A Dummies take on LaTeX

So I started learning LaTeX yesterday and I am enjoying it. I feel like a geek, like the next Zuckerburg, but then I remember its just a text generating programme. LaTeX is anot extentsion of Donald Knuth TeX programme by Leslie Lamport

So I started learning LaTeX yesterday and I am enjoying it. I feel like a geek, like the next Zuckerburg, but then I remember its just a text generating programme. LaTeX is an extentsion of Donald Knuth TeX programme by Leslie Lamport.

Texts generation with LaTeX proceedes by the the provision of inputs constituted by: 

▪Commands- They have the format specified below:

\commands[optional parameters]{obligatory parameters} e.good

\section{No love lost}

\documentclass[20pt(fontsize ), executivepaper/a4paper/letterpaper]{article/modercv/beamer/slide}

These specify the structure of the text, they typically do not appear in the output, they are the features which distinguish the LaTeX programme from other word processors like Word. They serve to implement plug-ins and other features which the bare LaTeX programme would lack e.g  Qtree (which can be used to generate syntactic trees)

 ▪Texts- Normal texts shaped by specific commands, they constitute the content of the output. They are nested in between the command line for the beginning and end of the document. E.g. 

‘The Not So Short Introduction to LATEX2″ Or LATEX2″ by Tobias Oetiker Hubert Partl, Irene Hyna and Elisabeth Schlegl’, has so far been an excellent introductory material. Android users can download the LaTeXeditor to run latex on their phones. Texstudio and Texworks e.t.c can be downloaded for Mac,Windows and Linux PC’s. Overleaf runs a Web based Latex Editor.


The Nigerian Pidgin English

The Nigerian Pidgin is arguably the most widespread koine/lingua franca in the Nigerian linguistic space. Holding sway primarily in the the Southern region of the country (the Hausa language appears to be the wider spread Lingua Franca in the North, however this is receding with the ever increasing spread of NP), and in Cities throughout the nation. It is the preferred language in casual situations, of the youth, military personnel, amongst students in higher institutions of learning and comedy.

The emergence of NP was initiated by the establishment of contact between Portuguese explorers and coastal communities of the Niger-Delta in the 15th century. This contact initially led to the development of a pidgin lexified primarily by Portuguese (this influence survives in words like pikin ‘child’ and sabi ‘to know’). However the locum tenes of the Portuguese by the English, gave rise to the contemporary Nigerian Pidgin, of which English is the primary lexifier.

The continual spread and rise of NP is fostered by the multlingual nature of Nigeria, where over 500 languages are spoken, as it serves as a veritable tool for intergroup communication. The notion about Pidgins is that they are reduced and simplified trade (pseudo)languages or in other words makeshift adaptations developed for the satisfaction of restricted and immediate communication purposes. They are thought of as possessing a limited vocabulary and lacking rigid grammars. 

“When speakers of different languages have to communicate to carry out practical tasks but do not have the opportunity to learn one another’s languages, they develop a makeshift jargon called a pidgin. Pidgins are choppy strings of words borrowed from the language of the colonizers or plantation owners, highly variable in order and with little in the way of grammar.”
Steven Pinker

However these notions do not apply to contemporary NP, a fully fledged language, with a rich and ever expanding vocabulary, capable of meeting the communication needs speakers may have. This is probably due to the centuries of development and change it has enjoyed, as well as the linguistic enrichement afforded it by the so called BIOPROGRAM, as children acquire it (the Nicaraguan Sign Language has been cited in the literature as a language enriched as deaf children began acquiring it). It is the case that NPE has evolved into a creole, particularly in the oil rich Niger Delta (particularly Warri City), where the beauty of the language is most evident.

