2023 / 2024


3:00PM • SEP 22 2023 • CHE 212



Prosody and Prosodic Phrasing in Kwak’wala

Kwak’wala is a critically endangered Wakashan language spoken in British Columbia. Owing in part to extensive documentation in the early 20th century by Franz Boas and George Hunt, the language has received significant attention in the linguistic literature. In the realm of phonology, Kwak’wala shows several unusual prosodic features including a typologically rare default-to-opposite stress system at the word level (Boas 1947; Grubb 1969; Shaw 2009), and extensive mismatches between syntactic and prosodic domains at the sentential level (Anderson 2005). Relatively underdescribed, however, are the intonational and tonal properties of words and sentences, and how these correlate with patterns of prosodic prominence and phrasing. In this talk, I provide an overview of word- and phrase-level prosody in Kwak’wala, and propose that prosodic processes in this language conspire to demarcate prosodic word-level domains. I also discuss the implications of this analysis for language documentation and revitalization.

2022 / 2023

Several UCalgary graduate students are participating! Learn more about their research below:
Summer Abdalla – Acquisition of Levantine Arabic Word Stress

Francisco Ongay González – A Raising Account of Llevar + Time in Spanish [view poster]

Mahyar Nakhaei – A new look at -esh: Eye-tracking a novel Persian agreement marker

Peng Qiu – The syntactic properties of group classifiers and individual classifiers in Mandarin [view slides]

Shayne Shapkin – Swiss German Confirmationals and Head Valuation [view slides]

Kang Xu – A new syntactic analysis of Mandarin sentence-final particles [view poster]


3:30PM • MAR 17 2023 • CHE 212

How does the melody of speech affect early attention and word learning abilities? How do children then produce melodic distinctions in their own speech? My research examines the complex intersection of prosody and language development in both perception and production. For perception, I use eye tracking to investigate how toddlers utilize the acoustic correlates of prosody during referent resolution. For production, I use an autosegmental metrical approach to create an inventory of the intonational contours found in the natural speech of young children as well as examine how children phonetically implement prosodic information. By understanding how these processes occur in typical development, I am able to analyze and assess prosodic development in children who experience the world in unique ways, such as autistic children and children with motor speech disorders.


3:30PM • FEB 10 2023 • CHE 212

Research on the language of space has uncovered a complex set of conceptual and linguistic factors affecting how speakers use and learn spatial vocabularies across languages. In this talk, I will argue that communicative/pragmatic factors, even though much less discussed, also influence spatial language acquisition and use. A first set of studies examines the asymmetric pattern of acquisition of the locatives front and back. Although, this and other asymmetric patterns of lexical emergence are thought to reflect children’s immature underlying conceptual/semantic structure, experiments with child and adult speakers of different languages demonstrate that they are due to pragmatic inferences typically associated with the use of these locatives. A second set of studies, focuses on a previously unnoticed asymmetry in the use of containment (in/out) and support (on/off) prepositions. Experiments with child and adult speakers of English as well as speakers of a wider cross-linguistic sample, demonstrate that the distribution of these prepositions is heavily affected by pragmatic factors. Together, this data provide evidence that pragmatic pressures can produce strikingly stable and potentially universal patterns of spatial language acquisition and use.