Selected Papers from NWAV 50

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  • Publication
    (University of Pennsylvania, 2023-09-28) Li, Aini; Hildebrandt, Gwendolyn
    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 The series has included volumes of previously unpublished work, or work in progress, by linguists with an ongoing affiliation with the Department, as well as volumes of papers from NWAV and the Penn Linguistics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 50 (NWAV 50), held by Stanford University October 13-15, 2022. Thanks go to George Balabanian, May Pikyu Chan, Xin Gao, Annika Heuser, Daoxin Li, Karen Li, Héctor Vazquez Martinez, and Christine Soh Yue for their help in editing. 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: Duncan, Daniel. 2023.Computationally Deriving Language-Internal Factors with Bipartite Networks. In University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics 29.2, ed. Aini Li and Gwendolyn Hildebrandt, 79-88. Available at: 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, 3401-C Walnut Street, Suite 300, C Wing, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6228 and Aini Li and Gwendolyn Hildebrandt, Issue Editors
  • Publication
    Polyphonous and Meaningful: Pitch Variation in Stylistic Performances
    (University of Pennsylvania, 2023-09-28) Robert Xu
    This paper examines the stylistic performances of character types in Beijing Mandarin, to understand how pitch functions as a meaningful sociolinguistic resource at different linguistic levels. Character types are abstractions of salient and performative social images of personhood enregistered with linguistic and embodied features. This study focuses on three such types - Angry Woman, Bureaucrat, and Childish Girl - in Beijing. 62 Beijing Mandarin speakers participated in an interactive game where they performed these types without scripts. They also participated in a focus group discussion for meta-discursive analysis. The results show that pitch operates as a complicated inventory of sociolinguistic features. At the intonation level, Angry Woman has significantly higher F0 register, while Bureaucrat has low F0 register and limited pitch variation. At the lexical tone level, speakers shift the registers of their lexical tone spaces across character types in correspondence to the types' intonational registers. But the tone space for each type has its own idiosyncratic range. In addition, speakers performed Childish Girl with full tones in place of neutral tones, and using a melodic template of L-H*L%, overriding the intonation and modifying the lexical tones. Based on these results, I propose that global F0 features at the melody and intonation levels evoke the signature qualia of these character types, and constrain the realization of lexical tones, especially their register. However, the pitch range and shape of individual tones can still be used to stylize specific aspects of the types. Pitch is an inventory of resources that has an order of accessibility in the construction of styles.
  • Publication
    Neutral versus Non-Neutral Word Orders in Inuktitut
    (University of Pennsylvania, 2023-09-28) Julien Carrier
    Word order in the Inuit language is relatively “free” (cf. Dorais 2010). However, there seems to be a consensus that the neutral order is SOV with oblique arguments appearing between the object and the verb, and that any deviation from this is triggered by discourse and stylistic factors (see Fortescue 1984, 1993, Tersis & Carter 2005). For example, arguments that represent new information or are heavy would tend to appear post-verbally. Furthermore, by comparing short texts collected between the 1820s and the 1970s, Fortescue (1993) shows that non-neutral word orders like SVO have become more frequent in more recent texts across all varieties, arguably due to contact with strict-SVO languages like English and Danish, which have had a strong influence over the Inuit population since the start of the 20th century. Yet previous studies on word order in the Inuit language display shortcomings. First, the statistical significance of the proposed factors has never been evaluated in any Inuit variety. Further, there is little detail given on what makes an argument heavy. As for the possible contact-induced change on word order, Fortescue (1993) acknowledges that the small size of his corpus and the varying characteristics of the texts may have skewed the results. This paper presents a study on word order in North Baffin Inuktitut based on a large corpus and using variationist sociolinguistic methods and shows that 1) the rise of Inuktitut-English bilingualism has in fact not affected word-order patterns in this dialect, 2) heavier arguments tend to appear post-verbally but newly-introduced ones are surprisingly favored pre-verbally and 3) oblique arguments surface after the verb significantly more often than subjects and objects, which are claimed to be topicalized arguments in the Inuit language (see Berge 2011, Carrier 2021). Given these results, I argue that word-order variation in Inuktitut is a stable variable mainly conditioned by information structure but also influenced by utterance planning processes (see Stalling & McDonald 2011).
