Talk – Jacob Phillips

Next meeting (3/13), Jacob Phillips (University of Chicago) will be talking about “Asymmetrical sound change actuation and propagation: Production and perception of /s/-retraction in American English”. Our meeting will take place at the regular time and place on Wednesday from 4-5pm in Cresap 101.

Models of sound change actuation propose that change emerges from both speech production and perception, with potential sources including the persistence and accumulation of short term shifts and/or the failure to compensate for extreme coarticulation. In this talk, I question how context-dependent variation can approach the threshold of a sound change in one phonological environment, but not other similar environments. I examine the production and perception of /s/-retraction in American English, a sound change in progress in which /s/ approaches /sh/ in /str/ clusters (such that street may sound like shtreet), but rarely /spr/ or /skr/ clusters (scream rarely sounds like shcream). I ask whether evidence from imitation, phoneme categorization and eye tracking tasks can shed light on this asymmetrical distribution.

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