For this week’s Prosody Interest Group (PIG), we are excited to invite Dr. Ricardo Napoleão de Souza from the University of Edinburgh to talk about his recent research. Focusing on “Domain-Initial Strengthening from an Acoustic Perspective,” Dr. de Souza presented groundbreaking findings using data from varieties of English, Spanish, and Portuguese. It’s online and easy to sign up. Everyone interested is absolutely welcome to join!
From August 7th to 11th, our research group embarked on an illuminating expedition to the 20th International Congress of the Phonetic Sciences (ICPHS) 2023. As one of the most significant congresses in the field of phonetics, the ICPHS is a pivotal event that only occurs once every four years. We were proud to have nine active participants from our group in attendance. Of these, three members delivered compelling oral presentations, while the rest engaged the academic community through insightful poster presentations.
Within our research group, the conference served as a testament to our unity and collective strength. Every individual contributed to the tapestry of success, and the supportive atmosphere propelled each of us to excel. As questions flowed from the audience, they illuminated the depth of engagement and curiosity that permeated the conference. More details of what we presented in the congress will be provided in the following. This post also aims to encapsulate our experiences, learnings, and the milestones achieved during this prestigious event.
Objectives and Expectations
The overarching theme of ICPHS 2023 was “Intermingling Communities and Changing Cultures,” which deeply resonates with the emerging dynamics of our interconnected world. Over the past few decades, there has been an unprecedented surge in mobility and interpersonal contacts, disrupting the boundaries of national languages and impacting speech patterns universally.
Our primary objective for attending the congress was twofold. Firstly, we aimed to share our own insights and research findings with a broader academic community. We were particularly eager to contribute to the ongoing dialogue about how modern societal shifts are influencing phonetics and phonology. Secondly, we were excited to learn from other leading researchers in the field. We wanted to grasp what constitutes ‘trendy’ research currently and to understand how the academic discourse in this field is changing and evolving.
Moreover, we were keen to explore potential directions for future research and possible collaborative efforts. Given that the congress serves as a melting pot of ideas and innovations, we were optimistic about forging new academic alliances that could pave the way for co-operative ventures in the years to come.
Highlights and Contributions
1. Turnbull Rory: Phonological Network Properties of Non-words Influence Their Learnability
Rory’s study underscored the significance of a word’s phonological neighborhood in phonetic processing, extending this concept to non-words. By analyzing participant responses in an experimental setting, this study demonstrated that non-words with more “neighbors” and well-connected neighbors are learned with higher accuracy, indicating that existing lexicon can significantly influence the acquisition of new words.
2. Du Fengting: Rapid Speech Adaptation and Its Persistence Over Time by Non-Standard and Non-Native Listeners
Fengting’s study delved into the intriguing phenomena of how listeners adapt to accented speech, especially when the talkers share the same, similar or different language backgrounds. Through methodical research, the study revealed that both non-standard and non-native English listeners were more adept at perceiving and adapting to accents the same as their own, but not the similar or different one. Notably, this adaptation was not only immediate but also persisted over a 24-hour period, suggesting intriguing implications for language learning and communication.
This presentation offered an innovative perspective on how incremental cue training could aid in lexical tone learning for non-tonal language speakers. The findings suggest that employing exaggerated contrasts in pitch movements during the initial stages of training can significantly improve the learners’ ability to discern tonal differences, leading to comparable end-stage performance with conventional training methods.
1. Kelly Niamh: Interactions of Lexical Stress, Vowel Length, and Pharyngealisation in Palestinian Arabic
Niamh’s research filled a crucial gap in the understanding of lexical stress in Palestinian Arabic. By analyzing the acoustic correlates of lexical stress, she shed light on the nuanced interactions among stress, phonemic length, and pharyngealization, offering a comprehensive phonetic description of stress patterns in this Arabic variety.
2. Zhang Cong, Lai Catherine, Napoleão de Souza Ricardo, Turk Alice and Bogel Tina: Language Redundancy Effects on Fundamental Frequency (f0): A Preliminary Controlled Study
This study investigated the effects of language redundancy on fundamental frequency (f0), supporting the Smooth Signal Redundancy Hypothesis. Their controlled experiments revealed that language redundancy could indeed affect f0, potentially adding another layer to our understanding of prosodic structure.
This paper delved into the intricate relationship between voice onset time (VOT) and fundamental frequency (f0) in Jazani Arabic, proposing that f0 perturbation is predictable from VOT patterns. This lends further evidence to the theory of Laryngeal Realism and offers new insights into phonological representation.