  • Publication
    Investigating the Sensitivity of Automatic Speech Recognition Systems to Phonetic Variation in L2 Englishes
    (University of Pennsylvania, 2023-09-28) Emma O’Neill
    Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) systems exhibit the best performance on speech that is similar to that on which they were trained. As such, underrepresented varieties including regional dialects, minority-speakers, and low-resource languages see much higher word error rates (WERs) than those varieties seen as `prestigious', `mainstream', or `standard'. This can act as a barrier to incorporating ASR technology into the annotation process for large-scale linguistic research, since the manual correction of the erroneous automated transcripts can be just as time- and resource-consuming as manual transcriptions. A deeper understanding of the behaviour of an ASR system is thus beneficial from a speech technology standpoint, in terms of improving ASR accuracy, and from an annotation standpoint, where knowing the likely errors made by an ASR system can aid in this manual correction. This work demonstrates a method of probing an ASR system to discover how it handles phonetic variation across a number of L2 Englishes. Specifically, how particular phonetic realisations which were rare or absent in the system's training data can lead to phoneme level misrecognitions and contribute to higher WERs. It is demonstrated that the behaviour of the ASR is systematic and consistent across speakers with similar spoken varieties (in this case the same L1) and phoneme substitution errors are typically in agreement with human annotators. By identifying problematic productions, specific weaknesses can be addressed by sourcing such realisations for training and fine-tuning, thus making the system more robust to pronunciation variation.
  • Publication
    Was That a Question?: Andalusian and Puerto Rican Spanish Listeners and the Perception of Final Fall Terminal Contours (FFTC)
    (University of Pennsylvania, 2023-09-28) Santiago Arróniz
    This study examines how variable intonational contours are (mis)interpreted in two different Spanish dialects, Western Andalusian (Henriksen and Amaya 2012) and Puerto Rican Spanish (Armstrong 2010). We seek to investigate how listeners from both dialects interpret the sentence meaning of declaratives, broad focus interrogatives and counter-expectational interrogatives using pitch as the only phonological cue. To do that, two speakers from Puerto Rico and one speaker from Seville, Spain, produced the stimuli for the different perception experiments based on the contours documented in the Interactive Atlas of Spanish Intonation (Prieto and Roseano 2010). An utterance type selection task and a declarative to interrogative continuum judgment task were created from these utterances. Both tasks were presented through the Qualtrics platform to 57 Puerto Rican listeners and 35 Andalusian listeners. The findings indicated that both groups could identify declarative contours as declaratives. Both interrogative types of Puerto Rican contours were consistently identified as interrogatives by the Puerto Ricans listeners. Andalusian listeners were less certain recognizing broad focus interrogatives as a question. Counter-expectational contours were recognized as declaratives by Andalusian listeners. Results indicate that specific intonation patterns can be interpreted differently based on Spanish dialect and may result in the misinterpretation of the utterance.
  • Publication
    The stylistic progression of covarying changes in progress
    (University of Pennsylvania, 2023-09-28) Lewis Esposito
    The relation between local stylistic practice and community-level change is under-theorized, and this paper offers one attempt at addressing it. By examining how eight changes-in-progress in Sacramento, California relate over time, I show that while there is a great deal of diversity in how some changes come together in styles, others show robust cross-speaker covariation. Importantly, for two changes — increased distance between the PIN and PEN vowels, and increased use of creaky voice — this covariation is tied to new stylistic oppositions in Sacramento. What emerges is a view in which stylistic construction can exhibit both creativity and regularity and play a central role in how linguistic changes connect in a community.
  • Publication
    The Social Meaning of Unbound Reflexives
    (University of Pennsylvania, 2023-09-28) Brianna Wilson
    This paper contributes to the growing interest in the social meaning of syntactic variation (Moore 2021) by investigating the social meaning of unbound reflexives (e.g. "Amber and myself are the logical next leaders"). Unbound reflexives are socially marked in syntactic contexts where the nominative or accusative pronoun are possible alternatives. I demonstrate, based on observational data and a survey-style experiment, that unbound reflexives are associated with professionalism and used to perform professional-like personae. I argue that the unbound reflexive directly indexes meanings like objective, legitimate, credible, and serious, which are indirectly indexical of professionalism (Ochs 1993). Analysis of metalinguistic commentary demonstrates that this is an enregistered feature associated with a formal and professional genre of speech. Furthermore, I analyze the prescriptive and classist ideologies that arise in the metalinguistic commentary and how these ideologies reveal a perception of this register as involving excessive effort and concealed intentions (Acton 2022).
