Council, and American, such as the New York State Department of Education and the National Science Foundation. Dr. Barrière is also the Director of Policy for Research and Education at the Yeled V’Yalda Early Childhood Center, one of the largest Head Start programs in New York City. In 2018 her contribution to our understanding of the language development of young children in Haiti and in New York was recognized by several NYC, NYS and US elected officials and in January 2019 she was made Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques by the French Government.
Link to video

Dr. Margareth Lafontant, Medgars Evers College, City University of New York & Dr. Jonathan Nissenbaum, Brooklyn College, City University of New York

Dr. Margareth Lafontant is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Education at CUNY Medgar Evers College, where she teaches courses in Child Development and Early Childhood/Special Education. She holds a PhD in Developmental Psychology from Yeshiva University, and a dual Master’s degree in Bilingual Special Education from Bank Street College of Education. Dr. Lafontant has enjoyed a multifaceted career which has encompassed teaching, student assessment, early intervention, staff development, and program evaluation. Her research activities have been primarily focused on program evaluation, and she is also very interested in the socio-emotional aspects of learning.

Dr. Jon Nissenbaum is an Assistant Professor and the Director  of the Linguistics Program at CUNY Brooklyn College. His research spans a variety of areas in linguistics, including syntax and semantics as well as phonetic theory and speech perception. He earned his PhD at MIT, under the supervision of Noam Chomsky and David Pesetsky. Before joining the faculty at Brooklyn College, he held positions at Harvard, McGill, and Syracuse universities. His research has been funded by the NIH/NIDCD as well as the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Fonds de recherche du Québec Société et culture. He has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in linguistic theory at both introductory and advanced levels.

2:40 PM – 3:40 PM
Poster Abstracts

  1. Assessment in Bilingual Aphasia: The Relationship between Evaluative Terms and Fluency

Jacqueline Kim (Macaulay, Queens College, CUNY), Yael Neumann (Queens College CUNY), Sveta Fichman (Bar Ilan University), Joel Walters (Hadasah Academic College), Carmit Altman (Bar Ilan University)

Evaluative terms are words that express feelings and emotions which convey approval or disapproval, e.g., disappointed, rejected, and speech dysfluencies are interruptions in the forward flow of speech. The aim of this study is to explore the interface between evaluative terms and speech dysfluencies in the narratives of a Yiddish-English bilingual with a moderate non-fluent aphasia and a moderate neurogenic stutter.  A 59-year old, Yiddish-English bilingual male, with a left-hemisphere CVA, was assessed with the Bilingual Aphasia Test (Paradis & Libben, 1987), the Stuttering Severity Instrument-4 (Riley, 2009), and the Quick Assessment for Apraxia of Speech (Tanner & Culbertson, 1999). The participant is a native speaker of Yiddish and bilingual in English from age six. Prior to his stroke, Yiddish was used more than English, mainly for teaching and Talmud study; English was used at home with family. After the stroke, English became dominant, used with family at home and for therapy.  The study was conducted eight years after the stroke. Thirty-two narratives (16 in each language) were elicited using cue words which were rated as either low, neutral or high on a pleasantness by external raters. Once the narratives were obtained, they were rated as emotional or non-emotional based on the content of the narrative produced.  Speech dysfluencies were classified as stuttering-like (tense block, broken word, prolongation, sound repetition, syllable repetition, monosyllabic word repetition) and non-stuttering-like (silent pauses greater than 250 millisecond), multisyllabic word repetition, phrase repetition, self-correction, interjection, false start, and unfinished word).  The research questions were: 1) Do the frequencies of evaluative terms and expressions differ in L1/Yiddish and L2/English? 2) To what extent do evaluative terms and expressions relate to keywords pleasantness? 3) Do emotional memories trigger more frequent use of evaluative language?
Results show that evaluative terms were more frequent in Yiddish than in English. In addition, narratives that were rated as ’emotional’ triggered more evaluative terms than non-emotional narratives in both English and Yiddish. With regards to cue word pleasantness ratings, it was found that the low pleasantness cue words in English triggered more evaluative expressions than the neutral and high-pleasantness terms. In contrast, in Yiddish, the high-pleasantness words triggered more evaluative terms and expressions than in the low and neutral pleasantness cue words. In terms of dysfluencies, in general there were more stuttering and non-stuttering speech dysfluencies in Yiddish than in English. Pleasantness did not affect the frequency of dysfluencies in English narratives while in Yiddish, higher rates of dysfluencies appeared in narratives with high pleasantness cue words. In Yiddish, the dominant language before the stroke, there is a link between dysfluent speech, evaluative terms and pleasantness while in English the link is apparent between evaluative terms and pleasantness.  These results emphasize that emotional narratives are differently expressed across languages and even pleasantness is not perceived similarly across the languages. These factors inevitably effect speech dysfluencies, in particular, stuttering-like dysfluencies. The main implication for treatment relates to the extent to which treatment programs should account for language-specific differences regarding emotion and pleasantness in narratives.
Link to poster

