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How research on language evolution contributes to linguistics

Abstract

Since its inception in the second part of the 20th century, the science of language evolution has been exerting a growing and formative pressure on linguistics. More obviously, given its interdisciplinary character, the science of language evolution provides a platform on which linguists can meet and discuss a variety of problems pertaining to the nature of language and ways of investigating it with representatives of other disciplines and research traditions. It was largely in this way that the attention of linguists was attracted to the study of emerging sign languages and gestures, as well as to the resultant reflection on the way different modalities impact communicative systems that use them. But linguistics also benefits from the findings made by language evolution researchers in the context of their own research questions and methodologies. The most important of these findings come out of the experimental research on bootstrapping communication systems and the evolution of communicative structure, and from mass comparison studies that correlate linguists data with a wide range of environmental variables.

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Natural/sexual selection: What’s language (evolution) got to do with it?

Abstract

By considering a specific scenario of early language evolution, here I advocate taking into account one of the most obvious players in the evolution of human language capacity: (sexual) selection. The proposal is based both on an internal reconstruction using syntactic theory, and on comparative typological evidence, directly bringing together, formal, typological, and evolutionary considerations. As one possible test case, transitivity is decomposed into evolutionary primitives of syntactic structure, revealing a common denominator and the building blocks for crosslinguistic variation in transitivity. The approximations of this early grammar, identified by such a reconstruction, while not identical constructs, are at least as good proxies of the earliest stages of grammar as one can find among tools, cave paintings, or bird song. One subtype of such “living fossils” interacts directly with biological considerations of survival, aggression, and mate choice, while others clearly distinguish themselves in fMRI experiments. The fMRI findings are consistent with the proposal that the pressures to be able to master ever more and more complex syntax were at least partly responsible for driving the selection processes which gradually increased the connectivity of the Broca’s-basal ganglia network, crucial for syntactic processing, among other important functions.

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Initial analysis of candidate speeches

Abstract

In January 2018, the President of the Czech Republic was elected. Before that, each of the candidates communicated their intention to run for the office in a different kind of speech. By using selected characteristics we evaluate and compare these candidate speeches. Subsequently, we reflect on the possibilities of correlating the results of the election with data collected during the analysis.

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Affordable Annotation of the Mobile App Reviews

Abstract

This paper focuses on the use-case study of the annotation of the mobile app reviews from Google Play and Apple Store. These annotations of sentiment polarity were created for later use in the automatic processing based on machine learning. This should solve some of the problems encountered in the previous analyses of the Czech language where data assumptions play a greater role than annotation itself (due to the financial constraints). Our proposal shows that some of the assumptions used for English do not apply to Czech and that it is possible to annotate such data without extensive financing.

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Analysis of the Lemma Mateřství (Motherhood)

Abstract

The paper presents results of analysis of the lemma mateřství ‘motherhood’. The authors applied methods of corpus linguistics and discourse analysis – the corpus assisted discourse studies approach – in order to survey representations of the lemma in Czech journalistic texts published from 2010 to 2014, sorted the results into discourse categories on the basis of collocation and concordance analysis, and found out that chief referential discourse-of-motherhood categories were surrogate motherhood, relationship of motherhood and career, delight from motherhood, family relationships, financial and time aspects of motherhood, changes brought by motherhood, and active motherhood. Surrogate motherhood was presented as a solution to women who cannot have a baby themselves, nevertheless also as a complicated issue, in which case emphasis was put on relevant legislation. Motherhood was presented as a danger for a woman’s career, however also as a source of joy, an essential relationship within a family, a right for financial support from the state, a life change, an activity, and an entity closely connected to time factors.

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Analysis of Verbal Prepositional “of” Structures

Abstract

The article presents empirical research of verbal prepositional “of“ structures, grammatical collocations of the verb and the preposition OF. The preposition OF belongs among the most frequent prepositions in the English language. The study is based on comparisons of English and Czech sentences containing verbs and prepositions that are followed by the object. Material was taken from the electronic data bank Prague Czech-English Dependency Treebank 2.0. The structures were examined and analyzed from morphological, syntactical and semantic points of view. The aim of the study is to create English-Czech verbal prepositional counterparts; to create verbal prepositional groups on the grounds of the similar semantic, syntactic features; to identify the features that are the same for each verb group and generalize them; to identify trends and tendencies for verbs when they collocate with a certain preposition. The findings are presented in several charts and tables.

