Projects

Effect of acoustic variability on phonetic category malleability

The project investigates factors that influence perceptual learning effect. We used lexically-guided perceptual learning paradigm, in which a boundary between two phonetic categories shifts due to exposure to experimental stimuli, to test differential learning effect between English vowels [i] and [u]. Based on previous reports that vowel [u] exhibits much wider range of acoustic variation than [i], we predicted that [u] would be more resistant to category re-tuning than [i]. The study’s results were in line with our hypothesis, providing empirical support to the idea that mental representation of speech sound categories is shaped by distributional properties of speech sounds to which each listener has been exposed and structural properties of each category would dictates the way it responds to newly encountered sound patterns.

 

Upper bound of perceptual learning and listener strategy to cope with extreme variation

The goal of the project is to test upper bound of perceptual learning. Previous studies on accent adaptation have suggested that listeners may use different strategies to cope with pronunciation variation depending on the extent of deviation from the pronunciation norm assumed by the listener. We will test a limitation of perceptual learning, and then explore ways to elucidate listener strategies that may be used together with or in the absence of category re-tuning.

 

Language in the Multicultural South Bay

This project collects data from an ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse group of young adults who have grown up in Santa Clara County. Participants complete a sociocultural identity and language background survey prior to participation and then complete a word-list reading task and a peer dyad conversation in the phonetics laboratory. The study explores features and characteristics of South Bay speech, while following up on established sociophonetic changes in progress in California English such as the Low Back Merger Shift (often called the "California Vowel Shift"). These changes are considered in light of speakers' ethnic orientations, social networks, linguistic backgrounds and language attitudes.

 

Sociophonetic Features of Pacific Northwest English

This is a set of several research projects focused on "Pacific Northwest English" as spoken in Washington State, and Vancouver, BC. This work has included production and perceptual studies of diagnostic dialectal variables, along with investigations of the social meaning(s) that these dialectal variables index. I am particularly interested in re-examining the isogloss boundary that separates Washington State from British Columbia and building a better understanding of how the Pacific Northwest employs dialect features similarly or differently from other parts of the West Coast. This work is ongoing independently and in collaboration with other scholars (Molly Babel and Kara Becker, in particular).