Congratulations to Ryan Lepic

Congratulations to Ryan Lepic, who defended his dissertation “Motivation in Morphology: Lexical Patterns in ASL and English” on Thursday, August 13, 2015.


Words that are systematically related in form and meaning exhibit morphological structure. A fundamental question in morphological theory concerns the nature of this structure, and the role that it serves in grammatical organization. One characterization of morphological structure, the morpheme-based perspective, views complex words as constructed from smaller, independently meaningful pieces. An alternative characterization, the word-based perspective, views whole words as participating in patterns that are abstracted over networks of surface words, whether “simple” or “complex”.


This dissertation explores the consequences of these two views of morphological structure, as they apply to the analysis of American Sign Language and English. Here I show that the morphological structure of a variety of words in ASL and in English can be analyzed in terms of constructions, or learned pairings of form and meaning. These morphological constructions range from simple and concrete, in the case of actually-occurring surface words, to more schematic and complex, in the case of recurring patterns and sub-patterns extracted from whole surface words. Comparing compounds, derived words, borrowed words, and lexical blends in a spoken language and a sign language reveals that though many words can be analyzed into component pieces, the identifiable pieces may do very little to determine the meaning of the particular word. Instead, word internal structure is a reflection of the structure of the networks, or lexical families, that whole words participate in.


This exploration demonstrates that rather than primarily compositional, and resulting from the combination of meaningful parts, word-internal structure is relational, serving to link words together, within and across families. As a construction-theoretic analysis of derivational morphology in a spoken language and a sign language, this dissertation ties together and provides a unified analysis for a range of empirical phenomena. I anticipate that this study will also provide a point of departure for future studies of spoken and sign language morphology, either together or in isolation, from a construction-theoretic and word-based perspective.

Congratulations to BoYoung Kim

Congratulations to BoYoung Kim, who defended her dissertation “Sensitivity to Islands in Korean-English Bilinguals” on Monday, August 17, 2015.


This dissertation explores island effects in Korean and in English, and in both languages for Korean-English bilinguals. The focus of the study is twofold: First, it examines whether Korean exhibits island effects, as the status of islands in Korean and typologically related wh-in-situ languages has been unclear. Second, it explores whether Korean-English bilinguals display native-like island effects in both of their languages.

Island phenomena have played an important role in the investigation of learnability. While most accounts of island effects claim that the input is not directly involved and that islands stem from basic properties of grammar/processing that are available to all humans, another line of accounts claims that islands actually can be learned from the input. These different approaches to the learnability issue on islands would then predict different outcomes for bilinguals. Under the accounts claiming that islands are not learned but available to all speakers regardless of one’s learning environments, we might expect native-like island effects in bilinguals regardless of their learning environment and the status of islands in their L1. On the other hand, if input plays an important role in having island effects, as the second position argues, then bilinguals might be expected to show non-native-like and/or various types of island effects.

Four acceptability experiments on island effects in Korean (involving a whether-island and an adjunct island) in native and Korean-English bilinguals (i.e. heritage speakers of Korean) revealed the presence of a whether-island but the absence of an adjunct island in Korean in both native and heritage speakers of Korean. Another five acceptability experiments on island effects in English (a whether-island, a wh-island, and three types of adjunct islands) showed that Korean-English bilinguals, grouped according to their AoA (i.e. Heritage: AoA 0-5, Early: AoA 6-10, and Late: AoA 11-14), displayed adjunct island effects but either had weaker whether/wh-island effects than native speakers or lacked these effects altogether. Their island effect sizes, measured by DD scores, indicated that islands get weaker with increasing AoA. There was also found a positive correlation between AoA and length effects in bilinguals, suggesting a difficulty with long-distance dependencies as AoA increases.

The present study shows that Korean exhibits some islands, and Korean-English bilinguals display native-like island effects in both English and Korean, despite the possibly different learning environments of bilinguals, and the different status of islands in their two languages. These results are discussed in light of the cross-linguistic similarities and differences in islands, and the role of input in island effects.



UCSD Phonetics Lab at ICPhS

UCSD’s Phonetics Lab will have 6 oral and poster presentations at the 2015 International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, August 10-15 in Glasgow, Scotland!

  • Lexical and post-lexical tone in Choguita Rarámuri. Marc Garellek, Andrés Aguilar, Gabriela Caballero, and Lucien Carroll
  • Coda glottalization in American English. Scott Seyfarth and Marc Garellek
  • Acoustic properties of different kinds of creaky voice. Patricia Keating (UCLA), Marc Garellek, and Jody Kreiman (UCLA)
  • An experimental investigation of tonogenesis in Punjabi. Jasmeen Kanwal and Amanda Ritchart
  • The phonetics and distribution of non-question rises in two varieties of American English. Meghan Armstrong (UMass), Page Piccinini, and Amanda Ritchart
  • Voice onset time in Spanish-English spontaneous code-switching. Page Piccinini and Amalia Arvaniti (Kent)

Page Piccinini, Amanda Ritchart, and Scott Seyfarth also received IPA Student Awards. Only 6 students from the US were awarded the prize. Congratulations!