Talk – Ryan Cotterell

Our next speaker will be Ryan Cotterell (University of Cambridge), presenting on: “Probabilistic Typology: Deep Generative Models of Vowel Inventories”. Our meeting will take place at the regular time and place on Wednesday 01/09 from 4-5pm in Cresap 101.

Linguistic typology studies the range of structures present in human language. The main goal of the field is to discover which sets of possible phenomena are universal, and which are merely frequent. For example, all languages have vowels, while most—but not all—languages have an [u] sound. In this paper we present the first probabilistic treatment of a basic question in phonological typology: What makes a natural vowel inventory? We introduce a series of deep stochastic point processes, and contrast them with previous computational, simulation-based approaches. We provide a comprehensive suite of experiments on over 200 distinct languages.

Talk – Jennifer Cole

Our next speaker will be Jennifer Cole (LING), presenting on: “Conventionalization in the prosodic encoding of information structure: An information-theoretic approach”.

Early accounts of phrasal prominence [Bolinger 1972; Chafe 1974; Chomsky & Halle 1968; Gussenhoven 1983; Ladd 1980] point to informational criteria (related to focus and discourse-givenness) and structural criteria (related to position in the prosodic phrase) as determining which word(s) within a prosodic phrase are assigned phrasal prominence. Yet empirical evidence from recent studies calls for reconsideration of analyses that directly and deterministically link information structure (IS) meaning with phrasal prominence and/or pitch accent. The argument against traditional accounts of the prosodic encoding of IS meaning rests on findings from experiments on English, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Russian, Spanish and Berber that collectively show: (1) the relationship between IS categories and phonological pitch accents is not deterministic—e.g., in English and German, accent may occur on given as well as new words, and many accent types (e.g, L*, H*, L+H*) are attested for each information structure condition. (2) There is systematic acoustic prosodic enhancement associated with gradations in informativity across IS categories—e.g., focused and/or new words are acoustically enhanced relative to given words—in languages with typologically diverse prosodic systems. (3) The gradient effect of informativity on acoustic prosodic enhancement can be greater for phrase-final (nuclear) prominence compared to non-final prominences, an asymmetry that is reflected in an overall structural bias that privileges the phrase-final position in perceptual processing of phrasal prominence.
These findings are hard to reconcile in traditional accounts that directly and deterministically link prosodic phonological structures with IS meaning. I argue for an alternative approach, adopting an information-theoretic framework where predictability and conventionalization interact to shape systematic variation in prosodic expression and its association with IS meaning. The predictability of a word and its referent influences linguistic expression at the lexical, syntactic, phonological and phonetic levels [e.g., Aylett & Turk 2004; Levy & Jaeger 2007], to varying degrees across languages. Traditional IS distinctions, re-cast in in terms of predictability, influence a speaker’s choice of prosodic expression at the phonological and phonetic levels, and variation in the prosodic expression of predictability is potentially offset by expression via lexical or syntactic choices. The conventionalized pairing of acoustic prosodic marking and IS meaning varies across IS categories and across languages. For instance, in English, a phonological pitch accent may come to function as a pragmatic morpheme due to the highly conventionalized pairing of acoustic prosodic enhancement (e.g., a sharply rising pitch excursion) with a salient information status distinction (e.g., corrective focus), while less conventionalized associations result in probabilistic and phonetically gradient patterns in speech production. In other words, the prosodic encoding of information structure is phonological only in the most conventionalized cases. This information-theoretic account offers insight into observed structural and pragmatic biases in the perceptual processing of prosody, and reconciles the apparent conflict between recent experimental findings in diverse languages and traditional views of the prosody-IS relationship.

Talk – Thomas Denby

Our next speaker will be Thomas Denby (LING), presenting on: “Specificity of Listener Knowledge of Phonotactic Adaptation” Our meeting will take place at the regular time and place on Wednesday 11/07 from 4-5pm in Cresap 101.

Talk – Annette D’Onofrio & Amelia Stecker

Next meeting, our speakers will be Annette D’Onofrio & Amelia Stecker (LING). They will be presenting: “The social meaning of stylistic variability: Sociophonetic (in)variance in presidential candidates’ campaign rallies” Our meeting will take place at the regular time and place on Wednesday 10/24 from 4-5pm in Cresap 101.