The Nigerian Pidgin may be Genetically classified as a Germanic language, a branch of the larger Indo-European language family, due to its predominantly English influenced vocabulary. However it bears Structural/Typological similarities with the Benue-Congo languages of Southern Nigeria, which are of the larger Niger-Congo language family. We would highlight some these aspects of structural similarity below:

Aspects of NP Phonological affinity with Local Nigerian Languages: The phonemic inventory of NP is largely similar to that of Endoglossic Nigerian Languages.The segments /ñ,kp,gb/ are phonemes of NP, they occur in the phonemic inventories of languages of Southern Nigeria like ‘Yoruba, Igbo, Edo, Urhobo’, however the English phonemic inventory is without them:

NP: Kpayn   ‘to die’         YORUBA: okpa ‘rod‘               UNEME: okpa ‘corn

        Gba        ‘to cheat’                     agba ‘elder‘                                agba ‘storage drum‘        

        Nyansh ‘buttocks’                    anyan ‘cockroach’                anya  ‘travails

Suprasegmentally Tones may be employed to specify the meaning of segmentally similar lexemes, as in words like:

NP: Fádà    ‘father’, Fàdá ‘priest’, Mámà ‘honorific term for an important female’, Màmá ‘mother’.

YOR: Ògùn ‘medicine’, Ogun ‘war’, Ogún ‘twenty, inheritance’.

UNE: Òkpà ‘corn‘, Òkpá ‘one’    

An Aspect of NP Morphological affinity with local Nigerian Languages: The morphological process Reduplication is one which is highly productive in NP and in the languages of Southern Nigeria, which is however Marginally productive in English. 


Kpoto-kpoto ‘mud’

Nyanma-nyanma ‘filth’

Mago-mago ‘sharp practices’

Wel(a)        ‘well,nicely,good‘                 Wel(a)-wel(a)      ‘very well, nice’

Sleep           ‘sleep‘                                        Sleepi-sleepi           ‘an habitual sleeper’

Mama         ‘mother’                               Mama-mama          ‘grand mother

Kill               ‘kill’                                       Kill-kill                       ‘kill indiscriminately’

Play-play   ‘playful individual’           playplay-playplay   ‘surprisingly, unexpectedly

An aspect of NP Syntactic affinity with local Nigerian Languages: A major syntactic feature which NP shares with Languages of Southern Nigeria, but which is unproductive in the English language is ‘Verb Serialisation’. Verb Serialisation or a Serial Verb Construct, is marked by a continuous tagging/string of verbs, without a linker (e.g and) connecting them. The string of verbs share the same Tense, Mood and Aspect marking. They also share Arguments and only an Internal Argument of theirs may intersperse the verb sequence.

NP: Hin run chop di ęgusi soup, wey him mama cook put inside di pot.

*He ran ate the melon soup, that his mother cooked put in the pot.

Yor: O sare ję obę ęgusi, ti iya rę se fi si inu ikoko.

*He ran ate soup melon, that mother his cooked put at in pot.

Une: O no le ozomi ki ikpigba, ni iy’ oni yeni re zhi ekel’ oni eghulu.

*He ran ate soup of melon, that mother his cooked put at in the pot.

He quickly ate the melon soup, that his mother cooked and put in the pot

NP: We kill di king goat chop, throway the bone inside one bush, wen we chop am finish.

*We killed the King Goat ate, threw away the bone in a bush when we ate it finish.

Yor:  A kpa Eran Oba je, ju egungun re sonu si inu Igbo kan, nigba ti a jee tan.

*We killed Goat King ate, threw bone of.it away at in bush one, when that we ate.it finish.

Une: Mwan gbe ewe ki oni Ogie le, fi ugwo ‘kole fia zhi ekeli ivinumu okpa, ufo ni mwan le oni fo.

*We killed Goat of the King ate, threw bone of.it away at in bush one, when that we eat it finish.

‘We killed the King’s Goat, ate it, and then threw it in a bush when we were done eating it’

Instrumental Phonetics: Using Praat to Highlight some Acoustic Features of the Pure Vowels /i, e, ɛ, a, ɔ, o, u/ Correlating to Certain Articulatory Facts.

In a previous blogpost about Phonetics, I stated that the study of Speech has three branches:

  • Articulatory Phonetics
  • Acoustic Phonetics and
  • Auditory Phonetics

These branches are differentiated by their approach to the speeech phenomena. Articulatory Phonetics focuses on speech Production, Acoustic Phonetics on the Physics of Speech, and Auditory Phonetics on the Pereception of speech. They are however united by a general interest in speech and in the use of Specialised Instruments (Instrumental Phonetics) to precisely describe the nuances of speech, this is especially true for Acoustic & Auditory Phonetics. 

