All posts by Lang Soc

Soap Vox Lecture | Wed 28 November | Lauren Hall-Lew

at 18:00 in Appleton Tower

Political Identity and Phonetic Variation

Abstract: Social factors such as speaker age, sex, region, ethnicity, and socioeconomic class have long been shown to be significant variables in quantitative models of linguistic variation. These factors appear to be significant because they are all important aspects of a speaker’s identity (to varying degrees, depending on the context), and linguistic variation constitutes a set of a symbolic resources for indexing aspects of identity. However, they are not the only factors that comprise a person’s identity, and one promising area of sociolinguistic research is uncovering what other identity factors may be important to speakers, and how those factors might further account for variability in patterns of linguistic production.

In this talk I focus on some work that shows how political persuasion can be a linguistically significant aspect of personal identity. These project focus on professional politicians, speakers for whom this identity factor is most salient. In the first half of the talk I present data from members of the US House of Representatives (Hall-Lew et al. 2010, 2012b), and in the second half of the talk I discuss recent results from Scottish Members of the UK Parliament (Carr & Bruland 2006; Hall-Lew et al. 2012a). In both cases, the speakers’ political affiliation accounts for their phonetic variation above and beyond the other social factors normally tested for. I conclude with a more general discussion about the challenges in understanding how to think about political persuasion as a new social factor, and how it ultimately interacts in complex ways with all other aspects of speaker identity.

References:

Carr, P. and I. Brulard. 2006. Anglo-English influences on Scottish Standard English Speakers: TRAP / BATH / PALM / START and LOT / CLOTH / THOUGHT / NORTH / FORCE. Scottish Language, 25:31-45.
Hall-Lew, Lauren, Elizabeth Coppock and Rebecca L. Starr. 2010. Indexing Political Persuasion: Variation in the Iraq Vowels. American Speech, 85(1): 91–102.
Hall-Lew, Lauren, Ruth Friskney, and James M. Scobbie. 2012a. Political party affiliation and phonetic variation in the vowels of Scottish politicians. Paper presented atSociolinguistics Symposium 19, 21-24 August, Berlin.
Hall-Lew, Lauren, Rebecca L. Starr and Elizabeth Coppock. 2012b. Style-Shifting in the U.S. Congress: The vowels of ‘Iraq(i)’. In Juan Manuel Hernandez Campoy and Juan Antonio Cutillas Espinosa, eds. Style-Shifting in Public: New Perspectives on Stylistic Variation. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 45-63.

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Entry is £1 and FREE to active members. Membership can be purchased on our EUSA profile (http://www.eusa.ed.ac.uk/societies/society/langsoc/) or otherwise at that night.

The talk will start at 6:00 p.m. and last about 1 hour. It will be followed by a Q&A session (about half an hour). We will then go to a pub for food and drink with the speaker.

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Our talks are public lectures open to all, regardless of whether you are a student or not or what or where you study if a student. We aim for all of our events to be accessible to all; please feel free to contact us beforehand if you require assistance or further information.

Soap Vox Lecture | Wed 14 November | Rachael Bailes

at 18:00 in Appleton Tower

We evolved to read minds

Abstract: Every time we use language, we’re tasked with coordinating with one another in order to converge upon meanings successfully. The extent to which we integrate the knowledge of our conversational partners in order to achieve this is currently debated within psycholinguistics. I consider the mechanisms of common ground comprehension as adaptations to the task of communication. I argue that, in order for a cognitive account of comprehension to bear a functional evolutionary explanation, processing must be fully constrained by common ground. Using this debate as an example, I argue that an adaptationist framework can better differentiate between rival hypotheses in psycholinguistics.

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RSVP on facebook

Entry is £1 and FREE to active members. Membership can be purchased on our EUSA profile (http://www.eusa.ed.ac.uk/societies/society/langsoc/) or otherwise at that night.

The talk will start at 6:00 p.m. and last about 1 hour. It will be followed by a Q&A session (about half an hour). We will then go to a pub for food and drink with the speaker.

