Selected Papers from NWAV 36

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  • Publication
    The [+spread] of the Northern Cities Shift
    (2008-11-22) Majors, Tivoli; Gordon, Matthew J.
    Sociolinguistic research has been greatly enriched by the application of instrumental acoustic methods. This is especially true in the study of vocalic changes where formant frequencies offer detailed pictures of subtle shifts of vowel quality. In the usual shorthand, F1 and F2 are accepted as correlates of vowel height and frontness respectively though most researchers recognize that formant frequencies are affected by other articulatory factors than just tongue position. In this research, we examine one of the most significant of these factors: lip configuration. This articulatory factor plays a key role in many vowel changes including the Northern Cities Shift (NCS), the focus of our study. Traditional accounts of the NCS (e.g. Labov 1994) describe the changes in terms of tongue position. Some role for labiality is often acknowledged in the latter case which involves unrounding. We argue, however, that lip configuration is also implicated in centralization. We examine the effects of lip configuration in the NCS through a video study of subjects from the St. Louis region. Speakers were recorded on digital video reading prepared materials. The experimental set-up allows us to precisely measure articulatory landmarks (e.g. vertical and horizontal lip distance, lip protrusion) from a display. The audio output from the recording was subjected to acoustic analysis so that comparisons between lip configuration and acoustic outcome could be made. Preliminary results confirm our hypothesis that speakers participating in the NCS demonstrate significant lip spread. To make sense of these findings we consider the acoustic consequences of lip rounding and spreading. By lengthening the vocal tract, rounding acts to lower formant frequencies, while unrounding and spreading have the opposite effect. In this way the changes in lip configuration observed in the NCS serve to enhance the acoustic effects of the changes in tongue position. These observations also shine light on some previously puzzling findings in our work on the NCS: fronted tokens often show extremely high F1 values in addition to the expected higher F2 values. In some cases, the formant data suggested that the primary direction of movement for this vowel was lowering rather than fronting. The present study leads us to reconsider this articulatory interpretation and suggest that increased F1 (and F2) values may indicate that lip spreading is being employed by NCS speakers as a complement to shifting tongue positions. Finally, we also weigh the possibility that lip configuration could be adopted by some NCS participants as an alternative to lingual positioning.
  • Publication
    The Subject Position in Brazilian Portuguese: the Embedding of a Syntactic Change
    (2008-11-21) Cavalcante, Silvia Regina de O.; Eugênia L. Duarte, Maria
    One remarkable difference between European and Brazilian Portuguese is related with the setting of the Null Subject Parameter (NSP). While European Portuguese (EP) behaves like a prototypical romance null subject language, contemporary Brazilian Portuguese (BP) is a partially pro-drop system (Duarte 1995; Kato 2000), with preferably overt referential subjects and null expletive subjects in finite clauses, a procedure consistent with a discourse orientation shown by BP (Kato and Duarte 2003). The aim of this paper is to show that the subject position of non-finite clauses begins to show some “side effects” or “by-products” of the ongoing process of change. Our analysis will compare the position of arbitrary subjects of infinitival sentences in EP and BP inspired by the diachronic analysis of Cavalcante (2006) of such structures in Classical Portuguese (from the 16th to the 18th century) and Modern European Portuguese (19th century). According to Cavalcante’s analysis, the use of impersonal clitic SE in variation with a null arbitrary subject in infinitival sentences declines from 20% in Classical Portuguese to 10% in Modern European Portuguese. The examples below illustrate the possible representations of the arbitrary “external argument” of the infinitive: EXAMPLE (1a-c) (1a) illustrates the empty subject; in (1b), the clitic SE could be interpreted as a nominative SE and in (1c), as a passive SE, since the inflected infinitive agrees with the internal argument of abreviar (to shorten). In each case, however, the external argument is suspended and has arbitrary interpretation. The same patterns can be found with tough-movement constructions. In this paper we compare contemporary Brazilian and European Portuguese, using samples from speech and writing. The results for the speech samples reveal that (a) EP exhibits the same pattern observed in the 19th century data (an average of 8% of clitic se); (b) BP, on the other hand, shows an increasing tendency to use overt subjects, specially the nominative pronoun você (you) in variation with impersonal clitic SE, some of the strategies used for arbitrary reference in finite clauses (Kato & Tarallo 1986; Duarte, Barbosa & Kato 2001 among others), a clear evidence of the embedding of the process of change in progress: EXAMPLE (2) As for the written language, a more similar behavior is found for both varieties. Since Brazilian traditional grammars have been built according to the 19th century EP, the rates of clitic SE are close to the ones found for Modern and Contemporary EP and the use of nominative pronouns is extremely rare. A qualitative analysis of se-constructions shows, however, that in EP, the clitic assures an arbitrary reading of the infinitival subject; in BP, on the other hand, such a constraint does not apply.
