The Berkeley Phonetics & Phonology Forum ("Phorum") is a weekly talk and discussion series featuring presentations on all aspects of phonology and phonetics.
In register tone systems (Pike 1948) with an unspecified or toneless category, a mid tone is typically the unspecified one (Maddieson 1978; Hyman 2012). In this talk I will present the tone system of Zenzontepec Chatino (Otomanguean, Mexico) and argue that there is a three-way tonal contrast on the mora: high tone (H) vs. mid tone (M) vs. no tone (Ø), with the last having a default low or mid-to-low falling pitch. Several types of evidence support treating the lowest category as toneless in Zenzontepec Chatino, the strongest coming from tonal processes in connected speech, which are illustrated with audio examples from naturalistic texts. Then, I discuss (i) why the typology has excluded such a system, which as far as I've seen has only been reported elsewhere once (Paster 2003), (ii) how the system may have come about historically, and (iii) what it means for tone system typology, i.e. that universals are often strong tendencies but not absolute.
Ese Ejja is a Takanan language spoken in the Bolivian Amazon. This talk presents a working analysis of the distribution of accent in Ese Ejja phonological words headed by nouns and verbs. Phonological words are (partially) defined as having a primary accent which falls on one of the first three syllables of the word, whose consistent phonetic correlate is high pitch. We argue in this talk that the distribution of primary accent depends on a complex interaction of factors, including (1) inherent accent of a word, (2) accent assignment from affixes/clitics, (3) accent assignment based on major part of speech (noun vs. verb) and word class (e.g. transitive vs. intransitive verb), (4) rules of accent clash resolution, (5) rules of (trochaic) footing, and (6) restrictions on the 3-syllable primary accent window. Of particular theoretical interest will be the proposed rules of accent assignment and accent clash resolution, the lack of alignment between trochaic feet and the 3-syllable accent window, and the correlation between grammatical categories and distinct phonological patterns.
We show that a class of cases that has been previously studied in terms of learning of abstract phonological underlying representations (URs) can be handled by a learner that chooses URs from a contextually conditioned distribution over observed surface representations. We implement such a learner in a Maximum Entropy version of Optimality Theory, in which UR learning is an instance of semi-supervised learning. Our objective function incorporates a term aimed to ensure generalization, independently required for phonotactic learning in Optimality Theory, and does not have a bias for single URs for morphemes. This learner is successful on a test language provided by Tesar (2006) as a challenge for UR learning. We also provide successful results on learning of a toy case modeled on French vowel alternations, which have also been previously analyzed in terms of abstract URs. This case includes lexically conditioned variation, an aspect of the data that cannot be handled by abstract URs, showing that in this respect our approach is more general.
This talk reviews several areas of phonetics that were important around 1924, when the Linguistic Society of America was established. The 1920s saw widespread use and expansion of the IPA for phonetic description of languages, including major works on American English phonetics; new speech production laboratories in the U.S. with many specialized instruments; the beginnings of the acoustic theory of speech production; benefits from telecommunications research for basic speech science; and the participation of linguists and non-linguists in phonetics.
There is abundant evidence that listeners are able to use top down social information to alter or enhance the perception of phonetic detail. Extra-linguistic cues to talker identity have been argued to alter (Niedzielski, 1997; Hay & Drager, 2010), guide (Staum Casasanto, 2009), or enhance (Sumner & Samuel, 2007; McGowan, 2011; Szakay et al., 2012) listeners' mapping of available phonetic information to linguistic categories. However, the extent to which listeners are aware of the relationships between social categories and sociolinguistic variables is very much an open question in both sociolinguistics and speech perception. Nevertheless, work in this literature relies on a mixture of early and late tasks that assume a stable link between metalinguistic commentary gathered a relatively long time after the presentation of the stimulus and the listeners' early, online perceptions. We present evidence from a within-subjects matched guise task which suggests that the relationship between percept and late sociolinguistic judgment may be far more complex than has been assumed.
We manipulated whether listeners believed a speaker to be from the Quechua-dominant west of Bolivia or from the Spanish-dominant east. In an unusual twist for this type of experiment, listeners were presented with first one guise and then the other in subsequent blocks with no change in voice. Listeners who were initially told the speaker is Quechua-dominant perform essentially at chance on the listening task and continue to perform at chance on the task when switched to the Spanish-dominant guise. When these same stimuli were presented with the guises reversed, however, clear category boundaries for the vowels in each continuum emerge and are retained across the switch from Spanish to Quechua guise conditions. In contrast to these results, interviews give every indication that participants believed the guise switch had occurred - commenting on everything from the pronunciation to the relative education level of the new speaker. This mismatch between early linguistic judgments and late metalinguistic commentary suggests that while there may be a dual linguistic and social path to speech perception (Sumner et al., 2014), the time course of linguistic perception and social perception requires further careful investigation.