Talk – Matt Goldrick

Next meeting, our speaker will be Matt Goldrick from the Department of Linguistics. He’ll be presenting on “Reading aloud is (surprisingly) hard to do: Evidence from bilinguals and older adults” Our meeting will take place at the regular time and place on Wednesday 10/10 from 4-5pm in Cresap 101.

Kick-off meeting 2018/2019

The Phonatics group meets on the 26th of September for the first time of the academic year. We will welcome our new members and discuss the schedule for the year. Our meetings will take place at the regular time and place on Wednesday 4-5pm in Cresap 101. Looking forward to the new year!

Talk – Dave Ogden

Next week our speaker will be Dave Ogden from the Department of Linguistics at the University of Michigan. He’ll be presenting on “Perceptual adaptation and attitude improvement: Evidence from pupillometry, transcription accuracy, and self-report.” Our meeting will take place at the regular time and place on Wednesday 5/16 from 4-5pm in Cresap 101.

Language Science and Pedagogy Meeting with CLI

Our next Phonatics meeting will be held on Wednesday, April 11 from 4-5pm. Please note that this meeting will be in the Ver Steeg Lounge in the University Library (Room 3770).

This is a joint meeting with the Council on Language Instruction. Drs. Jen Alexander, Erin Leddon, & Julie Moore from the English Language Programs and the Department of Linguistics will be presenting “Pronunciation Training in the Language Learning Curriculum.”

Abstract: English language learners typically want to reduce interference from their first language and sound more intelligible to native speakers of the English dialect that they are trying to acquire. But this can be difficult for many reasons: limited training in the sound structure of English, limited opportunities for corrective feedback, and even limited exposure to the target dialect. In this presentation, faculty from Northwestern’s English Language Programs will report on the strategies we have implemented to support international students working to improve their intelligibility and effectiveness when using spoken English. We’ll discuss how we apply our training in phonetics, phonology, and speech language pathology to create interventions across multiple pedagogical contexts and programs-group classes, one-on-one tutoring, and digital learning. We hope to also address implications for teaching pronunciation in other languages (and especially to English L1 learners).

Talk – Sayuri Hayakawa

Dr. Sayuri Hayakawa from the CSD department will be presenting next week (2/28) on “Morality & Mental Imagery in a Foreign Language.”

Morality & Mental Imagery in a Foreign Language

Using a foreign language has been shown to change our choices. It can affect both risk preferences and risk perception, information processing, and perhaps most strikingly, our moral judgments and decisions. While an increasing number of foreign language effects have been found, little is understood about the underlying processes. I will argue that one such process may involve a dampening of the emotional “System 1” rather than an increase in the deliberative “System 2”. Furthermore, I will present data suggesting that this reduction may, in part, be driven by a reduction in the vividness of mental imagery when utilizing a foreign language. Because mental imagery is constructed from memories, which have been shown to be language-dependent, processing a scene in a less familiar language may result in muted visualization. This, in turn, has consequences for decision making.

Talk – Jennifer Cole

Dr. Jennifer Cole (Northwestern, Linguistics) will be giving a talk next Wednesday (2/21) on “Quantifying Phonetic Variation.” The abstract is below. Our meeting will take place at our usual time and place: Wednesday, 4-5pm in Cresap 101. Hope to see you there!

Speech is known to be highly variable across speakers and situations, and listeners pay attention to some of this phonetic detail for the rich contextual information it carries. In this talk I ask how much variability is present in speech, and whether some components of speech are more or less susceptible to variation. I present an approach to quantifying phonetic variation developed in collaboration with Stefanie Shattuck-Hufnagel (MIT), which approaches the question from the dual perspectives of perception and production. We analyze serial imitations of a heard utterance, where the linguistic object to be produced is fixed syntactically, lexically and prosodically, and employ a novel method for quantifying phonetic variation using acoustic landmarks (Stevens 2002) as correlates of phonologically-contrastive manner features. Imitated utterances produced by ten native speakers of American English resulted in 3500+ consonant and vowel landmarks (LMs), which were labelled and compared both to the lexically-specified LMs, and to the LMs produced in the stimulus. Our findings demonstrate and quantify systematicity in phonetic variation as measured in terms of LMs. They also reveal that speakers exercise choice in phonetic implementation, deviating both from lexical targets and from the phonetic detail of the heard stimulus. These results hold promise for the use of imitated speech in the study of phonetic variation, and for the use of LMs (and by extension other feature cues) as a phonologically grounded measure of variation in speech production.