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Language Science Talks

Language Science Talks is a series of talks by prominent language sciences researchers from around the world. 

If you would like to speak at one of our upcoming events, or have suggestions for talk topics, please email language.sciences@ubc.ca.

Title and speakers
Date and time
Location

TBC

Abstract

TBC

If you require an accessibility-related measure (e.g.: sign language interpretation, captioning, or any other accessibility-related measure), please contact Ella Fund-Reznicek at ella.fr@ubc.ca or 604 822 7435.

Dr. Carrie Demmans Epp, Assistant Professor, Computer Science, University of Alberta and director, Educational Technology, Knowledge, Language, and Learning Analytics (EdTeKLA) Research Group

September 20th, 1.00pm - 3.00pm (PDT)

TBC

TBC

Abstract

TBC

If you require an accessibility-related measure (e.g.: sign language interpretation, captioning, or any other accessibility-related measure), please contact Ella Fund-Reznicek at ella.fr@ubc.ca or 604 822 7435.

Professor Anne H. Charity Hudley, North Hall Endowed Chair in the Linguistics of African America, Department of Linguistics, University of California, Santa Barbara

Hosted by Lecturer Amanda Cardoso, UBC, Department of Linguistics

October 7th 2021, 2pm - 3.30pm (PDT)

Online

Register here to receive the link

TBC

Abstract

TBC

If you require an accessibility-related measure (e.g.: sign language interpretation, captioning, or any other accessibility-related measure), please contact Ella Fund-Reznicek at ella.fr@ubc.ca or 604 822 7435.

Professor David Gramling, Head of Department of Central, Eastern, and Northern European Studies, UBC

Hosted by Professor Ryuko Kubota, UBC, Department of Language & Literacy Education

November 4th 2021, 2pm - 3.30pm (PDT)

TBC

Toward a speech neuroprosthetic​

Abstract

Speaking is a unique and defining human behavior.  Over the past decade, we have focused on deciphering the basic neural code that underlies our ability to speak fluently.

During speech production, vocal tract movement gestures for all speech sounds are encoded by highly specialized neural activity, organized as a map, in the human speech motor cortex.   A major effort is now underway to translate these findings towards building a articulatory-based speech neuroprosthetic device for people who cannot communicate.

Dr. Edward Chang, Professor of Neurological Surgery at the University of California, San Francisco, will present this Language Science Talks event as part of the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health Research Neuroscience Research Colloquium series.

This talk is co-hosted by the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health Research and the UBC Language Sciences Initiative.

If you require an accessibility-related measure (e.g.: sign language interpretation, captioning, or any other accessibility-related measure), please contact Ella Fund-Reznicek at ella.fr@ubc.ca or 604 822 7435.

Professor Edward Chang, University of California, San Francisco Department of Neurological Surgery

Co-hosted by the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health Research

March 25th 2022, 11am - 12pm

TBC

Previous talks

2019 - 2021

Title and speakers
Date and time
Location

Ethics Sheets for AI Tasks and a Case Study for Automatic Emotion Recognition

Abstract

As NLP and ML systems become more ubiquitous, their broad societal impacts are receiving more scrutiny than ever before. Several high-profile events have highlighted how technology will often lead to more adverse outcomes for those that are already marginalized. This raises some uncomfortable questions for us as researchers: What are the hidden assumptions in our research? What are the unsaid implications of our choices? Are we perpetuating and amplifying inequities or are we striking at the barriers to opportunity? The answers are often complex and multifaceted. In this talk, I will make a case for continued efforts in documenting ethical considerations for AI Tasks (through individual and community efforts). I will present a new form of such an effort: Ethics Sheets for AI Tasks which, together with Data Sheets for Datasets and Model Cards for AI systems, aids in the development and deployment of responsible AI systems. Finally, I will provide an example ethics sheet for automatic emotion recognition and sentiment analysis. 

I will start the talk with a quick overview of my past work at the intersection of language and emotions; notably, work on large human-annotated word–emotion lexicons.

