This Friday we will be having our first speaker series of this semester! Professor Lynn Clark of the University of Canterbury will be giving her talk titled "Understanding the covariation of vowel variables within and across speakers". The recorded talk will be shown virtually at 10:30am in the seminar room, and will be followed by a reception from 12-1pm in the Linguistics Department Library. Finally, we will reconvene at 3:30 in the seminar room and over Zoom for a live discussion with Professor Clark.

Below you can find the title and abstract for the talk.

Understanding the covariation of vowel variables within and across speakers

The study of language variation and change is rooted in the notion of the sociolinguistic variable.

Examples of well-studied sociolinguistic variables in New Zealand English are the realisation of medial /t/ as either a stop, a flap or a fricative (e.g. Clark 2018), and the realisation of the KIT vowel which varies along a diagonal axis in the vowel space from high front, to low/central (e.g. Villarreal & Clark 2021).  These pronunciations vary considerably across and within speakers in New Zealand.  A vast literature studies the use of such variables, but the focus is on studying them in isolation - one study might consider medial /t/, and another might consider a particular vowel. This talk will explore an on-going project at the University of Canterbury that builds on 20 years of research on the ‘Origins of New Zealand English’ corpus - comprising over 1500 speakers, 3 million words and 130 years of sound change. The aim of the project is to innovate a novel approach to analysing speech data from this corpus, by incorporating hundreds of thousands of data points from acoustic measures of speech.  This is providing new insight into how sociolinguistic variables work together. This project thus pushes the field in a new direction: developing a sociolinguistics of sound systems, which shifts the focus away from the isolated sociolinguistic variable, and onto the sociolinguistic system as a whole.

Full reference for this talk: Clark, L., Wilson-Black, J., Brand, J., Hurring, G., Hay, J., Sóskuthy, M., Watson, K. (2023) “Understanding the covariation of vowel variables within and across speakers”.  Linguistics Invited Speaker Series, University of Pennsylvania.