Friday, April 08, 2011

liveblogging GHILM 3

... 'cause the hell why not.
... while the battery lasts.
... theme of the day: "Work in progress" (is there any other kind)?

- Intro by Thomas Stolz and Ray Fabri.
Highlight: all future publications by GHILM will be handled by Akademie-Verlag Berlin, proceedings from GHILM 2 should be finished by the end of the month. And there will be a electronic corpus of Maltese going live by the end of the month. Dammit, beaten to the punch again.

- Invited speaker 1: Thomas Stolz. A lively talk on group formation ('we three' etc.), all of it based on Thomas' bedtime reading (with statistics!). Note to self: get it.

- Ray Fabri on clitic and definite NPs in Maltese that's bound to knock the socks of Balkanologists (spoiler alert: clitic doubling with indefinite NPs. Take that!). A lot if it overlapped with my talk and the ensuing discussion actually spoiled parts of it. Great minds etc., I guess.

- Me.
Highlight 1: I didn't shit myself.
Highlight 2: Neither did the audience.
I screwed up an example (that'll learn me to make last-minute changes), but otherwise went pretty well.

- Maris Camilleri on restrictive relative clauses. Crammed full of information and - needless to say - excellent.

- Chris Lucas on negatives from the point of view of dynamic syntax. First time I've ever heard of dynamic syntax and Chris' explanation of the principles actually made sense. Plus some interesting asides on polarity items and interrogative vs. negative 'x' in Maltese.


- Invited speaker 2: Frans Plank on the direction of derivation, mostly nouns<-> adjectives and comparison of direction of derivation with English and German within specific semantic classes. Poor (present) Michael Spagnol got blamed for most of errors.
A comment (from the discussion) by Frans Plank a propos basic vs. derived forms: "In Proto Indo-European, what we see as basic is actually derived. Etymological dictionaries of Indo-Euroean list roots as verbs which is probably more science-fiction than science."

- Michael Spagnol and Albert Gatt on labile verbs (see Haspelmath 1993). Michael did the theory and described Haspelmath 1993 as his favorite paper evah. I almost yelled "Nerd!". Albert presented the results of an online / corpus study examining the use (transitive vs. intransitive) of labile verbs in Maltese and put together a list of verbs biased either way. Very nice. Note to self: need to steal their methodology.

Battery died. Crap.

- Thomas Mayer (et al., but he was the one standing there) with a pretty awesome talk on finding the formula for forming the broken plural in Maltese.
- Phyllisienne Gauci and Maris Camilleri again on the dual. Next time somebody claims there are no dialects in Maltese, play them the recording of all the native speaker disagreeing on this seemingly minor point. OT: "thallasanejn" = "two seas". Archaic, but still awesome.

One last item before the poster session: Albert Gatt officially announced the launch of the Maltese Language Resource Server Corpus ( Going live soon, this will be the big ass (over 72 million word tokens) you've always dreamed about. This surely beats the 48 million words I put together over the last few months, but at least a part of it can and will be integrated into MLRSC.

And finally, the poster session. My favorite part was the statistical analysis of possible tri- and quadriliteral roots by Mike Spagnol and Thomas Mayer (busy as bees, the Konstanz guys) and the comparison between possible and attested roots. Pretty cool stuff with wide-ranging implications.

So that's it for day 1. I'm off to bed, wouldn't wanna miss Bernard Comrie's talk at 8:30.

... aka "Membership drive for the International Federation of the Sleep Deprived."

Invited speaker 3: Bernard Comrie on the typology of Maltese loanwords. The data was of course obtained within the scope of the Loanword Typology project (see also this LanguageLog post and the links therein). It turns out Maltese is pretty high on the list with 37.00% of the lexical items borrowed, so slightly less than 39% for English. Surprisingly enough, the ratio of borrowings from English is very low (2-3% or something like that).
- Next up, Marie Alexander with a talk on the mixing of English and Maltese in children. Fascinating data on language choice for both parents and children.
- Sandra Vella et al. on the distribution, function and pragmatic properties of pauses and breaks.
- Matt Wolf of Yale with a very heavy and very technical optimality-theory-related talk.
- Another very technical paper by Gilbert Puech analyzing the fundamentals ofMaltese phonology.
- And yet another heavily technical, but in a different way, talk by MarkBorg describing in great detail the methods he and his team are using to create a speech synthesis engine for Maltese (it's all in the diphones). Once completed, the engine will be freely available and so will the methodology.

... why am I up at 7:30 on a Sunday?

