Eve Sweetser, Professor

Closed (1) Co-speech gestures accompanying use of conditionals and modals

Applications for fall 2021 are now closed for this project.

It has long been known that co-speech gesture reveals aspects of on-line cognition which may not be revealed in speech itself. This project investigates the usage of gestures accompanying modals (e.g. CAN, MUST, MAY, SHOULD) and conditionals (IF-clauses), to see what understandings of modality and conditional relationships are reflected in gesture. For example, we hypothesize that speakers may gesturally indicate creation of "imaginary spaces" (see Fauconnier's Mental Spaces theory) as they use conditionals; and they may gesturally reflect their models of coercion, permission and possibility in their gestures accompanying modal verbs. Sweetser and others have developed such semantic models - which can now be examined in the light of new data.

Mark Turner and Francis Steen have given us access, via their Red Hen database, to a very large corpus of captioned television data. Since it is captioned, it is searchable by linguistic forms (e.g. IF, MUST) - it is very hard to search video data directly. It has thus been possible to locate large numbers of examples of these common words, and examine gestural patterns accompanying them.

Initial results, on 700 examples of English IF-conditionals from talk-show date, were presented at the International Cognitive Linguistics Conference in July 2015, and further results in 2017 at the International Multimodal Communication Conference - the basic hypotheses of the project are being confirmed. The next phase involves both gathering more data, and refining analyses of the gesture structures in the date currently being examined.

The research apprentice will use Red Hen's search capabilities to locate examples in this corpus, and assist in developing a database and in doing data-analysis. This apprentice can in the process learn a great deal about lexical and constructional semantics and about analysis of co-speech gesture.

Qualifications: Must have basic web-usage and searching experience - and at least basic spread-sheet skills. Also should have taken at least one cognitive linguistics class. UNIX experience would be a plus. We will be focusing on English data, but command of Spanish or Russian would also be a plus, since Red Hen has data in these languages too.

Weekly Hours: 3-5 hrs

Off-Campus Research Site: PROBABLY on campus but the group will decide and some meetings may be on Zoom.
Related website: http://linguistics.berkeley.edu/~sweetser/

Closed (2) Integrated metaphor description project - metaphors for cancer and cancer treatment.

Applications for fall 2021 are now closed for this project.

This group is analyzing American English discourse about COVID-19, the pandemic and treatment/containment efforts. We are using the Coronavirus corpus created on the COCA corpus site. The first and continuing effort has been to identify metaphoric mappings involved. The new wave of work is designing and carrying out Mechanical Turk experiments to test the effect of metaphoric stimuli on subjects' construals. It has been shown that in other areas, priming with metaphoric language can affect reasoning - e.g. reading about crime as an epidemic vs as a dangerous wild beast can sway readers to prefer social/health solutions as opposed to encarceration. We would like to find out how metaphoric framing affects readers' framings of COVID.
Two earlier stages of this group's research on cancer and cancer metaphors have been presented in 2018 at the Researching and Applying Metaphor conference, and in 2019 at the International Cognitive Linguistics Conference, and are being written up for publication. A third was presented in June 2021 at RaAM.

Analysis of texts, identification of metaphors, and assistance in building the database of metaphors. Also, assist in Mechanical Turk data-gathering and organization.

In the past, students doing this work have helped the project make progress, and learned a lot more about the nitty-gritty of metaphor analysis. Some of our undergraduate assistants have as a result produced professional research papers and presented them at conferences.

Qualifications: IDEALLY should have taken Linguistics 106 and/or 105 (or some other cognitive linguistics class involving work on metaphor) and done well - or done well in linguistics classes and be ready to dive in and do reading on metaphor analysis. Basic database management skills are needed. French or Arabic language skills would be an added plus, as would any neuroscience/bioscience background (useful for reading the medical literature).

Weekly Hours: 3-5 hrs

Off-Campus Research Site: PROBABLY on campus, depending on health circumstances continuing to be good. The group may decide to hold some meetings via Zoom.