Dylan Attal

Mentor: Dr. Stefanie Wulff
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
 
"In college I developed a keen interest in linguistics. I decided to pursue an interesting topic, English blend word formation, through research because I knew that performing research would help me develop important attributes like organizational skills, the ability to set and meet deadlines, the ability to synthesize large amounts of abstract information, and the creativity to create and execute an original experiment."

Major

Spanish and Linguistics

Minor

TESOL, Portuguese, and Latin American Studies

Research Interests

  • English Blend Word Formation
  • Second Language Acquisition
  • TEFL/TESOL Pedagogy

Academic Awards

  • FLAS Academic Year Fellowship
  • FLAS Summer Fellowship
  • Anderson Scholar
  • Wentworth Scholar

Organizations

  • Libros de Familia
  • English Language Institute
  • Corpus Linguistics Lab

Volunteer

  • Libros de Familia
  • Lake Forest Elementary
  • Project Downtown Gainesville

Hobbies and Interests

  • Tanning
  • Swimming
  • Reading
  • Yoga

Research Description

Cognitive determinants of blend formation: an experimental approach

From a cognitive-linguistic research perspective, blends raise one major question: what factors impact the way in which a speaker blends two words together? For example, what makes brunch, a blend of breakfast and lunch, a better blend than breakfunch? Previous research on the basis of large collections of blends suggests that speakers take a variety of cognitive determinants into consideration in order to achieve the ideal balance between economy (the bigger the overlap of words, the better) and recognizability of the source words (the more material of both source words remains intact, the better). These cognitive determinants include various characteristics of the source words, such as their phonetic, phonemic, graphemic, segmental, and semantic similarity as well as their frequency in language. How exactly these characteristics interact in the online production and comprehension of blends, however, remains largely unclear to date. In the research project proposed here, we aim to take a first step towards addressing this gap by conducting an experimental study in which native speakers of English are asked to blend to source words together. The source word stimuli will be systematically controlled for the different cognitive determinants mentioned above. The results will be statistically evaluated both monofactorially (means, interquartile ranges, and exact tests) and multifactorially by means of a linear model that identifies which factors contribute to an increasing distance of the chosen cut-off points to the ideal ones as determined by the predictors. The findings of this study stand to make a valuable contribution to our understanding of subtractive word formation processes by providing us with first clues regarding an online production and comprehension model of blending and by informing our understanding of the differences between creative and conscious word formation processes such as intentional blending compared to involuntary and unconscious word formation processes such as speech errors.