College of Liberal Arts

UT studies recognized as “The Best of Language” research

Thu, Mar 14, 2019
UT Austin research represented a fifth of the articles recognized in the LSA's third edition of
UT Austin research represented a fifth of the articles recognized in the LSA's third edition of "The Best of Language."

Research by four University of Texas at Austin liberal arts faculty members has been named The Best of Language research by the Linguistic Society of America.

Research articles by French and Italian professor David Birdsong, linguistics professor Nora England, College of Liberal Arts dean Randy Diehl and the late linguistics professor C.L. Baker were four of the 20 papers selected for “The Best of Language: Volume III,” which encompasses the best of more than 500 articles published in Language, the flagship journal of the Linguistic Society of America, from 1986-2016. 

Descriptions of each study and its major findings are as follows: 

“Ultimate attainment in second language acquisition,” by David Birdsong (1992)

This was a study of English native speakers living in Paris who started learning French as a second language in their teens or later. Birdsong found that a large number of them understood and used French very much like the native French speakers, and that any differences between the groups didn’t follow patterns that previous theories had proposed. It also showed that the differences could be related to the ages at which the individual English speakers had first been immersed in French.

“Endangered languages,” by Ken Hale, Michael Krauss, Lucille J. Watahomigie, Akira Y. Yamamoto, Colette Craig, Laverne Masayesva Jeanne, and Nora England (1992)

The study was a part of the paradigm-shifting set of articles on language endangerment organized by Hale. Krauss sounded the alarm, and other authors examined different aspects of language endangerment and loss. England’s part was written in response to specific requests and demands from Maya leaders to linguists who were working on Mayan languages at the time and offered a set of proposed responsibilities to the communities of speakers of endangered languages. 

“Phonetic Knowledge” by John Kingston and Randy L. Diehl (1994)

Diehl’s research focused on the sounds of speech. He and his co-author, Kingston, argued that, due to the brain’s flexible responses to how speech is produced and perceived, speech articulation is both controlled and automatic. They base their argument on evidence of a “complex intermediate device” which controls and reorganizes phonetic categories depending on the context in which the language is spoken.

“Contrast, discourse prominence, and intensification, with special reference to locally free reflexives in English” by C.L. Baker (1995)

In this study, Baker tackled grammar, specifically the use of reflexive pronouns (-self; i.e. himself or herself) in British English. The study set out to investigate how certain rules applied to the use of these pronouns are oversimplified and don't hold true for all dialects of English. 

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