  1. Beliefs about English Language Learners Held by Teacher Candidates and Recent Teaching Graduates of WCU

Kathleen Shultz & Meg Niiler (Westchester University)

The number of students with an L1 (native language) other than English shows continued growth in public schools across America over time. Teacher beliefs impact the actions and decisions of teachers and thus the instruction within the classroom. Teachers’ misconceptions about ELLs (English Language Learners) or their instruction may negatively impact the education they receive. This research examines how teacher beliefs held by two groups specific to West Chester University, current teacher candidates and teacher graduates within the past four years, compare. I investigated these beliefs through seven different constructs of teacher beliefs: relationship between L1 and L2 (second language); optimal age to begin L2 instruction; importance of extent of exposure to L2; relationship between oral communication and academic language skills; teacher self-efficacy with ELLs; preparedness in teaching children from different backgrounds as influenced by WCU courses; and finally, personal experience with ELLs. On average, teachers and teacher candidates understand how ELLs learn a language; however, some results showed some common misconceptions, such as not recognizing the importance of a ELLs’ strength in their L1 to their academic performance in English. 3-13% of respondents strongly disagreed that a connection exists between a student’s L1 and L2. The construct teacher self-efficacy with ELLs had several strongly correlated factors which suggest that this construct really measured two separate constructs: teachers’ confidence in their own linguistic abilities and teachers’ ability to recognize their students’ cultural factors, such as the differences in communication between home and school environments to the willingness of students to participate in group work (0.50) or to the ways in which school culture differs from students’ home cultures (0.63). By recognizing harmful beliefs, teachers can figure out the positive sides to those beliefs and actively think of what to do in the classroom that will reflect the positive beliefs. The beliefs teachers hold about ELLs and their instruction can impact students’ futures.

3. An Indirect Measure of Caregivers’ Reliability in Reporting Children’s Noun and Verb Knowledge

Valeryia Artushka & Sudha Arunachalam (New York University), Rhiannon Luyster, (Emerson College), Whitney Guthrie (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia)

A common method of assessing children’s vocabulary is a checklist that caregivers complete, reporting on whether their child produces each word. Researchers have suggested that caregivers report on children’s verb vocabulary less accurately than their noun vocabulary. Preliminary support for this hypothesis comes from language samples in which parents underreport verbs their child produces more so than nouns [1,2]. Though intriguing, language samples provide only limited data about children’s production. We provide converging evidence in support of this hypothesis from a different measure. We performed a secondary analysis of data from a large longitudinal study in which caregivers completed two different versions of the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventory [3]: Words and Gestures (MCDI-WG) and Words and Sentences (MCDI-WS) at the very same visit. Because these checklists have many overlapping words, for our analysis we used the words listed on both forms—208 nouns and 55 verbs—to determine how often caregiver reports were inconsistent between them. That is, we asked whether caregivers reported on one form that their child produced a word and reported that their child did not produce the same word on the other form. We interpret this as an indirect measure of caregivers’ certainty about their child’s knowledge of that particular word. The data consists of 83 pairs of MCDI-WG and MCDI-WS forms from 31 children (many contributed multiple visits) ranging in age from 14 to 43 months (mean age 27 months). (Note that some children were given forms that were not appropriate for their chronological age because some of the sample had language delays; our analyses found no effect of language delay.) We computed for each overlapping word whether parent report was consistent (that is, whether the parent checked “says” on both the MCDI-WG and MCDI-WS forms or did not check “says” on either form). Overall, parents were largely consistent (90%). However, they were more inconsistent with verbs (15% of the time) than nouns (10%). A binomial regression including noun vs. verb as a fixed factor (and child and word as random factors) revealed that this difference was statistically significant (b = -0.36, p < .001). Thus, caregivers are more likely to give inconsistent responses when reporting on the child’s production of the same word across the two questionnaires for verbs than for nouns. These results have implications for how we assess vocabulary using caregiver-report checklists. Although parents are generally reliable, providing the same response about the same word at the same time point despite being given two different forms, to the extent that they are inconsistent, it affects verb reporting more than noun reporting. This is consistent with prior work using language samples [1,2]. Studies focusing on verbs that partial out children’s reported knowledge of verbs on the MCDI may be especially affected

