Tag Archives: Sociolinguistics

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 (10/22/2014): Masako Fidler (Brown University)

Mining reader receptions of text with keyword analysis

“Keyness” is a property attributed to words extracted from statistical tests (e.g., chi-square and log-likelihood tests), which contrast word frequencies in the target text (Ttxt) against the background of the word frequencies in a larger corpus (the reference corpus, RefC) (Scott 1996, Baker and Ellece 2011). Words with keyness (keywords, KWs) are said to point to what the text is about (“aboutness”), and/or the structural characteristics of the text (Bondi 2010), although what exactly constitutes “aboutness” is still under debate. It is also noted in existing literature that KWs differ when different reference corpora are used as the background.

This presentation will show one application of such keyword analysis (KWA). It attempts to demonstrate that KWA can be sensitive to political shifts in a society/region to varying degrees when RefCs from two distinct historical periods are used to extract data. KWA, then, can point not only to genre-specific properties of a text, but also to what readers, whose usage patterns are reflected in the reference corpus, consider prominent or surprising in a text. KWA can help us motivate different reader receptions of a text.

LingLang Lunch (3/18/2015): Václav Cvrček (Institute of the Czech National Corpus)

Descriptive vs prescriptive approach. The case of Czech grammar

The sociolinguistic situation of Czech is usually described as being close to diglossia: there are two competing varieties, one is expected in formal situations, while the other a real vernacular, is a mother tongue of the vast majority of speakers. This situation has its historical reasons with the most important of them being the prescriptive approach to language regulation, which was applied to the description of Czech since the beginning of the 19th century and is still prevailing (cf. Starý 1993). In my talk I will focus on the problem of descriptive and prescriptive approach to language regulation. I will document these contrasting points of view on the example of Grammar of Contemporary Czech (Cvrček et al., 2010) which is the first corpus-based description of Czech and which was designed to form a counterpart to prescriptive reference books.

Colloquium (9/9/2015): Boaz Keysar (University of Chicago)

Living in a Foreign Tongue

Hundreds of millions of people live and work while using a language that is not their native tongue. Given that using a foreign language is more difficult than using a native tongue, one would expect an overall deleterious effect on their mental and physical performance. We have discovered that the opposite is often true. We argue that a foreign language provides psychological and emotional distance, thereby allowing people to be less biased in their decision-making, more willing to take smart risks and to be guided more by hope than by fear of loss. We show that a foreign language also affects ethical behavior such as cheating and moral choice. But we also find that when emotions are crucial for learning from experience, native tongue is crucial for improving choice over time. Living and functioning in a foreign tongue, then, has surprising consequences for how individuals think, feel and operate, and it has important implications for social policy, negotiation, diplomacy and immigration issues.

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 (4/11/2018): Angela Carpenter (Wellesley College)

Angela Carpenter is Associate Professor of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences at Wellesley College. Her research has focused on the phonological acquisition of both child language and adult second language, especially the acquisition of stressed syllables and function words in L1 acquisition, and factors that affect acquisition of a second language. For more information, her website is here.

Dialect change in immigrant speakers of Jamaican Creole

The process of dialect change occurs frequently in the world’s languages, as it is one of the results of population migration. Dialect change occurs when speakers of one dialect of a language emigrate to an area where another dialect of the same language is spoken. This type of migration has occurred quite notably across the English-speaking world where, for example, speakers of one version of English, such as Canadian English or Jamaican English move to Great Britain, where British English is spoken (Chambers 1992, Tagliamonte and Molfenter 2007, Wells 1973). In this particular study I am focusing on the dialectal change Jamaican Creole (JC) towards Standard American English (SAE) by Jamaicans who immigrated to the U.S. The phonological aspects of JC that differ from SAE include: 1) vowel merging, such that in JC “black” and “block” are homophones; 2) glide insertion between velar stops and a following low back vowel, such as saying [kjar] ‘kyar’ and not [kar] ‘car’; 3) h-dropping and/or hypercorrection, such as saying [an] for ‘hand’; but [hɛgz] for ‘eggs’; and 4) merging of [ie] and [eə] into [ie] so that in JC ‘beer’ and ‘bear’ are homophones. To fully acquire SAE speakers of JC have to change their phonology towards the American standard. This talk is a preliminary report on dialect change among a group of Jamaicans who have lived in the Northeast U.S. for many years. We analyze to what extent they have acquired SAE.

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.

LingLang Lunch (11/1/2017): Laura Janda (Universitetet i Tromsø)

Laura Janda’s research focuses on Russian aspect and other Slavic grammatical categories, as well as the development of language pedagogy. For more information, her website is here.

What happens to a language under pressure: discriminatory language policy and language change in North Saami

North Saami, a Finno-Ugric language spoken by 20,000 people in the extreme north of Norway, Sweden and Finland, is undergoing a language change in the use of its possessive constructions. We find evidence that a number of factors converge, creating a complex situation that advantages one possessive construction over the other. Given the timing of the change, it seems likely that the replacement of NPx by ReflN was sparked in part by educational policies that removed children from their L1 environment during their school years, creating a sociolinguistic situation in which morphological complexity was disadvantaged. This study thus sheds light on what may be a concrete linguistic effect catalyzed by discriminatory policy.

(Sponsored by Slavic Studies, CLPS, and the C.V. Starr Foundation Lectureship fund through the Dean of the Faculty’s Office.)