About Phorum

Phonetics & Phonology Forum is a weekly talk and discussion series featuring presentations on all aspects of phonology and phonetics.

Meeting Place & Time

Mondays, 12:00-1:00pm
46 Dwinelle


Molly Babel
mbabel at berkeley dot edu

Yao Yao
yaoyao at berkeley dot edu

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January 28 - Gabriela Caballero, University of California, Berkeley: "Variable affix ordering in Choguita Rara'muri (Tarahumara): parsability, semantic scope, and selectional restrictions in an agglutinating language"

Research on the principles underlying affix ordering has provided solutions for the analysis of typologically diverse languages. It has been proposed, for instance, that semantic compositionality (scope) and templatic restrictions interact in different ways to shape affix sequences in Athabaskan (Rice 2000) and Bantu languages (Hyman 2002). Patterns of "free" variable affix order, on the other hand, have only been recently documented in very few languages, such as Kiranti (Sino-Tibetan) (Bickel et al. 2007) and Totonacan (Totonaco-Tepahua) languages (McFarland 2005, Beck 2007). This paper makes an empirical contribution by documenting another case of "free" variable affix order in Choguita Rara'muri (Tarahumara), an endangered Uto-Aztecan language, which also features other affix ordering and exponence phenomena that are independent of syntactic/semantic principles. Based on the analysis of morphologically complex constructions of this agglutinating language, it will be argued that although scope determines some of the attested suffix ordering patterns, it is phonological subcategorization and parsability, not templatic constraints, that underlie Choguita Rara'muri suffix combinatorics and exponence.

February 4 - Christian DiCanio (University of California, Berkeley), Keith Johnson (University of California, Berkeley), Laurel MacKenzie (University of Pennsylvania): "Phonetic Explanations for Nasal Restoration"

One common historical development in languages with distinctively nasalized vowels is the excrescence of coda velar nasals in place of nasalized vowels. For example, the dialect of French spoken in the southwestern part of France (Midi French) is characterized by words ending in the velar nasal [N] where Parisian French has nasalized vowels and no final nasal consonant ([ savO)]~[savON] "soap"). More generally, there is a cross-linguistic tendency for the unmarked place of articulation for coda nasals, and perhaps also for stops, to be velar. In four experiments, we explored why the cross-linguistically unmarked place for the excrescent nasal is velar. The experiments test Ohala's (1975) acoustic explanation: that velar nasals, having no oral antiformants, are acoustically more similar to nasalized vowels than are bilabial or alveolar nasals. The experiments also tested an explanation based on the visual phonetics of nasalized vowels and velar nasals: velar nasals having no visible consonant articulation are visually more similar to nasalized vowels than are bilabial or alveolar nasals. American English listeners gave place of articulation judgments for audio-only and audio-visual tokens ending in nasal consonants or nasalized vowels. In the first and second experiments, we embedded recorded tokens of CVN (N = /m/, /n/, or /N/) words in masking noise and presented them in audio-only and audio-visual trials. We also synthesized "placeless" nasals by repeating pitch periods from the nasalized vowel to replace the final consonant in CVm with nasalized vowel. These stimuli provide a direct test of Ohala's acoustic explanation of coda velarity in nasals. The third and fourth experiments extended these results with tokens in which the last portion of CVN (N = /m/, /n/, or /N/) and Cx)syllables were obscured with masking noise. These experiments were designed to force listeners to assume the existence of a final consonant and to rely primarily on visual cues in a more direct test of the visual similarity of nasalized vowels and velar nasals. Taken together, the results of these four experiments suggest that excrescent coda nasals tend to be velar because nasalized vowels are both acoustically and visually similar to velar nasals.