4. How do the French choose their questions? Investigations into usages of in-situ questions in French

Christian Whalen, Viviane Déprez, Aneesa Ahmed, Gabriel Palmieri, Shannon Keane, & Josh Si (Rutgers University-New Brunswick)

Questions in French can take up to six different forms. In one case, the question word is moved to the front of the sentence (moved); in another option it stays in its original position (in-situ). For example.

Where are you going?” Can be translated into French as “Où vas-tu?” (moved) or “Tu vas où?” (in-situ).

It has been suggested that usage of in-situ questions in French is dependent on certain factors such as style of speech (informal/formal) and pragmatic information structure. Our work is testing two new hypotheses about the contextual factors that influence the choice of moved vs. in-situ questions: namely (1) the assumed capacity of the interlocutor to answer the question (‘interlocutor expertise’) and (2) the familiarity with the interlocutor. Through Enquêtes SocioLinguistiques à Orléans (ESLO), a corpus of recorded conversations from Orléans, France, we collected examples of wh-questions to understand the contexts in which they occur. Additionally, a survey based on our hypothesis was designed to tests native French speakers’ choice between moved and in-situ questions. The survey tests their preference by presenting them with contexts in which they must choose between the in-situ and moved forms of the same question to ask the interlocutor. Contexts varied in familiarity (familiar/unfamiliar with the interlocutor) and interlocutor expertise (expert or non-expert on the subject of the question) in order to determine any if these variables are interdependent. Our results show that French speakers have a preference for in-situ questions when they are familiar with the interlocutor, but neither the factor testing for interlocutor expertise nor its interaction with the familiarity factor seem to have an impact on their preference. Our results can be used to improve programs that teach French as a second language by bringing attention to conversational patterns of speech that are often neglected in classroom settings. We hope to extend this experiment, using the same design to explore the in-situ phenomenon in French-based Creoles and Brazilian Portuguese to further understanding of the use of question forms in conversational language

  1. College Students’ Attitudes Toward American English dialects: A survey study

Catherine Aumiller & Sarah Grey (Fordham University)

Recent research has found connections between foreign language attitudes and individual difference factors, including personality and sociocultural background. In a survey study, Dewaele and McCloskey (2015) observed that while attitudes towards foreign accents are in part related to the personal prejudices of a listener, which can be consciously manipulated to some degree, attitudes towards foreign accents are also related to uncontrollable factors, such as a listener’s personality and sociocultural background. The current research extended these findings to attitudes towards standard and non-standard American English dialects. Non-standard dialects have been found to be more vulnerable to negative attitudes than standard dialects (e.g., Rodriquez, Cargile, & Rich, 2004 and Brennan & Brennan, 1981). In this study, college students completed a survey that assessed their attitudes towards three dialects of American English: Standard American English, African American Vernacular English, and Chicano English. These three dialects are comparable as prevalent, non-regional variants, since they are associated with racial/ethnic groups instead of geographical locations. We also gathered information on individual difference factors, namely Extraversion, Neuroticism, Tolerance for Ambiguity (TA) to assess personality traits, and six racial/ethnic and linguistic sociocultural factors. Results from 113 survey respondents revealed connections between personality factors and dialect attitudes, but not equivalently across all dialects, and not very strongly in any case. Extraversion and TA were shown to be positively associated with attitudes towards AAVE. Neuroticism was shown to be positively associated with attitudes towards SAE. The results also revealed that sociocultural factors had, for the most part, no clear relation to dialect attitudes in college students. The only sociocultural variable to show a significant relationship with attitudes was speaking a non-English language natively or at home; this was related to attitudes towards SAE. This study’s findings clarify college students’ attitudes towards these American English dialects and demonstrate if and how cognitive traits and sociocultural background factors relate to language attitudes among college students. The results are informative for strengthening language awareness and diversity, as well as improving cross-cultural communication.
Link to poster