This study questioned whether accent familiarity impacts narrative recall, particularly when listeners are exposed to different accents. Findings indicated a ‘familiarity benefit’ in Tyneside listeners, extending the impacts of accentual familiarity on language perception.
Our group’s robust contributions across diverse areas in phonetics and phonology were met with great interest and sparked important academic discussions, marking a significant footprint in the advancements of the field.
Reflection and Future Directions in Phonetics and Phonology
The congress served as an eye-opening experience that showcased the incredible diversity and depth of current research in phonetics and phonology. With hundreds of insightful studies, the event drew a roadmap for the future of these fields. While each study was a piece of a larger puzzle, the six keynote lectures stood out as beacons guiding the way forward.
Technological Advancements and Precision
Research in phonetics and phonology cannot stand alone; it requires the support of powerful tools to quantify sound features and visualize articulatory processes. Over the past few decades, these research tools have continually evolved, and numerous researchers have actively applied state-of-the-art technology in their studies. John Esling’s focus on the larynx as an articulator hinted at the importance of advanced imaging techniques, opening new avenues for understanding language development and linguistic diversity. Similarly, Paul Boersma’s discussion about the future of Praat emphasized how technology will revolutionize phonetic and phonological models. The convergence between these talks suggests a future where technology plays an increasingly central role in refining our analyses and providing greater computational power for simulating the nuances of speech.
As the landscape of research in phonetics and phonology broadens, the call for multidisciplinary perspectives becomes increasingly urgent. Ravignani Andrea and Stuart-Smith Jane both underscored the importance of multidisciplinary approaches. While Andrea seeks to combine ethology, psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral ecology to explore the origins of vocal rhythmicity, Stuart-Smith envisions a future where sociophonetic and social-articulatory data deepen our understanding of speech patterns related to identity, social class, and dialect. The common thread here is the necessity for interdisciplinary collaboration to answer complex questions that cannot be addressed by any single field alone.
Embracing Social Responsibility
Perhaps the most poignant insights came from talks focusing on the social aspects of research. Titia Benders emphasized the crucial need for expanding child language acquisition research to lesser-studied languages, not only to understand their unique phonological elements but also to develop inclusive research methods. Pavel Trofimovich, on the other hand, urged for a socially responsible approach to second-language speech research, one that balances academic rigor with meaningful social impact. These talks collectively call for a future where research is not just theoretically robust but also socially responsible, reaching communities and languages that have been traditionally underrepresented.
Together, the keynotes painted a vibrant picture of a future that is technologically advanced, inherently interdisciplinary, and deeply rooted in social responsibility. It is clear that the next wave of research in phonetics and phonology will be as diverse and dynamic as the voices that make up human language itself.
The insights gained from this year’s congress serve as a valuable roadmap for the direction of phonetic and phonological research, areas that are central to the mission of our research group. From the pivotal role of technology in advancing research methodologies to the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration and social responsibility, the keynotes and studies presented offer a multifaceted view of the field’s future. As our group continues to explore new avenues of research, we are invigorated by the wealth of possibilities that these emerging trends present. They not only affirm the work we are currently undertaking but also challenge us to think about how we can contribute to these evolving dialogues in meaningful ways. Thank you for following along with our coverage of the congress, and stay tuned for upcoming research projects that will reflect these dynamic shifts in the field.
On Tuesday, we were delighted to welcome Dr. Byron Ahn for an in-depth workshop on the use of PoLaR in analyzing prosodic features of speech. The three-hour session delved deep into the intricate layers of intonation.
The workshop began by laying the groundwork. While segments in English (like consonants and vowels) shape the words we say, it’s the suprasegmentals that color how we say them. Prosody, thus, captures the nuances in tone, pitch, duration, and emphasis that breathe life into our words.
What sets PoLaR apart in the realm of prosodic analysis? Its rise in popularity stems from its decompositional and transparent labels, making it easy to grasp and apply. Unlike other systems such as TOBI, PoLaR labels concentrate solely on the foundational elements of prosodic structure, namely boundaries and prominences. This results in a richer phonetic detail about the pitch contour. Additionally, there’s no need for a language-specific phonological grammar with PoLaR, making it versatile and cross-linguistically applicable. Yet, it’s essential to note that PoLaR complements other labeling systems, like ToBI, rather than replacing them.
After providing the essential background introduction, Dr. Ahn guided us through the main tiers of PoLaR labelling, including the Prosodic Structure, Ranges Tier, Pitch Turning Points, and Scaled Levels. The session also touched upon Advanced labels, enabling a systematic tracking of a labeller’s theoretical analysis.
We’d like to express our deepest appreciation to Dr. Ahn for imparting his expertise and to all attendees for their active participation!