  • Publication
    Perceived Sexual Orientation and Attitudes towards Sounding Gay or Straight
    (2008-11-22) Piccolo, Fabiana
    Gaudio (1994) and Pierrehumbert et al. (2004) gave evidence that hearers can identify the sexual orientation of speakers without the aid of visual cues. Pierrehumbert et al. associated this result with an expanded vowel space for gay men. Smyth et al. (2003) created a scale of sexual orientation identifications (for men) based on listener judgments, noting that homosexual-sounding does not necessarily identify with homosexual. The present study follows Smyth et al. and created a scale of sexual orientation identifications based on listener judgments of the speech of 6 self-identified homosexual and 6 self-identified heterosexual male speakers. The research attempted to determine what cued listeners in judging sexual orientation. Based on the hypothesis that male homosexual-sounding speech might be associated with more careful-sounding speech, the study observes several phonetic factors that are associated with the careful-careless dimension, including vowel duration (as a measure of speech rate), vowel space dispersion, degree of diphthongization, and frequency of stop release. Results included the following: listeners in this study were not particularly accurate in identifying the sexual orientation of speakers. This conclusion goes against the findings of both Gaudio and Pierrehumbert et al., and against the notion of ‘gaydar’ (the supposed ability of gay individuals to correctly identify other gay persons). Listeners did not associate homosexual-sounding speech with more frequent stop release or longer vowel duration (slower speech). Contra Pierrehumbert et al., listeners did not associate homosexual-sounding speech with an expanded vowel space. There is evidence that listeners did associate homosexual-sounding speech with fronting of high vowels and lowering of low vowels. The study also concentrated on exploring Judith Butler’s (1990) notions of "heteronormativity" and "performativity". Heteronormativity is the idea that heterosexuality is pushed into society as the only positive and natural form of sexuality. Performativity relates to the hypothesis that gender and sexuality are not traits that people have or are born with, but acts that they do. This implies the possibility that individuals refuse to perform the gender or sexuality they are prescribed from birth. North American culture mostly sees homosexuality in a negative light. As such, any person who defies heteronormativity by sounding gay/lesbian (regardless of their sexual orientation) faces possible social consequences. This research utilizes interviews with all the speakers to investigate why some people might choose to defy heteronormativity by sounding homosexual. Preliminary results indicate that homosexual-sounding males who self-identify as heterosexual are clueless about their sounding gay.
