Tag Archives: Phonetics

LingLang Lunch (10/24/2018): Kyuwon Moon

Kyuwon Moon received Ph.D. in linguistics from Stanford and is currently an independent scholar. She is interested in the effect of social factors on linguistic variation and specifically prosodic variation. For more information, her website is here.

Feminine voice in workplace: phonetic variation in Seoul women’s speech

This talk explores the role of “feminine voice” in workplace, in contrast to speech in non-work-related settings. While young women’s sweet, friendly voice has always been valued in service industry, it is even more salient in the post-Fordist market of South Korea, where customers are kings. Young female professionals use their polite voices and feminine charms known as aegyo—a term for a manipulated cute and pleasing attitude—as linguistic commodities and construct a “compliant and professional” persona to balance professionalism and femininity.

Based on the data collected from fieldwork in a call center in Seoul, South Korea, I examine the use of two prominent phonetic variables—raising of (o) and LHL% (rising-falling tone in Intonation Phrase final position)—by young female consultants. The acoustic and experimental analysis focus on the stylistic use of these variables on Intonation Phrase (IP) final position, a focal site of prosodic/grammatical structure and pragmatic meaning in Seoul Korean. This talk thus reveals social meanings of phonetic properties of variables, and argues for the necessity of investigating a prominent language-specific site of variation.

LingLang Lunch (4/22/2015): Ryan Bennett (Yale University)

An ultrasound study of Irish palatalization

A core feature of the phonology of Irish is the distinction between palatalized /Cʲ/ (‘slender’) and velarized /Cˠ/ (‘broad’) consonants. Nearly every consonant in the language has both a palatalized and a velarized variant: this difference is phonemically contrastive (e.g. bád/bˠa:dˠ/ ‘boat (sg.)’ vs. báid /bˠa:dʲ/ ‘boat (pl.)’) and plays a major role in both morphological and phonological patterning. While the phonology of the /Cʲ/~/Cˠ/ distinction is fairly well-understood, the phonetics of this contrast—particularly the articulatory phonetics—remain somewhat obscure.

In this talk I present results from the first ultrasound study of Irish consonant production. This study is motivated by several outstanding questions in the study of the Irish consonant system. To what extent do the phonemic labels “palatalized” and “velarized” correspond to phonetic truths about the position of the tongue body during the production of these consonants? What factors condition contextual variation in the production of these consonant types? And what can Irish tell us about the relationship between phonological contrast and articulatory patterning?

Colloquium (11/18/2015): Robert J. Podesva (Stanford University)

The Role of the Body in Structuring Sociophonetic Variation

Scholars of gesture and bodily hexis have long recognized the centrality of the body in speech production (Bourdieu 1984, McNeill 1992, Kendon 1997). Yet theories of variation have generally been constructed based on analyses of what can be observed in the audio channel alone (cf. Mendoza-Denton and Jannedy 2011). This paper draws on a multimodal analysis of audiovisual data to illustrate that voice quality and vowel quality are strongly constrained by body movement and facial expression.

Dyadic interactions between friends were recorded in a sound-attenuated environment staged like a living room. The acoustic analysis focuses on the incidence of creaky voice (using Kane et al.’s 2013 neural network model) and vowel quality (the lowering and retraction of the front lax vowels, in accordance with the California Vowel Shift). Computer vision techniques were applied to additionally quantify the magnitude of body movements (movement amplitude) and identify when speakers were smiling.

Results show that body movement and facial expression predict the realization of both linguistic variables. Creaky voice was more common in phrases where speakers moved less, in phrases where they were not smiling (for women), and in interactions where speakers reported feeling less comfortable. The front lax vowels were lower (more shifted) among women, and in phrases where speakers (regardless of sex) were smiling.

Speakers use their bodies in non-random ways to structure linguistic variation, so analysts can improve quantitative models of variation by attending to forms of embodied affect. Focusing on the body can also facilitate the development of more comprehensive social analyses of variation, many of which rely solely on correlations between linguistic practice and social category membership. I conclude by discussing the implications of an embodied view of variation for language change.

LingLang Lunch (10/19/2016): Matt Masapollo (Brown University)

On the nature of the natural referent vowel bias

Considerable research on cross-language speech perception has shown that that perceivers (both adult and infant) are universally biased toward the extremes of articulatory/acoustic vowel space (peripheral in F1/F2 vowel space; Polka & Bohn, 2003, 2011). Much of the evidence for this bias comes from studies showing that perceivers consistently discriminate vowels in an asymmetric manner. More precisely, perceivers perform better at detecting a change from a relatively less (e.g., /e/) to a relatively more peripheral vowel (e.g., /i/), compared to the same change presented in the reverse direction. Although the existence of this perceptual phenomenon (i.e., the natural referent vowel [NRV] bias) is well established, the processes that underlie it remain poorly understood. One account of the NRV bias, which derives from the Dispersion–Focalization Theory (Schwartz et al., 2005), is that extreme vocalic articulations give rise to acoustic vowel signals that exhibit increased spectral salience due to formant frequency convergence, or “focalization.” In this talk, I will present a series of experiments aimed at assessing whether adult perceivers are indeed sensitive to differences in formant proximity while discriminating vowel stimuli that fall within a given category, and, if so, whether that sensitivity is attributable to general properties of auditory processing, or to phonetic processes that extract articulatory information available across sensory modalities. In Experiment 1, English- and French-speaking perceivers showed directional asymmetries consistent with the focalization account as they attempted to discriminate synthetic /u/ variants that systematically differed in their peripherality and hence degree of formant proximity (between F1 and F2). In Experiment 2, similar directional effects were found when English- and French-speaking perceivers attempted to discriminate natural /u/ productions that differed in their articulatory peripherality when only acoustic-phonetic or only visual-phonetic information was present. Experiment 3 investigated whether and how the integration of acoustic and visual speech cues influences the effects documented in Experiment 2. When acoustic and visual cues were phonetically-congruent, an NRV bias was observed. In contrast, when acoustic and visual cues were phonetically-incongruent, this bias was disrupted, confirming that both sensory channels shape this bias in bimodal auditory-visual vowel perception. Collectively, these findings suggest that perceivers are universally biased to attend to extreme vocalic gestures specified optically, in terms of articulatory kinematic patterns, as well as acoustically, in terms of formant convergence patterns. A complete understanding of this bias is not only important to speech perception theories, but provides a critical basis for the study of phonetic development as well as the perceptual factors that may constrain vowel inventories across languages.