Bio: Dr. Saif M. Mohammad is Senior Research Scientist at the National Research Council Canada (NRC). He received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Toronto. Before joining NRC, he was a Research Associate at the Institute of Advanced Computer Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park. His research interests are in Natural Language Processing (NLP), especially Lexical Semantics, Emotions and Language, Computational Creativity, AI Ethics, Computational Social Science, and Information Visualization. He has served in various capacities at prominent journals and conferences, including: action editor for Computational Linguistics, chair of the Canada--UK symposium on Ethics in AI, co-chair of SemEval 2017-19 (the largest platform for semantic evaluations), workshops co-chair for ACL 2020, co-organizer of WASSA 2017 and 2018 (a sentiment analysis workshop), and senior area chair for ACL, NAACL, and EMNLP (for sentiment analysis, lexical semantics, and fairness in NLP). His word--emotion resources, such as the NRC Emotion Lexicon, are widely used for analyzing affect in text. His work has garnered media attention, including articles in Time, SlashDot, LiveScience, io9, The Physics arXiv Blog, PC World, and Popular Science.
Webpage: http://saifmohammad.com

If you require an accessibility-related measure (e.g.: sign language interpretation, captioning, or any other accessibility-related measure), please contact Ella Fund-Reznicek at ella.fr@ubc.ca or 604 822 7435.

Dr. Saif M. Mohammad, National Research Council Canada Senior Research Scientist

Hosted by Assistant Professor of Teaching Varada Kolhatkar, UBC, Department of Computer Science

July 15th 2021, 1pm - 2.30pm (PDT)

View recording

The duets of life: one chapter in the linguistic biography of first and last words

Abstract

What do the first words of babies and last words of the dying have in common?

In this talk, I will explore one important similarity: just as the forms of first words vary according to attitudes about babies and children as language users, so do the “final, self-validating articulation[s] of consciousness in extremis” (Guthke, 1992) vary according to attitudes about the communicative agency of the dying. I will illustrate this by offering a cultural taxonomy of attention to first words and by summarizing recent work on a historical data set (Erard, 2021) from the first clinical study of dying (Osler, 1904). Language ideologies as well as material resources, settings, and institutions play a role in how these phenomena are noticed, remembered, and recorded — which is a crucial first step for apprehending them as the products of psycholinguistic and language evolutionary processes.

If you require an accessibility-related measure (e.g.: sign language interpretation, captioning, or any other accessibility-related measure), please contact Ella Fund-Reznicek at ella.fr@ubc.ca or 604 822 7435.

Dr. Michael Erard, author and linguist

Hosted by Professor Carla Hudson Kam, UBC, Department of Linguistics

June 15th 2021, 10.00am - 11.30am (PDT)

View recording

Syntax: Neurobiological Considerations

Co-hosted with the UBC and McGill University Departments of Linguistics, as part of the Move & Agree forum

Abstract

This tutorial addresses the biological and neurological foundations of human language. The discussion will be centered around the following four interconnected questions:

(i) From an inter-species and cross-species perspective, what is the possible (dis)connect between audible vocal production, visual sign production, and multi-modal perception and production.
(ii) In an era of “big data”, “big theory” is becoming increasingly important, raising the question of how linguistic data and research can inform “big theorizing”.
(ii) In a biolinguistics perspective, what is the relevance of linguistic diversity?
(iv) In a theory of human language embedded in a bio-linguistics approach, what is the possible (ir)relevance of the following linguistic tropes: “conceptual necessity”, “Merge”, “Move”, “recursion”, “categorization".

If you require an accessibility-related measure (e.g.: sign language interpretation, captioning, or any other accessibility-related measure), please contact Ella Fund-Reznicek at ella.fr@ubc.ca or 604 822 7435.