  1. In Articulatory Phonetics: There may be use of X-ray machines, in Palatography false Palates may be used as well as Charcoal/Chocolate Pastes and Cameras to capture images of wipe offs.
  2. Acoustic Phonetics: The use Sound Spectrographs, Oscilloscopes/-mink, Nasographs, Electroglottographs, Photoelectroglottographs and Computer based Speech Labs, is expected.

The use of Instruments for Phonetic Investigation is reinforced not only, by the fact that our ears cannot capture all the nuances of speech, but also due to the fact that what we ear is not always Phonetically true. Our linguistic backgrounds may cause us to Under-differentiate (not detect a Phonetic fact). For example due to my Linguistic background it is often difficult for me to detect the English phonemes /ə,æ,ɜ,ɒ,ʌ,ɪ/, similarly a native Englsh speaker may fail to detect the /x,ß/ of my Native Uneme, it is the case that we perceive foreign sounds as those which they are most similar to in our Native Languages’ (relative perception). We may also Over-differentiate ‘hear something which isn’t uttered’. Even within our Native Languages what we hear is not always what was said, findings from experimental Socio-Linguistics (perception experiments) capture this fact.

“Perception studies… provides evidence that the social characteristics attributed to the speaker can influence how phones are perceived. For example, the focus of the aperiodic energy of the alveolar fricative /s/ is higher than for the palatal fricative /ʃ/ within the speech of a single individual. The acoustic boundary between /s/ and /ʃ/ tends to be higher for females than males. This means that it is possible for a token of /s/ produced by a male to have its turbulence focused in a similar frequency range as a female’s token of /ʃ/. In an experiment where video clips of men and women were matched with gender-ambiguous tokens from a /s/ -/ʃ/ continuum, Strand (1999; 2000) found that participants were more likely to perceive a token as /ʃ/ if shown a video of a female. In other words, the same fricative was perceived differently depending on the face with which it was paired. These results provide evidence that perceivers attribute social characteristics to a speaker and then use this information to help identify sounds produced by that speaker.”

~ Katie Drager (2015: 15)

All these facts make the use of instruments ideal for Phonetic research. Thus I make us of Praat (a software for Acoustic Phonetics and Speech Synthesis developed by Boersma and Co) to highlight some acoustic features of the Pure Vowels /i, e, ɛ, a, ɔ, o, u/. 

Articulatorily vowels are described with reference to the distinctive posture of the tongue and lips during their articulation thus:

/i/ front high unrounded oral vowel                          /u/ back high rounded oral vowel

/e/ front mid-high unrounded oral vowel         /o/ back mid-high rounded ”  vowel 

/ɛ/ front mid-low unrounded oral vowel               /ɔ/ back mid-low rounded ” vowel

                                               /a/ central low rounded vowel

They are high if the tongue is nearest the roof of the mouth, low if nearest the floor of the mouth. Unrounded if the lips are spread, rounded if the lips are shaped similarly as they would be when whistling.

Acoustically however vowels share similarities more than differences as it appears. They all are characterised by periodic vertical striations (corresponds to the F0 of the voice or pitch) in a wide band spectrogram and rather consistent harmonics in a narrow band spectrogram, their energy spreads throughout the Spectrographic window, and possess fairly similar durations. The acoustic cue that distinguishes vowels is their Quality, an aggregate of the formants of the vowel, it corresponds to the differences in the shapes the vocal tract assumes during the production of vowels. This we will showcase here. 

  • The Acoustic characteristics of /i/
Spectrographic display for /i/
Formant contour for three instances of /i/

We observe that /i/ has a low F1 or First Formant, which is around the 150-250Hz region, this is characteristic of its Articulatory Height, its a high vowel. However its F2 is rather high 2500-2700Hz range and very distant from F1, this great distance is a correlate with its position as a front vowel.