***
Our talks are public lectures open to all, regardless of whether you are a student or not or what or where you study if a student. We aim for all of our events to be accessible to all; please feel free to contact us beforehand if you require assistance or further information.

Soap Vox Lecture | Wed 31 October | Matthew Chrisman, University of Edinburgh

at 18:00 in Appleton Tower

Ought-to-Do vs. Ought-to-Be

Abstract: Ethical theorists often assume that the verb ‘ought’ means roughly ‘has an obligation to’; however, this assumption is belied by the diversity of “flavors” of ought-sentences in English. A natural initial response is that ‘ought’ is multiply ambiguous between senses which have to do with obligations and those that do not. However, this response is incompatible with the standard treatment of ‘ought’ in theoretical semanticists, where it is classified as a member of the family of modal verbs, which are treated uniformly as propositional operators. To many ethical theorists, however, this popular treatment in linguistics seems to elide an important distinction from ethical theory between ought-statements that implicate agency and those that don’t — or, ‘ought-to-do’s and ‘ought-to-be’s. The thought is that ‘ought’ might not be multiply ambiguous, but it at least has two senses, one that connects to something that agents can do, and another that connects only to ways the world might be.

In this paper, I pursue some resolution of this tension between semantic theory and ethical theory with respect to the meaning of ‘ought’. To this end, I consider what I believe to be the most linguistically sophisticated argument for the view that the word ‘ought’ is ambiguous between ‘do’ and ‘be’ senses. This argument is instructive but based on a false claim about the syntax of agential ought-sentences – or so I attempt to show. Then I use the failure of this argument to motivate some more general reflections on how the standard treatment of ‘ought’ by theoretical semanticists can be refined in light of the distinction important to ethical theory between agential and non-agential ought-statements.

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Entry is £1 and FREE to active members. Membership can be purchased on our EUSA profile (http://www.eusa.ed.ac.uk/societies/society/langsoc/) or otherwise at that night.

The talk will start at 6:00 p.m. and last about 1 hour. It will be followed by a Q&A session (about half an hour). We will then go to a pub for food and drink with the speaker.

***
Our talks are public lectures open to all, regardless of whether you are a student or not or what or where you study if a student. We aim for all of our events to be accessible to all; please feel free to contact us beforehand if you require assistance or further information.

Soap Vox Lecture | Wed 17 October | Ellen Bard, University of Edinburgh

at 18:00 in Appleton Tower

Does language live alone?

Abstract: Because linguistics has been at pains to establish its own area of study, linguists emphasize how different language is from everything else we do and how complicated the processes are that serve it. But people do many things when they interact, some para-linguistic (like using facial expressions to modulate a message or using gesture to illustrate a shape) and some not linguistic at all (like smiling because you are happy or touching your face just because you do). I will report work that colleagues and I have done which shows that a simple mechanism that makes line-dancing fun may support our ability to do complex things with language.

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Entry is £1 and FREE to active members. Membership can be purchased on our EUSA profile (http://www.eusa.ed.ac.uk/societies/society/langsoc/) or otherwise at that night.

The talk will start at 6:00 p.m. and last about 1 hour. It will be followed by a Q&A session (about half an hour). We will then go to a pub for food and drink with the speaker.

***
Our talks are public lectures open to all, regardless of whether you are a student or not or what or where you study if a student. We aim for all of our events to be accessible to all; please feel free to contact us beforehand if you require assistance or further information.

Soap Vox Lecture | Wed 3 October | Antonella Sorace and Caroline Heycock

at 18:00 in Appleton Tower

Revisiting the link between language acquisition and language change: new insights from Faroese

Abstract: Language change over generations is typically argued to involve a failure of transmission between generations: the grammar posited by children is different to that used by their parents (using “parents” as shorthand for all speakers of the older generation), and this process repeats – with the difference always being in the same direction, if the result is to be change rather than fluctuation. A major challenge, evidently, is to explain why children should not always converge on the same grammar as their parents. In this talk we’ll look at a syntactic change that has taken place repeatedly in the history of the Germanic languages – the loss of the possibility of placing the finite verb before negation (consider for example that modern English no longer allows “know” to precede “not”, in contrast to examples from Early Modern English such as “They know not what they do”). We’ll show how research that we’ve been doing on syntactic variation in a modern Scandinavian language, Faroese, contributes to debates about how much data, and of what kind, children need to be exposed to in order to acquire a particular system.

