The plenary speaker for this year's UUSCIL will be Professor Maria Polinsky from the Department of Linguistics at the University of Maryland.
Structure or processing? Comparing monolingual and bilingual grammars
Ellipsis constructions are well known for having two readings: strict and sloppy. For example, the sentence, "The linguist admired himself, and the logician did too,” is ambiguous between the strict reading (the linguist and the logician both admired the linguist) and the sloppy reading (the logician admired the logician, that is, himself). All factors being equal, English speakers show a strong preference for the sloppy reading in coordination contexts. Similar preference for sloppy readings is observed in a number of other languages (such as Dutch and German). In this talk, I show that this preference is also observed in monolingual Russian. However, this sloppy-reading preference under ellipsis is absent from Heritage Russian: the Russian language spoken by unbalanced bilinguals who are dominant in some other language (better known as heritage speakers of Russian); in this study, all Heritage Russian speakers were dominant in American English. The disappearance of the sloppy reading is particularly surprising given that both Russian and English, the dominant language of the heritage subject pool, favor that reading. I present and analyze clause structure in Heritage Russian and argue that the restructuring of Heritage Russian ellipsis follows from changes in the aspectual system and in the inventory of null pronominals available to heritage speakers. As a result, what may appear to be unexpected change is actually well motivated by systematic restructuring in the heritage language. Research on heritage languages often emphasizes their low tolerance for ambiguity, and the Heritage Russian ellipsis facts point to the decrease in ambiguity as well. However, such decrease in ambiguity is just a side effect of a systematic restructuring that takes place in the heritage system. These results indicate that heritage speakers differ from the monolingual baseline in their grammatical knowledge, not in processing alone (as is typically claimed).
UUSCIL 2017 schedule coming soon
For questions or for additional information, please contact Cole Brendel at UUSCIL@utah.edu.