Congratulations to Dr Lynn Clark, who has been awarded a Marsden grant for a three year research project called “Recency effects in spoken New Zealand English”. The Marsden fund is very competitive – this year a total of 1157 proposals were submitted from across the whole of New Zealand, and just 109 projects were ultimately funded. Well done Lynn!
Here is the official summary from the Marsden proposal:
“When we talk, we have a strong tendency to repeat the same grammatical structures that we have recently produced or heard. This phenomenon is known as ‘recency’, ‘persistence’, ‘repetition’ and ‘priming’, and it shows that where variation exists in language, an alternative form, once used, persists in working memory and has a greater chance of reuse next time. This finding is very important because it tells us more about the cognitive processes operating on language. It also sheds light on aspects of how languages vary and change. However, most previous research in this area has focused only on grammatical variation. This project examines the role of recency in pronunciation. I explore accent variation in two large spoken collections of New Zealand English – one of monologues and one of conversations. Specifically, I ask: can recency effects help explain patterns of pronunciation variation and change in speech? This work will shed light on the nature of speech production, sound change, and speech in interaction.”
And here, Lynn elaborates a bit…
“Basically, we know that when speakers talk to each other they talk alike, but most of the research on this comes from studies that have been done in an unnatural, experimental setting, and they’ve looked at how we change our sentence structures to be more similar to the sentence structures used by the person we are talking to. However, we know very little about how this actually works in real speech (i.e. not in the lab), or whether/how this happens at the accent or pronunciation level of language (rather than the grammatical level). Finally, we still don’t know much about the cognitive mechanisms underlying this – is this repetition a mechanistic process or is it influenced by what we talk about or who we talk to? One of the novelties of this research is I’ll be using the new UC QuakeStories database to answer some of my research questions. The UC QuakeStories database is a collection of 723 earthquake stories from people who lived through the devastating earthquakes which struck Canterbury in 2010-11. This collection is uniquely suited to this research because it is a collection of spoken monologues so we can establish the extent of within-speaker priming. To explore priming in conversation, I’ll be using samples of speech from the ONZE Corpus (the Origins of New Zealand English corpus) which is a collection of 1,129 hours of recorded speech from speakers born in New Zealand between 1850s-1980s.”