  • Publication
    Forces Driving Variation and Change in Omani Arabic
    (University of Pennsylvania, 2023-09-28) Sara Al Sheyadi
    This paper focuses on sociolinguistic variation in the Arabic spoken in northern Oman, referring to the notions of saliency and prestige, along with the role of indexicality, geographical mobility and identity affiliation, to explain why some local variants persist while others are being leveled out. Data is based on interviews with two groups; the first has thirty-eight speakers of a sedentary dialect who migrated from the hinterland city of Nizwa to the capital Muscat and the second includes forty members from a settled community in Suwaiq, a town with a mixed Bedouins population. The study examines the sedentary group’s use of the second-person feminine singular suffix and their use of the traditional interrogative clitic, which is suffixed in yes/no questions. In the Bedouin group, the phonological variation in the use of the voiced affricate is investigated along with the use of the definite article, which is sometime deleted in the vernacular. Analyses reveal that the local forms for the feminine suffix and the traditional variant of the affricate prevail among speakers of the respective dialects. The survival of these local forms can be attributed to their saliency, their high presence in other varieties and prestige. Conversely, the local forms for syntactic variables from both dialects are shown to be generally disfavored. We argue that the shift from these vernacular forms is triggered by speakers’ contact stimulated by social and geographical mobility and their role in indexing speakers’ identity affiliation.
  • Publication
    Supralocal or localized? Was/were variation in British English Dialects
    (University of Pennsylvania, 2023-09-28) Claire Childs
    One of the most common features of vernacular dialects of English around the world is the use of non-standard 'was' or 'were' in place of standard alternatives, e.g. "it were nice"; "my sisters was here". In some dialects, this variation is levelled towards 'was' or, less commonly, 'were'. The linguistic constraints that apply to any 'was/were' system also vary regionally, because of competition be-tween supralocal tendencies and more localized patterns of use. This study presents a comparative sociolinguistic analysis of these factors in over 4,700 tokens of 'was/were' from four cities that represent distinctive dialect areas of England: Newcastle upon Tyne (North East), Leeds (West Yorkshire), Nottingham (East Midlands) and Southampton (South). The results show that while Newcastle, Nottingham and Southampton have 'was'-levelling, Leeds has 'were'-levelling. However, the 'were'-levelling system in Leeds is depleting over time, with non-standard 'were' decreasing in frequency and the younger generation adopting the supralocal trend of using singular agreement with existential 'there', which is already robust in the other three cities studied. We also observe that non-adjacency of subject and verbs correlates with non-agreement more generally. The research contributes to our understanding of agreement in contemporary dialects of English and establishes the relative pull of particular linguistic forces in the context of ongoing dialect levelling.
  • Publication
    Y’all Means All: The Changing Indexicality of a Southernism
    (University of Pennsylvania, 2023-09-28) Broderick McCurdy
    This study examined folk linguistic data to investigate the sociolinguistic factors underlying the spread of 'y'all' outside the South first documented in Tillery, Wilkie, and Bailey (2000), and to map the changing indexicality of the pronoun. The data consisted of 15 interviews and 1,064 online survey responses from self-identified late-'y'all' adopters, native-'y'all' users, and non-'y'all' users. The data confirmed the trend first noted in Tillery et al. (2000) that individuals across the country have adopted 'y'all'. However, this study found that 'y'all''s social utility as a gender-neutral alternative to 'you guys' played an important role in the acquisition of the pronoun for many late-'y'all' adopters, suggesting that linguistic usefulness alone is an insufficient explanation for this language change. 'Y'all''s growing association with gender-neutrality has spurred the development of emerging indexical values associated with the pronoun like progressiveness, open-mindedness, and/or queerness and has even solidified into an increasingly-recognizable "woke hipster" persona. Consequently, two somewhat contradictory indexical values of 'y'all' emerged across the data—'y'all' as an index of Southerness and 'y'all' as an index of progressive identity—which have placed the pronoun at the center of two competing forms of prescriptivism. These findings exemplify the ways in which the indexical-reconfiguration of linguistic variables—even those as indexically-entrenched as 'y'all'—is "always already immanent" (Silverstein 2003:194). Furthermore, these reconfigured variables can be productively utilized in the construction of personae that are at odds with those stereotypically associated with these items. The sustainability of a variable with such divergent indexicalities and how this may impact the pronoun's ultimate trajectory, however, is still uncertain.