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Project Funding

Why imply something when you could say it explicitly?
EURO-XPRAG Project (February 2012-June 2013)
Collaborating researchers: Napoleon Katsos & Jessica Soltys (University of Cambridge),
Marina Terkourafi (University of Illinois)
Along with traditional politeness-based motivations for indirectness, Pinker and colleagues (Pinker, Nowak & Lee, 2008; Lee & Pinker, 2010) recently proposed as a distinct motivation ‘plausible deniability’. The proposed collaboration will bring together researchers with a background in politeness theory and in experimental pragmatics to design and run studies that will demonstrate if, in what conditions, and why native speakers of American English and Mexican Spanish employ off-record indirect speech acts. The specific aim is to determine the robustness of the motivations within a single language/culture and also cross-linguistically.

Lost in intonation: the interaction of intonation and meaning in the speech of L1, L2 and heritage speakers of Greek and its implications for cross-cultural communication and education (P.I.)
Worldwide Universities Network (WUN) Research Award (August 2009-December 2010)
Participating Universities: UC San Diego, CNRS/Paris III, Ioannina, Leiden, Cyprus.
We investigate the role of speech melody or intonation and how it combines with aspects of linguistic structure (syntax, semantics) and inference (pragmatics) to effectively convey the speaker's communicative intentions. Our empirical focus is Greek, and in particular the differences observed between three groups of linguistic varieties: (a) dialectal varieties, such as the dialect spoken on the island of Cyprus; (b) heritage Greek, such as that used by the members of the Greek diasporic community in the US; and (c) second language Greek, as used by speakers of minority languages in Greece.
Related activities:
Teaching Greek as a Second Language, October 27-28, 2009.

The languages of global hip-hop: a sociolinguistic investigation (P.I.)
University of Illinois Campus Research Board Grant (January-December 2009)
This project will critically engage with literature on globalization and hip-hop culture from a range of countries in order to take stock of the knowledge gained, and help steer future research to pertinent issues and insightful results. By seeking to identify common themes in the types of data used, methodologies adopted, and theoretical questions asked to date across studies, this project will lay the ground for a more active engagement with primary material in future, as well as identify new ways of engaging undergraduate students and the community at large in broader debates about language and society through the medium of hip-hop.
Related activities:
Language and hip-hop culture in a globalizing world. November 10, 2007.
Hip-hop across the globe: what exactly is going global? SS17, April 3, 2008.
The Languages of Global Hip-Hop. Forthcoming September 2010.

Language contact in medieval Cyprus: The linguistic record (Co-Investigator)
British Academy Small Research Grant (April 2007-September 2009; P.I. I. Sitaridou, Cambridge)
The purpose of this project is to contribute to our knowledge of how languages change when they come into contact with one another, taking a particular variety (Cypriot Greek) and a particular phenomenon from that variety (the loss of the genitive plural from the morphological paradigm of masculine adjectives and nouns) as a starting point. Noted since the earliest descriptions of Cypriot Greek, this phenomenon has been attributed to transfer during translation from French originals. Old French preserved a nominative/oblique distinction but not an accusative/genitive one and it is precisely this dual case system that Cypriot has been claimed to be mapped on. We test this hypothesis based on three texts spanning the period of most intense contact between the two varieties (13th to 15th c. CE).
Related activities:
Toward realistic models of language change: mapping psycholinguistics and sociolinguistic factors ICHL XVIII, August 10-11, 2007.
Sitaridou, I. & Terkourafi, M. (2009) On the loss of the masculine genitive plural in Cypriot Greek: Language contact or internal evolution? In: Dufresne, Monique, Fernande Dupuis and Etleva Vocaj (eds.), Historical Linguistics 2007 . CILT 308, pp. 161-174.

Tracing change diachronically: The masculine genitive plural in contemporary Cypriot Greek (P.I.)
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation International Research Travel Grant (Summer 2007)
This study focuses on the current state of the absence in Cypriot Greek of a distinct genitive plural morpheme for masculine adjectives and nouns (/-us/ in other Greek varieties), and its replacement by the accusative plural (/-on/). With the help of responses to a questionnaire investigating native speakers' grammaticality judgements collected during fieldwork in Cyprus, the current distribution of this phenomenon across syntactic environments and different types of speakers is mapped.
Related activities:
Terkourafi, M & Sitaridou, I. (2009) Syntactic microvariation in Greek dialects: the Cypriot genitive plural as a case-study. Presented at ICGL9, Chicago, October 31, 2009.

Integrating pragmatics with HPSG: an exploration of theoretical and methodological issues (Joint author)
UK Arts and Humanities Research Council Research Grant (January 2006-September 2007; P.I. A. Copestake, Cambridge)
We focus on three closely interrelated questions: What are the theoretical implications of formalising hypotheses regarding dimensions of pragmatic variation in Cypriot Greek (Terkourafi, 2002) within HPSG? Do the formalised accounts extend to other languages, specifically English and Japanese? What are the methodological requirements placed by these theoretical observations on methods of data collection and analysis, and how can data from different sources (corpora, experimentation, intuition) be exploited to answer these requirements? We believe this three-pronged approach that tackles formalisation, cross-linguistic aspects and methodology in parallel can lead to a better understanding of how contextual information can be integrated with formal syntactic and semantic analyses.
For a longer description of the project and related activities, click here.

Modelling politeness in a Greek HPSG (Joint author)
British Academy Small Research Grant (August 2003-July 2004; P.I. A. Copestake, Cambridge)
Quantitative analysis of spontaneous speech-act realisations in Cypriot Greek revealed an arbitrary preference for particular expressions to perform offers and requests over others with apparently almost identical compositional semantics, an effect heightened in certain contexts. We draw on the framework of Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar to propose that the preferred expressions are associated with two Feature Structures, one corresponding to the conventional formula, and another, the ordinary compositional structure. When the conventional formula is encountered, the background attribute of the context feature of the FS is probabilistically enriched with certain assumptions about extra-linguistic features. Computational implementation in the LKB system constitutes a first step toward modelling how socially-relevant information embedded in grammatical form may be extracted from it.
Related activities:
Terkourafi, M. & Villavicencio, A. (2003) Toward a formalisation of speech act functions of questions in conversation. In: Bernardi, Raffaella & Michael Moortgat (eds.) Questions and Answers: Theoretical and Applied Perspectives. Utrecht Institute of Linguistics OTS. 108-119.