Note from the Editor


Welcome to Volume 7 of the Northeastern University Working Papers in Linguistics! Despite the pandemic-induced disruptions of the past year, this online journal continues to present the first-rate research on language and linguistics of our undergraduates at Northeastern University. This year we are pleased to publish work which showcases particular strengths of our Linguistics Program, notably discourse analysis, constructed languages, and descriptive fieldwork.

Starting us off in the fields of discourse analysis and gendered language, Hannah Lee’s paper presents a thought-provoking case-study of the speech of a mother caregiver and her twin children, a girl and a boy. For this original pilot study, Lee was able to collect 36 minutes of audio recordings of spontaneous naturalistic speech between a mother and her three-year old twin children. Lee analyzes the number of turns taken by the boy and the girl, alongside the number of turn ratifications issued by the mother, showing that the twin boy takes more and longer turns than the girl, and that the mother engages more of the boy’s turns than the girl’s. Situated within up-to-date research in the field of language socialization, Lee concludes that the twin girl is socialized into the gender norm that she does not have the right to hold the floor compared to her brother – a lesson which may impact her communicative behavior into adulthood.

For several years now, Prof. Adam Cooper has run highly-popular introductory and seminar courses on constructed languages, a sub-field of linguistics which has exploded in popularity based on the commercial success of shows and films such as Game of Thrones (Dothraki and High Valerian) and Lord of the Rings (Elvish), among many others depicting other worlds whose denizens speak fully-wrought, autochthonous languages invented by linguists. In his article, conlanger Henry Fellner presents his original language, Mazhimo Tuhasamin, conceived as an amalgamation of eight southeast Asian languages. Imagining its speakers as a nomadic people wandering through Asia for generations who evolved a kind of argot, Fellner strives to build the Mazhimo Tuhasamin language from structural elements of Burmese, Hmong, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Mandarin, S’gaw Karen, and Thai. His paper not only gives a succinct descriptive overview of a novel linguistic system; it provides valuable discussion on conlanging as a scholarly and artistic process.

The remaining two papers of Volume 7 were nominated out of the Ling 4654: Seminar in Linguistics, where six senior students spent the Spring 2022 semester taking on the role of field linguistics working with a 25-year old native speaker of Albanian and eliciting hundreds of hours of language data on the Tosk dialect. It is important to note that, for pedagogical reasons, students were banned from examining ANY outside academic research on the Albanian language; consequently, all analyses and conclusions were based solely on the language data which students obtained through direct elicitation in sessions with our wonderful consultant, E. In light of this ban, Sofia Caruso’s paper on Albanian noun and adjective morphology is a towering achievement of fieldwork: she has independently motivated the complex case morphology of Albanian, determining nominative, vocative, accusative, dative, genitive, and ablative; and shows how there is widespread syncretism within and across paradigms in the Tirana variety of our native speaker, E. Caruso also independently studies the linking morphemes used in adjective agreement within a noun phrase, an unusual quirk found in Albanian and few other Indo-European languages. Her paper is remarkably supported with glossed language examples from a database of over 1,000 noun and adjectives in various structures which she collected herself after hundreds of hours of fieldwork.

If Caruso (2022) makes a contribution to our understanding of Albanian morphology, Henry Volchonok’s paper fills a gap in understanding the language’s phonetics. Recording individual words, phrases, and full utterances from our consultant, E, and analyzing them in sound analysis software, Volchonok makes a highly original contribution to the study of pitch, intonation, and emphasis in Albanian. The paper presents detailed acoustic analyses of intonation contours for imperative, declarative, and interrogative utterances; and it investigates how Albanian speakers shift the main intonational contour to place certain items in narrow contrastive focus. While Volchonok’s paper is a pilot study, it opens the door for further study, as even a cursory search in the phonetic literature shows that there is scant material available on intonation and emphasis in Albanian when compared to other major European languages.

Happy reading!

Rob Painter


Current Volume
Vol. 7: 2022

Caruso, Sofia. (2022). Albanian Noun and Adjective Morphology.

Link to PDF

The Albanian language has a rich morphological inflection system, which can be seen particularly in the components of noun phrases, such as nouns and adjectives. Noun and adjectives in this language must inflect for gender, number, case, and definiteness, and must agree within the noun phrase. Through original fieldwork done on Albanian with no prior knowledge of the language, this paper investigates the language’s system of noun and adjective morphology.

Fellner, Henry. (2022). The Mazhimo Tuhasamin Language.

Link to PDF

Historically, popular and notable constructed languages based on real-world dialects tend to use Indo-European languages like English, Spanish, and French as their main sources of inspiration, especially in terms of grammatical structure. Asian-inspired languages are significantly less common, especially in Western linguistic circles. Constructed languages tend to be for specific practical use (i.e. for potential universality, such as the most popular constructed language, Esperanto) or for artistic purposes. Artistic languages usually tend to stray away from real-world languages, instead attempting to form new and unique languages which differ from those on Earth. Mazhimo Tuhasamin seeks to combine eight real-world languages from Asia into one, though for artistic purposes rather than practical. The goal is to lay out a framework for the language that successfully incorporates multiple languages while still seeming like a natural standalone language with its own identity.

Lee, Hannah. (2022). Case Study: Right to the Conversational Floor between Twins.

Link to PDF

As young children, we learn the culturally based norms of conversation, including gender norms, through language socialization (Eckert & McConnell-Ginet, 2003). Research has found that men claim a right to speak, or hold the floor, more than women in interactions of gender-mixed groups within the cultural context of the United States (Baxter, 2002; Tannen, 1995). It is possible that boys and girls learn this gender norm and related interactive patterns at a young age through the construction of turns and responses to turns in conversations with their caregivers. This case study examines the relation between turn- taking and gender through discourse analysis of a conversation among a caregiver and twin children. Specifically, it focuses on the number of turns taken by a twin boy and girl and the number of turn ratifications issued by their mother. The analysis shows that the twin boy takes more and longer turns than the girl, and the mother ratifies more of the boy’s turns than the girl’s turns. In light of this finding, the girl may be socialized into the gender norm that she does not have a right to hold the floor compared to her brother, which could have an impact on her communicative behavior in adulthood.

Volchonok, Henry. (2022). Intonation and Emphasis in Standard Albanian.

Link to PDF

Intonation is the system through which speakers manipulate pitch throughout an utterance to affect its meaning and interpretation (Ashby & Maidment 2005:166); thus, understanding intonation is crucial to understanding not only the phonetics and phonology of a language, but also its semantics, pragmatics, and sociolinguistic features. This study discusses intonation and emphasis in Albanian, an Indo-European language spoken in Albania. Albanian was chosen due to its under-studied nature. The direct elicitation methodology was used to gather language data, and no additional sources about Albanian were consulted, to mimic a field scenario where the linguist has no prior information about the target language. This study found that in declaratives, the intonational curve peaks around the verb of the sentence; whereas in imperatives there are two peaks: one around the verb, and another at the end of the sentence; and questions only have a peak at the end of the sentence. To create emphasis in Albanian, the stress pattern of the emphasized word is exaggerated, resulting in louder pitch, intensity, and a longer syllable length, compared to unemphasized words that are part of the same utterance. While this paper overviews intonation and emphasis across different Albanian sentences, more research is needed to fully understand Albanian suprasegmental features and how they interact with phonetics, phonology, and semantics and pragmatics.