February 11 - Grant McGuire, University of California, Berkeley: The role of experience in the use of phonetic cues

In order to be a competent perceiver of a language a listener must have full command of the relevant phonetic contrasts in that language. There are many aspects of the acoustic signal, or phonetic cues, that differentiate these contrasts and the use of these cues differs by linguistic background (Wagner et al. 2006) and development (e.g. Nittrouer 1992). However, the ways in which listeners come to know which cues are most relevant and how this affects perception is understudied. This talk reports data from three studies on cue use and learning, both in adults and infants, which focus on how experience affects cue use. In the first study data is presented demonstrating that knowledge of cues and their integrality is localized and based in specific linguistic experience with the relevant contrast. A second study demonstrates that learning to rely on specific cues heightens sensitivity to the relevant dimensions of contrast, changing the perceptual space. A final study examines how changing the distribution of tokens can influence which cues infants rely on to differentiate categories. Together, all three studies provide strong evidence that cue use is a localized phenomenon that develops with specific experience in the relevant contrast.

February 25 - Katie Drager, University of Canterbury: Effect of the Experimenter: Evidence from New Zealand English

It is common practice to have multiple researchers meet with participants for a single experiment. However, post hoc analysis of experimental data collected in our lab in New Zealand (NZ) suggests that experimenter identity can affect performance on production and perception tasks. This talk will review these results and will discuss two follow-up experiments investigating the degree to which performance on a lexical access task can be influenced both by exposure to non-NZ accents and by the concept of countries other than NZ. These results will be explored within the context of an exemplar model of speech production and perception.

March 3 - Chen Zhongmin, University of California, Berkeley: On the implosives in Haiyan Dialect

Haiyan is located in the Southeast corner of the delta of the Yangtze River. Its dialect is one of Wu Dialects of Chinese. Besides the tripartite distinction of obstruents (unaspirated voiceless, aspirated voiceless and murmured), which is one of the most important features of Wu dialects, there is another type of obstruents: implosives. In this study I discussed four different implosives in Haiyan dialect, including the rather rare implosive affricate, their acoustic features, and the relationship between implosives and tonal registers. I also discussed the historical development of the implosives and argued that the implosives were developed from murmured obstruents.

March 10 - Rachelle Waksler (San Francisco State University), Linda Wheeldon (Birmingham University), and Jenny Wing (Birmingham University: Feature specification and underspecification in the mental lexicon

Research in both the psycholinguistic and neurobiological arenas provides mounting support for phonologically underspecified lexical entries in the mental lexicon (e.g., Wheeldon & Waksler 2004, Friedrich, Eulitz & Lahiri 2006). Models of speech processing incorporating phonologically underspecified lexical entries (Lahiri & Reetz 2002) have so far assumed a traditional theory of underspecification in which all phonologically redundant features are underspecified in the lexical entry. Recent treatments of redundant features in theoretical linguistics, however, (e.g., Inkelas 1995, Ito, Mester, & Padgett, 1995, McCarthy 2003, Beckman & Ringen 2004) have argued that some redundant features are lexically specified. The scope of underspecification, i.e., whether underspecification is absolute, or whether some redundant features are represented in lexical entries, has not yet been examined in psycholinguistic research, and is the focus of our present study.

In two psycholinguistics experiments controlled for the syntax, semantics, and prosodic structure of the stimuli sentences, we investigate the degree of phonological abstractness in lexical entries using form priming and semantic priming tasks. Results from both experiments support phonological underspecification in the mental lexicon, and are consistent with predictions based on some redundant feature specification in lexical entries.

March 17 - Rosemary Orr, ICSI Speech Group: A human benchmark for language recognition

There has been quite some work carried out in the area of automatic language recognition. Systems are built, refined, fused, and evaluated, and latest results from, for example, the NIST Language Recognition Evaluations, show that automatic systems can recognize languages with as little as 3% error on a 10 second stretch of speech.

To date, little work has been done to see how well a human performs this task. Muthusamy reported, in 1994, that humans outperformed the automatic systems when recognizing their native languages or languages with which they were familiar. However, systems have improved greatly since then, and it is important to try to establish a solid human benchmark against which to compare current systems.

