It’s now been a little less than a year since I began my PhD at Canterbury and I’ve had a great time so far. My research on the Influence of First Language on Playing Brass Instruments has led me to acquire skills I never thought I would need for a PhD in Linguistics but the challenges along the way have certainly made me a better student! Many thanks to everyone in the UC Linguistics Department and at the NZILBB who’ve supported me and made my studies interesting and enjoyable – especially my supervisors Jen Hay and Donald Derrick!
I’m currently spending a bit of time at home in Germany (great to write a blog article like this!) and I’m also making most of the trip by collecting data of some German trombonists to determine whether it make sense to include German in my PhD study. I recorded two German participants at the University of Trier last week and will hopefully return there to record two more before flying back to Christchurch in a few weeks. This wouldn’t have been possible without the help of some wonderful people in the Trier phonetics department – check out their website: http://www.uni-trier.de/index.php?id=1229.
In terms of progress, I currently have speech and trombone-playing data of 9 participants with 5 different languages/varieties of English of which I’ve analyzed 4 datasets. Unfortunately, analyzing ultrasound data is very time-consuming so it’s been quite important to focus my efforts on a limited number of languages although finding participants in NZ has been easier than anticipated (and I’ve made many friends in the brass community)! As for my findings, I’ve got some cool initial evidence suggesting that different vowel systems seem to constrain the tongue shapes trombone players can use when playing their instruments; this is, however, based on only two individuals for now so hopefully I’ll be able to quantify these findings with more data. One of the individuals who provided the above mentioned evidence is a speaker of Tongan whose vowel system is very different from (New Zealand) English so the plan is to travel there before the end of the year to record more Tongan trombone players.
(You can find my post from last year here: https://uclinguistics.wordpress.com/2013/10/29/matthias/)