LING-102 Assignment 1: Site study
In this field project we will be looking at how different groups of
Philadelphians pronounce the low-front vowel /ae/ in words like cat,
fan, last, hammer, etc. The basic distinction you should pay attention
to is whether the /ae/ vowel is pronounced as tense or
lax in any given instance.
INSTRUCTIONS: Choose a place where you will be able to sit
for a while discreetly observing people's natural speech. Good options
include coffee shops, diners, pizza parlors, or long subway/bus rides. With
a paper and pen, record all the instances you overhear of words with /ae/
and indicate whether the vowel was tense or lax. Include the following
information (it will help if you sketch a chart):
If you can't tell if a vowel is tense or lax because it sounds somewhere
in-between, mark it as such (with a ? or .5). Also, be careful to record
only those words that actually contain an /ae/ vowel, not just any
word that's spelled with 'a'. For example, the function words and,
can are often (but not always) pronounced with a fully reduced schwa
vowel rather than with a true /ae/. And for some speakers, words like
any and can don't have an /ae/ at all, even when stressed,
but rather the lax mid-front vowel heard in red. Your data should
only include tokens with a true /ae/.
- the word containing /ae/, as well as a few surrounding words if
- whether the /ae/ vowel was pronounced as Tense (T) or Lax (L)
- the speaker's sex, race, approximate age, and accent (if noticeable)
If you want to practice ahead of time, you can try your hand at
coding with this sound file and email me if you
Collect at least 20 tokens (or as many as you can - ideally
50+). You can do all your observations in the same place or go to a few
different places. Some of you may collect a lot of tokens from one or two
speakers, while others observe a wide variety of speakers with just a
handful of tokens each.
After your first observation, download the class data-entry spreadsheet and enter your data,
starting on row 10, as follows:
Continue entering data as you visit more places. Email me your spreadsheet
by 5:00 pm on Tuesday, July 10.
- Column A: leave blank
- Column B: write the word containing /ae/ and any surrounding words you
were able to record.
- Column C: indicate whether /ae/ was tense (1) or lax (0), or somewhere
in between (.5).
- Columns D-G: enter demographic information as indicated.
- Columns H-J: use the handout from class on 7/9 to fill in these
columns. For Column H, 'following' refers to the following
segment (the consonant that comes right after /ae/). -vc and +vc stand for 'voiceless' and 'voiced,' respectively. +bk stands
for 'back' and refers to any place of articulation behind the alveolar
ridge; -bk refers to places of articulation at or in front of the
- Column K: indicate the part of Philadelphia where the observation was
- Column L: enter your initials
- Column M: (space for any notes you want to make)
page maintained by Marjorie Pak