The Linguistics Department proudly congratulates PhD candidates Andrew McInnerney and Justin Craft, who were awarded Rackham Predoctoral Fellowships for the 2020-2021 academic year from Rackham Graduate School.

The Rackham Predoctoral Fellowship supports outstanding doctoral candidates working on dissertations that are unusually creative, ambitious and impactful. See the full list of recipients.

Read the abstracts by Andrew McInnerney and Justin Craft below.

Andrew McInnerney
The Argument-Adjunct Distinction and the Structure of Prepositional Phrases 

The classic distinction between “arguments” and “adjuncts” has had a tremendous impact on theories of human knowledge of syntax. This thesis aims to vitalize skepticism towards the distinction. Careful syntactic analysis shows that the empirical motivation for a category distinction between arguments and adjuncts is quite poor; scientifically grounded syntactic theories should therefore discard the distinction. Despite its poor empirical support, the argument adjunct distinction plays a pivotal role in the analysis of diverse syntactic phenomena. The secondary aim of this thesis is therefore to show that such analyses are inadequate, and can be improved by abandoning the argument-adjunct distinction. Towards this end, I focus on the analysis of prepositional phrases, the ideal test case, as prepositional phrases are canonically thought to be “adjuncts” in some cases, “arguments” in others.

Justin Craft
The Effect of Listener Experience and Prediction on Illusory Perception 

Speaker accents reflect the communities where speakers learn their language. Thus, all speakers of all languages speak with an accent that reflects characteristics about their social identity. Listeners readily adapt to accented speech as they gain experience with accented speakers and also to use this experience to generate predictive expectations about speaker accents. My dissertation uses perceptual illusions as a tool to probe how stereotyped beliefs operate during speech processing. I conduct three experiments that analyze the electrophysiological and behavioral responses of participants listening to audiovisual perceptual illusions that investigate the role that speaker race plays, when cued visually, in recalibrating listeners’ auditory speech percepts. By breaking the audio-visual integration characteristic of typical speech processing, my dissertation targets whether the percepts listeners experience, when they can only rely on their expectations about an interlocutor’s speech, reflect the variation present in the actual stereotyped speech signal.