Professor Cedric Boeckx, Research Professor, Catalan Institute for Advanced Studies

May 31st 2021, 9:00am - 10.15am (PDT)

Event has ended

Who is in your network? Racial and linguistic diversity impact the perception of different English varieties

Abstract

The emergence of different English varieties is a result of different contextual factors such as globalization, colonialism, and migration. Understanding individual variability that is observed in how these different varieties are perceived is a question in speech perception, psycholinguistic, as well as social understanding of multilingualism studies. Here, multiple experiments measured how three different English varieties (American, British, Indian) are perceived by listeners who live in racially and linguistically more (Montreal) or less (Gainesville) diverse communities. We’ll present multiple studies that investigate how listeners’ perception of these three varieties were modulated depending on their social context which was measured by network and entropy tools. We’ll also discuss how social network analyses can be implemented in broader multilingualism research. Our findings open up a discussion of socially-gated speech perception and how language research benefits from interdisciplinary and multi-site designs.

If you require an accessibility-related measure (e.g.: sign language interpretation, captioning, or any other accessibility-related measure), please contact Ella Fund-Reznicek at ella.fr@ubc.ca or 604 822 7435.

Dr. Ethan Kutlu, Department of Linguistics, University of Iowa; Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of Iowa; DeLTA Center, University of Iowa and Brain Cognition and Development Lab, University of Florida.

&

Professor Debra Titone, Canada Research Chair in Language & Multilingualism (Tier I), McGill University, Department of Psychology

Hosted by Associate Professor Krista Byers-Heinlein, Concordia University, Department of Psychology

May 26th 2021, 11:00am - 12.30pm (PDT)

View recording

Hua Ki’i - A Prototype for Developing Ethical Indigenous AI​

Co-hosted by the Centre for Artificial Intelligence Decision-making and Action (CAIDA)

Abstract

Join CAIDA and Language Sciences for Hua Ki’i - A Prototype for Developing Ethical Indigenous AI, a talk by five Indigenous scholars from five distinct nations:
 
Caroline Running Wolf (Apsáalooke )
Caleb Moses (Maori)
Dr. Noelani Arista (Kanaka Maoli)
Michael Running Wolf (Cheyenne/Lakota), and
Joel Davison (Gadigal/Dunghutti)
 
The five speakers are members of the Indigenous Protocol and Artificial Intelligence Working Group and will talk about the group's work, Indigenous protocol considerations in AI, and the development of the Hua Ki'i app, a prototype of these protocols in action which uses object recognition to translate images into Indigenous languages, starting with Hawaiian.

If you require an accessibility-related measure (e.g.: sign language interpretation, captioning, or any other accessibility-related measure), please contact Ella Fund-Reznicek at ella.fr@ubc.ca or 604 822 7435.

Caroline Running Wolf (Apsáalooke)
Caleb Moses (Maori)
Dr. Noelani Arista (Kanaka Maoli)
Michael Running Wolf (Cheyenne/Lakota), and
Joel Davison (Gadigal/Dunghutti)

Hosted by Associate Professor Candace Kaleimamoowahinekapu Galla, UBC, Department of Language & Literacy Education and Institute for Critical Indigenous Studies

May 13th 2021, 2.00pm - 3.30pm (PDT)

View recording

Cognitive consequences of acoustic challenge during spoken communication

Abstract

How does hearing impairment affect the way our brains process speech?

I will review data from behavioral and brain imaging studies that speak to the added cognitive demands associated with acoustic challenge. Evidence from multiple sources is consistent with a shared resource framework of speech comprehension in which domain-general cognitive processes supported by discrete regions of frontal cortex are required for both auditory and linguistic processing. The specific patterns of neural activity depend on the difficulty of the speech being heard, as well as the hearing and cognitive ability of the listeners. I will present neuroimaging data from listeners with normal hearing, age-related hearing loss, and cochlear implants implicating executive attention networks in understanding acoustically challenging speech. Although frequently studied in the context of age-related hearing loss, these principles have broader implications for our understanding of how auditory and cognitive factors interact during spoken language comprehension.

If you require an accessibility-related measure (e.g.: sign language interpretation, captioning, or any other accessibility-related measure), please contact Ella Fund-Reznicek at ella.fr@ubc.ca or 604 822 7435.

Associate Professor Jonathan Peelle, Washington University in Saint Louis Department of Otolaryngology

Introduction by UBC Department of Linguistics Associate Professor Molly Babel

March 12th 2021, 12pm - 2pm

Recording available to Language Sciences members.
Please email to request.

