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.
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.
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.