  • The Acoustic characteristics of the /e/ sound
Spectrographic display for /e/
Formant contour for five instances of /e/

The difference between /e/ and /i/ is obvious from a observation of their formant structure, /e/ has an F1 around the 300-400Hz range slightly higher than that of /i/, hinting at the lower height of the tongue during its production than during the production of /i/. F2 is around the 2000Hz region and greatly distant from the F1, marking it out as a Front vowel.

  • The Acoustic characteristics of the /ɛ/ sound
Spectrographic display for the /ɛ/ sound
Formant contour for three instances of the /ɛ/ sound

We can observe that the F1 for /ɛ/ is higher than for /e/ at around 600Hz, suggesting that it is produced with the tongue lower. F2 is in the 17ooHz region but still greatly distant from F1 marking it out as a front vowel.

  • Acoustic characteristics of the /a/ sound
Spectrographic display for the /a/ sound
Formant contour for three instances of /a/

We can observe that /a/ has an F1 of about 1000Hz, which should the highest of all the vowels discussed today, as it is the lowest of all. However its F2 is relatively low around 1300Hz but still slightly distant from its F1, marking it out as a Central vowel.

  • Acoustic characteristics of the /ɔ/ sound
Spectrographic display for the /ɔ/ sound
Formant contour for three instances of /ɔ/

We can observe that the /ɔ/ sound possesses a relatively high F1 of about 700Hz, correlating with its height as a mid-low vowel. However it has an F2 so low and close to the F1 at about 900Hz that in some instances F1 and F2 are merged, marking it out a back vowel.

  • Acoustic characteristics of the /o/ sound
Spectrographic display for the /o/ sound.
Formant contour for three instances of /o/

We can observe that /o/ has an F1 relatively lower than that of /ɔ/ at about 400Hz, correlating with its greater height as a mid-high vowel. F2 is about 800Hz, and quite close to F1 hinting at its position as a back vowel. 

  • Acoustic characteristics of the /u/ sound
Spectrographic display for the /u/ sound

Formant contour for three instances of the /u/ sound

Formant 1 for /u/ is even lower than that of /0/ at about 200Hz telling us its a high vowel. F2 is at about 800Hz quite close to F1 hinting at its position as a back vowel. 

As we can see formant structures are fairly contant for the same vowel but differ greatly amongst the different vowels, and thus are key for distinguishing them Acoustically. These formants also seemingly pattern in relation to known articulatory facts.

Correlates between vowel acoustic features and their articulatory characteristics:

  1. F1 or the first formant decrease as vowel height increases. Thus higher vowels have lower F1s than lower Vowels.
  2. The distance between F1 and F2 decreases as we move from front vowels to back vowels. Thus a front vowel will have greater distance between its first 2 formants than a back vowel.
  3. The distance between F2 and F3 decreases as we move from back to front vowels. (Arguably).
  4. Vowels have vertical striations, corresponding to the vibration of the vocal cords during their production.

Thanks for your time. Comments would be appreciated.

The Typical Pitch Contour of Polar Interrogatives in Uneme. 

In the Uneme language, the pitch contour of a sentence may  be sufficient to type it as a polar interrogative, as opposed to the English language where there is a requirement for aux-inversion or what may be referred to as T (Tense) to C (Complimentiser) movement in Minimalist Syntax.

Positive Polar Interrogatives:

MÍ vá àzé? 

1sg FUT. come

Will I come?

Ú vá dé émìnì?

2sg FUT buy thing?

Do you want to buy something?

Negative Polar Interrogatives:

Mî vá àzè?

1sg FUT come

Will I not come?

Û vá dé émìnì?

2sg FUT buy thing? 

Won’t you buy something?

The Brain and Language: A Brief Overview of Neurolinguistics

Neurolingistics may be chatracterised as the study of the neural basis of Language, the role neurons play in Linguitic Processes is the focus of this field. Neurons may be described as a class of cells biologically programmed to receive and transmit information from neighbouring nerve cells, gland cells and muscles to the brain for interpretation and processing, they also transmit information from the Brain to the rest of the body.