  1. Perceptions on Non-Native Spanish: Which Features Make Great Speakers?

Emily Ip & Anne Edstrom (Montclair University)

It can be challenging for students learning in a classroom setting to reach a high level of proficiency in a second or foreign language, most especially in regard to the development of speaking skills. Consequently, knowing how native speakers evaluate non-native speech could provide helpful information to guide both language teachers and students, since the objective of foreign language learning would be to effectively communicate with native speakers. What characteristics do native speakers consider most important: fluency, a native/near-native accent, a natural sounding rate of speech? Previous research (McBride 2015) has looked at how native Mexican and Argentinian speakers of Spanish and foreign language instructors of Spanish (native speakers of English) evaluated non-native speech. McBride (2015) identified the features that these groups rated as most impactful, which included comprehensibility and pleasantness of speech. The present study extends this research to a different evaluator population by collecting data in Spain. Seventy-five Spaniards evaluated six speech samples of non-native, American-accented Spanish. The Spaniards gave each speech sample a global rating and also assessed each one in terms of several specific criteria: fluency, velocity, intonation, and pronunciation. The data were analyzed to find overall speaker rankings, overall speaker ranking by criteria, and the criteria that made speakers rank higher or lower in the overall rankings. The data show that fluency rankings most closely reflect overall speaker ranking, followed by pronunciation rankings. The relationship between intonation, velocity and overall rankings is less clear, though qualitative data show that speaking quickly seemed more favorable than speaking too slowly. The findings of this study will help foreign language students and instructors focus their learning and teaching on the characteristics that matter most to real-life interlocutors. Such information is particularly important in preparing students to become highly proficient language users in a multilingual society. This study’s focus on Spanish will be especially useful as the growing Spanish-speaking population in the United States raises the demand for competent Spanish speakers in the workforce.
Link to poster

  1. Linguistic Mutilationism: The survival of African gender Epistemology in African American Ebonics

Osimiri Sprowal, Kimani Nehusi, & Anna Haag (Temple University)

The popular linguistic assertion that African American Ebonics (AAE) is a dialect of Standard American English is a notion frequently contested by Afrocentric scholars. Ernie Smith coined the position that Afro-diasporic “dialects/patois/creoles” are new Ebonics languages, due to comparative linguistic analysis between them and the Niger-Congo language family, from which these languages are descended. This paper seeks to further this theory via critical analysis of the similarities between the sociolinguistics of pronouns in AAE, the Niger-Congo language family, and Medu Neter. This paper disputes the theory coined by Dr. Christopher Hall and Taylor Jones that nigga as pronoun in AAE is a semantically bleached English nigger. Instead, the evidence presented suggests that nigga is a stem, which can be modified with the determinacies or context signs a, this, that, bitch, and real respectively.  This paper introduces the usage of bitch as a stem, which can be modified with the determinatives a, this, that, boss and bad. This paper traces the usage of a nigga or a bitch as neuter pronouns to the neuter pronouns in the Niger Congo language family, and usage of stems with context signs in AAE to Medu Neter. This paper also analyzes the application of that nigga/bitch, real nigga, boss bitch,and bitch nigga as gendered honorifics in AAE, and traces their origins to precolonial African gender titles and honorifics in African languages including Igbo, Yoruba, and Dagaare. As an arterial speaker of multiple regional dialects of AAE, my primary research methods were (1) autoethnographic and complete participant ethnographic analysis of spoken language, (2) critical analysis of Ebonics texts, and (3) semi-informal interviews with over 15 other arterial speakers in our language. Materials used where interviews, books, articles, and songs. This paper finds application of the terms “dialect/creole/patois” to Ebonics languages to be linguistic mutilationism, which is the term coined in this paper for the distortion of African languages by Europeans, as a result of colonization. This paper concludes by proposing the reclamation of these as African languages as a Sankofic alternative to the existing linguistic terms.