  • Publication
    Articulatory Insights into Language Variation and Change: Preliminary Findings from an Ultrasound Study of Derhoticization in Scottish English
    (2008-11-22) Lawson, Eleanor; Stuart-Smith, Jane; Scobbie, James
    Scottish English is often cited as a rhotic dialect of English. However, in the 70s and 80s, researchers noticed that postvocalic /r/ was in attrition in Glasgow (Macafee, 1983) and Edinburgh (Romaine, 1978; Johnston and Speitel 1983). Recent research (Stuart-Smith, 2003) confirms that postvocalic /r/ as a canonical phonetically rhotic consonant is being lost in working-class Glaswegian speech. However, auditory and acoustic analysis revealed that the situation was more complicated than simple /r/ vs. zero variation. The derhoticized quality of /r/ seemed to vary socially; in particular male working class speakers often produced intermediate sounds that were difficult to identify. It is clear that although auditory and acoustic analysis are useful, they can only hint at what is going on in the vocal tract. A direct articulatory study is thus motivated. Instrumental phonetic studies that examine the vocal tract during the production of sustained rhotic consonants and in laboratory-based studies of American English /r/ have identified a complex relationship between articulation and acoustics, including articulatory differences with minimal acoustic consequences (starting with Delattre and Freeman, 1968). In other words, different gestural configurations can be used to generate a canonically rhotic consonant. A pilot study (Scobbie and Stuart-Smith, 2006) using Ultrasound Tongue Imaging (UTI) with a Scottish vernacular speaker revealed something rather different: the occurrence of a strong articulatory retroflex tongue motion, which generated little or no rhotic acoustic consequences because it was timed to occur after phonation had ceased, before pause. This tongue motion was found in a speaker who was weakly rhotic. Thus we may have a situation in which acoustic differences with a sociolinguistic function have, in some prosodic contexts, imperceptible articulatory differences in tongue position, though timing will vary. The situation of language variation and change in Scotland means that an articulatory/acoustic study is likely to give very different results to similar studies of rhotic speakers in the USA (Mielke, Twist, and Archangeli, 2006), and be particularly relevant to understanding social variation. Ultrasound is non-invasive and portable and therefore has great potential as an instrumental method for studying aspects of socially stratified variation: articulatory data can be physically collected in every-day social settings. However the technique requires refinement for effective use in recording locations outside the laboratory (e.g. in school, at home), and the potential impact of using the equipment on speech is not known. Gick (2002) suggest methods for fieldwork, but we are not aware of any study which attempts to quantify the effects of the technique on vernacular speakers. Ultrasound is non-invasive and portable and therefore has great potential as an instrumental method for studying aspects of socially stratified variation: articulatory data can be physically collected in every-day social settings. However the technique requires refinement for effective use in recording locations outside the laboratory (e.g. in school, at home), and the potential impact of using the equipment on speech is not known. Gick (2002) suggest methods for fieldwork, but we are not aware of any study which attempts to quantify the effects of the technique on vernacular speakers.
  • Publication
    A shift of allegiance: The case of Erie and the North / Midland boundary
    (2008-11-21) Evanini, Keelan
    The city of Erie, Pennsylvania represents an anomalous case in the dialect geography of North America. According to all available historical records, it was linguistically aligned with the North in the early part of the 20 th century: the lexical data presented in Kurath (1949) and Carver (1987) locate Erie within most of the Northern isoglosses, and the phonological data presented in Kurath and McDavid (1961) show that Erie shared nearly all of its phonological features with the North and only a few with the Midland. However, recent research for the Atlas of North American English (Labov et al. 2006) shows that Erie is now a Midland city, and the two ANAE speakers from Erie show no traces of the Northern Cities Shift. Crucially, the two pivot points in the vowel system, as defined by Labov (1991), show clear Midland characteristics: short-a exhibits raising before all nasals, but not the general raising of the NCS, and both speakers have a complete merger of the vowels in cot and caught. Erie’s shift from being a Northern city to a Midland city is surprising given that the North/Midland boundary is the most clearly defined dialect boundary in North America today (Labov et al. 2006). Furthermore, it would not be predicted by dialect diffusion models that only take population and distance into account, such as Trudgill’s (1974) Gravity Model: Buffalo and Cleveland, the large Northern Cities along Lake Erie on either side of Erie are more populous and closer to Erie than Pittsburgh, the nearest large Midland city. The current study provides a more detailed characterization of Erie, and presents vowel measurements from seven Erieites, ranging in age from 25 to 60. I n general, the results confirm ANAE’s finding that Erie is aligned with the Midland. H owever, the vowels systems of the Erie speakers are different from the neighboring Midland speakers in two respects. First of all, /ow/ does not participate in the strong fronting that is characteristic of Pittsburgh/Western PA: only the youngest speaker (a 25-year-old female) shows an F2 value for /ow/ that is higher than would be expected for a Northern speaker. Furthermore, while all speakers clearly have the low-back merger, the phonetic realization of the resulting phoneme is unrounded and lower than the distinctly rounded and raised open-o of the Pittsburgh area. Thus, while Erie is clearly phonologically aligned with Pittsburgh, the two regions are not phonetically identical. This realignment with the Midland suggests that Pittsburgh has had a stronger influence on Erie since the middle of the 20 th century than either of the two large nearby Northern cities. Qualitative evidence from sociolinguistic interviews will be presented to confirm this and to show that Erieites have more contact with speakers from Pittsburgh than either Buffalo or Cleveland. Much of this contact stems from the popularity of Erie as a summer vacation destination for residents of Pittsburgh, evidenced by the fact that some Erieites refer to these summer vacationers from Pittsburgh as "mups" (from "come up"). It will be argued that this higher density of communication caused Erie to shift its phonological allegiance from the North to the Midland, and, consequently, that any model of dialect diffusion must take communication patterns into account in order to be fully explanatory.