Neurolingistics may be chatracterised as the study of the neural basis of Language, the role neurons play in Linguitic Processes is the focus of this field. Neurons may be described as a class of cells biologically programmed to receive and transmit information from neighbouring nerve cells, gland cells and muscles to the brain for interpretation and processing, they also transmit information from the Brain to the rest of the body. The Human Brain is constituted of about a 100 billion neurons at birth, these are the basis for the functioning of the Brain of any species, thus a study of the neural basis of Language is more or less a study of Language in relation to the Brain. The human possession of a Central Nervous System which can acquire and process Language gives the Human species his most unique feature.

A Neuron

Neurolinguistics is a multidisciplinary field, contributed to by Researchers from fields including Neurology, Psychology, Linguistics, Medicine, Computer Science, Bio-Engineering and Biology. The word Neurolingistics was first introduced in the 70’s, in a journal titled “Studies in Neurolingistics” by Whitaker and some of his associates (Ahlsen, 2011). However the observation of and interests in the relationship between the Brain and Language has a very ancient history, often traced back 5000 years ago to ancient Egypt. In that period there were observations of Language disorders ‘mutism’ which sometimes arose in individuals who underwent “Trepanation” a practice that involved the drilling of holes into the skull, believed by the Ancient Egyptians to relieve individuals of evil spirits. The ancient Greek philosophers Aristotle and Plato who as it seems, always had something to say about everything presented perspectives on the seat of Cognitive functions in the human species. Plato was somewhat of the view that the Brain gave the Homo Loquens his capacity for Language and thought, Aristotle however opined that the Brain was merely a system for temperature control (partly true as the Hypothalamus is responsible for Homeostasis), to him the heart was where human cognitive abilities  (including Language) sat.

Franz Gall

Fast forward to the early 19th century, and there comes Franz Joseph Gall and his fascination with cranial Morphology. Gall possibly was responsible for the earliest attempts at localising cognitive functions in the Brain. He devised a mapping of 26 human faculties in the Brain  (Ahlsen, 2011), one of which was Language, using a Psuedo-Scientific method, developed by him, known as Phrenology  (or Cranioscopy). He purported that Language is situated in the foreskull, Fromkin et al (2011: 45) explain that “he proposed that language is located in the frontal lobes of the brain because as a young man he had noticed that the most articulate and intelligent of his fellow students had protruding eyes, which he believed reflected overdeveloped brain material“. His method is one which is highly questionable and spurious, now discredited by modern brain scientists. He basically assumed neuro functional areas from skull observation, the shape, size and countours of areas of the skull, to him, suggested the cognitive functions they subserved. According to ‘Phreno-Logic’ individuals with larger foreskulls may have greater Linguistic capabilities so on and so forth.

Paul Broca

Leborgne’s (Tan) Brain

Fortunately around the mid 19th century Neurolingistics began assuming a form that defined it as the science we know it as today. This was due to a discovery made in 1865 by Paul Broca of an eponymousously named region of the brain responsible for Language Production. He predicted that his patient Leborgne who was Linguistically impaired would have Lesions in his Left Frontal Lobe, proven true on post mortem examinations of the said patient’s brain, for this Paul Broca is largely regarded as the father of Neurolinguistics.  

Carl Wernicke

A Brain with Lesions in the Wernicke Region

Shortly after Broca’s discovery, Carl  Wernicke also discovered a now eponymousously named region of the brain responsible for Language Perception and Understanding. This region is located posteriorly  in Temporal lobe and adjoining areas of the Parietal lobe. Theodore Ribbot and Jean Pitres are some other notable pioneers of Neurolinguistics. Pitres is responsible for what is now known as the Pitres Rule which predicts a pattern for Language Loss, Language Attrition, as well as recovery from Aphasia (Language impairment due to a Neuropathy). His assumption is that Languages that are more familiar and actively used by the individual are more likely to recorvered after Aphasia, and are less likely to be Lost or Suffer Attrition. Ribbot on the other hand assumed that the earliest learned Language enjoyed this grace. Their works are collectively considered the basis of what is now known as Neurolingistics

