Linguistics and English Language

70th Language at Edinburgh lunch

The Language@Edinburgh Lunch is a bi-monthly opportunity to present your work to an interdisciplinary audience in an intimate and feedback-rich setting, all while enjoying a buffet lunch.

Posters by both postgraduate students and academic staff are welcome on any area of human language research - including all sub-fields of linguistics, philosophy of language, natural language processing, psycholinguistics, and any other language related discipline. Reporting on work in progress is equally welcome.


‘Hooked on Celebri[ɾ]y’: Intervocalic /t/ in the Speech and Song of Nina Nesbitt - Lauren Hall-Lew, Brandon Papineau

This investigation examines the realisation of Scottish singer-songwriter Nina Nesbitt’s word medial, intervocalic /t/, a variable previously identified as an index of identity in the music of British pop musicians (Trudgill 1997, Beal 2009). We examine the entirety of Nesbitt’s discography and compare these realisations to those produced in five publicly-available interviews. We find that in speech, Nesbitt employs the glottal stop variant 90.6% of the time. In her music, however, the [t] and [ɾ] variants dominate. Further testing reveals a correlation between genre of song and realisation: [t] is associated with her acoustic music, whilst [ɾ] appears in her pop and pop-folk songs. No other independent variable (internal or external) accounts for this variation. We draw on Eckert’s (2008) notion of the indexical field to argue that Nesbitt employs these variants to construct a coherent musical identity, while also appealing to a more international, industry-mainstream audience.

Pronominal Ambiguity Resolution in Spanish Child Dialogue: A Corpus Based Developmental Language Acquisition Approach - Martha Robinson

This investigation is a CHILDES (MacWhinney, 2000) corpus based study of how 3-4 and 5-6 year old monolingual Spanish speaking children learn to disambiguate null and overt pronominal reference from the input they are exposed to whilst engaging in adult-child dyadic (dialogue) communicative acts, as they are involved in the active development of pragmatic awareness. It was found, that although there was no significant difference between both groups in terms of tokens belonging to either pronominalization strategy in the input the children received, there was, however, a difference in the types of lexical verbs and modes of child-adult interaction at each developmental step.

From Scan to csv – Digitising Historical Birth Record Data - Mirjam Eiswirth, Andreas Steinhauer

We have a wealth of historical data on births, deaths, and marriages from old parish records, but currently they are not available for large-scale digital analysis because they are not readily machine-readable. This project explores how we can convert scanned copies of such historic records from Austrian parishes in the late 19th century into csv files ready for analysis. The poster presents a possible workflow from jpg to csv, using Transkribus, a tool developed within the READ project funded within Horizon 2020, ReadFramework, an associated tool for batch-processing image files and applying a (table) template to all images, and R for data analysis after automatic transcription and extraction. Current challenges and open questions are highlighted, and discussion on how to address those would be highly welcome.

The Impact of Bilingualism on the Executive Function Skills of Arabic-English Children with Autism and Their Typically Developing Peers - Shereen Sharaan, Sue Fletcher-Watson, Sarah MacPherson

There is evidence to suggest that certain executive function (EF) skills are impaired in children with autism, underlying several of autism’s characteristics. There is also evidence to suggest that the regular use of two languages has the potential to extend EF capacities. The evidence is mixed and much remains unknown about the impact of bilingualism on the EF abilities of children with autism, with less than five studies published worldwide to date. Our objective is to investigate the impact of bilingualism on the EF performance of Arabic-English children with autism and their typically developing (TD) peers, using both direct tasks of EF as well as informant-measures, thus contributing to the evidence-base surrounding bilingual children with autism. 120 children aged 5-12 years, from 10+ nationalities based in the United Arab Emirates, participated in this study. Findings indicate a bilingual advantage for children with autism in sustained attention using a direct task, and equivalent performances between autistic bilingual and monolingual participants in interference control, flexible switching, and working memory (using both direct and informant tasks). Findings suggest that bilingualism in autism can have differential influences in executive function depending on the task and outcome variables. The reality is, parents, therapists, and educators around the world lack sufficient evidence to support their language decisions and choices for children with autism. We can infer from the results that bilingualism does not negatively impact EF skills in children with autism (contrary to wide-spread notions), and can potentially advantage EF processes like sustained attention. This is the first investigation at this interface to use Arabic-speaking populations and the first to include sustained attention.



Language at Edinburgh Lunch committee

Matthew King, Carine Abraham, Esperanza Ramos Badaya, Jie Chi, Nina Markl, Pauliina Vuorinen, Pilar Oplustil Gallegos

Further information

The Language at Edinburgh Lunch is made possible through funding from the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences and the Human Communication Research Centre, with the intent to facilitate interdisciplinary language research at the University of Edinburgh.

Dec 12 2019 -

70th Language at Edinburgh lunch

2019-12-12: Lunch meeting

Room G.07, The Informatics Forum, 10 Crichton Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9AB