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Entry is £1 and FREE to active members. Membership can be purchased on our EUSA profile (http://www.eusa.ed.ac.uk/societies/society/langsoc/) or otherwise at that night.

The talk will start at 6:00 p.m. and last about 1 hour. It will be followed by a Q&A session (about half an hour). We will then go to a pub for food and drink with the speaker.

***
Our talks are public lectures open to all, regardless of whether you are a student or not or what or where you study if a student. We aim for all of our events to be accessible to all; please feel free to contact us beforehand if you require assistance or further information.

FIRST Soap Vox Lecture of the new year | Wed 19 September | Alice Turk

at 18:00 in Appleton Tower

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Timing in talking: What is it used for, and how is it controlled?

Abstract: Timing is an integral part of every aspect of speech production: of individual movements of the rib cage, tongue, jaw, lips, velum and laryngeal structures, of their coordinated muscular activity, and of the speech sounds they produce. An understanding of speech production therefore requires an understanding of timing: 1) what it is used for, and 2) how it is controlled. In the first part of this talk, I review our current understanding of what speakers use timing for, and how this understanding was acquired. I propose that one of the main uses of speech timing is to make utterances easier to recognize: it is used to signal individual speech sounds (e.g. did vs. dad) [1], and also to signal, and compensate for, the relative predictability of syllables and words due to their context and frequency of use (e.g. [2], [3], [4], [5]). I propose that this recognition goal is balanced against other goals, such as the need to speak quickly, or in rhythm, to yield surface sound durations in speech. I highlight the important role of prosodic structure for speech timing: Prosodic structure serves as the interface between language and speech ([6],[7],[8]]), and controls acoustic saliency so that it compensates for relative (un)predictability ([3],[4],[5]). In the second half, I focus on two different views of how timing is controlled, i.e. with and without a domain-general timekeeping mechanism. Theories such as DIVA [9], based on VITE ([10]), and many Optimal Control Theory approaches (e.g. [11]) assume a general timekeeping mechanism, whereas Articulatory Phonology/Task Dynamics ([12-15]) suggest mechanisms for achieving surface timing patterns without a domain-general timekeeper. I present timing phenomena that occur in both speech and non-speech, showing how they can be explained within each type of framework. I finish by presenting evidence that may be difficult to explain without a domain-general timekeeping mechanism. This evidence includes greater timing variability for longer duration intervals compared to shorter duration intervals (e.g. phrase-final segments vs. phrase-medial segments, [16]), patterns of differential timing variability for movement onsets vs. target attainment ([17]), and data suggesting a constraint on maximum syllable durations for phonemically short vowels in Northern Finnish [18].
References
1.Peterson, G., & Lehiste, I. (1960). Duration of syllable nuclei in English. JASA 32(6), 693-703.
2.Lieberman, P. (1963). Some effects of semantic and grammatical context on the production and perception of speech. Language and Speech, 6(3), 172-187.
3.Aylett, M. 2000.Ph.D.thesis, University of Edinburgh.
4.Aylett, M., & Turk, A. (2004). Lang. and Speech, 47, 31-56.
5.Turk, A. (2010). Does prosodic constituency signal relative predictability? A Smooth Signal Redundancy hypothesis. Journal of Laboratory Phonology, 1, 227-262.
6.Selkirk, E. O. (1978). On prosodic structure and its relation to syntactic structure. In T. Fretheim (Ed.), Nordic Prosody II (pp. 111-140). Trondheim: TAPIR.
7.Shattuck-Hufnagel, S., & Turk, A. (1996). A prosody tutorial for investigators of auditory sentence processing. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 25(2), 193-247.
8.Keating, P., & Shattuck-Hufnagel, S. (2002). A prosodic view of word form encoding for speech production. UCLA Working Papers in Phonetics, 101, 112-156.
9.Guenther, F. H. (1995). Speech Sound Acquisition, Coarticulation, and Rate Effects in a Neural-Network Model of Speech Production. Psychological Review, 102(3), 594-621.
10.Bullock, D., & Grossberg, S. (1988). Neural Dynamics of Planned Arm Movements – Emergent Invariants and Speed Accuracy Properties during Trajectory Formation. Psychological Review, 95(1), 49-90.
11.Todorov, E., & Jordan, M. I. (2002). Optimal feedback control as a theory of motor coordination. Nature Neuroscience, 5(11), 1226-1235.
12.Browman, C. P., & Goldstein, L. (1985). Dynamic modeling of phonetic: structure. In V. A. Fromkin (Ed.), Phonetic linguistics (pp. 35-53). New York: Academic Press.
13.Saltzman, E. L., & Munhall, K. (1989). A dynamical approach to gestural patterning in speech production. Ecological Psychology, 1(4), 333-382.
14.Byrd, D., & Saltzman, E. (2003). The elastic phrase: modeling the dynamics of boundary-adjacent lengthening. Journal of Phonetics, 31(2), 149-180.
15.Saltzman, E., Nam, H., Krivokapic, J., & Goldstein, L. (2008). A task-dynamic toolkit for modeling the effects of prosodic structure on articulation. Paper presented at Speech Prosody 2008, Campinas, Brazil.
16.Byrd, D., & Saltzman, E. (1998). Intragestural dynamics of multiple prosodic boundaries. JPhon, 26(2), 173-199.
17.Perkell, J. S., & Matthies, M. L. (1992). Temporal measures of anticipatory labial coarticulation for the vowel /u/ – within-subject and cross-subject variability. JASA 91(5), 2911-2925.
18.Nakai, S., Turk, A., Suomi, K., Granlund, S.C., Ylitalo, R. & Kunnari, S. (in press). Quantity and constraints on the temporal implementation of phrasal prosody in Northern Finnish. Journal of Phonetics.

