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Beddor, P. S. (PI) and Coetzee, A. W. (Co-PI). 2014-2018.

National Science Foundation: The time course of speech perception and production in individual language users

Humans are fluent producers and perceivers of spoken language, yet the dynamic processes that underlie the production and perception of speech are highly complex. Speakers must coordinate the actions of multiple vocal organs (such as the lips, tongue, and jaw) to produce the overlapping movements necessary for smooth and rapid speech. In deriving meaning from the resulting acoustic signal, listeners must attend to the changing acoustic properties as they evolve over time. With the support of the National Science Foundation, Beddor and Coetzee are studying the relation between the dynamics of spoken language production and perception. Previous research has found that speakers differ from each other in their precise patterns of articulatory coordination, and that listeners differ in their sensitivity to those variable coarticulated patterns in deciding what a speaker has said. This project investigates whether there is a link between a listener's use of coarticulatory information in perception and that language user's own coarticulated productions. Guided by the hypothesis that the relation between a language user's perception and production is mediated by social, cognitive, and other factors, a series of experiments tests both socially neutral and socially indexed patterns of articulatory coordination. These experiments also test language users' perceptual awareness of, and articulatory accommodation to, new patterns of coordination. Listeners' real-time processing of the acoustic signal is monitored using eye-tracking methods; the time course of production is assessed via airflow, ultrasound imaging, and acoustic analysis.

The project will gather data on the production and perception of America English and Afrikaans. The Afrikaans work will broaden empirical coverage of a phonetically understudied language and will extend collaboration with South African researchers. An overarching goal of studying the production-perception relation in individual language users is to understand how linguistic structures are represented in the human mind. Elucidating this relation in its social context should also contribute to an understanding of how individual differences in these structures might serve as a source of new sound patterns that spread through a speech community.

Duanmu, S. 2014. Fulbright Scholar (research), China, June-August, 2014. Project title: Building a Chinese Sound Inventory Database.                          

The goal of this project is to compile a complete database of phonology inventories of languages and dialects of China. The coverage includes all published sources and some unpublished notes of field linguists. Right now the database has about 1,300 inventories. Following the practice of Chinese linguists, most entries consist of an onset inventory, a rime inventory, and a tone inventory. Some languages or dialects also have a full syllable inventory.