Associations among Linguistic Levels

paper, specified "short paper"
  1. 1. Marco Spruit

    Meertens Instituut - Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW)

  2. 2. Wilbert Heeringa

    Rijksuniversiteit Groningen (University of Groningen)

  3. 3. John Nerbonne

    Rijksuniversiteit Groningen (University of Groningen)

Work text
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We are now in a position to assess the dialectometric
distances among fairly many sites at three
different linguistic levels: pronunciation (phonetics and phonology), lexicon (or vocabulary), and syntax. We shall refer to pronunciation differences as phonological, even if they involve subphonological variation as well.
We measure lexical and syntactic differences at a
nominal level, effectively using techniques introduced by Seguy (1971) and Goebl (i.a. 1982), and we measure
pronunciation differences numerically, using Levenshtein
distance (Nerbonne, Heeringa and Kleiweg, 1999;
Heeringa, 2004). The novelty of this paper consists first in the opportunity to include syntax among the linguistic levels we analyze, and second, in its attention to potential,
mutually structuring elements among the linguistic levels.
While most linguists would predict that vocabulary is more volatile than pronunciation and syntax, and might predict that lexical choice should show little association with other linguistic levels, there have been predictions
linking pronunciation with syntactic properties (Donegan
& Stampe, 1983). Both pronunciation and syntax are highly structured systems, within which a single linguistic
parameter might lead to a multitude of concrete and measurable effects.
We address two research questions in the present paper, the first of which is fairly straightforward:
1) To what degree are aggregate phonological, lexical,
and syntactical distances associated with one
another when measured among varieties of a single language?
1a) Are syntax and phonology more strongly
associated with one another than either (taken
separately) is associated with lexical distance?
To answer the questions above, it is sufficient to calculate correlation coefficients among the distance measurements for the three linguistic levels. This is a reasonable measure
of the degree to which the three linguistic levels are
It would be a mistake, however, to interpret any such
correlation as influence without checking for the influence
of a third factor. This is not merely the methodological
reminder that one ought not interpret correlation as
causation. More specifically, geography has independently
been shown to that correlate highly with each of these linguistic levels, and it is quite plausible that geography could influence each of the levels separately, leading to the impression of structural influence between them. We suggest that this should be regarded as a null hypothesis, i.e. that there is no influence among the various linguistic levels. the This leads to the second research question we wish to address in this paper:
2) Is there evidence for influence among the linguistic
levels, even once we control for the effect of
2a) Do syntax and phonology more strongly
influence one another than either (taken separately)
influences or is influenced by lexical distance?
We attack these latter questions in multiple regression
designs, checking for the effects of linguistic levels
on one another once geography is included as an
independent variable.
Donegan, P., and D. Stampe (1983). Rhythm and the holistic organization of language structure. In:
Richardson, J. F. et al. (eds.) Papers from the
Parasessioon on the interplay of phonology,
morphology and syntax. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic
Society, 337--353.
Goebl, H. (1982). Dialektometrie. Prinzipien und
Methoden des Einsatzes der Numerischen Taxonomie
im Bereich der Dialektgeographie, Wien: Austrian Academy of Science.
Heeringa, W. (2004). Measuring dialect pronunciation
differences using Levenshtein distance. U.Groningen,
Ph.D. Thesis.
Nerbonne, J., W. Heeringa, and P. Kleiweg (1999). Edit Distance and Dialect Proximity. In: David Sankoff and Joseph Kruskal (eds.) Time Warps, String Edits
and Macromolecules: The Theory and Practice of Sequence Comparison, Stanford: CSLI Press,
Séguy, J. (1971). La relation entre la distance spatiale et la distance lexicale. In: Revue de linguistique romane, 35: 335--357.

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Conference Info



Hosted at Université Paris-Sorbonne, Paris IV (Paris-Sorbonne University)

Paris, France

July 5, 2006 - July 9, 2006

151 works by 245 authors indexed

The effort to establish ADHO began in Tuebingen, at the ALLC/ACH conference in 2002: a Steering Committee was appointed at the ALLC/ACH meeting in 2004, in Gothenburg, Sweden. At the 2005 meeting in Victoria, the executive committees of the ACH and ALLC approved the governance and conference protocols and nominated their first representatives to the ‘official’ ADHO Steering Committee and various ADHO standing committees. The 2006 conference was the first Digital Humanities conference.

Conference website:

Series: ACH/ICCH (26), ACH/ALLC (18), ALLC/EADH (33), ADHO (1)

Organizers: ACH, ADHO, ALLC

  • Keywords: None
  • Language: English
  • Topics: None