Applying language technology to detect shift effects

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We discuss an application of a technique from language technology to tag a corpus automatically and to detect syntactic differences between two varieties of Finnish Australian English, one spoken by the first generation and the other by the second generation. The technique utilizes frequency profiles of trigrams of part-of-speech categories as indicators of syntactic distance between the varieties. We then examine potential shift effects in language contact. The results show that we can attribute some interlanguage features in the first generation to Finnish substratum transfer. However, there are other features ascribable to more universal properties of the language faculty or to “vernacular” primitives. We also conclude that language technology provides other techniques for measuring or detecting linguistic phenomena more generally.


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