  • Publication
    The Low Back Merger in Miami
    (2008-11-20) Doernberger, Jeremy; Cerny, Jacob
    The last major study of the low-back merger in Miami, Florida, was Labov, Ash, and Boberg’s (2006) work for the Atlas of North American English (ANAE). In that influential work, Labov et al. found the low-back merger to be in transition in Miami. However, the ANAE was based on Telsur data, the most recent of which was collected nearly 10 years ago. Presumably, since that time, the low-back merger has progressed in Miami towards a full merger. This study focuses on the progress of the low back merger in a Miami speech community. Eighteen participants were interviewed. Interviews consisted of a word list with 8 words containing vowels of the /o/ word-class, and 8 others containing vowels of the /oh/ word-class, as well a short reading passage and a commutation test. Acoustic analysis focused on the words in the word list, and a cursory examination of the passage data was in agreement with the findings from the word list pronunciations. The data from the word lists was analyzed and the F1 and F2 of /o/ and /oh/ vowels were averaged for comparison. Vowels preceding [r] and [+nasal] obstruents were excluded from analysis, due to their significant effect on formants. This exclusion should also serve to make any results suggesting movement towards a merger more compelling, because ANAE data found that 2 of 5 Miami residents interviewed had a merger only before nasals. Keeping analysis within the listed restraints, it appears that the low-back merger has continued towards fruition in Miami. To determine the presence of a merger, techniques were replicated from an earlier study on near-mergers (Bowie 2001), using t-tests to compare the averages of the first two formants of the /o/ and /oh/ vowels for each speaker. Initial analysis suggests that 13 of 18 interviewees have a low-back merger in perception, and 11 of 18 have a merger in both production and perception. This pattern follows predictable patterns of merger proliferation, suggesting that merger is continuing to spread among Miami residents and that the city and surrounding areas continue to diverge from traditional Southern dialect characteristics.
  • Publication
    The Effect of Language Shift on a Sound Change in Progress
    (2008-11-22) Ravindranath, Maya
    The literature on variation in endangered languages has largely focused on the structural and stylistic simplification that occurs when languages contract or on cases where variation is introduced through interference in the form of a non-native variant that exists alongside a native form (Dorian 1981, Mougeon and Beniak 1981; Aikhenvald 2002; Campbell and Muntzel 1989; among others). Some studies have considered the effect of language shift or moribundity on variation that existed in the healthy language. King’s (1989) study of Newfoundland French, for instance, concludes that variation can be maintained in dying languages, but the variation no longer carries the social meaning that it did in a healthier speech community. This paper, on variable /r/-deletion in Garifuna, presents an apparent change in progress in an endangered language and explores the effect of incipient language shift on previously existing variation. Garifuna is an Arawak language spoken in disparate communities throughout Central America. It is a moribund language in most of the Garifuna communities in Belize, where speakers are variably trilingual in Garifuna, English, and Belizean Creole (BC). In the village of Hopkins intergenerational transmission of Garifuna still occurs but locals and non-locals alike believe that Hopkins will follow the path of nearby Garifuna communities in shifting to English and BC, abandoning the use of Garifuna entirely. The /r/-deletion data in this paper come from speech samples of 26 Hopkins speakers (16F, 10M), ranging in age from 6 to 65. All speakers were asked to tell a story based on a children’s picture book (Mayer 1967), and the recordings were coded for deletion of the variable /r/. This variable (previously reported on by Hagiwara, ms) was chosen as an example of a sound change that is not likely to be a result of language contact. Post-vocalic /r/-vocalization exists in BC, but /r/ in Garifuna only occurs intervocalically and thus the environment is different from that of /r/-vocalization in BC, where it occurs in preconsonantal or word-final positions. An apparent time (Labov 1963) analysis of the data suggests that deletion of /r/ is a female-led change in progress: each successive age group shows increased deletion of /r/, and women lead in rate of deletion within each age group. This report is the first to describe this variation as a change in progress, and it concludes that the progression of a change akin to that in a healthy language may occur even while the language community is undergoing shift.
