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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Dissertation Information

Title: Generating Alternatives: Interpreting Focus in Discourse Add Dissertation
Author: Christina Kim Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: University of Rochester, Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Completed in: 2012
Linguistic Subfield(s): Pragmatics; Psycholinguistics; Semantics; Cognitive Science;
Subject Language(s): English
Director(s): Michael Tanenhaus
Gregory Carlson
Jeffrey Runner
Tim Jaeger
Christine Gunlogson

Abstract: This dissertation investigates a class of context-dependent expressions
— focus-sensitive particles — as a way of addressing how language
users draw on contextual information to interpret expressions whose
meanings are underdetermined by their forms. While the problem of
context dependence has been widely studied, the question of precisely
what cognitive processes and representations are involved in
interpreting context-sensitive meanings online has been relatively
under-researched. The current work picks up where the work of
semanticists leaves off after defining context-invariant aspects of
meaning, trying to characterize the workings of the pragmatics as a
kind of interface between context-invariant meaning and particular
situations of language use.

By investigating the online interpretation of focus particles in spoken
language, this study tackles an additional source of indeterminacy: in
addition to semantic representations being underspecified by virtue of
being context-dependent, the forms corresponding to these
representations are indeterminate at each timepoint over the duration
of an utterance. The observation that listeners are able to fluently
interpret partial linguistic inputs given available contextual information
tells us that the information contributed by small units of linguistic input
can be used immediately by the processor, in addition to meaning
representations that specify the relation of a linguistic expression to a
complete sentential meaning.

Investigating these two forms of indeterminate meaning in tandem will
provides insights that asking these questions in isolation would not,
and ultimately allow a reformulation of the research question that cuts
up the explanatory pie in a way that departs from the classical division
of labor among grammatical competence, language (and non-linguistic)
processing, and communicative goals.