The recipient of the Best Student Talk award is Neil Banerjee (BA), who has just finished his undergraduate degree in our department and will be beginning his Ph.D. studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology this autumn. The judges' comments were as follows:
In his talk ["Of monsters and modals"], Banerjee focused on distributional differences between epistemic possibility and necessity modals in English and Kinyarwanda (with regard to temporal shift and modal base's shift from the speaker to another individual). He argued that epistemic modals involve a context-index split, proposing that under attitude verbs the context is overwritten with an index (due to a 'monstrous' operator selected by an attitude verb). His proposal predicts that, cross-linguistically, modals are expected to behave differently in matrix clauses, under attitude verbs and in the consequent of a counterfactual conditional. The judges emphasized Banerjee's strong command of complex theoretical ideas, his effectiveness in linking the data to the formal tools used in his analysis, and the ease in how he handled the question-and-answer period. The judges were also impressed by the breadth of his analysis, which sets the ground for further study of epistemic modals in a cross-linguistic perspective.
The Best Student Poster award has gone to Spanish and Portuguese Ph.D. student Malina Radu:
Radu’s poster ["Conditioned variability in the realization of Romanian rhotics"] presented a phonetic analysis of Romanian rhotics, with the aim of identifying possible sources of their variability (word-internal position, register and word type). On the basis of results from two production tasks with 10 native speakers of Romanian, Radu observed different realizations of rhotics extending beyond those previously attested, namely tap and trill variants. The judges unanimously noted that she was extremely comfortable talking about the motivation and implications of her analysis, even if this information was not on the poster. In fact, Radu’s research is part of a larger project that examines the acquisition of Spanish by Romanian speakers and the realization of rhotics in both languages. She very clearly had a sense of this larger research program and of how her poster presentation fits in. Finally, she was open to suggestions and ideas, and she was able to answer questions that went beyond what was shown on the poster.
Congratulations to both for their outstanding work!