LSAMichigan was well represented at the Linguistic Society of America 2012 Annual Meeting in Portland, Oregon:

  • Pam Beddor gave an Invited Plenary Address: "The Dynamics of Speech Perception: Constancy, Variation, and Change."
  • Susan Lin presented a paper: "Perception and production of American English laterals with varying gestural lag."
  • David Medeiros presented a paper: "Empirically testing wh-islands in Japanese."
  • Carmel O'Shannessy presented a paper: "Morphosyntactic innovation and continuity in a new mixed code."
  • Susan Kalt (Boston College) and Martin Castillo presented a paper: "Yachay q’ipi: Collaborative approaches to linguistic science in the rural Andean classroom."
  • A poster was presented by Julia Thomas (University of Chicago), Holly Craig, and Stephanie Hensel: "The need for bi-dialectal education with child speakers of AAE: A look at copula acquisition."
  • A poster was presented by Andries Coetzee, Miyeon Ahn, Emily Mange (Indiana University), and Emily Reiman: "Speech rate and the perceptual restoration of deleted vowels."
  • Acrisio Pires co-organized a Symposium: "How Does the Prosperity of the Undergraduate Major in Linguistics Affect the Prosperity of the Field?"
  • Marlyse Baptista, society President, opened the Society for Pidgin and Creole Languages conference.
  • Andries Coetzee participated in the Graduate Student Panel on Conferences.


The Dynamics of Speech Perception: Constancy, Variation, and Change by Patrice Speeter Beddor

For decades, a major goal of speech perception research has been to determine how listeners achieve a stable, constant percept in the face of substantial variation in the input acoustic signal.  Although listeners typically have little difficulty understanding what a speaker is saying, researchers have been challenged in their  efforts to identify invariants in the signal that might underlie accurate perception.

In recent years, several different theoretical approaches to perception have converged in the recognition that listeners achieve stable percepts in part by attending to the dynamic information encoded in the acoustic input.  This talk synthesizes findings concerning perception of this time-varying information.  My main goal is to delineate how listeners integrate multiple sources of information as the acoustic signal unfolds over time.  A second goal is to show that, although dynamic cues help an individual listener achieve perceptual constancy across, for example, phonetic contexts, not all listeners assign the same weights to these cues.  Listener-specific weights have implications for theories of speech perception and sound change.

I will focus on listeners' use of time-varying properties introduced by the temporal overlap of articulatory movements for flanking phonological units.  The data to be presented cover a range of perceptual paradigms, including a visual world paradigm in which participants' eye movements to a visual display are monitored  as they listen to coarticulated speech.  Moment-by-moment processing results show that, the earlier the onset of anticipatory  coarticulatory cues in the acoustic signal, the more quickly listeners fixate the correct visual image.  That is, the overlapping articulatory events structure the acoustic signal in ways that provide useful information, in real time, about what the speaker is saying.    

Although the findings that listeners closely track coarticulatory dynamics are robust, listeners differ systematically from each other in the perceptual importance of the anticipatory cues.  For some listeners, coarticulation has relatively little influence on the time course of lexical decisions, while for other listeners these same cues largely determine their lexical choices. Consistent with exemplar models, one factor contributing to listener differences may be listener-specific experiences with particular coarticulatory patterns.  However, another important factor emerges from the very dynamics of speech perception:  alternative weightings of information in the unfolding acoustic signal can be fully consistent with the input.  Drawing especially on this second factor, I will outline a scenario in which "innovative" listeners who heavily weight coarticulatory information are especially likely contributors to sound change.

Andries W. Coetzee (University of Michigan)
Miyeon Ahn (University of Michigan)
Emily Mange (Indiana University)
Emily Reimann (University of Michigan)
Speech rate and the perceptual restoration of deleted vowels

Spoken language is characterized by reductions and deletions, such as the deletion of schwa from potato (p_tato). These reduction processes are more likely at faster than slower speech rates. Successful lexical access requires of listeners to restore such deleted vowels during perception. In this study, we investigate how listeners perform perceptual restoration, paying specific attention to whether they rely on speech rate during this task. We show that listeners are, in fact, significantly more likely to perform perceptual restoration at faster than slower speech rates. This gives evidence that perceptual processing is influenced by top-down effects such as speech rate.

Susan Kalt (Boston College)
Martin Castillo (University of Michigan at Ann Arbor)
Yachay q’ipi: Collaborative approaches to Linguistic science in the rural Andean classroom

Our documentation and revitalization efforts focus on employing rural Andean wisdom to engage with schoolchildren and marginalized itinerant teachers as both experimental participants and creators of experiments. Our efforts include video recording, picture selection, description and narration tasks, alphabetic writing and statistical analysis carried out in twelve rural communities of Chuquisaca, Bolivia and Cusco, Peru. We present initial results of a pilot study of children’s evidential and directional markers using a comic strip narration task. To foster scientific and artistic experimentation we have co-created native language activity cards and present resulting work by children and teachers from five rural schools.  

David J. Medeiros (University of Michigan) 
Empirically testing wh-islands in Japanese 

Previous analyses within generative syntax have adopted two distinct (general) approaches to covert wh-movement. One approach, beginning with Huang's (1982) analysis of Chinese and adopted by Lasnik and Saito (1992), suggests that the wh-island constraint applies to S-Structure representations. Contrary to these predictions, Watanabe (1992) (following Nishigauchi 1986) has claimed that wh-islands in Japanese are at least marginal empirically. Given this predictive conflict, I subject wh-islands in Japanese to an online experimental task; results suggest that speakers detect no grammatical anomaly online.

Carmel O'Shannessy (University of Michigan)
Morphosyntactic innovation and continuity in a new mixed code

A central question of language contact asks which processes lead to which outcomes. Case-marking forms and an innovative auxiliary structure are examined in a newly emerged mixed language spoken in north Australia, Light Warlpiri. Light Warlpiri is a systematic combination of elements from Warlpiri (a Pama-Nyungan language) and Aboriginal English or Kriol (an English lexified creole). Case-marking forms in Light Warlpiri can be traced from incremental changes in forms and distribution in contemporary Warlpiri, through to further changes in Light Warlpiri, culminating in distinct systems.

Julia Thomas (University of Chicago)
Holly Craig (University of Michigan)  
Stephanie Hensel (University of Michigan)  

The need for bi-dialectal education with child speakers of AAE: A look at copula acquisition This work examines social and linguistic factors affecting copula usage among speakers of African American English (AAE) over a three year period. The findings suggest that by school entry students manipulate non-categorical grammatical distinctions of their native dialect in a highly nuanced way and that, without direct instruction of Mainstream Classroom English (MCE) grammar, most students do not use this dialectal feature differently after three years of full-day schooling. The findings argue in favor of using linguistic analyses to construct more direct forms of MCE instruction that model contextual bi-dialectal usage early in students’ academic development.