The 2020 Linguistics Undergraduate Working Papers

The Linguistics Program in the College of Science is proud to announce the publication of the latest in their series of undergraduate working papers.

The fifth volume of the Northeastern University Working Papers in Linguistics is now online, and showcases three outstanding pieces of student research:

Leah Doroski’s paper “Child Language Acquisition of Possession Forms in Inuktitut” is the result of her year-long honors thesis, and is groundbreaking in being one of the only works on the acquisition of possession forms in a polysynthetic language, a relatively uncommon type of word-formation system among the languages of the world. The only other study of this type looked at the acquisition of Northern East Cree, so Leah’s work contributes significantly to our knowledge both of the types of possession forms we find in Inuktitut as well as how children acquire those forms. This paper will be presented this fall as a poster at the BU Conference on Language Development (BUCLD), the top language acquisition conference in the world.

Luc Henriquez’s paper “Neuroanatomy and Behavioral Characteristics in Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens: Perspectives on Language Potential and Evolutionary Advantage” summarizes major neuroanatomical differences between Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis, and offers a critical assessment of the potential for Neanderthal language. The paper includes a careful and interesting discussion of the potential evolutionary impacts of the differences between these two species, and concludes with suggestions for future research paths.

Carolina Mack’s paper “The Syntax of Wambaya” presents a sketch of the word and sentence structure of Wambaya, an endangered language of Australia with fewer than 60 speakers remaining. Of particular note is the fact that Carolina presents evidence suggesting a revised conception of this language’s system of verbal inflection, which departs from that of prior research.

The Working Papers are the brainchild of Shiti Malhotra, Assistant Teaching Professor of Linguistics, who proposed the creation of the series in 2016 and led its editorial efforts over its first three years. As with any academic journal, submissions to the Working Papers undergo a rigorous selection process involving peer review and revision, and entries must demonstrate a clear contribution to furthering our understanding of the phenomenon of human language.

Robert Painter, Associate Teaching Professor of Linguistics and current editor of the Working Papers, offers this assessment of this year’s entries: “The breadth and quality of the three articles of Volume 5 speak to the boundless talent of students in the Program, and the potential they have to make a meaningful impact to the field of Linguistics, so we are very happy to celebrate their accomplishments in the Working Papers.”

Full copies of the papers included in this latest volume of the Northeastern University Working Papers in Linguistics can be found at the DRS: