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Linguistics Colloquium

Jonathan Harrington, University of Munich
Friday, March 31, 2023
4:00-5:30 PM
Jonathan Harrington has been Professor and Director of the Institute for Phonetics and Speech Processing (IPS), Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich since 2006. His main research interest is in human speech processing and its relationship to the origin and spread of sound change. He is currently principal investigator of a European Research Council project funded by the European Union on the actuation of sound change.

Phonologization in sound change and trading relationships: a real-time MRI analysis of American and Southern British English.

The focus of the talk is on understanding the cognitive mechanisms in speech processing that can sometimes lead to phonologization-based sound changes (Hyman, 2013; Kiparsky, 2015) in which a coarticulatory effect is often enhanced as the coarticulatory source that gives rise to it wanes (Beddor, 2009; Hombert et al, 1979; Kirby, 2014).

Much research in the last 10-15 years has sought to establish whether there is a connection between this type of cue-reweighting or trade-off in phonologization-based sound changes and the flexible re-weighting of cues to a phonological contrast that has been observed in both speech perception and production (Carignan et al, 2021; Coetzee et al., 2018; Kuang & Cui, 2018; Repp, 1982; Whalen et al., 1993). The present talk engages with this issue through a physiological study of coarticulatory vowel nasalization in American (USE) and Standard Southern British English (BRE) based on analyses of velum and tongue tip movement collected using real-time, magnetic resonance imaging.

Following ideas derived from action theory and articulatory phonology (Browman & Goldstein, 1992; Fowler & Smith, 1986), the starting point for this analysis is that increasing coarticulatory vowel nasalization in words with VN rhymes (Ben, Ben's, bend, bent) comes about when a velum gesture is phased progressively earlier with the tongue dorsum gesture for the preceding vowel. A trade-off between greater nasalization in the vowel and the waning of nasalization in the coda nasal necessarily comes about, if the velum gesture is stable i.e., is unaffected by this rephasing. The rephasing of a stable velum gesture together with the consequent trade-off between coarticulatory effect and source have been argued to form a path to the sound change by which vowel nasalization combined with a complete loss of the coda nasal have become established in languages like French (Beddor, 2009, 2012; Beddor et al, 2013).

A physiological comparison of the two English varieties is appropriate for testing this hypothesis, on the assumption that USE is further along this path of sound change than BRE. If so, then not only should vowel nasalization be more extensive in USE but there should also be different degrees of trade-off between these two dialects, such that nasalization within the coda-/n/ is greater in BRE. An associated prediction is that there is a greater degree of coda- /n/ tongue-tip lenition in USE. Just this is tested in the present study as well as whether the velum gesture remains stable, as it slides further into the vowel. The results will be reported for both the velum and tongue-tip in an ongoing analysis of rt-MRI data recorded from 16 USE and 27 BRE speakers.

Johnathan Harrington will be joining us virtually but we will be hosting a viewing party in East Hall Room 4448.
You can also join us on Zoom:
Building: Off Campus Location
Location: East Hall 4448 & Zoom
Event Link:
Event Type: Lecture / Discussion
Tags: Free, Talk
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Department of Linguistics