Postgraduate Summer Research Showcase award for Barrios-Jurado

Posted on June 17, 2022 by

A picture is worth a thousand words, but it’s not always easy to capture linguistic topics in an image. Anyone who ever wrote a departmental linguistics blog and had to find images to accompany posts about formal semantics will know exactly what I mean. With this in mind, prepared to be impressed by the achievement of LEL PhD student Núria Barrios-Jurado. Núria has won the first award in a University-wide Postgraduate Summer Research Showcase image competition. This year’s theme was “Research in Action”, and the task was to capture one’s research and impact in a photo. Núria’s winning image and accompanying title and caption are below, followed by a short explanation. An offer to become Manchet’s Art Director is in the post.

What goes in first: tea or milk? The order of the constituents can alter the product when it comes to tea and language. 

Pouring the milk before the tea can affect your ‘cuppa’. It is still black tea with milk, but it is not exactly the same as if you poured the tea first. Similarly, in some languages such as Romance languages, word order can affect the interpretation one can give to a sentence. The truth conditions of the sentence (its core meaning) will be the same, but what the interlocutors can interpret to be –broadly speaking- ‘new information’ (i.e. the focus) may be restricted. With every sentence, the speaker has a choice of word order, which will influence how the interlocutor understands the sentence, and consequently affect communication as well. My research compares Catalan and Spanish, two very closely related languages, and investigates how some non-canonical word-order configurations may restrict the scope of focus in a sentence. While Spanish seems to be more permissive, Catalan is more restrictive, and some verbs may limit the possible interpretations more than others.