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Current Research Projects

The Montclair State Linguistics Department faculty are all actively engaged in research. Most of the research projects also provide valuable opportunities for hands-on work in applied linguistics. If you are interested in internship opportunities, please read the descriptions of the research projects and contact the relevant faculty member.

The specific projects include:

A Linguistically-Informed Approach for Measuring and Circumventing Internet Censorship

Internet censorship consists of restrictions on what information can be publicized or viewed on the Internet. According to Freedom House’s annual Freedom on the Net report, more than half the world’s Internet users now live in a place where the Internet is censored or restricted. However, members of the Internet Freedom community lack comprehensive real-time awareness of where and how censorship is being imposed. The challenges to achieving such a solution include but are not limited to coverage, scalability, adoption, and safety. The project explores a linguistically-informed approach for measuring and circumventing Internet censorship. The research takes a new perspective on the problem by investigating a hybrid method for censorship detection and evasion from the lens of linguistic analysis. Joint work with Chris Leberknight (Computer Science), Mung Chiang (Purdue), Prateek Mittal (Princeton). Contact: Anna Feldman. Funded.

Deception Detection

Development of a novel approach for the application of natural language processing and prosodic analysis to the recognition of deceptive statements. Joint work with Deception Detection Technologies. Funded. Contact: Eileen Fitzpatrick

Automatic acoustic detection of semantic focus

By emphasizing words acoustically, speakers are able to convey which parts of a sentence are backgrounded and which parts they wish to foreground or contrast. This feature of speech, known as focus, is pervasive in English, yet is inadequately modeled in state-of-the-art speech technologies.

The long-term objective of the research is to develop a method of automatically detecting focus that is both useful in speech technology and advances our scientific understanding of how focus is realized acoustically and conditioned pragmatically

The project is innovative in its use both of speech that has been recorded in a laboratory under controlled conditions, and also of speech that occurs naturally, such as in podcasts and videos.  Contact: Jonathan Howell Funded.

Code-Switched Text Messages (SMSs) in Multiple Languages

Text messaging practices have been studied primarily from a sociolinguistic or discourse analytic perspective but there are studies that focus on syntactic and morphological aspects of text messages as well as pragmatic functions. However, there are very few studies that have investigated code-switching, or language alternation, in text messages or computer-mediated communication (CMC). This research project builds upon previous studies conducted on code-switching as a global phenomenon in SMSs and Facebook chats. The form and functions and linguistic creativity of code-switching in this mode of digital discourse will be investigated. Contact Susana Sotillo

The Bilingual Mental Lexicon in Interlanguage Development

The research places interlanguage in the domain of language contact. Interlanguage is understood as a composite developing system, and the bilingual mental lexicon contains lemmas resulting from an abstract level in language contact. It is assumed that entries in the bilingual mental lexicon (i.e., lemmas) are composed of three levels of abstract structure: lexical-conceptual structure, predicate- argument, and morphological realization patterns, and these levels in any one lemma (originating with the L1 or any target L2s or even lemmas from other languages) can be split and recombined with levels from another source. Language transfer in second language learning and interlanguage transfer in third language learning are regarded as lemma transfer. The language data for this research project are collected from second and third language learners’ interlanguage production, including both oral and written production. Contact: Longxing Wei

Intrasentential Codeswitching

This research investigates a commonly observed bilingual behavior in so-called ‘mixed’ speech production. Bilinguals may switch to another language within sentence boundaries, that is, morphemes from another language are switched into sentences (i.e., intrasentential codeswitching (ICS)). It is assumed that two languages involved in ICS are not equally activated, with the Matrix Language (i.e., the ‘main’ or ‘host’ language the bilingual is using at the moment of speaking) providing the sentential frame into which morphemes from the Embedded Language (i.e., the ‘guest’ language activated at a certain point of speech production) are switched. It is also assumed that there is a distinction between ‘content’ (lexical) and ‘system’ (functional) morphemes. In ICS, only content morphemes can be switched into the sentential frame provided by the Matrix Language. This research regards ICS as a language contact phenomenon and tests the Bilingual Lemma Activation Model (Wei, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006) in ICS studies. The data for the research is collected from bilingual natural speech production. Contact: Longxing Wei

Past Research

Automatic Idiom Recognition

The main goal of this research project is to develop a language-independent method for automatic idiom recognition. Idiomatic phrases such as “hit the sack,” “eat my hat”, “blow my top” or “go cold turkey” are confusing for computers – and for language learners – to translate because they can often be taken literally, as well as figuratively. To address these challenges, an algorithm is proposed that neither relies on target idiom types, lexicons, or large manually annotated corpora, nor limits the search space by a particular type of linguistic construction. Joint work with Jing Peng (Computer Science). Contact: Anna Feldman. Funded by the NSF through Jan. 30, 2018.

Contrastive Academic Cultures

A contrastive examination of differences that may exist in academic cultures. Data is collected during interviews with international students and with Montclair State professors and analyzed with the goal of creating materials that will help international students integrate more smoothly into Montclair’s academic community. (Mary Call)

Sentence Processing

We are conducting on-line sentence processing experiments to investigate the role of various properties of verbs on sentence comprehension. We are particularly interested in the roles of transitivity and telicity, and our experiments are intended to determine the point in the comprehension of a sentence at which verb properties come into play — whether at the moment that the verb is encountered or at a later point when a syntactic or semantic structure is assigned to a phrase or sentence. The broader significance of this research is that it attempts to determine which properties of sentences are based on the lexical characteristics of individual words, and which are the result of a higher level of syntactic and semantic processing. (Mary Call)

Arabic-English medical lexicon

Construction of an Arabic-English medical lexicon for use in a machine translation system. The project has developed an ontology of terms necessary for doctor-patient interaction and is providing several thousand terms in both languages for MT. Contact: Eileen Fitzpatrick. Funded.

Corpus use in language arts teaching

Examination of the use of language corpora in the teaching of English grammar. Contact: Susana Sotillo

The project collects English text written by English as a Second Language (ESL) students

It stores the text online, collects data on the student writers that is relevant to their second language skills, annotates the text to permit retrieval of usage information and analysis of errors. Contact: Eileen Fitzpatrick

Gender Studies Terminology

The term gender is increasingly replacing the word sex in public discourse (and in the media); in theory, this is not the case in sociolinguistics and language and gender research but a preliminary analysis suggests that in practice, a similar phenomenon is occurring. This project involves a thorough investigation of the use of these terms. (Alice Freed).

Speech Segmentation

Phonetic segmentation of speech and annotation of prosodic features. Contact: Eileen Fitzpatrick. Funded.

Portable Language Technology

The focus of this research is on the portability of technology to new languages and on rapid language technology development. This research takes a novel approach to rapid, low-cost development of taggers by exploring the possibility of taking existing resources for one language and applying them to another, related language. Languages that are either related by common heritage (e.g., Czech and Russian) or by “contact” (e.g., Bulgarian and Greek) often share a number of exploitable properties: morphological systems, word order, and vocabulary. Contact: Anna Feldman. Funded.

Questions in Institutional Discourse

The research investigates the use of questions in institutional discourse (and in other sorts of fixed or partially scripted discourse) the role that questioning plays in (a.) constituting the institutional context itself and (b.) constructing and/or co-constructing participant roles and identities for speakers in these contexts. (Alice Freed).