We have many colleagues across campus who are part of the Linguistics community at the University of Michigan. Nicholas Henriksen, a phonetician and sociolinguist, is Assistant Professor in the Romance Languages and Literatures Department.
Nicholas Henriksen's article "Style, prosodic variation, and the social meaning of intonation" appeared in the August 2013 issue of Journal of the International Phonetic Association.
This paper reports on an acoustic analysis of the intonational patterns of declarative questions and wh-questions produced by a group of young adults residing in a rural town of south-central Spain. Question intonation has been reported as highly variable across and within Spanish dialects; recent sociophonetic research on multiple languages suggests that intonational variation may be accounted for by speaking condition (i.e. speech style) in addition to other linguistic and social factors. This study is an initial attempt to examine the potential interactions between speaking condition (read speech vs. task-based dialogue) and social characteristics (speaker sex) on intonational variation. First, it is shown that 12 of the 16 speakers undergo at least one style-shift between speaking conditions; these data are captured in variationist terms, providing empirical assessments about formal and vernacular variants for the two sentence types in question. Second, it is shown that speaker sex differences play a role in style-shifting, and this leads to the hypothesis that variation in declarative questions may have developed as a marker of local identity for Manchego men. All in all, this study offers empirical support that the findings on sociophonetic variation warrant consideration in current models of speech production.