  • Publication
    The Southern Shift in a marginally Southern dialect
    (2008-11-20) Baranowski, Maciej
    This paper, based on a community study of 100 speakers, aged 8-90, representing the socioeconomic spectrum of the city, reports on the extent to which the dialect of Charleston, South Carolina, has been affected by the defining characteristic of Southern phonology, that is, the Southern Shift. The shift consists of the monophthongization of /ay/ (PRICE) and of the laxing and lowering of the nuclei of the front upgliding vowels /iy/ (FLEECE) and /ey/ (FACE) (Labov, Ash and Boberg 2006). The degree of /ay/-monophthongization is measured impressionistically for 100 speakers. This is supplemented by a rapid and anonymous survey conducted in downtown Charleston, in which tokens of /ay/ were elicited by asking passers-by the time of day at around 5:25 pm. The second linguistic variable is the laxing and lowering of the nucleus of the front upgliding vowel /ey/ (FACE), which was measured acoustically as the distance between the nuclei of /ey/ and /e/ (DRESS) and their relative positions in phonetic space for 43 speakers. These results were subjected to a series of multiple regression analyses in which the age, gender, and social class of the speakers were entered as independent variables. The level of /ay/-monophthongization in Charleston is very low in comparison with the Inland South. It is inversely correlated with social class. Age is also a significant factor: /ay/-monophthongization appears to be decreasing in apparent time. There is very limited laxing and lowering of /ey/ (FACE) in Charleston in comparison with the Inland South. Similarly, social class and age are correlated with this feature, indicating that the Southern Shift is in retreat, and confirming the results of other studies, such as Labov, Ash, & Boberg (2006), Fridland (1999, 2001), and Thomas (2001). In conclusion, Charleston shows little involvement in the Southern Shift and as such remains a marginal Southern dialect. The study provides evidence for the lack of a structural relation between the chain shifting of the front upgliding vowels (the Southern Shift), also found in a number of other English dialects, such as Cockney, Australian English, and New Zealand English, and the fronting of the back upgliding vowels /uw/ (GOOSE), /ow/ (GOAT). Charleston is a dialect which resists the Southern Shift, though it is in close contact with dialects affected by it; yet it shows advanced fronting of /uw/ and /ow/. Furthermore, while the highest-status social group is leading in the fronting of the back upgliding vowels (Baranowski 2006), it lags behind the rest of the community in the chain-shifting of the front upgliding vowels, which is in turn most advanced in the lowest social class. This provides support for treating the two processes as separate phenomena.
  • Publication
    Fear of a Black Phonology: The Northern Cities Shift as Linguistic White Flight
    (2008-11-22) Van Herk, Gerard
    The geographic distribution and potential linguistic triggers of the Northern Cities Shift (NCS), a complex chain shift of vowel realizations in urban areas between Madison, WI and upstate New York, have been well-documented (Labov, Yaeger and Steiner 1972; Labov, Ash and Boberg 2006). However, we are left with an actuation problem (Weinreich, Labov and Herzog 1968), especially with respect to social motivations. How might local identity practices (Eckert 1999) relate to similar linguistic processes across such a large area (Labov 2002)? Why should a vowel subsystem that has remained stable for a millenium suddenly shift? Why now, and why should only part of the area with the appropriate pre-existing linguistic system be involved? Why should the shift be absent or delayed among African Americans, rural speakers, or Canadians? This paper proposes a social-historical explanation for the shift: that it was triggered by the Great Migration, the movement from the South into NCS cities of millions of African Americans in the period between 1916 and approximately 1960 (Marks 1989). This population movement, the largest in American history, dramatically changed the ethnic composition of NCS cities. I argue that the first stages of the NCS represented an attempt by white residents to differentiate their speech from that of their new fellow citizens, in effect, a linguistic version of "white flight", the rapid residential segregation that took place in these same cities. Working from 100 years of US Census data and historical descriptions of the Great Migration (e.g., Work 1937), I demonstrate powerful correlations between participation in the NCS and the speed and degree to which communities increased their African American populations, as well as the degree of residential white flight, as indicated by racial segregation and differentiation scales (Mumford Centre 2001). These correlations, paired with the original sound systems of the areas involved, account remarkably well for the temporal, social and geographic boundaries of the NCS, including such distinct features as the exclusion or partial exclusion of Canadians, African Americans, Erie, PA, and rural areas; the eastern and western boundaries of the shift; and the participation of outliers in some other areas, including the St. Louis corridor. I suggest that more detailed city-by-city historical correlative studies might illuminate some of the apparent internal distinctions in the core NCS area, in particular the differences between the highly-focused sound change in western New York state and the apparently more diffuse participation of cities from Cleveland westward. I essay a preliminary theoretical situation of the NCS as an extension of traditionally-invoked social differentiation processes, and suggest ways in which studying the actual processes involved in linguistic white flight might both inform and be informed by work on identity, other changes in progress in American English, the divergence hypothesis (Labov and Harris 1986), and regional differences in African American English (Wolfram 2005).