Faithfulness in natural language generation in an era of heightened ethical AI awareness: opportunities for MT

Abstract

Advances in machine learning have led to quite fluent natural language generation technologies. Most of our current optimizations and evaluations focus on accuracy in output. Faithful generation is considered a nice to have, a luxury. In this talk I make the argument that faithful generation is crucial to our generation technologies especially given the scale and impact NLP technologies have on people’s lives. 

If you require an accessibility-related measure (e.g.: captioning, or any other accessibility-related measure), please contact Ella Fund-Reznicek
at ella.fr@ubc.ca or 604 822 7435.

Professor Mona Diab, George Washington University Department of Computer Science

Introduction by UBC Department of Linguistics and School of Information Muhammad Abdul-Mageed

February 24th 2021, 1pm - 3pm (PST)

Recording available soon

Co-hosted with the Social Exposome Research Cluster

‘Talking Genetics with Robinson Crusoe’ with introduction by President Santa Ono

Abstract

UNICEF, UNESCO and the World Health Organization include communication in their core life skills. Deficits in communication disrupt social, emotional and educational development and increase the risk of behavioural disorders, unemployment and mental health issues. Yet, research in this area is under-represented and we still have little understanding as to the causes of communication disorders and their relationships to other developmental delays and behavioural problems. It is likely that genetic factors contribute to communication disorders but we expect there to be many contributory genetic variants, each with only a small risk. Some people inherit certain combinations of these risk variations that, when accompanied by particular environmental factors, make them sensitive to language impairment.

My presentation today will focus upon our study of a unique Chilean population who inhabit the Robison Crusoe Island. This Island community was colonised in 1876 by 64 individuals from whom the majority of the current population (633 people) are descended. In 2008, researchers from the University of Chile noted that approximately 60% of children living on this island were affected by language disorder. They further described how the majority of language impaired individuals were descended from two brothers who formed part of the original colonising party. We have been working with researchers from Chile and with the Islanders to form a study of the genetic origins of the Islanders and to discover genetic variants that might explain the unusually high incidence of language impairment in this population. Our investigations have led to the identification of rare variants in the NFXL1 gene, which encodes a transcription factor that is highly expressed in the cerebellum. In my talk, I will give an overview of the population and the findings of our genetic research. I will discuss how genomic studies can help to better understand the molecular mechanisms of speech and language and, ultimately, may direct the targeting of interventions for affected individuals.

Speaker bio: Dr Dianne Newbury is a molecular geneticist who studies genetic contributions to childhood neurodevelopmental disorders. Her investigations specifically focus around speech and language impairment and its relationship to disorders such as dyslexia. Dianne has a lab at Oxford Brookes University. Her work is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, the Leverhulme Trust and the British Academy.

If you require an accessibility-related measure (e.g.: captioning, or any other accessibility-related measure), please contact Ella Fund-Reznicek
at ella.fr@ubc.ca or 604 822 7435.

Dr Dianne Newbury, Oxford Brookes University Department of Health and Life Sciences

Introduction by UBC President Santa Ono

February 22nd 2021, 9am - 11am (PST)

View recording

Comparing Classifier Constructions in ASL and Navajo

Abstract

Among the world’s languages, American Sign Language (ASL) and Navajo are often mentioned jointly in discussions on classifier systems, since both languages have dedicated and obligatory encoding of themes in ditransitive constructions, also referred to as ‘handling verbs’ (Young 2000: 2). Comparisons between ASL and Navajo, however, are often based on broad theoretical claims and opportunistic methodologies (cf. Baker and Croft 2017), rather than on intimate knowledge of the grammars and the language-specific properties of each language. For our talk, we first discuss the beginnings of the comparisons in typologically-oriented papers (e.g. Supalla 1978; cf. Allan 1977), and then review recent literature in which both languages are comparatively examined (e.g. Fernald and Napoli 2000b; cf. Fernald and Napoli 2000a: 20, fn. 20). We then argue how these classificatory systems are alike and whether they are formally or functionally comparable in terms of the language-specific phonology, morphology, and morphosyntax. Specifically, while the cognitive motivations behind ontological categories and the specific predicate types which classify objects maybe similar, we argue that differences in modality and the implementation of formal properties prove these languages to be quite different as well.