The challenges to be met for this task are not trivial, not least because of the difficulty inherent in the establishment of a suitable experimental paradigm. We have a well-organized and well-established method of evaluating machine performance, as well as a large multilingual database to use, all stemming from the NIST LRE evaluations in 2008. This has its drawbacks, in that the speech that we will use is telephone speech, and is only available in 14 languages. Furthermore, if we use the evaluation methods that were applied to machines, we must, in some way, classify the amount of training that human subjects have had in a language. For machines, this can be exactly measured in the number of hours training that the machine has had. For humans, we cannot make such estimates.

My presentation to the group will be a description of our current experiment, our planned experiment, and a sketch of the pilot data that we have found so far. I will be particularly glad of comments and suggestions, as the design is not yet set in stone, and we would like to have as solid a setup as possible for this work.

March 31 - Yuni Kim, University of California, Berkeley: Diphthongization, fission, and metathesis in Huave

Huave (a language isolate of Oaxaca State, Mexico) has two sets of surface diphthongs: rising diphthongs like [ja], and falling diphthongs like [aj] and [oj]. None of these are present underlyingly. Rising diphthongs come from fission of underlying front vowels, where the features of a monophthong are split and distributed between two root nodes, while falling diphthongs come about through metathesis of secondary consonant palatalization onto a preceding vowel. Although these are superficially different processes, I claim that they are driven by common pressures: preservation of input features, and agreement for place of articulation at certain VC transitions. I formalize the analysis within Optimality Theory, drawing on Particle Phonology (Schane 1984, 1995) and the aperture node theory of Steriade (1993, 1994) to construct representations that are sufficiently nuanced to express the correct generalizations.

April 7 - Shira Katseff, University of California, Berkeley: An Experiment in Sensorimotor Adaptation: Making Huds out of Heads

Sensorimotor speech adaptation refers to the process by which individuals modify their speech production on the basis of auditory feedback. The present study exploits this phenomenon by electronically modulating the feedback process in real time, enabling us to explore and characterize auditory "targets" of linguistic planning.

Among other interesting features, the methodology in this study consistently reveals that compensation for experimental perturbations in feedback is only partial: even after adjusting to the modified feedback, subjects' processed speech signals still differ from their respective baseline productions.

I present new evidence suggesting that such partial compensation is readily explained by a theory of linguistic targets consisting of both a motor and an auditory component. Additionally, I describe a future feedback experiment designed to measure the relative contributions of motor and auditory targets to speech adaptation.

April 14 - Larry Hyman, University of California, Berkeley: Enlarging the scope of phonologization

In this talk I have three goals: (i) to define and delimit the notion of "phonologization"; (ii) to determine how phonologization fits into the bigger picture; (iii) to discuss a few examples of (continued) interest to me, e.g. the effects of voiced obstruents ("depressor consonants") on pitch. I begin by considering the original definition of phonologization ("A universal phonetic tendency is said to become 'phonologized' when language-specific reference must be made to it, as in a phonological rule." (Hyman 1972:170)), a concept which can be traced back at least as far as Baudouin de Courtenay (1895 [1972:184]). Particular attention is paid to the role of contrast in the phonologization process. After presenting canonical examples of phonologization (particularly transphonologizations, whereby a contrast is shifted or transformed but maintained), I suggest that the term "phonologization" needs to be extended to cover other ways that phonological structure either changes or comes into being. Throughout the talk emphasis is on what Hopper (1987:148) identifies as "movements towards structure": the emergence of grammar (grammaticalization) and its subsequent transformations (regrammaticalization, degrammaticalization). After showing that phonologization has important parallels to well-known aspects of "grammaticalization" (Hyman 1984), I conclude that phonologization is but one aspect of the larger issue of how (phonetic, semantic, pragmatic) substance becomes linguistically codified into form.