The Broca and Wernicke Area connected by the Arcuate Fasciculus

The interests of Modern Neurolingistics include the study of Brain damage and Language disorders, some Neurolinguists as well work as therapists to tackle Linguistic disorders.The disorders studied may include Aphasia, Dyslexia and Dysgraphia. Aphasia is especially of much interest, it is a Language Disorder primarily resulting from Insults (Lesion and Hemorrhage basically) to areas of the Brain that subserve Language, Aphasic conditions are of different types which include:

  1. Broca Aphasia: This is due to damage to the Broca Area it affects the patients ability to produce language.
  2. Wernicke Aphasia: Impairs the patients ability to understand/comprehend language.
  3. Conductive Aphasia: Affects the Arcuate Fasciculus which connects the Broca and Wernicke Areas, it may not be marked by any serious Language comprehension and production impairment. Rather sufferers may be unable to repeat words they hear.
  4. Global Aphasia: Damages both the Broca and Wernicke Areas, affects language production and perception.
  5.  Anomic Aphasia: This Impairs Lexical retrieval, they forget words to a very severe degree.
  6. Transcortical Motor Aphasia, Transcortical Sensory Aphasia  (Fabro, 2001) and 
  7. Dynamic Aphasia (Paradis, 2007), Dynamic Aphasia affects the desire to use language, patient may be of full linguistic capacity, but would not make use of language unless seriously coaxed.

A further interest in Neurolinguistics is the localisation of Language areas in the Brain, through Neuroimaging. Until the 20th century the locations of Language areas in the Brain was inferred through post-mortem observations of the locations of lesions in the brains of individuals with Language Impairment. In the 20th century however, the emergence of CT scan machines ‘computed tomography’, allowed for obtainment of static images of areas of the Brain activated during linguistic processes in living individuals. Presently dynamic observations of the brain can be made during linguistic processing with the aid fMRI machines (functional magnetic resonance imaging), PET scans (Positron Emission Computed Tomography), SPECT scans (Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography)  and through Electroencephalography (EEG) inter alia. Early Neurolinguistic research of this sort, led to the localisation of Language processing, to primarily areas in the Left Hemisphere of Brain. The left-hemispheric Broca and Wernicke area have been revealed to be integral to Language perception and comprehension, the left Temporal lobe (within which the Wernicke area is Located) is noted to be integral for the perception of Speech Sounds. However later research has been less Left Hemispherecentric, they reveal that the Right Hemisphere may also participate in Language processing, especially at the levels of Semantics and Pragmatics, as well as in Language Learners who haven’t achieved enough mastery of a Target Language which would have allowed for greater Neuroefficiency. As quoted in Progovac (2010: 235), Pulvermüller (2002) posits that “Concrete words referring to objects and actions are… organiszed as widely distributed cell assemblies composed of neurons in sensory and motor areas… grammatical and function words and affixes are… more focally represented in the left-hemispheric core language areas of Broca and Wernicke”. 

The investigation of the neurological basis of  Language Attrition is also pursued, as in (Köpke 2004, Kökpe 2007, Pallier 2007 and Paradis 2007). Language Attrition is marked by a decline in an individuals linguistic performance and competence abilities, it is however not due to Neuropathy. Paradis is responsible for the Activation Threshold Hypothesis (ATH) a Neurolinguistic theory of Language Attrition. ATH predicts that Language disuse leads to Language Attrition, as it gradually causes an increase in the threshold for the firing/activation of neurons in the pathways to the knowledge of that language, rendering access to information about the language progressively more difficult. ATH predicts that aspects of linguistic knowledge that are Declarative or Explicit  (for example the Lexicon) are more susceptible to Attrition than those that are procedural or implicit (Phonology) also Competence would be retained longer than the ability to perform Linguistically. For example, an individual suffering Attrition may not be able remember a word but would still be able to still tell its meaning if uttered by another individual.

The Neurolinguist may also be interested in language Acquisition and Learning, the evolution of the brain and language (mirror neurons are argued in some quaters to have led to the development language in the human species) as well as the simulation of Neurolinguistic processes.