Exploring non-standard grammars: an eye-tracking study

Contact: Eloi Puig-Mayenco Email: e.puig-mayenco@kcl.ac.uk Department: School of Education, Communication and Society Institution: King’s College London  Project timeline: May-June-July 2024 Project duration: 12 weeks (part time) Closing date: 5/12/23 Expertise required: Interest in linguistics (theoretical descriptions and analysis of language) Expertise/Interest in syntax/semantics (welcome) Experience in data collection (participant recruitment, data management, etc) Experience with data analysis (bonus). Project description: The present project aims to use eye-tracking technology to examine how English speakers process sentences with two overt syntactic negative elements (‘Nobody didn’t eat the pizza’ and ‘She didn’t buy nothing the other day’), a linguistic phenomenon that is highly stigmatized. Although Standard English has traditionally been classified as a double negation language (i.e., where two negative elements cancel the negative meaning of the utterance), recent studies have shown that American English speakers find it easier to interpret sentences with two syntactic negative elements as negative concord structures (i.e., where two negative elements do not cancel the semantic negative meaning of the sentence) rather than as double negation structures. The current project thus explores the following question: Is the underlying representation of negation in speakers of Standard British English that of a Double Negation or Negative Concord language? To answer this question, we will test 60 speakers of British English (aged 18-40) on the interpretation of sentences that contain two negative elements in a visual world paradigm (eye-tracking). Using online methodologies will allow us to observe in real-time how speakers process these stigmatized utterances and to establish what their underlying representation looks like before extralinguistic factors come into the picture (metalinguistic awareness, stigmatized varieties, literacy). The project aims to contribute to the theoretical understanding of how negation is expressed and processed in Standard English and will be the first step towards extending this research to speakers of other languages. Description of the work involved: Task 1: Summary of the key literature: the student will be given a list of key articles to read through adn summarize. The goal is to help the student get up to date with the literature. Task 2: Contribute to the creation of stimuli: the student will be given direct guidelines as to how to prepare the stimuli for the experiment. The goal is to make sure the experiment is ready to go and to help the student get additional experience with eye-tracking experiments Task 3: Participant recruitment and data collection: the student will be in charge of recruiting participants and collecting data. The goal will be to collect as much data as possible within the timeframe. The student will be provided with adequate training regarding the use of eye-tracking. Task 4: Data processing and analysis: the student will start to process the data that they will have collected. The goal will be to familiarize the student with the procedures of data analysis. Student benefits: 1. Experience with eye-tracking methodologies. The student will gain extensive experience collecting eye-gaze data to inform linguistic theory. 2. The student will join a group of researchers interested in language and cognition and will be able to discuss their own interested with this group of researchers (staff and other PhD students) 3. The student will continue to develop their own data analysis skills (quantiative data) 4. The student will be invited to be a co-author in the publication stemming from this project. They’ll be part of the dissemination as well. 5. The student will be in charge of writing some sections of the manuscript (methods, data collection, etc) and will be given feedback on academic writing and publication guidance.