Alan Yu of the Department of Linguistics at the University of Chicago will be visiting us on Friday, September 26 and giving two talks.
Alan started out working on the morphology-phonology interface, and has gravitated towards studying the actuation problem in sociolinguistics (i.e. where new changes come from in the first place). As part of this line of research, he has been investigating individual differences in speech, especially those resulting from neurodiversity (e.g. speakers on the autistic spectrum). Alan has also worked on a truly eclectic mix of languages over the course of his career!
The first of his two presentations will be at a special meeting of the Phonetics/Phonology research group (9:30 AM to 11:00 AM in SS 560A): The peril of sounding manly: A look at vocal characteristics of lawyers before the United States Supreme Court:
Individuals make use of many aspects of the speech signals to construct personas and to project hidden desires to the external world. Of interest here is whether vocal characteristics and the perceptual evaluation of them exert an influence on listener behavior. With the exception of a few pioneering studies (e.g., Purnell et al. 1999), this question has remained largely unexplored. In the present study, we examine the vocal characteristics of lawyers arguing in front of the Supreme Court of the United States and link this data to the lawyers’ actual win rates in the Court. We show that perceived attributes of voices predict Supreme Court wins, suggesting potential differential labor market treatment of lawyers with certain mutable characteristics such as sounding more or less masculine or confident.
The second talk will be at 3:10 PM, also in SS 560A, and is entited Idiolectal phonology produces the pool of "phonetic" variation:
Theories of sound change hypothesized that mistakes in speech perception and production, if uncorrected, may lead to eventual changes in perceptual and production norms. In this talk, I articulate a theory of sound change where systematic individual variation in speech perception and production takes center stage. To illustrate this theory, I focus on the origins of allophony, which are often attributed to effects of coarticulation. Such contextual effects in speech have been argued to be phonological in nature, given that coarticulation appears to be language-specific and planned. In this talk, I argue further for the phonological nature of coarticulation, using findings from recent behavioral and neurophysiological studies. In particular, I argue that the systematic variability across individuals in how coarticulated speech is produced and perceived suggests that individuals acquire different phonological grammars of coarticulation. Such differences, which are anchored to specific individuals, serve as the pool of systematic variation that members of a speech community may draw from to construct local identities.