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School of Languages, Linguistics and Film

Guest Speaker Seminar | Jane Stuart-Smith (Glasgow)

16 May 2018

Time: 4:30 - 6:00pm
Venue: ArtsTwo 3.16

Through the looking glass: Perspectives on sibilants and sound change in Glaswegian English

Jane Stuart-Smith

English Language & Linguistics, Glasgow University Laboratory of Phonetics

This paper is interested in the role of perspective on linguistic analysis and thinking, and takes as its focus, the role of analytical perspectives in sociophonetic research (Stuart-Smith, 2018). A key issue for sociophonetic research is how to capture and characterise the relevant aspects of speech which relate to identified social constructs. Acoustic phonetic analysis has until recently been relatively ‘static’. For example, the complex dynamic patterning of acoustic vowel quality over the timecourse of a vowel’s production is typically represented from a single timepoint, or an average across a few timepoints. Recent advances in acoustic phoneticsand statistical analysesnow allow for both dynamic representation of the phonetic entities for sociophonetic analysis, and statistical consideration of their social correlates which account in different ways for dynamicacoustic representations(see e.g. Docherty et al 2015; Stuart-Smith et al 2015). Socially-conditioned variation inthe production of /s/ is now well-established across several varieties of English and other languages (e.g. Stuart-Smith 2007; Levon et al 2017). Reidy (2016) showed that dynamic acoustic analysis helps differentiate /s/ and /ʃ/ in English, and /s/ in English and Japanese (cf Stevens and Harrington 2016 for Australian English /s/). The question for this paper is: does a dynamic acoustic representation improve our understanding of how social gender relates to sound change in /s/ and /ʃ/ in spontaneous Glaswegian vernacular speech over time?

Glaswegian vernacular has long been noted to show an auditorily-retracted /s/, especially in male speakers. Stuart-Smith (2007)’s acoustic analysis of wordlist data collected in the 1990s confirmed a lower peak frequency for male speakers, but also for working-class girls, who are distinct not from working-class boys but from their middle-class counterparts. Glasgow has shown substantial changes over the twentieth century: are shifts in social gender linked to linguistic change? This paper considers the impact of shifting perspective from static to dynamic measures of the sibilants, by gender, over time. We find that the dynamic results confirm the static results but also permit additional insight into spectral shifts over the course of the fricative, which link with social gender over time, effectively providing windows onto both static and dynamic spectral dynamics together.



Docherty, G., Gonzalez, S., & Mitchell, N. (2015) Static vs dynamic perspectives on the realization of vowel nuclei in West Australian English. In: ICPhS2015, Glasgow, UK, 10-14 Aug 2015

Harrington, J. (2010). Phonetic analysis of speech corpora. John Wiley & Sons.

Jannedy, S. & Weirich, M. (2017). Spectral moments vs discrete cosine transformation coefficients: Evaluation of acoustic measures distinguishing two merging German fricatives. JASA. 142. 395-405

Levon, E., Maegaard, M. & Pharao, N. (2017) The Sociophonetics of /s/. Linguistics

Reidy, P. F. (2016). Spectral dynamics of sibilant fricatives are contrastive and language specific. JASA.140(4), 2518-2529.

Stevens, M. & Harrington, J. (2016) The phonetic origins of /s/-retraction: Acoustic and perceptual evidence from Australian English. Journal of Phonetics, 58, 118-134

Stuart-Smith, J., Lennon, R., Macdonald, R., Robertson, D., Soskuthy, M., Jose, B., & Evers, L. (2015) A Dynamic Acoustic View of Real-Time Change in Word-Final Liquids in Spontaneous Glaswegian. In: ICPhS2015, Glasgow, UK, 10-14 Aug 2015.

Stuart-Smith, J., Timmins, C., & Tweedie, F. (2007) 'Talkin' Jockney'?: variation and change in Glaswegian accent. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 11, 221-260.

Stuart-Smith, J. (2007) Empirical evidence for gendered speech production: /s/ in Glaswegian. In: Cole, J. & Hualde, J.I.(eds.) Laboratory Phonology 9. Mouton de Gruyter: New York, USA, 65-86.

Stuart-Smith, J. (2018) ‘Sound perspectives? Speech and speaker dynamics over a century of Scottish English’, in Mesthrie, R. & Bradley, D. (eds) The Dynamics of Language. Cape Town: UCT Press.

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