April 21 - Practice Talks

Talk 1 - Intergestural Inhibition Counteracts Phonologization

Sam Tilsen

In the Ohalan hypocorrective model, vowel-to-vowel coarticulation can lead to phonologization of vowel harmony. Something that is missing from this model is a mechanism for restricting phonologization--why dont all vowels in all words in all languages always eventually harmonize? Appeals to preservation of contrast or lexical faithfulness do not give us much insight into filling this gap in the theory. I present unexpected results from a cross-phonemic primed vowel shadowing experiment, which suggest the presence of a dissimilatory speech target-planning mechanism that opposes coarticulation and thereby restricts phonologization.

Talk 2 - The Phonetic Space of Phonological Categories in Heritage Speakers of Mandarin

Charles Chang, Erin Haynes, Russell Rhodes, and Yao Yao

Previous research on the phonological competence of heritage language (HL) speakers has found that even very limited childhood experience with an HL boosts pronunciation in comparison to second language (L2) learners with no prior experience (e.g. Au et al. 2002; Knightly et al. 2003; Oh et al. 2002, 2003). In the present study, we delve deeper into the question of categorical neutralization: though HL speakers may end up with better accents than L2 learners, do they make the same phonological distinctions as native speakers, in the same way and to the same degree?

Our study consists of a series of experiments on the realization of Mandarin and English phonological contrasts by Mandarin HL speakers, in comparison to native Mandarin speakers and L2 learners of Mandarin. Our previous experiment (cf. Chang et al. 2008) examined the place contrast between Mandarin retroflex /ṣ/ and alveolo-palatal /ɕ/, as well as English palato-alveolar /ʃ/. We found that both native speakers and L2 speakers tend to merge Mandarin retroflex and English palato-alveolar (not necessarily in the same direction, though), while HL speakers tend to keep them apart. In addition, there was a correlation between HL speakers' amount of exposure to Mandarin and their production performance, with the most advanced HL speakers patterning with native speakers and the least advanced with L2 learners.

In this talk, we report two other experiments along the same lines. Experiment 1 examined the place contrast in the back rounded vowels, and Experiment 2 examined the laryngeal contrast in Mandarin compared to English. 16 speakers of Mandarin participated: 5 native speakers, 8 HL speakers, and 5 L2 learners. The results of Experiment 1 show that almost all speakers distinguish all four back vowels: English /u/, English /ou/, Mandarin /u/, and Mandarin /ou/. The difference between English /u/ and Mandarin /u/, as well as the difference between English /ou/ and Mandarin /ou/, mainly lies in the degree of backness. English back vowels are more fronted than Mandarin ones for all speakers. More interestingly, the degree of backness in both English and Mandarin back vowels increases with the speakers' experience in Mandarin (i.e. L2 < HL < native). There is also a tendency for HL speakers to maintain the largest distance between English back vowels and Mandarin back vowels, which resonates with the conclusions of our previous experiment on fricatives. The results of Experiment 2 show that all speakers maintain a VOT difference between Mandarin unaspirated stops and aspirated ones. Moreover, almost all of them also distinguish Mandarin aspirated stops from English voiceless (aspirated) ones by having longer VOTs for Mandarin. This pattern is most consistent among native and HL speakers, and least so in the L2 group.

In summary, the current results support our previous finding that HL speakers tend to be better at maintaining contrasts between "similar" categories in two languages, probably due to the fact that they have early exposure to both languages. Our data also show that there is a wide range of possibilities in terms of language production in the HL group, and that a continuum in the amount of exposure to the heritage language can probably be found to correlate with their production in both languages.

April 28 - Reiko Kataoka, University of California, Berkeley: Mechanisms of sound change: a study on perceptual compensation for /u/-fronting

Listener's identification of speech sounds are influenced by perceived characteristics of surrounding sounds (e.g. Ladefoged and Broadbend, 1957; Lindblom and Studdert-Kennedy, 1967). For example, listeners 'compensate' for expected coarticulatory effect on the speech sound when the context is clearly detected. In this talk, I will present the results from a series of experiments investigating perceptual compensation for /u/-fronting in alveolar contexts. I will argue that perceptual compensation has both cognitive and mechanical causes and cognitively based compensation is responsible for hypo- and hyper-corrective speech misperception.