ASL interpreters will be present at this event

Dr. Corrine Occhino, Research Assistant Professor, Center on Cogniton and Language, Rochester Institute of Technology

Jalon Begay, PhD Student, Department of Linguistics, University of New Mexico

October 1st 2020, 2pm - 4pm

View recording

Prime Ministers, media, and messaging: communicating about COVID-19

Abstract

How can leaders have democratic conversations during health emergencies? Is media meeting the challenge of reporting on these emergencies, for all communities? And what works better for COVID-19 prevention messaging: 'don't get it' or 'don't spread it'?"

Join us for this online Language Science Talks on May 15th from 12pm.

UBC History Assistant Professor Heidi Tworek will discuss her current project looking at how democratic leaders are communicating about health during the COVID-19 outbreak - and what they mean by 'democracy'.

UBC Graduate School of Journalism and Institute for Critical Indigenous Studies Associate Professor Candis Callison will discuss the role of media expertise, cultures and contexts, including how COVID-19 coverage has highlighted ongoing failures in reporting on issues of race, Indigeneity, gender, and more.

And Northwestern University Dispute Resolution Research Center postdoctoral fellow Jillian Jordan will discuss her recent research investigating the relative effectiveness of pro-self versus pro-social messaging at encouraging people to take COVID-19 prevention measures.

UBC History Assistant Professor Heidi Tworek

UBC Graduate School of Journalism Associate Professor Candis Callison

Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management Management and Organizations Department Dispute Resolution Research Center postdoctoral fellow Jillian Jordan

May 15th 2020, 12pm - 1.30pm

Event has ended

Co-hosted by the Department of Linguistics and the Language Sciences Initiative.

Temporal Aspect in American Sign Language

Abstract

In this presentation, I will discuss aspect in American Sign Language (ASL), demonstrating that ASL users have a range of options to produce aspectual meanings, including verb reduplication, aspectual verbs, adverbial signs and phrases, aspectual nouns, and combinations of the above.

Western Oregon University Professor and coordinator of Interpreting Studies Elisa Maroney

November 8th, 2019

15:30 - 17:00

Civil and Mechanical Engineering (CEME) - 1202, 6250 Applied Science Lane

How prenatal experience shapes speech perception​

Abstract

Experience with language starts in the womb. The prenatal speech signal is filtered by maternal tissues, preserving the rhythm and melody of speech, i.e. prosody, but suppressing fine details needed for the identification of individual speech sounds. The talk will examine the hypothesis that this prenatal experience with speech prosody might already shape how newborns perceive speech. In a series of NIRS and EEG experiments, I will show that basic auditory mechanisms such as envelope tracking are immune to prenatal influence, while more language-specific mechanisms, such as prosodic grouping, are already modulated at birth. I will discuss how these mechanisms lay the foundations for later language acquisition.

Language Sciences affiliate member and CNRS senior research scientist Dr. Judit Gervain.

June 19th, 2019

14:00 - 16:00

 Suedfeld Lounge (room 2510) Douglas T. Kenny Building, 2136 West Mall, Vancouver  

Storybook Mexico: Best practices to promote children's literacies in Indigenous languages​

Abstract and Bio

In this talk we discuss ideas to promote children´s literacies in the indigenous languages in Mexico. In Mexico, all indigenous languages are minority languages, some of which have several linguistic variants that are in different situations and degrees of vitality and endangerment. Today, these languages are undergoing varying processes of standardization. Also, a portion of the indigenous children learns to read and write in the native language during the first years of primary school. However, relatively few indigenous speakers have developed literacies in their mother tongue. The unequal situation and position of indigenous languages in Mexico creates a challenging situation for the support of indigenous literacies. 

