Talk – Teresa Pratt

Phonatics will be meeting next week, November 1st. Our speaker will be Teresa Pratt from Stanford University. The title and abstract for her talk can be found below:

Embodying toughness: LOT-raising, /l/-velarization, and retracted articulatory setting

Recent work on sociolinguistic style has considered the indexical potential of embodied behaviors related to speech, e.g. facial expression and jaw setting. In this paper I examine two sociophonetic variables to explore the link between articulatory setting and stylistic practice. Drawing on a year-long ethnography at a public arts high school in the San Francisco Bay Area, I show that one group of students within the school use raised LOT and velarized /l/ at higher rates than their peers. This group of students is part of the ‘technical theater’ track, which is distinct from the others in that students engage in manual labor and using professional-grade tools to construct sets for school productions and events. These students self-describe and are described by peers as “rowdy” “assholes” who wear black clothes and work boots, carry knives, and are “handy” by virtue of “always building stuff.” Notably, both of the variants used by these students—raised LOT and velarized /l/—are characterized by the backing and raising of the tongue root. I suggest that tech students rely more generally on a retracted articulatory setting, and that this articulatory setting is indexical of the salient stylistic characteristic of the individuals using it: toughness. By virtue of the stylistic co-occurrence of students’ linguistic, embodied, sartorial, and social practices, these retracted variants and corresponding articulatory setting can come to index a holistic style of embodied toughness.

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