The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Phonology Circle 12/9 - Morgan Sonderegger

Speaker: Morgan Sonderegger (McGill)
Title: Phonetic and phonological variation on reality television: dynamics and interspeaker variation
Date/Time: Monday, Dec 9, 5:30p
Location: 32-D831

This talk examines two types of variability in phonetics and phonology about which relatively little is known: (1) the dynamics of the accents of individuals from day to day, and (2) differences among speakers of the same language in the structure of variability. We examine a number of variables (focusing on VOT and t/d deletion) in a corpus of spontaneous speech from a setting which is particularly well-suited to examining (1) and (2) — a British reality television show (Big Brother UK) where individuals live in a house with no outside contact for three months — using statistical models of synchronic variability across speakers, and dynamics within individual speakers. Speakers show several qualitatively different types of dynamics; the most common types are day-by-day variability and absolute stability in the use of a variable. There is a surprising degree of variability across speakers in the quantitative strength of each variable’s conditioning factors, e.g. the effect of place of articulation on VOT. However, nearly all speakers show the same qualitative effects of each conditioning factor (e.g., bilabials < velars for VOT). We discuss the relevance of these findings for theories of language change, phonetics, and phonology, as well as directions for future work with this corpus.