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Documenting Semantic Contrasts in a Low-Resource Language

Date & Time:
January 25, 2019 | 12:00 pm
CHE 212
Sylvia Schreiner, Assistant Professor of Linguistics, English Department (George Mason University)


St. Lawrence Island / (Central) Siberian Yupik is an endangered language of the Bering Strait region spoken on St. Lawrence Island, Alaska, and the Chukotka peninsula of far eastern Russia. The language is in a state of rapid shift, with use of Yupik declining substantially among younger generations in recent decades. In this talk I discuss our project to document and create computational tools for the Yupik language, focusing in particular on two under-documented morphemes labeled in the existing literature as marking tense or aspect. I consider several challenges for documentation and analysis of this type of phenomenon brought about by the current state of language use. I then present new data that lead us to question existing analyses of tense and aspect in Yupik, and I suggest pathways for future work.

Sylvia L.R. Schreiner

Assistant Professor in the Linguistics Program in the English Department at George Mason University.

I am undertaking ongoing work on St. Lawrence Island Yupik in collaboration with my colleague Lane Schwartz (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), funded by a 42-month NSF Documenting Endangered Languages grant: “NNA: Collaborative Research: Integrating Language Documentation and Computational Tools for Yupik, an Alaska Native Language”. You can read more about our project here and here.

I work at the interfaces among syntax, semantics, and morphology.
I am currently investigating topics including nominal functional structure; the morphosyntax and semantics of tense and aspect in Scottish Gaelic, Turkish, Classical Greek, and St. Lawrence Island Yupik; varieties of central and non-central coincidence; and the syntax and spatial and temporal semantics of prepositions.

I do fieldwork on St. Lawrence Island/Central Siberian Yupik on St. Lawrence Island, Alaska; and on Scottish Gaelic and varieties of Scottish English in Scotland.