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Entry is £1 and FREE to active members. Membership can be purchased on our EUSA profile (http://www.eusa.ed.ac.uk/societies/society/langsoc/) or otherwise at that night.

The talk will start at 6:00 p.m. and last about 1 hour. It will be followed by a Q&A session (about half an hour). We will then go to a pub for food and drink with the speaker.

***
Our talks are public lectures open to all, regardless of whether you are a student or not or what or where you study if a student. We aim for all of our events to be accessible to all; please feel free to contact us beforehand if you require assistance or further information.

Soap Vox Lecture | 28 March | Mediator Eileen Schott

Wednesday 28 March at 18:00 in Appleton Tower

Where does a degree in Linguistics take me?

Eileen Schott (B.A. ( Hons.) English, PGCE, MSc.) is happy to share her experience. Everyone’s journey is different so the question is what is it about Linguistics that makes you the right person for the job?

Which job? Where are they? These are questions you need to ask yourself. You may be surprised at what is out there.

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Entry is £1 and FREE to active members. Membership can be purchased on our EUSA profile or otherwise on the evening.

The talk will start at 6:00 p.m. and last about 1 hour. It will be followed by a Q&A session (about half an hour). We will then go to a pub for food and drink with the speaker.

***
Our talks are public lectures open to all, regardless of whether you are a student or not or what or where you study if a student. We aim for all of our events to be accessible to all; please feel free to contact us beforehand if you require assistance or further information.

Soap Vox Lecture | 14 March | Dr. Jennifer Smith

Wednesday 14 March at 18:00 in Appleton Tower

Dr. Smith is a Senior Lecturer in English Language at the School of Critical Studies at the University of Glasgow. She is interested in sociolinguistics and language variation and change, her URL is: http://www.gla.ac.uk/schools/critical/staff/jennifersmith/.