We are excited to announce that our linguistics laboratory, which was under refurbishment last year, has been reopened. The Lab has many world-class pieces of equipment. It has two small sound-treated isolation booths and one sizeable sound-proof booth to provide an ideal experimental environment. It is also equipped with high-quality phonetic and speech recording tools, as well as ultrasound tongue imaging. The Lab can support a wide range of articulatory, phonetic, psycholinguistic, and corpus research, and you can read here for more information.
The Lab is licensed to use LabVanced, an online experimental designing and launching system. On the 19th and 25th May, Fengting Du and Andreas Krug, who are members of our research group, demonstrated how they used LabVanced to benefit their research. The questions covered were: (1) how to start up a new study; (2) how to import your stimuli; (3) how to set variables and record the data you want; (4) how to randomize the order of your questions or stimuli; and (5) how to launch your study and export your data. We also shot some problems about data analysis together during the workshops.
After the workshop, the research group had a demonstration of ultrasound tongue imaging from the Lab administrators. If you are interested in the Lab equipment and want to know more, you can call into the Lab or book the Lab here.
Please leave a comment if you have questions on LanVanced or would be interested in another training session. We look forward to arranging further workshops like this.
For current researchers in this area at the university you can see the Phonetics & Phonology research groups people page.
Posted date: 23-Nov-2021
Closing date: 7-Dec-2021
Full job description can be found at here.
The School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences (ECLS) seeks you for the position of Research Assistant (Laboratory Manager). You will support the research of academic staff and students in experimental and laboratory projects which take place in the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences and across the faculty. This includes support for one of more of the following co-located labs:
- A psycholinguistics lab with an eyetracker and a range of software programs for behavioural experiments and audio-visual transcription and editing facilities (e.g. EyeLink, Eprime, Labvanced, Gorilla, Adobe Editing Suite, ELAN, PRAAT etc.)
- A phonetics lab with:
- audio-visual recording facilities, including an anechoic chamber, edirol recorders for high quality auditory recordings for acoustic analysis and camcorders for video recordings.
- articulatory recording facilities, including ultrasound tongue imaging, electropalatography, electro-glottography, and nasometry.
The University and the Department
Newcastle University is committed to being a fully inclusive Global University which actively recruits, supports and retains colleagues from all sectors of society. We value diversity as well as celebrate, support and thrive on the contributions of all our employees and the communities they represent. We are proud to be an equal opportunities employer and encourage applications from everybody, regardless of race, sex, ethnicity, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, age, disability, gender identity, marital status/civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, as well as being open to flexible working practices.
The University holds a silver Athena SWAN award in recognition of our good employment practices for the advancement of gender equality. The University also holds the HR Excellence in Research award for our work to support the career development of our researchers, and is a member of the Euraxess initiative supporting researchers in Europe.
The School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences (ECLS) is an inter-disciplinary school with staff and students working in the fields of Speech and Language Sciences, Linguistics, Applied Linguistics and Communication and Education. Researchers in the school employ a variety of experimental methods including audio-visual, acoustic, and articulatory speech analysis, eye tracking, psycholinguistic experiments, and language learning paradigms and platforms.
Off the back of their success in winning the Peter Ladefoged Prize at BAAP 2018, Jalal and Ghada have now had their work on VOT of Arabic stops published in the Journal of Phonetics special edition ‘Marking 50 Years of Research on Voice Onset Time’. Check it out here – “Acoustic correlates of the voicing contrast in Lebanese Arabic singleton and geminate stops”
- The voicing contrast in Lebanese Arabic interacts with gemination in complex ways.
- Closure duration is key for the voicing and gemination contrasts in medial position.
- Voicing patterns point to [voice] as primary and [tense] as secondary feature.
- More devoicing is seen in voiced geminates than singletons.
- Release properties of voiced geminates align more with lenis than fortis languages.
On 12-14th April 2018 a number of us from the Phonetics and Phonology Research Group went to the BAAP 2018 Colloquium at the University of Kent. We had 5 posters (Dan, Wael, Hajar, Hana, Nief) and 3 talks (Jalal & Ghada, Jalal, Ourooba) over the 3 days, and also learnt a lot and met some fascinating people, all in the beautiful setting of the historic cathedral city of Canterbury (I’m completely biased, it’s my hometown).
Twitter was very active in the 3 days and I’ve created a ‘Moment’ which documents some highlights. Take a look at the link below.
Particular congratulations should go to Ghada and Jalal, who won the Peter Ladefoged Prize, for the work that best captures the spirit of the work of the late Peter Ladefoged.