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University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics

Abstract

We know that fine phonetic variation is exploited by speakers to construct and index social identity (Hay and Drager 2007). Sociophonetic work to date has tended to focus on acoustic analysis, e.g. Docherty and Foulkes (1999); however, some aspects of speech production are not readily recoverable from an acoustic analysis. New articulatory analysis techniques, such as ultrasound tongue imaging (UTI), have helped to identify seemingly covert aspects of speech articulation, which pattern consistently with indexical factors, e.g. underlyingly, Scottish English middle-class and working-class coda /r/, have radically different tongue shapes and tongue gesture timings (Lawson, Scobbie and Stuart-Smith, 2011). This articulatory variation has gone unidentified, despite decades of auditory and acoustic analysis (Romaine, 1979; Speitel and Johnston, 1983; Stuart-Smith, 2007). UTI revealed that middle-class speakers tend to produce bunched variants of postvocalic /r/, while working-class speakers tend to produce tongue-tip raised variants (Lawson, Stuart-Smith and Scobbie 2011). We present the results of an ultrasound-based, speech-mimicry pilot study, which investigates how subtle articulatory information might be passed from speaker to speaker. Baseline articulatory information on /r/ was gathered for three Central-Scottish female, middle-class, pilot participants, who all used bunched /r/ variants in baseline. Participants mimicked audio-only stimuli, extracted from a socially-stratified audio-ultrasound corpus collected in Glasgow, Scotland. Analysis showed a range of mimicking behaviours from pilot participants including no modification from baseline, accurate discrimination between middle-class and working-class stimuli and adaptation from baseline, but failure to discriminate between middle-class and working class stimuli. This small-scale study provides new insights into the transmission of phonetic variation.

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