  1. Prosody Modification vs. Facial Feature Movement Exaggerations: What Matters More During Production of Infant Directed Speech (IDS)

Bridget Gillepsie, Hia Datta, Hanah Butkiewicz & Kristen Zito (Molloy College)

Infant-directed speech (IDS) involves exaggerated prosody and facial features along with simplification of language (McLeod, 1993; Matychuk, 2005). Research on IDS has largely focused on its contribution to language acquisition and social development and not on how infants attend to its specific features. According to McLeod (1993) and Snow (1977), key changes occur when adults communicate with infants, which have been widely recognized as attention gaining tools. The present research explores how exaggerations in prosody (condition 1) and facial features (condition 2) contribute to infants’ attention during IDS. So far, three typically developing infants, 10 to 18 months old, have been recruited for the study. Information regarding developmental milestones, and birth history was collected via case history forms. The infants were exposed to three videos. First the infants were shown the control condition, which was a video of IDS with both exaggerations, of prosody and facial features. The infants were then, exposed to experimental condition one, a video of IDS containing normal facial feature movements, but exaggerations in prosody and intonation. This was followed by a video of condition two, a video of IDS with exaggerated facial feature movements, but normal changes in prosody. Each infant viewed a control condition, and both experimental conditions. Data was analyzed for two measures: (1) How interested infants were during their initial exposure to stimuli (initial looking time measured in seconds) and (2) The rate at which infants showed disinterest to stimuli over repeated exposure (measured by number of repeated trials it took for the infant to achieve half their initial looking time). Overall, results were inconclusive in determining infant preference to exaggerations in prosody or exaggerations in facial feature movements while receiving infant-directed speech. Participant one showed a preference to experimental condition two, while participant three showed a preference to experimental condition one. Participant two showed no preference to either stimuli, and showed an overall disinterest in all stimuli presented. As expected, participants displayed an increased preference to the control condition containing typical infant-directed speech with normal prosody, and facial feature movements. Currently, we are in the process of collecting data from more participants. Present findings support the hypothesis that infants are more likely to attend to infant-directed speech than adult directed speech. When one key feature was removed from infant-directed speech, the stimuli became increasingly similar to adult directed speech, decreasing infant attentiveness to stimuli.

  1. The Effects of Animation vs. Comics on Second Language Acquisition

Tabasum Saljooki & Hia Datta (Molloy College)

Research in second language (L2) acquisition has demonstrated positive effects of various learning tools and strategies like animation (Higgins & Cocks, 1999; Bosseler & Massaro, 2003; Schlosser et al., 2014; Mardani & Najmabadi, 2016) and graphic novels (Frey & Fisher, 2004; Liu, 2004; Lucas, 2005; Csabay, 2006). While research determines both are effective tools, there is little information on which is better. Thus, the purpose of this study is to determine the best tool in second language acquisition. Specifically, I asked: Will monolingual English-speaking adults be able to recall vocabulary in Spanish better with animation or a comic strip compared to traditional index cards? The experiment consisted of participants from 18-30 years of age. Participants received all conditions (animation, comic strip, and index cards). The animation condition consisted of the participant reviewing a 10 second animation for a series of 2 minutes to become familiar with the Spanish language by using both English and Spanish subtitles. The comic strip followed the same directions but contained a separate storyline and script. The control task, the index cards, included an image of a target word and a sentence containing the word in both English and Spanish. The participants reviewed this for a series of 2 minutes. They completed one pretest and two different posttests. One set of pre and posttest consisted of recalling 10 different target words incorporated in each condition. Another posttest consisted of a cloze test in which participants were assessed in reading comprehension and function word recall. Results indicated that overall, each group improved on the posttest compared to the pretest in the target-word recall task. However, participants were able to recall most words when they learned them through animation (F(2, 28)=71.21, p<.001), than comic strips and index cards. If applied to clinical work, animation should be age appropriate and motivating to the audience, this would allow individuals to receive the most benefits from the medium. Like any reinforcement, if an individual has enough motivation, they will see increased benefits to their therapy. Audio-included animation would allow for the client or viewer to receive auditory bombardment which may strengthen the second language acquisition overall. Individuals viewing the animation would also witness language in use via character interactions, setting, etc. and so would learn function words as well as content words more easily than the other two conditions. In conclusion, it is beneficial for individuals to use animation to learn a second language.
Link to poster