LingLang Lunch (11/9/2016): Chelsea Sanker (Brown University)

Phonetic Convergence across measures and across speakers

Speakers have a tendency to sound increasingly like their interlocutors, a phenomenon called phonetic convergence, which is observed in a range of linguistic characteristics (e.g. vowel formants, Babel 2012; intensity, Gregory and Hoyt 1982; timing of conversational turns and pauses, Street 1984). In this talk, I use data from a range of phonetic measures to shed light on whether individuals exhibit tendencies for convergence across different characteristics, in different tasks, and with different partners.

Convergence varies across individuals, but each individual has some consistency in convergence exhibited in her conversations, compared across measures, both when interacting with different partners and when undertaking different tasks with the same partner. This correlation was present in phonological measures (vowel formants) and prosodic measures (intensity, pitch, phonation), but was not significant for turn-taking and speech rate patterns.

Convergence varies across measures, but there was no significant correlation between convergence in different measures; patterns exhibited by a speaker in one measure are not predictive of her patterns in other measures.

These results indicate that convergence results in one measure will not necessarily be representative of what would be found in other measures, which has implications for designing convergence research and for interpreting results. Moreover, it suggests that the process underlying convergence in different characteristics is not equivalent, but may be mediated by individual differences in attention or other aspects of phonological processing or storage.

LingLang Lunch Lite (4/18/2018 & 4/25/2018): Masters Presentations: Yiming Gu & Haoru Zhang (Brown University)

On April 18th and April 25th we will hear two Masters thesis presentations from Yiming Gu and Haoru Zhang.

Yiming Gu: Tone Sandhi in Ganyu Mandarin

Tone sandhi in Ganyu, a Mandarin dialect, is relatively complicated. There were only a few descriptive works in existing literature. By using prosodic structure, the thesis provides a uniform explanation to non-focused pitched syllable tone sandhi in Ganyu from the perspective of Optimality Theory. In the analysis, a syllable contains three pitch targets underlyingly, while in the output only two targets are allowed. Phonological phrase and foot are constructed via the ranking of phonosyntactic constraints. Pitch-sensitive constraints which are responsible for each and every sandhi phenomenon are motivated by tonal saliency, metrical integrity, target realizability, and pitch faithfulness. In addition, the thesis proposes a new concept: dependent pitch target. Phonologically-relevant creaky or falsetto sounds, as found in Ganyu and neighboring dialects, are dependent pitch targets which must follow a low or high target, and they are very shot in duration. The analysis covers disyllabic and trisyllabic feet both at the final position of a phonological phrase and at the non-final position. The analysis can be extended to cases which involve focus-stressed syllables and pitch-less syllables in future investigations.

Haoru Zhang: Phonetic Convergence in Mandarin

Phonetic convergence is the phenomenon that speakers’ acoustic and phonetic characteristics increase in similarity with each others’ during communication. This phenomenon has been gaining increasing interest over recent years, and many measures have been claimed to be subjected to convergence, such as fundamental frequency (F0), formants, VOT, duration, etc. The current study contributes to the field by investigating these measures on Mandarin, a tonal language. The results reveal potential differences in sensitivity to convergence across measures, especially among tone-related variables.

LingLang Lunch (2/28/2018): Roey Gafter (Ben Gurion University)

Roey Gafter’s main research focuses on sociolinguistic variation in Modern Hebrew, and its wider implications for sociolinguistic theory. For more information, his website is here.

Pharyngeals and beyond: phonetic differences and phonemic mergers in Hebrew

In the speech of most current Hebrew speakers, the phonemic distinction between pharyngeal and non-pharyngeal consonants has been neutralized towards a non-pharyngeal realization. Although this phonemic merger is a well-studied phenomenon, little attention has been given so far to the possibility of phonetic variation beyond a binary distinction between pharyngeal and non-pharyngeal forms. In this talk, I focus on the voiceless pharyngeal fricative [ħ], and demonstrate that the non-pharyngeal realization varies between a fricative and a trill. A phonetic analysis of data from sociolinguistic interviews conducted in two field sites in Israel reveals that the rate of trilling varies among speakers, and is sensitive to both social and linguistic factors. Speakers who do not produce pharyngeals are found to use the trill variant more frequently, but only in one of the two communities studied, in which the overall loss of the pharyngeals is considerably more advanced. I discuss the implications of these findings for understanding the mechanisms underlying the ongoing phonemic merger between pharyngeals and non-pharyngeals.