Fall 2023 Colloquium - Bob Bayley and Xinye Zhang - Subject Pronoun Expression: A Cross-Linguistic Variationist Sociolinguistic Study

Abstract: Variation between null and overt subject pronouns, or subject pronoun expression (SPE) (e.g. yo/Ø canto; wo xiang) has been widely studied, attracting the attention of linguists working from multiple perspectives. However, despite decades of research, many questions remain unanswered. For example, which constraints are common across all languages, and which are features of particular languages? Why do rates of SPE differ so widely across languages and even between varieties of the same language? In this talk, we describe the development of a multilingual corpus designed to address such questions. Our corpus covers five languages – Chinese, German, Persian, Portuguese, and Spanish – and contains more than 230,000 tokens from 930 speakers in 23 communities. Our project takes direct aim at the questions posed above, approaching them from a quantitative, multivariate perspective that circumvents meta-analysis through a single database structure that merges a constellation of research projects into a single unified corpus. We document the process of corpus development and present some preliminary results, with emphasis differences in rates of SPE and on constraints that apply across all the languages in our corpus.

This is a project with many other collaborators, including Gregory Guy, Aria Adli, Karen Beaman, Daniel Erker, and Rafael Orozco.

Event Logistics: 3pm in Kerr 273 on November 13th

Speaker Biographies: Dr. Bob Bayley is a Professor Emeritus of Linguistics at UC Davis, and Dr. Xinye Zhang is a recent Linguistics PhD graduate (UC Davis, '23).