  1. Practicing with a Pint: Alcohol’s Effect on Second Language Learning

Daphne Weiss, Daniel Walter, Jennifer McGee, Elizabeth Purnell, & Arden Godfrey (Emory College of Arts and Sciences)

It is commonly believed that consuming alcohol influences your ability to speak fluently in your non-native language. Though widely disseminated across language-learning blogs and news sources, this belief has rarely been scientifically tested. In an early example, Guiora et al. (1972) found that consumption of small amounts of alcohol led to more authentic pronunciation of words in a foreign language. In more recent work, Renner et al. (2018) found that observer ratings of fluency were higher when participants had consumed moderate amounts of alcohol. The apparent improvements may be a result of alcohol’s effect of lowering inhibitions, which might increase willingness to speak in a second language and decrease cognitive resources dedicated to monitoring. While these findings provide some evidence that alcohol improves perceived fluency in a second language, research has yet to show whether these subjective observations are significant in objective measures, such as error and speech rates. Our research aims to extend previous findings using these more rigorous assessments of fluency to determine the impact of moderate alcohol consumption on spoken second language fluency. We assess fluency before and after alcohol consumption using interviews with questions designed to elicit a variety of syntactic and morphological structures. Participants in this study were second language learners of German of legal drinking age. We used two methods to assess the fluency of our participants: error analysis and speech rate analysis. Lexical, morphological, and syntactic errors were coded, and the rates compared between pre and post interviews in a between-subjects design to control for covariates such as proficiency level, years of instruction, and speech rate. We also calculated turn- and time-based measures of speech rate. Since we are still collecting data, we present a short analysis of Participant 1. In addition to initial findings and analysis, we present issues with study design and recruitment, data analysis, and additional avenues of inquiry. The results of this study will have implications across multiple disciplines, including second language acquisition, cognitive sciences, psychology, and education.

Session Three: 3:40 PM – 4:40 PM in LLC 124

  1. The co-occurrence of Iconic and Beat Gesticulation in Speech

Student Author: Paris Green
Mentor Author: Martha Tyrone, Long Island University- Downtown Brooklyn & Haskins Laboratories

Gesture refers to the movement of the body in unison with speech. It is evident in speakers of all languages, although the coding system used in each language varies. Gesticulation is an area of linguistics that has received far less attention than spoken language, although it enables us to clarify meaning in our expressions. Gestures on their own lack linguistic properties but provide insights into principles underlying speech production. While it is common knowledge that we gesture while we speak, it is unknown if the gestures are timed to co-occur with the content of speech. This study investigated this phenomenon. The participants in the study include an adult male and adult female, both monolingual speakers of American English. They were asked to describe the events of a story, and the data were collected using video, audio and kinematic recordings. For the purposes of this study only audio and video data were utilized. The speech was then transcribed and marked to show when gestures were produced during speech.  We analyzed the orientation of the hand movement, hand shape and coding system. The coding scheme used in this study were devised by McNeill (1922) while the gesture shapes derived from ASL hand shapes from Friedman (1977). The gesture system will help us to identify if the gesture that co-occurred with speech aligned with its context, if it was done to indicate fictitious people or objects or held absolutely no meaning but provided rhythmic elements. These resources in addition to the data collected from the participants, allowed us to determine our preliminary analyses; which suggested that gesture and speech co-occur. They co-occur especially in cases of gestures that mirror the semantics in an utterance, and when enhancing prosody to provide emphasis.
Link to slides

  1. The effects of differing spectral envelopes and ambiguity on perceived pitch

Student Author: Katie Zaniewska
Mentor Author: Jonathan Nissenbaum, Brooklyn College, City University of New York