Experiment 1 replicated the experiment by Ohala and Feder (1994). It demonstrates that American listeners judge a vowel stimulus which sounds between /i/ and /u/ to English ear as more frequently and more easily as /u/ in alveolar context than in bilabial context, and do so with cognitively 'restored' context as well as acoustic context.

Experiment 2 shows that perceptual compensation becomes stronger as speech rate of precursor sentence increases. The results from Experiment 1 and 2 suggest that listeners use both cognitively based categorical compensation and mechanically based gradient compensation.

Experiment 3 investigates the role of speech production in perceptual compensation. Moderate correlation between degree of /u/-fronting in production and perceptual boundary of /i/-/u/ categories was obtained, suggesting a link between speech production and speech perception.

May 5 - John Ohala, University of California, Berkeley: A brief, interpretive history of phonology over the past 2.5 millennia

Phonology, the superordinate discipline that includes phonetics, has made stellar progress in (1) describing languages phonologically and (2) figuring out the phonological history of languages (documenting sound change, family relationships, etc). (Refs. to Panini, Al Khalil, the Icelandic "Grammarian", King Sejong, van Boxhorn, ten Kate, des Brosses, Sajnovics, Hervas, Rask, Grimm et al.) All of this developed gradually from approx. 5th c. BPE to, say, the 18th c. AD. Beginning in the late 19th c. and continuing into the 20th, attention turned to the psychological underpinnings of languages' phonology (e.g., Meringer & Meyer 1895, Saussure 1916, Sapir 1933, Chomsky & Halle 1968). My claim: the claims made about the psychological basis of language are, for the most part, just re-application of the methods and concepts used in the description of languages' sound patterns and their historical reconstruction. From 1968 on mainstream phonologists -- and this now includes OT-iose phonology -- have assumed that phonological alternations such as 'want to' and 'wanna' or even 'cock' (the bird) and 'chicken' have common underlying forms with different surface forms depending on differential application of ordered processes ("constraints", if one prefers). Understanding the true psychological basis of sound patterns will require (is this a surprise?) new methods and new data beyond what was obtained up to the 19th century. Examples of the new methodology will be given.

May 12 - Eurie Shin, University of California, Berkeley: Cross-dialect identification of consonants in Seoul and North Kyungsang Korean

The goal of this study is to examine important perceptual cues for stops and fricatives of Seoul Korean and North Kyungsang Korean. North Kyungsang Korean is spoken in the Southeast part of Korea, and it has lexical tones whereas Seoul Korean does not although both dialects are mutually intelligible. Previous studies have found various acoustic cues (e.g. VOT, F0, H1-H2, closure duration, fricative noise duration, and aspiration noise duration) for the three-way contrast of stops and the two-way contrast of fricatives in Seoul Korean (Johnson & Oh 1995, Cho et al. 1999, Choi 2002, and Chang 2007); however, the perceptual characteristics of the same consonants in North Kyungsang Korean have not been investigated extensively. In this study, I examine the perceptual cues of consonants in both Seoul and North Kyungsang Korean by testing (1) VOT, F0, and H1-H2 of the following vowel for stops in word-initial position, (2) VOT, stop closure duration, and H1-H2 of the following vowel for stops in word-medial position, and (3) frication noise duration, aspiration duration and H1-H2 of the following vowel for fricatives in word-initial position. The perception experiment results from thirty-two native speakers of Seoul Korean and thirty native speakers of North Kyungsang Korean are discussed focusing on the important cues for the identification of consonants in both dialects and the cross-dialect differences.

UC Berkeley Linguistics Department | Phonetics, Phonology, and Morphology at Berkeley | UC Berkeley Phonology Lab