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Colloquium: Sujeewa Hettiarachchi and Batia Snir (Linguistics Graduate Students)

Friday, April 17, 2015
12:00 AM
3254 LSA Building

Sujeewa Hettiarachchi and Batia Snir present student colloquiums

Two of our own graduate students, Sujeewa Hettiarachchi and Batia Snir, will deliver colloquium presentations today. The titles and abstracts of their presentations are given below. 

On L2 Syntactic Competence and Processing: Evidence from Sinhala/English Bilinguals (Sujeewa Hettiarachchi)

A debate exists in Second Language (L2) acquisition literature concerning the locus of the divergence in the ultimate attainment (steady state grammar) between L2 speakers and native speakers of a given target language. Representational deficit accounts (e.g., Hawkins and Hattori, 2006; Tsimpli, 2003) postulate that this divergence results from a deficit in narrow syntax, especially in the domain of uninterpretable syntactic features that are subject to an early Critical Period (Tsimpli 2003). According to an alternative view (e.g., Clahsen and Felser, 2006), at least regarding incremental language comprehension, the divergence may not necessarily involve a deficiency in competence but may actually correspond to ‘shallow processing’ by L2ers, who would over-rely on lexical-semantic information at the expense of computing a detailed syntactic representation in processing the L2 input. In this talk, I present results from two experiments (a Truth Value Judgment task and a Self-Paced Reading task) with Sinhala/English bilinguals in their ‘steady state’ in L2 and discuss their implications for the ongoing debate regarding the syntactic competence and processing by L2 speakers.

Making Coherence Coherent (Batia Snir)

"Franklin was in a good mood today. The Royals won last night." Merely juxtaposing two sentences can introduce added meaning in the form of coherence relations; for example, the previous pairing strongly implies a cause for Franklin's disposition, even as none is directly stated.  While coherence has been shown to be a key contributor to such varied phenomena as the resolution of pronoun reference and event ordering, current definitions of coherence are tied up in descriptive catalogues of discourse relations, or vague notions of "inferences."  This talk motivates a more formal approach to coherence, and in doing so shows coherence to be a more heterogeneous phenomenon than previously believed.

Sujeewa Hettiarachchi and Batia Snir