Selected Papers from New Ways of Analyzing Variation (NWAV 44)

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  • Publication
    (2016-12-01) Jeoung, Helen
    The University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics (PWPL) is an occasional series published by the Penn Graduate Linguistics Society. The series has included volumes of previously unpublished work, or work in progress, by linguists with an ongoing affiliation with the Department, as well as volumes of papers from NWAV and the Penn Linguistics Conference. This volume contains selected papers from New Ways of Analyzing Variation 44 (NWAV 44), held October 22–25, 2015 at the University of Toronto. Thanks go to Luke Adamson, Spencer Caplan, Andrea Ceolin, Nattanun Chanchaochai, Sunghye Cho, Ava Creemers, Aletheia Cui, Sabriya Fisher, Amy Goodwin Davies, Duna Gylfadóttir, Ava Irani, Jordan Kodner, Wei Lai, Caitlin Richter, Milena Šereikaitė, Jia Tian, Lacey Arnold Wade, Robert Wilder and Hong Zhang for their help in editing this volume. Since Vol. 14.2, PWPL has been an internet-only publication. As of September 2014, the entire back catalog has been digitized and made available on ScholarlyCommons@Penn. Please continue citing PWPL papers or issues as you would a print journal article, though you may also provide the URL of the manuscript. An example is below: Abtathian, Maya R., Abigail C. Cohn and Thomas Pepinsky. 2016. Methods for Modeling Social Factors in Language Shift. U. Penn Working Papers in Linguistics 22.2: Selected Papers from NWAV44, ed. H. Jeoung, 1-10. Publication in the University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics (PWPL) does not preclude submission of papers elsewhere; copyright is retained by the author(s) of individual papers. The PWPL editors can be contacted at: U. Penn Working Papers in Linguistics Department of Linguistics University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA 19104–6228 Helen Jeoung, Issue Editor Recommended Citation Jeoung, Helen. 2016. “Preface.” University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics Vol. 22, Iss. 2, Art. 1. Available at:
  • Publication
    Ethnic Variation of */tʕ/ in Aswan Arabic
    (2016-12-01) Schroepfer, Jason
    This study aims to provide some acoustic documentation of two unusual and variable allophones in Aswan Arabic. Although many rural villages in southern Egypt enjoy ample linguistic documentation, many southern urban areas remain understudied. Arabic linguists have investigated religion as a factor influencing linguistic variation instead of ethnicity. This study investigates the role of ethnicity in the under-documented urban dialect of Aswan Arabic. The author conducted sociolinguistic interviews in Aswan from 2012 to 2015. He elected to measure VOT as a function of allophone, ethnicity, sex, and age in apparent time. The results reveal significant differences in VOT lead and lag for the two auditorily encoded allophones. The indigenous Nubians prefer a different pronunciation than their Ṣa‘īdī counterparts who trace their lineage to Arab roots. Women and men do not demonstrate distinct pronunciations. Age also does not appear to be affecting pronunciation choice. However, all three variables interact with each other.
  • Publication
    Advantage Accented? Listener Differences in Understanding Speech in Noise
    (2016-12-01) Walker, Abby
    Cross dialectal communication results in poorer performance than within-dialect communication in a variety of listening tasks. However, some listeners appear to be less affected than others, and this paper explores the factors behind interlistener variation in a listening in noise task. 63 native speakers of American English transcribed 120 HINT sentences, which were presented mixed with noise at -3dB SNR. The sentences had been recorded by six young males: two speakers of Standard American English (SAE), two speakers of Southern American English (STH), and two non-native, L1-Chinese speakers (NNS). Participants were asked to transcribe what they heard as best they could, and were scored on keywords correct. While everyone did much worse with NNS than SAE and STH, participants who self-reported being accented did significantly significantly better with STH (and trend better with NNS) than those who reported being unaccented. Additionally, participants who reported being in a good mood did significantly better with SAE sentences than speakers who reported being in a bad mood. Finally, there was a main effect of extraversion, such that extraverts did worse overall than introverts. The results suggest that individual differences account for some of the interlistener variation in cross-dialectal listening task, and exploring these metrics further may help us understand the cognitive mechanisms involved in processing unfamiliar dialects.
