U-M Linguistics Doctoral Candidate Hayley Heaton presented a talk to the Emory University Program in Linguistics on Tuesday, September 6, 2016. The talk mainly centered on Heaton’s qualifying paper research and the prosody project follow-up she did looking at how Southern accents are constructed on television crime dramas and how this might relate to authenticity research in linguistics. Her abstract can be found below.

Find out more about Hayley's work here.


Media representations are built off of assumed shared knowledge between the producer and the viewer (Bubel & Spitz 2006). In representations of accented speakers, then, how are linguistic features used to index specific identities authentically? My research approaches this question through a case study investigating two characters in television crime dramas (Calleigh from CSI: Miami and Brenda from The Closer). Two analyses are performed. The first is an acoustic analysis of variation in fifteen vowels compared within and between characters. The second is an analysis of prosodic style shifting. The characters vary their phonological and prosodic features in different ways, particularly in use of salient Southern features (ING fronting, /ai/ glide weakening), apparent prosodic features, and prosodic style-shifting patterns. I use these findings to suggest ways that differences and similarities between characters may help develop future exploration of theories of authenticity.