Invited speaker 4: Elisabeth Hume with another experiment-based analysis, this time of word-final geminates in Maltese. It turns out that not only are the geminates kept geminated (which is rare), there is also a lengthening of the preceding vowel. This has implications for the way information is transferred in terms of redundancy vs. robustness. Work in progress, but definitely a fascinating matter.
- Next up, Adam Ussishkin and Kevin Schluter with a talk on auditory root and binyan priming. The overall question is whether the roots and patterns (binyanim) are a part of the mental lexicon. If they are, then priming should be possible - in other words, if you are presented with a word with a certain root/pattern, recognizing another word with the same root/pattern should go much faster. Test like these are usually done visually which is problematic with Hebrew and Arabic script. So the Arizona guys developed an auditory test for both superliminal and subliminal priming. Superliminal means the priming element is played as it is. Subliminal - and this is where shit gets really weird - but in the best way possible - involves playing the priming element backwards, time-compressed. It turns out that there is no priming effect on patterns and there is one for root. The really surprising part is that that effect is roughly the same for supraliminal AND subliminal priming. Really awesome work.
- Mike Spagnol with a re-analysis of Maltese derived stems. Bottom line: there aren't 10 (or 9, minus IV), but actually only 4.5, seeing as there are mutually exclusive pairs (say, if a root occurs in VII, it doesn't occur in VIII) and there are only a few verbs in X.
- Martin Zammit with a much needed reevaluation of some of Aquilina's etymologies using newly published material on Tunisian Arabic. The fun part for me was that I recognized about half of the lexical items from Tunisian Judeo-Arabic.
- Another talk on etymology by Daniele Baglioni where he offers the thesis that at least some of the Romance loandwords didn't come to Maltese directly from Sicilian/Italian, but from a variety of Italian he terms 'Levant Italian' - a variety used as an international language in the late-medieval Levant and beyond.
- Jan Joachimsen with one more OT-related paper, this time focusing on Maltese orthography and its acquistion by children.
- And last, but not least, L. Brincat with a report on a study of how chatting (not texting) influences the spelling habits of Maltese teenagers. Executive summary with a bunch of caveats: there is some correlation between the amount of time spent chatting and relatively low testing scores. The real interesting part was the examination of chat Maltese, which shows a bunch of really familiar features, such as using numbers for syllables ("4c" = "forsi" = "perhaps, 8 = '-ejt', the 1SG/2SG perfect suffix for defective and loan verbs), the total absence of the word "iva" = "yes" ("ehe", "ija" and forms like that are used) and so forth. Work in progress or not, it was a fine conclusion to what I can only describe as best conference evah.

Now let's catchup on some shuteye. Tomorrow, I'm going book shopping.


Mattitiahu said...

All of this sounds fascinating, and I'd really like to have a look at the final version of this binyan priming psycholinguistic experiment. It'd be interesting to see how discontinuous morphology is grammaticalized in the lexicon, and for that matter (more broadly applied), how native speakers would grammaticalize foreign vocabulary according to binyan patterns (or not).

Language said...

It does all sound fascinating, but what I really want to know is: am I correctly pronouncing Comrie as /'kamrai/?

bulbul said...


well, I didn't hear it pronounced by the man himself (hell, I was sitting next to him for about two hours before I realised who he was), but IIRC, he was introduced by Thomas Stolz (who is a native speaker of German, so grain of salt etc.) as /'kɔmri/.

Language said...

Ah, and having checked Wikipedia (which I should have done in the first place), I see Stolz is correct. Thanks!

bulbul said...

how native speakers would grammaticalize foreign vocabulary
With verbs, it's a wee bit complicated (essentially, the morphology of borrowed verbs is concatenative) but nouns... Suffice it to say that broken plurals are regularly created from borrowed nouns. My favorite example is stejjer which is the plural of storja. Vowel quality change, metathesis and gemination, oh my!

Anonymous said...


We have a blog about topics related to different foreign languages.

We would very much like to get your insights!


David Marjanović said...

hell, I was sitting next to him for about two hours before I realised who he was

I hate it when conference participants don't wear their nametags.

David Marjanović said...

Hey! Anyone alive here?

A comment (from the discussion) by Frans Plank a propos basic vs. derived forms: "In Proto Indo-European, what we see as basic is actually derived. Etymological dictionaries of Indo-Euroean list roots as verbs which is probably more science-fiction than science."

You don't happen to have any details on that, or at least could tell me which journal I should watch?

Anyway, on the topics of PIE, metathesis, and a PIE root you once blogged about, I was just alerted to this journal. Many papers are open-access. Check out this one (pdf) and take a good look at the very first item in the list of lexical comparisons (p. 5). Could lead to emotional turmoil. :-)

David Marjanović said...

a variety of Italian he terms 'Levant Italian' - a variety used as an international language in the late-medieval Levant and beyond.

Is that different from lingua franca?

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