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Microdiachrony in endangered languages across modalities (MICRODIAC(H)RO)

Agencia Estatal de Investigación, PID2020-119041GB-I00, 2021-2025

co-PIs: Josep Quer and Gemma Barberà



This project focuses on two endangered languages in different modalities: Catalan Sign Language (LSC, Catalonia) and Griko (Italiot- Greek variety of Salento, Southern Italy). Change in morphosyntactic properties within such languages has received very little attention so far. This project will make a novel contribution to fill this gap in research from a cross-modal perspective on two fronts: (a) exploring how diachronic change in a relatively small time span can be detected, described and accounted for (microdiachrony), and (b) creating research resources in the form of two corpora that include transcribed and annotated data to make the study of grammatical change feasible.

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Contextual effects in the choice of referring expressions for visually presented entities (CORE)

Agencia Estatal de Investigación, PID2020-112602GB-I00, 2021-2025

co-PIs: Louise McNally and Gemma Boleda

Associated GLiF Researchers: Josep M. Fontana, Peter Sutton, Jialing Liang


People use language to talk about the world, that is, to refer; accordingly, language offers a very rich set of resources for reference. For example, in any given context, a speaker can choose between a more or less specific expression (the dogthe small dogthe chihuahua), or between expressions that convey complementary information about the referent (the womanthe skier). Which referring expression (RE) a speaker chooses on a given occasion depends on various semantic and pragmatic factors. The theoretical goal of the CORE project is to contribute to better understanding the following specific factors and their interaction in RE choice in context, including the set of general principles that intervene in efficient communication, the contextually salient properties of the entity being referred to and features of its immediate environment that influence successful reference, and the implicit semantic organization of RE alternatives and the conventionalized division of labor between them, especially organization based on implicative semantic relations and alternative cross-classifications which highlight different properties of the referred to entities (e.g., woman vs. skier, or variation in the use of noun classifiers in languages such as Mandarin Chinese). Our empirical goal is to study RE choice under more naturalistic conditions than has previously been done. To combine these two broad goals in a single, feasible project, we make the practical decision of centering our attention on reference to single physical entities in visual contexts. We takes as an empirical starting point the ManyNames dataset, the result of a large-scale collection of RE choices for naturalistic images (Silberer et al. 2020). 


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The Question Under Discussion and its Linguistic Effects (QUDLE)

Ministerio de Ciencia, Innovación y Universidades / Agencia Estatal de Investigación, PGC2018-094029-A-I00, 2019-2022

PI: Laia Mayol

Associated GLiF Researchers: Enric Vallduví, Xixian Liao, Chenjie Yuan, Sebastian Buchczyk, Sara Amido


An extended view in formal pragmatics is that discourse can be explained as a question-answering strategy. That is, any utterance in a discourse (be it a dialogue or a monologue) can be thought of addressing a Question Under Discussion (QUD). QUDs play a central role in explaining the dynamics of dialogue and the rhetorical organization of discourse. This notion has also inspired important work in information structure, such as the work on contrastive topics or on focus particles. Apart from information structure, other very fruitful areas of application of QUD models have been the so-called projective meanings and studies on rhetorical relations. The general goal of the QUDLE project is to gain a better understanding of the notion of QUD and its effects in relation a range of different phenomena (information structure, anaphora, conditionals, connectives, discourse markers, among others).

This interdisciplinary project builds on two complementary semantic traditions: 1) Formal semantics, a symbolic approach that can delimit and track linguistic referents, but does not adequately match them with the descriptive content of linguistic expressions; 2) Continuous approaches to language such as deep learning models and distributional semantics, which can handle descriptive content but do not associate it to individuated referents. 

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Connecting Conceptual and Referential Models of Meaning 2 (CONNECT 2)

Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad, FFI2016-70645-P, 2017-2020

PILouise McNally

Associated GLiF Researchers: Josep M. Fontana, Berit Gehrke, Julie Hunter, Rafael MarínToni Bassaganyas, Cristina Real, Veronika Richtarcikova, Kata Wohlmuth

The overall goal of this project is to take a fresh look at the articulation between conceptual and referential aspects of natural language meaning, based on the empirical results that have been obtained in our recent projects. Though the hypothesis that both conceptual and referential aspects play a crucial role in meaning composition is not new (similar views are relatively explicit e.g. in certain sectors of Discourse Representation Theory and in the Conceptual/Procedural Meaning distinction in Relevance Theory), the novelty of the project will most notably lie in 1) the incorporation of a distributional semantic perspective and 2) the use of diachronic evidence, still a very infrequent method in compositional semantic analysis.