Bidialectalism or dialect obsolescence?
Explaining generational change in the Shetland Islands, Scotland

Abstract:
A number of studies in recent years have demonstrated dialect levelling in the British Isles (e.g. Williams & Kerswill, 1999:149). In this scenario, supralocal features replace local features, which may finally lead to dialect obsolescence in traditional varieties of English. A case in point is the variety spoken in the Shetland Islands in Northern Scotland. The dialect spoken in the main town of Lerwick is said to be undergoing rapid dialect levelling, with loss of distinctive features in the younger speakers (e.g. van Leyden 2004). Our previous research on change across three generations in this community (Smith & Durham 2011) suggested that dialect obsolescence may be well-advanced in this previously relic dialect community. An analysis of a number of vernacular features gleaned from sociolinguistic interviews revealed that with the younger speakers in the community, half used local forms in their speech while the other half used more standardised variants almost exclusively. We suggested that these results may reflect the pivotal generation in dialect obsolescence, often signalled by extreme linguistic heterogeneity across a group of historically homogeneous speakers (e.g. Dorian 1994).

However, there may be an alternative explanation for the use versus non-use of the dialect in the younger speakers. Bidialectalism, where an indigenous variety operates alongside more widespread norms in a community of speakers, is said to have increased so much that monolingual speakers of non-standard dialects have become the exception” (Cornips and Hulk 2006:355). In Shetland, “knappin”, the use of Scottish Standard English in place of the local variety, is assumed to be increasingly prevalent, leading Melchers (2004a:37) to observe that it is “difficult to find truly monolingual speakers of the traditional dialect today”, even with families who have lived there for generations. Instead, speakers “have access to a choice of two discrete, definable forms of speech: ‘English’ vs. ‘Shetland’” (ibid:37). If this is the case, it has important implications for the interpretation of our findings: our results may not indicate rapid dialect obsolescence per se, but merely reflect differing code choice in the sociolinguistic interview setting.

In this paper, we explore this possibility by returning to the community in question to conduct further interviews with the younger speakers. In these recordings, the “dialect speakers” in the original recordings are interviewed by an “outsider” and the “standard speakers” recorded with a dialect-speaking peer in order to manipulate audience design (Bell 1984). We replicate our previous analysis of a number of lexical, phonological and morphosyntactic variables in this additional dataset across a range of linguistic variables, allowing us to test whether the inter-speaker variability we found in the younger speakers is the result of bidialectalism or dialect obsolescence.

Finally, we discuss the findings against the backdrop of bidialectalism and the process of language attrition in the British Isles and elsewhere.

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Entry is £1 and FREE to active members. Membership can be purchased on our EUSA profile (http://www.eusa.ed.ac.uk/societies/society/langsoc/) or otherwise at that night.

The talk will start at 6:00 p.m. and last about 1 hour. It will be followed by a Q&A session (about half an hour). We will then go to a pub for food and drink with the speaker.

***
Our talks are public lectures open to all, regardless of whether you are a student or not or what or where you study if a student. We aim for all of our events to be accessible to all; please feel free to contact us beforehand if you require assistance or further information.

Spelling Bee | 19:30 7th March | Teviot Underground

Come on down to LangSoc and Read International are proud to present their first ever SPELLING BEE!

You think you have what it takes to become the inimitable speller of Edinburgh uni? Fancy your chances to become the superlative word smith on campus? Then come to the underground on Wednesday March the 7th at 19:30 for your opportunity to score some prodigious word points, all proceeds going to the meritorious charity Read International. There will be accolades galore and £2 entry on the door.

Anticipating to encouter you all at the tournament!

Forensic Linguistics Workshop | 29 February

Wednesday 29 February, 14:30-16:30 in the Dugald Stewart Building, room 1.17

LangSoc are hosting an introductory Forensic Linguistics session, having invited Dr. Nicci MacLeod from the Centre for Forensic Linguistics at Aston University.  The session will first introduce the area and then move on to handle some data. Afterwards, come join us for a post-workshop reception on the 7th floor, courtesy of the department.

It’s a one-off opportunity to explore this topic, which isn’t offered here at Edinburgh. We look forward to seeing you there!