By Andries W. Coetzee
May 05, 2013
The University of Michigan's Phonetics Laboratory, under the leadership of Pam Beddor, has long been at the forefront of research on sound change. This leadership position of our Department was confirmed again recently when four current and former members of our Department gave presentations at the Workshop on Sound Change Actuation that was organized as a satellite meeting of the 49th Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society.
Pam Beddor, together with Cynthia Clopper from OSU, was an invited discussant in the session on "Perceptual factors in sound change actuation". Former students Kevin McGowan (Ph.D. 2011, now at Stanford University) and Anna Babel (Ph.D. 2010, now at OSU) gave a joint presentation, combining their respective interests and expertise. Their presentation was titled "Perception of Spanish in contact: Bolivian listeners' expectation and awareness of socioindexical variation". In their presentation, Kevin and Anna showed how listeners adjust their perceptual boundaries between Spanish vowel phonemes depending on whether they believe that they are listening to a Spanish dominant speaker or a Quechua dominant speaker. Their research represent one of the few extensions of the phoneme identification paradigm to language contact situations, and to languages other than the main European academic languages. An abstract of their presentation is available here.
The other presenter with a Michigan connection was former student Alicia Beckford Wassink (Ph.D. 1999, now at University of Washington), who have a presentation with John Riebold, titled "Individual variation and linguistic innovation in the American Pacific Northwest", that focused on the unique realization of the vowels in words like beg, bag, and bake in the Pacific Northwest. An abstract of their presentation is available here.