The most basic component of sound is a pure tone, with an oscillating sinewave frequency. In pure sinewave tones, the perceived pitch of the auditory stimulus matches the physical frequency of the tone. However, it is known that the auditory system tracks the perceived pitch and the frequency spectra of complex tones separately. Perceptually, the upper partials (harmonics) of a complex tone can play an important role in determining the perceived pitch as well as the spectral envelope. Using only the upper harmonics of a tone can create a stimulus that differs physically from a pure tone while still being perceived as having the same pitch. This phenomenon relies on the missing fundamental effect. Research by Pantev, et al. (1989) has shown that that there is a region of the primary auditory cortex in which the tonotopic organization reflects the perceived pitch, and not the physical frequencies present in the stimulus.
Considering this research, our study qualitatively analyzes how the brain responds similarly to physically different stimuli that rely on the missing fundamental effect and ambiguity to produce a similar perceived pitch. For the purpose of this experiment, we chose three auditory stimuli, which consist of pure tones, complex tones composed just of a small set of upper partials, and Shepard tones. Pure tones have a spectral envelope identical to the frequency corresponding to the perceived pitch, whereas the complex tones composed of upper partials rely on the missing fundamental effect, to create an unambiguous perceived pitch that differs from the physical spectral envelope. Shepard tones are similar to the partial tones, with the exception of the ambiguous perceived pitch due to the auditory phenomenon that incorporates both upper harmonics and ambiguity.
In this study, we used Diana Deutsch’s model for Shepard tones, and used both circular and scaled Shepard tones (Deutsch, 2010). This pilot study used magnetoencephalography (MEG) data from one participant, who heard 3825 trials of 800ms auditory stimuli in either of the three conditions, in different keys, frequency and directionality. Using MATLAB, the three conditions were baseline corrected and averaged and graphed per sensor. We focused on the ten surrounding sensors around the left and right auditory cortex. The trends of each condition within and between each sensor were qualitatively analyzed, and the trends of the Shepard tones consisted of five distinct possible trends, each of which was dependent on the magnitude and spectral pattern of the Shepard tone in comparison to those of both the partial and pure tones. After assessing the trends in the graphed data, the data suggests that the Shepard tones often parallel the partial tones in both hemispheres. The graphs of the two conditions generally coincide in terms of magnitude and spectral envelope, however, the circular Shepard tones in both hemispheres adopt a similar pattern to the partial tones for the first 200ms, and then delineate, more closely following the spectral trend of the pure tones. This suggests that Shepard tones share characteristics of both pure and partial tones, and perhaps its illusive ambiguity is a factor in its spectral envelope.
Link to slides

  1. Response Time Differences in Word Recognition Across Spanish-

English Bilinguals

Student Author: Steven Mera
Mentor Author: Marisa Nagano, Long Island University- Downtown Brooklyn

Language organization among bilinguals has been closely studied in recent years, particularly in the realm of dual-language activation during stimuli processing (Assche, Drieghe, Duyck, Welvaert, & Hartsuiker, 2008). The modulation effects of sentence context on language selection (and non-selection) has been specifically looked at for Dutch-English bilinguals (Assche et al., 2008). Several studies have also focused on the language selection (and non-selection) of Spanish-English bilinguals (Hell & de Groot, 2008; Gullifer, Kroll, & Dussias, 2013). However, we have limited knowledge on how language selection is affected by an individual’s language dominance (Spanish-dominance or English-dominance).
The present study aims to investigate lexical access among Spanish/English bilinguals, specifically the differences in response times between those who are Spanish-dominant and those who are English-dominant. To determine response times, participants were given a lexical decision-based task in which words are presented one by one (formulating a sentence) leading to a single word that requires a response from the participant as to whether or not it is a real word in Spanish. Sentences are categorized based on whether they contain a “cognate” word (a word that is similar in English and Spanish, such as “tropical” or “piano”), and whether or not the context of the sentence primes the final word.
The study on Dutch-English bilinguals has indicated that lexical access is not language-specific, suggesing that both languages are active when reading sentences (Assche et al., 2008). In addition, previous studies have also found that sentence context does not have a particular influence on language activation (Gullifer, Kroll, & Dusias, 2013). For our study, we predicted that lexical access will indeed not be language-specific; however, dominance in Spanish or English will modulate the effects of language selection when reading sentences under different contexts.
Link to slides

4:40 PM – 5 PM
Coffee Break in Humanities Lobby

Session Four: 5 PM – 5:50 PM in LLC 124

  1. The Influence of Bilingualism and Hearing Loss on Cognitive Decline in Older Adults

Student Author: Ann Kochupurakal
Mentor Author: Katrien Vermeire, Long Island University- Downtown Brooklyn

