Research news: two new articles published in the journal ‘Language Variation and Change’

Language Variation and Change is a prestigious journal in the field of variationist sociolinguistics, and we are pleased to announce that two articles published in the first issue of 2012 were written by researchers with UC Linguistics and NZILBB connections. The first, co-authored by PhD student Jacqui Nokes and Professor Jen Hay, looks at changes in the rhythm of New Zealand English over a 100 year period. The second, co-authored by Jen Hay and Dr Katie Drager, who is now a lecturer at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa after completing her PhD in sociophonetics at UC, discusses a new way of using a statistical technique to examine the relationship between a speaker’s language and aspects of their identity (amongst other things, to find out more, check out the article!).

The abstracts for the articles are below. They can be accessed directly from any computer on the UC campus (and also from computers on other campuses, if your univeristy subscribes to the journal). Also, at the time of writing this blog post, they can be accessed free of charge from any other computer, too.

Acoustic correlates of rhythm in New Zealand English: A diachronic study

Jacqui Nokes (Linguistics, University of Canterbury)
and Jennifer Hay (Linguistics and New Zealand Institute of Language, Brain and Behaviour, University of Canterbury)

This paper reports on a large-scale diachronic investigation into the timing of New Zealand English (NZE), which points to changes in its rhythmic structure. The Pairwise Variability Index (PVI) was used to measure the mean variation in duration, intensity, and pitch of successive vowels in the speech of over 500 New Zealanders, born between 1851 and 1988. Normalized vocalic PVIs for duration have reduced over time, after allowing for changes in speech rate, supporting existing findings that stressed and unstressed vowels are less differentiated by duration in modern NZE than in other varieties of English. Rhythmically, syllable duration may be playing a reduced role in signalling prominence in NZE. This is supported by the finding that there have been contemporaneous changes in pitch and intensity variation. We discuss external and internal influences on the timing of NZE, including contact with Māori, the emergence of Māori English, and diachronic vowel shift.

LINK: For full article, click here

Exploiting random intercepts: Two case studies in sociophonetics

Katie Drager (Linguistics, Hawai‘i at Mānoa)
and Jennifer Hay (Linguistics and New Zealand Institute of Language, Brain and Behaviour, University of Canterbury)

An increasing number of sociolinguists are using mixed effects models, models which allow for the inclusion of both fixed and random predicting variables. In most analyses, random effect intercepts are treated as a by-product of the model; they are viewed simply as a way to fit a more accurate model. This paper presents additional uses for random effect intercepts within the context of two case studies. Specifically, this paper demonstrates how random intercepts can be exploited to assist studies of speaker style and identity and to normalize for vocal tract size within certain linguistic environments. We argue that, in addition to adopting mixed effect modeling more generally, sociolinguists should view random intercepts as a potential tool during analysis.

LINK: For the full article, click here


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