Storybook Mexico is a project aimed to support Mexican indigenous and non-indigenous children, families, and communities access multimodal stories (written text, audio and images) in their ancestral languages. During the project, we collaborated with a UBC team from Language and Literacy Education to translate open access stories from the African Storybook into some of the local indigenous languages of Mexico, using the Storybooks Canada modular website (https://global-asp.github.io/storybooks-mexico/). Based on this experience, we address the development of best practices for collaborative work with the speech communities, linking the needs and interests of the (heritage) speakers themselves to the translation practice. This includes the awareness of local language ideologies towards the Indigenous languages, but also towards literacy events and literacy practices. Likewise, we stress the importance to better understand the theoretical underpinnings of cross cultural translation between Indigenous languages, taking into account the experiences, viewpoints and investment of the translators.

Bio

Anuschka van ‘t Hooft is a research professor at the Autonomous University of San Luis Potosí, Mexico. As a cultural anthropologist, she specializes in Mexican indigenous languages and cultures. Her research interests lie in the areas of oral traditions, language documentation and revitalization, and collaborative research.

Language Sciences affiliate member and Autonomous University of San Luis Potosí, Mexico, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities Professor Anuschka van ´t Hooft.

May 29th, 2019

14:00 - 16:00

Irving K Barber Learning Centre (IBLC) - 185, 1961 East Mall, Vancouver

From text analytics to predictive analytics enhanced by language sciences

Abstract

Computer Science professor Raymond Ng will present this talk, the first half of which will give a short overview of some of the research Dr. Ng has conducted, analyzing various types of text data, including sentiment analysis and abstractive summarization. In the second half of the talk, Dr. Ng will discuss how to build predictive models based on text and data of various kinds. He will use examples involving identifying patients with emotional needs, and stratifying children with potentially high risk for suicide.  Finally, Dr. Ng will speculate as to how language sciences can enhance predictive models that are purely data-driven.

Language Sciences member, Data Science Institute director and UBC Computer Science Professor Raymond Ng

May 21st, 2019

14:00 - 16:00

ORCH 3074, 6363 Agronomy Rd, Vancouver

Indigenous Storybooks: Protocols and Educational Possibilities​

Abstract

Exploring Protocols in Digital Territories: Dr. Sara Florence Davidson, an Assistant Professor in Teacher Education at the University of the Fraser Valley, discussed the complexities of honouring protocols in digital spaces. Specifically, she focussed on how the Indigenous Storybooks project is being used to support community Indigenous language revitalization efforts and how the platform is being used to support educators to honour existing protocols associated with the sharing of traditional Indigenous stories in their classrooms. 

Digital Literacy in Canada and Beyond: Dr. Bonny Norton (FRSC), a Professor in UBC’s Department of Language and Literacy Education (LLED), discussed the relationship between Storybooks Canada, Indigenous Storybooks, and Global Storybooks, and introduced the team’s current collaboration with an Indigenous language project in Mexico. In March, 2019, The Province newspaper identified Storybooks Canada as one of four reading app recommendations by local librarians, noting its multilingual features and its connection with Indigenous languages. 

Digital Literacy and Indigenous languages: Liam Doherty, a PhD Candidate in UBC’s Department of Language and Literacy Education (LLED), discussed how an approach leveraging open licenses and open content can help to address some of the challenges presented by the digitization and distribution of material in Indigenous languages in a manner that is respectful of practices and protocols surrounding access. When combined with an open source development strategy such an approach can also maximize the impact and reach of digital tools for working with Indigenous languages across communities by reducing duplication of effort, improving accessibility, protecting (individual and community) privacy, guarding against platform obsolescence, and encouraging a digital culture of knowledge and resource sharing.

Language Sciences affiliate member and University of the Fraser Valley Assistant Professor Sara Florence Davidson
Department of Language and Literacy Education (LLED) Professor and Distinguished University Scholar Bonny Norton
LLED PhD candidate Liam Doherty

April 10th, 2019

12:00 - 14:00

Room 2012, Ponderosa Commons Oak House, 6445 University Blvd, UBC Vancouver

Misinformation managed: How to have healthy conversations online

Language Sciences member and UBC History Assistant Professor Heidi Tworek; Language Sciences affiliate member and SFU Linguistics Professor Maite Taboada.

March 6th, 2019

14:00 - 16:00

WOOD 4, Instructional Resources Centre (IRC)

2194 Health Sciences Mall

Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z3