Cognitive decline is associated with many well-known diseases and disorders impairing the mind as one gets older, including but not limited to: Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc. Hearing loss has been positively linked to cognitive decline in older adults. Similarly, preliminary research has shown that bilingualism can also slow down the rate of cognitive decline in older adults. Older bilingual adults experience less cognitive decline than their monolingual counterparts. Whether bilingualism protects older adults against the negative effects of hearing loss on cognition is unclear. The purpose of this pilot study is to explore the relationship between hearing impairments and bilingualism in relation to cognitive decline.  Two groups of hearing- impaired older adults were compared at Long Island University, Brooklyn – one group was monolingual (English) and the second was bilingual (Spanish – English). There was also a control group of individuals aged 18-25 with normal hearing, also divided into the same two groups. All of the older participants were given a Montreal Cognitive Assessment, or MoCa, to assess different cognitive domains: attention and concentration, executive functions, memory, language, visuo-constructional skills, conceptual thinking, calculations, and orientation. If they received an average score of at least 26/30 points, they were administered the Reading Span Test, (RST), a span test commonly used to gauge the efficiency of the working memory, which is linked to cognitive abilities. The participants were asked to read groups of 2-6 sentences aloud and asked to recall the last word of each of them. Statistical analysis was conducted to help determine whether older bilingual adults have better cognitive abilities than older monolingual adults with comparable hearing loss. The results of this study can be used to encourage further research on possible correlating variables of cognitive decline – such as hearing loss and bilingualism – in older adults, and can even spur advocacy for second-language learning from an earlier age.
Link to slides

  1. Using Synthesized Speech to Investigate Features Used to Identify Speaker Sex

Student Authors: Deema Farraj & Linda Fauz
Mentor Author:  Jonathan Nissenbaum, Brooklyn College, City University of New York

Adult male and adult female voices differ in two prominent ways: fundamental frequency (f0) and range of formant frequencies (due to the length of vocal tract.) Because these two acoustic properties ordinarily go together, it is unknown whether one of them plays a more important role than the other in listeners’ ability to identify the sex of a speaker, or whether both play equal roles in sex identification. How would a listener perceive a voice that exhibits “mixed” properties, i.e. f0 in the typical male range but formants in the typical female range, and vice versa? And, in the case of such a “mismatch” between f0 and formants, would one of the two features have more of an influence on sex identification?
This talk reports two experiments currently underway, designed to create “mismatches” to determine whether listeners are more sensitive to f0 or formants in their perception of speaker sex. Listeners are presented with synthesized speech where formant ranges vary independently of f0. In one experiment, listeners are presented with a set of stimuli with “ambiguous” formants in between the typical adult male and female ranges. The f0 of the stimuli, however, vary in equal steps of 10 Hz from the typical male range (85-180 Hz) to the typical female range (165 to 225 Hz.) In the second experiment, the f0 is kept in a constant, ambiguous range averaged between typical male and female range, and it is the formants of the stimuli that vary in equal steps of 10 Hz. The stimuli are synthesized using a modified protocol for Sinewave Speech that adds a perceptual cue for pitch.
Preliminary findings are expected to show which property, f0 or formants, contribute more to a listener’s identification of sex. Given that the f0 and formant values are manipulated, these experiments are also expected to demonstrate if listener’s responses match our expectations of which range values distinguish and categorize male and female voices. Regardless of participants responses, these findings are expected to yield valuable information about perception and identification of a speaker’s sex.
Link to slides

5:50 PM – 6 PM

Closing Remarks


The conference was supported by NSF Grant National Science Foundation (SMA # 1659607) awarded to Isabelle Barrière and Jonathan Nissenbaum.  Special thanks to NYSSHLA-LIU Chapter led by George Pagano and NYSSHLA-LIU students Jetjona Juhanxhi, Juliana Profaci, Natalia Sayedarous, Karina Succar, YVY Research Institute Research Assistant Jessica Fracasse, LIU-CSD Administrative Assistant Christie Turner, LIU-CSD Clinic Director Emily Perdios and Cameraman Prince Guetjens for their invaluable assistance in the organization of the conference.