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The Sign Hub: preserving, researching and fostering the linguistic, historical and cultural heritage of European Deaf signing communities with an integral resource 

European Commission, 693349, 2016-2020

PI/CoordinatorJosep Quer

Associated GLiF Researchers: Gemma Barberà, Jordina Sánchez, Alexandra Navarrete, Sara Cañas, Raquel Veiga, Giorgia Zorzi


SIGN-HUB is a 4-year research project funded by the European Commission within Horizon 2020 Reflective Society 2015, Research and Innovation actions. This project, designed by a European research team, aims to provide the first comprehensive response to the societal and scientific challenge resulting from generalized neglect of the cultural and linguistic identity of signing Deaf communities in Europe. It will provide an innovative and inclusive resource hub for the linguistic, historical and cultural documentation of the Deaf communities' heritage and for sign language assessment in clinical intervention and school settings. To this end, it will create an open state-of-the-art digital platform with customized accessible interfaces. The project will initially feed that platform with core content in the following domains, expandable in the future to other sign languages: 

(i) digital grammars of 6 sign languages, produced with a new online grammar writing tool; 
(ii) an interactive digital atlas of linguistic structures of the world's sign languages; 
(iii) online sign language assessment instruments for education and clinical intervention, and 
(iv) the first digital archive of life narratives by elderly signers, subtitled and partially annotated for linguistic properties.

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The Grammar of Reference in Catalan Sign Language (GRAMREFLSC)

Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad, FFI2015-68594- P,  2016-2019

PIJosep Quer

Associated GLiF Researchers: Gemma Barberà, Sara Cañas, Alexandra Navarrete, Raquel Veiga, Giorgia Zorzi

Since sign languages are full-fledged natural languages, the same full range of possibilities is expected to be found in the encoding of linguistic properties attested across spoken languages. At the same time sign languages exploit possibilities of the visual-gestural modality in perception and production that are lacking in spoken languages, and this has been shown to have an impact in a number of aspects in their grammatical structure and lexicon. The uses of space and non-manual markers are the most prominent examples of those modality-specific traits. This project aims at covering a whole domain of Catalan Sign Language (LSC) grammar that is still poorly understood for the most part or only partially addressed: reference. Under this very broad header we encompass the morphological, syntactic, semantic and pragmatic means that LSC has at its disposal in order to mainly talk about individuals, but also about times and worlds, for instance. The four areas of research to be tackled are: (i) the morphosyntax of Determiner Phrases; (ii) the pronominal system; (iii) quantification, and (iv) anaphoric chains in discourse. The descriptive part of the project will heavily rely of an innovative tool designed for this specific purpose, the SignGram Blueprint, and on the available data in the LSC corpus. The formal analysis will focus on the required morphophonological, syntactic semantic and pragmatic aspects that are targeted in each subdomain. Collaboration with the Sign Language Lab in the University of Göttingen will add the dimension of crosslinguistic comparative work with German Sign Language (DGS) in a number of the topics addressed in this project. The current proposal will not only increase our knowledge about several underresearched areas in LSC, but it will also contribute to a better understanding of modality-specific and modality-independent aspects of reference in signed languages, thus offering new input for the study of the human faculty of language.

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Correspondences between contextual resources and sentential information structure (Core-IS)

Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad, FFI2015-67991-P, 2016-2018

PIEnric Vallduví

Associated GLiF Researchers: Laia Mayol, Julie Hunter, Chenjie Yuan 

It is generally agreed that sentential information structure (IS) concerns context-sensitive aspects of meaning, but there is less agreement on how exactly context is to be brought into an analysis of the semantics of IS notions such as theme and rheme, contrast and background, focus, and topic. Core-IS adopts the radical view that there exist direct correlations between particular sentential IS categories and specific contextual resources. The overall aim of the project is to investigate these correlations building on recent models of dialogical context which provide richly structured representations inhabited by a limited set of contextual resources —ranked questions-under-discussion, salient sub-utterances, moves (basic discourse units with intentional and context-update effects), etc.— motivated independently on the basis of an array of interactive phenomena in natural language. Core-IS intends to map particular aspects of the connection between dialogical context and IS involving (a) the theme-rheme partition and questions under discussion, (b) focus/contrast and salient sub-utterances, and (c) topic and constituents in the move list. Light will be shed into issues such as the nature of question-answer congruence and the ontological connections between the categories of focus and rheme and between contrastive topic and the more general notion of (continuous/shifted) topic. On a more general theoretical plane, the results of Core-IS will hopefully further endorse the view that the dynamics of context and the interactive nature of linguistic communication are of the essence in linguistic interpretation.

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Highest argument agreement (HAA)

Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad, FFI2014-56735-P, 2015-2017

PIAlex Alsina

Associated GLiF Researchers: Eugenio Vigo 

This project seeks to identify linguistic phenomena in which the verb agrees with whatever constituent that ranks higher with respect to any language-specific prominence scale. The important aspect of this type of phenomenon is that the agreement features of the verb are not associated with any particular grammatical function, but solely depend on what constituents are part of the sentence.

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NOTE: For past projects, please see the individual pages of our group members or the aggregate GLiF data on the UPF Scientific Output Portal.