  • Publication
    “I’m a spawts guay”: Comparing the Use of Sociophonetic Variables in Speech and Twitter
    (2016-12-01) Tatman, Rachael
    This paper compares the rates of use of phonological variation across speech and, through variant spellings, Twitter data. Speech data came from New York sports personality Mike Francesa and one of his fans parodying him. The fan's tweets, which include a large number of variant spellings, were also analyzed. Two patterns emerged. For the most salient variables, th-stopping and r deletion, the fan overshot Francesa's use in speech and used them at that same higher rate in his tweets. However, for less-salient variables the fan used them at the same rate in speech as Francesa and used them at a far lower rate in their tweets. This suggests that the rate of use of a variable on Twitter can be used to investigate salience.
  • Publication
    Towards a Sociologically-Grounded View of Occupation in Sociolinguistics
    (2016-12-01) Forrest, Jon; Dodsworth, Robin
    In order to improve our operationalization of class in sociolinguistic analysis, this paper draws on sociological theory as the foundation for a new approach to the conception and coding of occupation. The 162-speaker dataset is drawn from the larger corpus of sociolinguistic interviews conducted in Raleigh, NC. F1 and F2 measurements for the five front vowels of the SVS were extracted at 25% vowel duration and Lobanov-normalized (1971), and the vowel diagonal (Z2-Z1) was included as the dependent variable in regression analyses. To operationalize a sociologically-based theory of occupations, we implement a five-way distinction between industrial/occupational sectors (Law and Government, Technology and Finance, Interactive Service Work, Care Work, and Blue Collar) based on historical changes in Raleigh’s economy. Net of social and linguistic controls, models show significant differences between groups formerly grouped together as White Collar occupations, attributable to historical embeddedness in the greater Raleigh area.
  • Publication
    Identity Performance among Black/Biracial Men through Intonation: Examining Pitch Accents and Peak Delay
    (2016-12-01) Holliday, Nicole R
    The acoustic properties that listeners may rely on in both the production and perception of ethnolinguistic variation are an important yet poorly understood topic in modern sociolinguistics. Though several studies (Purnell, Idsardi and Baugh 1999, Tarone 1973, Walton and Orlikoff 1994) have found that individuals generally make accurate and reliable judgments of speaker ethnicity, scholars have had difficulty identifying the specific features that listeners react to in making judgments (Thomas 2015). There is also little research about the production side of these types of ethnic identification tasks and these studies have also often overlooked the potential role of intra-speaker variation in use of suprasegmental features. This study addresses this gap in the literature by focusing on two aspects of production that have been observed to differ between Mainstream U.S. English (MUSE) and African American Language (AAL): the use of the H* versus L+H* contours and length of peak delay interval. This analysis is based on a sample of eight male speakers with one black parent and one white parent and it specifically explores how these intonational features may be useful in the construction and performance of complex racial identities. Results of regression models indicate that these speakers do not employ pitch accent type in intraspeaker variation, but that they do differ in their use of peak delay, employing longer delay intervals in conversations with black interlocutors than in conversations with white interlocutors. Understanding how speakers employ these and other intonational variables in both intra- and interspeaker variation is an important step in further describing ethnolinguistic varieties as well as addressing the phonetic features that may contribute to linguistic racial profiling.
  • Publication
    The Future’s Path in Three Acadian French Varieties
    (2016-12-01) Comeau, Philip; King, Ruth; LeBlanc, Carmen L
    In the present study, we investigate the expression of future temporal reference in three closely-related varieties of Atlantic Canada Acadian French, varieties which differ substantially in their sociolinguistic histories. The three communities (Baie Sainte-Marie, Nova Scotia; L’Anse-à-Canards, Newfoundland; and the Iles de la Madeleine, Quebec) have experienced varying types and degrees of dialect contact since their original settlement. At one end of the continuum, Baie Sainte-Marie had the most homogeneous settlement pattern and has been largely isolated from other French varieties, including other Acadian varieties, for several centuries. The Iles de la Madeleine is at the other extreme, involving the most heterogeneous mix of original settlers and a subsequent history which is defined by waves of dialect contact. In an intermediary position, L’Anse-à-Canard's settlement history is less heterogeneous than that of the Iles de la Madeleine but did involve late 19th century dialect contact with European French. The study is based on linguistic data for speakers born between 1873 and 1925, which constitute some of the earliest audio recordings for the varieties, along with sociohistorical data drawn from nominal censuses, cadastral maps, family genealogies, etc. Our goal is to determine the extent to which the grammaticalization path of the periphrastic future (which would ultimately overtake the inflected future as the majority variant in other spoken varieties) would be mirrored in the three communities. The results of multivariate analyses show, for Baie Sainte-Marie, the earliest stage in the evolution of the periphrastic future: it is still associated with imminent contexts. For L’Anse-à-Canards, we see the strong association of the variant with proximal contexts more generally. For these two communities, then, the use of the periphrastic future has not spread to distal contexts. Finally, for The Iles de la Madeleine, we find some weakening of the temporal distance effect and the emergence of a polarity constraint not attested for the other Acadian communities: negative utterances are associated with the inflected future, a finding resembling that found in variationist research on varieties of Laurentian French, wherein the periphrastic future has become the general marker of futurity. We explain the acquisition of the polarity constraint in terms of contact with speakers of Laurentian varieties. In sum, the historical trajectory of the future variable is reflected in intercommunity variation for the earliest linguistic attestations for spoken Acadian French.