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Annotations in the Corpus of Texts of Students Learning Slovak as a Foreign Language (ERRKORP)

Abstract

The article presents the upcoming acquisition corpus of written texts of students learning Slovak as a Foreign Language and focuses on the annotation of texts, which includes information about the text as well as social and linguistic details about the student. The article also discusses the tags that identify individual errors in the texts and concept of creating the tagset itself.

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Appearance and Existence in Mandarin Chinese

Abstract

In Mandarin Chinese, the string of three overt elements in a row, a locative, a verb, and a nominal, asserts the existence of the entity denoted by the nominal in the location. This paper argues that the verb is contained in an adjunct, whereas the locative in its base position and the nominal establish a matrix predication relation. Thus, instead of the overt verb, the head of the matrix predicate of the construction is null. Moreover, a new analysis is provided to explain the obligatory argument sharing between the verb and the matrix predication of the construction. Furthermore, the paper argues that the agent of a transitive verb in certain types of embedded clauses needs to be Case-licensed by either the v of the selecting verb, as in an ECM construction, or a local c-commanding functional element, such as a complementizer, as in the English infinitive for construction. This Case-licensing explains why the transitive verb in the string has no agent. The research shows that the syntactic strategies to license abstract Cases in Chinese are similar to the ones found in other languages. Finally, the paper argues that the post-verbal -zhe is an adessive marker when it occurs in a non-progressive context.

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Aspectual coding asymmetries: Predicting aspectual verb lengths by the effects frequency and information content

Abstract

The topic of this paper is the interaction of aspectual verb coding, information content and lengths of verbs, as generally stated in Shannon’s source coding theorem on the interaction between the coding and length of a message. We hypothesize that, based on this interaction, lengths of aspectual verb forms can be predicted from both their aspectual coding and their information. The point of departure is the assumption that each verb has a default aspectual value and that this value can be estimated based on frequency – which has, according to Zipf’s law, a negative correlation with length. Employing a linear mixed-effects model fitted with a random effect for LEMMA, effects of the predictors’ DEFAULT – i.e. the default aspect value of verbs, the Zipfian predictor FREQUENCY and the entropy-based predictor AVERAGE INFORMATION CONTENT – are compared with average aspectual verb form lengths. Data resources are 18 UD treebanks. Significantly differing impacts of the predictors on verb lengths across our test set of languages have come to light and, in addition, the hypothesis of coding asymmetry does not turn out to be true for all languages in focus.

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“The authors have wasted their time...”: Genre features and language of anonymous peer reviews

Abstract

The anonymous peer review is an unpublished pre-publication review which evaluates research articles submitted to journals. This type of a review plays a special role in the genre landscape of Anglophone research by ensuring its appropriate quality and ethical standards. By performing this role, the peer review also realizes a didactic potential, as it motivates researchers to improve their investigations. This paper extends the existing research on the anonymous peer review and aims to deepen our understanding of this genre by analysing the overall functional organization of peer review texts and their prominent linguistic features shaped by three communicative functions ‒ “gatekeeping”, evaluative, and didactic. It also attempts to compare the characteristics of peer reviews in two research fields ideologically and epistemologically distant from each other ‒ applied linguistics and applied mathematics. The methodological framework of the study combines Swales’s move analysis and a functional stylistic perspective developed within the East European linguistic context. The analysis has revealed a three-move structure of review texts and disclosed the roles of interpersonal markers, evaluative lexis and four types of directives in the realization of the communicative functions of the genre. The typologies of reviewers’ comments and evaluative acts in reviews have also been suggested. Furthermore, the study has brought to light some quantitative and qualitative differences between the texts in two disciplines. It is anticipated that awareness of the linguistic conventions of anonymous peer reviews analysed in the paper will help researchers to perceive this genre as a valuable source of professional assistance and enlightenment.

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