  • Publication
    Cue Switching in the Perception of Approximants: Evidence from Two English Dialects
    (2008-11-21) Dalcher, Christina Villafaña; Knight, Rachael-Anne; Jones, Mark J.
    A surprising dissimilarity is found in the perception of approximant sounds by speakers of American English (AE) and Standard Southern British English (SSBE) dialects. Eighteen subjects (6 AE and 12 SSBE speakers) performed an identification task in which they judged whether stimuli were more like /r/ or /w/. The stimuli comprised five sounds copy-synthesised from a source /r/, where formant values (F1-F3) were manually adjusted as follows: A: F1=355 F2=1201 F3=1682 (/r/-like formants) B: F1=355 F2= 963 F3=1682 (F2 at midpoint of /r/ and /w/; F3 /r/-like) C: F1=355 F2= 1201 F3=2541 (F2 /r/-like; F3 raised to /w/-like height) D: F1=355 F2= 725 F3=1682 (F2 lowered to /w/-like height; F3 /r/-like) E: F1=355 F2= 725 F3=2541 (/w/-like formants) The only significant difference (t=2.031, p<.05) between the two dialect groups’ performance occurred with Stimulus D in which F3 was typical for /r/ and F2 was typical for /w/. AE speakers identified this stimulus as /r/ 90% of the time and SSBE speakers only 59% of the time. Such a disparity is unexpected given that alveolar approximant /r/ in both dialects is generally characterised acoustically by a low F3 (Delattre and Freeman 1968; Nolan 1983; Alwan et al. 1997; Stevens 1998; Espy-Wilson et al. 2000). Why then the significantly different results between the two groups when Stimulus D involves the canonical /r/ cue of a lowered F3? A possible solution to this problem lies in the well-documented existence of a non-standard realisation of /r/ in Southeast England which is increasingly common in adult speech as a sociolinguistic variable: "labiodental" /r/ (Foulkes & Docherty 2001; Trudgill 1988). This variant does not have a low F3 (Docherty and Foulkes 2001). The performance of the SSBE subjects here may be due to greater exposure to the labiodental /r/ variant in their community. SSBE speakers must tolerate a wider diversity of /r/-types, including /r/s without a canonically low F3. As a consequence, the /r/ category in SSBE may be becoming increasingly defined by F2, rather than by F3. If this were the case, SSBE speakers would weight F2 more than F3 in their perceptual categorization, and the F2 boundary between /w/ and /r/ would become sharper in SSBE relative to AE. AE speakers, who likely encounter "labiodental" /r/ less frequently, continue to attend more to F3 than F2. For them, the /r/-like low F3 in Stimulus D leads them to a definite /r/ categorization. For the SSBE speakers, the /w/-like F2 cue interferes with the low F3 cue to cause greater perceptual uncertainty. The implications of this apparent shift in perceptual weighting may be a further increase in production variability, even involving SSBE speakers who do not use "labiodental" /r/. As the cue for /r/ in SSBE shifts to F2, speakers may attend less to producing adequately low frequencies of F3 and therefore a gradual erosion of low F3 instances of /r/ can be predicted across SSBE.