  • Publication
    Methods for Modeling Social Factors in Language Shift
    (2016-12-01) Abtahian, Maya R; Cohn, Abigail C; Pepinsky, Thomas
    In this paper we expand our understanding of language endangerment by shifting the focus from small language communities to minority language communities with speaker populations in the millions. We argue for a methodological shift toward examining language shift scenarios more broadly and quantitatively for two main reasons: 1) it is becoming increasingly clear that a large speaker population does not protect against language shift (Anderbeck 2013); 2) we need to make a distinction between the symptoms and the causes of language shift, where factors such as a dwindling number of child speakers should be seen as symptoms of language shift that are caused by other factors (Himmelmann 2010). In this paper we use Indonesia as a case study and analyze a sample of the 2010 census. We treat language choice as a sociolinguistic variable and analyze the correlation between six social factors and language choice (local languages vs. the national language, Indonesian). These results provide a starting point for creating more comprehensive models of the sociolinguistics of language shift.
  • Publication
    Production Planning Effects on Variable Contraction in English
    (2016-12-01) MacKenzie, Laurel
    This paper explores the potential role of the incremental planning of speech in interfering with the conditioning of the variable contraction of English is. Previous research has found that a variable alternation which is conditioned by the nature of the element that follows it can have this conditioning disrupted when a speaker fails to plan what that following element will be (Wagner 2011, Tanner et al. 2015). The strength of the effect of that following element on the variable alternation thus diminishes the less likely advance planning is. I extend this research, which has so far only examined following phonological elements, to look at whether this finding holds when a following element effect is localized in the syntactic domain. Taking is-contraction as my dependent variable, I first provide a detailed account of the role of following constituent category in conditioning this variable, documenting a robust effect in Mainstream American English with a hierarchy of environments very similar to what has been found in studies of the contraction and deletion of is in African American English. I then investigate an acoustic proxy for advance planning (duration of the word following is) and find that, while it does play a role in conditioning contraction, it does not interact with the following constituent effect. I connect this finding to the proposal that advance planning scope differs for different levels of grammar (Wagner et al. 2010). More broadly, I underscore that the patterning of sociolinguistic variation may be shaped, not only by the language-internal and social factors that are familiar from decades of research, but also by constraints on the language production system.
  • Publication
    Intergroup Dynamics in Speech Perception: Interaction Among Experience, Attitudes and Expectations
    (2016-12-01) Nguyen, Nhung; Shaw, Jason A; Pinkus, Rebecca T; Best, Catherine T
    Experience, attitudes, and expectations have been identified as separate influences on speech perception and comprehension across groups. In this study, we investigate the interaction among these three variables. 58 Australia-born participants completed an online survey and a vowel categorization task. The survey examined participants’ experience with Vietnamese-accented English and their attitudes towards Asians. The vowel categorization task examined participants’ recovery of a Vietnamese-accented speaker’s intended vowels. Half of the participants were told to expect a Vietnamese accent whereas the other half were not. Results indicated that the relationship between listener expectations and group attitudes varied according to whether or not participants had experience with the Vietnamese accent. This interaction was most clearly reflected on the ‘book’ vowel. Compared to participants who did not expect a Vietnamese accent, had no experience with the Vietnamese accent, but positive attitudes towards the Vietnamese group, those who expected a Vietnamese accent showed a decrease in accuracy on ‘book’ categorization. A decrease in ‘book’ categorization accuracy was also found for those having experience with the accent but negative attitudes. In contrast, an increase in accuracy was found for those having no experience with the Vietnamese accent and negative attitudes towards the Vietnamese group, and those having experience with the accent and positive attitudes. We concluded that expectations, experience and attitudes interact in their relationship with speech perception.