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School of Languages, Linguistics and Film

The 9th Annual Jenny Cheshire Lecture

7 June 2019

Time: 6:30 - 9:00pm
Venue: ArtsTwo Lecture Theatre

Sociophonetics from a child’s perspective

Sociophonetic variation is ubiquitous, systematic, and meaningful. It is one of the design features of human language, offering us the evolutionary advantage of enabling group members to identify each other via their shared vocal traits.

Despite major advances in sociophonetics in recent years, mainstream theoretical models of speech and language are still largely unrevealing about sociophonetic variation. The focus of theoretical models tends to be on universal or language-specific properties, with variation on the periphery. Sociophoneticians, meanwhile, have largely ignored a key subject group: children. How do children learn aspects of sociophonetic variation? What implications does this have for our understanding of language development in general, and in turn our understanding of the cognitive representation and processing of language?

In this talk I outline a number of studies which address these questions, considering how children are exposed to sociophonetic variation in language learning and how they learn to produce and interpret sociophonetic variation.


Paul Foulkes is a Professor in the Department of Language and Linguistic Science, University of York. His teaching and research interests include forensic phonetics, laboratory phonology, phonological development, and sociolinguistics. He has worked on over 200 forensic cases from the UK, Ghana and New Zealand.

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