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Incipient language shift in a Southern Latino Community

Dr. Chad Howe, with graduate student Philip Limerick

This project is being developed in tandem with a collaboration between groups of researchers from North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and the Roswell Voices project, which began in 2002 as a partnership between researchers at the University of Georgia (Professors William A. Kretzschmar, Jr. and Sonja Lanehart) and the Roswell Folk and Heritage Bureau, to document language and life in the community. Preliminary work indicates extended contact-induced language shift, observed in both the English and Spanish of bilingual communities (Wilson 2013, Limerick 2014). We, along with our collaborators in North Carolina, have argued that the Mid-Atlantic US in general and Roswell, GA in particular represent an ideal test case for studying emergent speech communities in that it displays several of the benchmarks of demographic change characteristic of American urbanization during the end of the twentieth century. The combination of demographic and linguistic factors exhibited in Roswell offers a compelling new case study in our attempt to answer questions about the emergence of language patterns in the presence of relative social, ethnic, and linguistic heterogeneity. In the proposed study, we assume the perspective of individual speakers as loci for the adaptation and innovation of social practices, in this case manifested by language variables. The aggregate affect of individual speaker behavior is then proposed as a way of representing the language of a speech community. By observing the linguistic behavior of Spanish speaking residents in Roswell, this study takes advantage of a timely opportunity to observe patterns of language use as a function of the social practices of disparate communities of language users.

For more information regarding this project or if you would like to participate, please contact Dr. Chad Howe.

Indigenous languages in Latin America: Contact, Shift and Maintenance

Dr. Chad Howe, with graduate student Bethany Bateman

In coordination with the Latin American Indigenous Languages Initiative, this project seeks to provide a forum for faculty and students interested in working with documenting and researching indigenous languages spoken in Central and South America. We are particularly interested in the linguistic and social outcomes of the contact between these languages and Spanish (and Portuguese). Our broader objectives with this project are to: (a) provide documentation support for researchers working with endangered languages in Latin American, (b) create corpus resources for use in scholarly and educational endeavors, and (c) provide faculty and students with resources for studying (and possibly teaching) these languages. Currently, we have ongoing projects in Panama, working with the Chocó language Wounaan meu, and Peru, involving Quechua speakers in Cusco.

For more information regarding this project or if you would like to participate, please contact Dr. Chad Howe.

Endangered languages in contact in Istria and Kvarner, Croatia: A multilingual spoken corpus for language documentation and research

Dr. Keith Langston and Dr. Zvjezdana Vrzić (NYU/University of Rijeka)

The goal of this project is to create a time-aligned, annotated corpus of spoken data from endangered language varieties spoken in a linguistically diverse border region. The Istria-Kvarner region of Croatia has three main Romance varieties (Istro-Venetian, Istriot, and Istro-Romanian) and four different subgroups of Slavic Čakavian varieties, all of which have developed in contact with one another for hundreds of years. These local varieties are threatened by standard Croatian and Italian, both of which are used in education, the media, and other spheres. The corpus data will be used to study language contact in a multi-lingual environment and code-switching practices by speakers in this region, virtually all of whom use two or more of these varieties regularly in their everyday lives.

The Pragmatics and Syntax of German Inalienable Possession Constructions

Dr. Vera Lee-Schoenfeld, with Dr. Gabriele Diewald

This project focuses on German inalienable possession constructions that have a PP-embedded body part (e.g. The dog bit him in the hand) and establishes that there are five possible variants of the construction. The variation is explored pragmatically and syntactically. To determine the contexts in which each construction is used, we searched a written corpus, and spoken corpus, and Google.

Recent Publications:

Lee-Schoenfeld, V. (2016). The syntax of external and internal possessor variation in German inalienable possession. STUF - Language Typology and Universals, 69(1), 113-129.

The Syntax, Information Structure, and Prosody of German ‘VP’-fronting

Dr. Vera Lee-Schoenfeld, with Dr. Anya Lunden

This project focuses on how structurally complex fronted verb phrases can be and establishes that subject-including agentive vPs may only be fronted given a certain post-fronting context and intonation contour. To analyze the special prosody of fronted agentive vPs in comparison with the prosody of other, structurally less complex fronted verbal constituents, we recorded native speakers and examined the pitch tracks of their utterances using Praat. To test our hypothesis regarding the information structure of sentences with fronted agentive vPs, we conducted two questionnaire-based studies with native speakers of German and did a statistical analysis of the data.

Recent Publications:

Lee-Schoenfeld, V. & Lunden, A. (2019). The syntax, information structure, and prosody of German ‘VP’-fronting . The Linguistic Review, 36(2), 231-283.

A big data approach to English consonants

Dr. Margaret E. L. Renwick, with graduate research assistants

This project delves into the uniquely large and informal Audio BNC, a huge corpus of spoken English now available for acoustic analysis. The corpus allows researchers to test characterizations of English phonology against real-life speech, and current studies focus on the realization of consonants at word boundaries: When does their pronunciation change? When do they disappear? What are the implications for models of phonological theory?

Our focus is the acoustic realization of palatalization at word boundaries: If you've ever noticed that miss you [mɪsju] may be pronounced mish you [mɪʃu], that's the phenomenon we're interested in; our analysis is found below, including word frequency effects. The same phenomenon can affect voiced sounds, like is you [ɪzju] pronounced izh you [ɪʒu], which we investigated with a particular focus on syntax and prosody

Recent publications:

Renwick, Margaret E. L. & Caitlin N Cassidy. 2015. Detecting palatalization in spontaneous spoken English. Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics, vol. 23: 060001, 1–10. Pittsburgh, PA: Acoustical Society of America.

Dunagan, Donald G. & Margaret E. L. Renwick. 2021. Word-boundary palatalization and production planning in UK English. Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics 42(1). 060005.

Vowels in Romance languages

Dr. Margaret E. L. Renwick, with collaborators 

This project investigates the production, acoustics, and phonological characteristics of vowels in Romance languages, especially Romanian, Italian, and Catalan. Since vowels are produced in a continuous acoustic space, there may not be a straightforward boundary between the pronunciation of two vowels that are linguistically distinct for native speakers. This project explores the contrasts within Romance vowel systems from the perspective of acoustics and native-speaker intuition, using large-scale datasets. 

Recent Publications:

Renwick, Margaret E. L. 2021. Mid vowel variation and contrast in regional Standard Italian. In Daniel Recasens & Fernando Sánchez-Miret (eds.), Sound Change in Romance: Phonetic and Phonological Issues (LINCOM Studies in Romance Linguistics 84), 115–137. Munich: LINCOM Europa. 

Dynamics of Southern vowels 

Dr. Margaret E. L. Renwick, with graduate research assistants 

With support from the National Science Foundation, over 400 hours of linguistic interviews from the Digital Archive of Southern Speech (part of the Linguistic Atlas Project) were manually transcribed, force-aligned, and acoustically analyzed, providing a treasure trove of data across several generations of speakers from eight Southern US states. Current analyses focus on the vowel-inherent dynamics of formants, especially in vowels that participate in the Southern Shift. We have published an analysis of front vowel dynamics, and an analysis of back vowels is forthcoming. You can interact with, and visualize, our vowel data via the Gazetteer of Southern Vowels, which includes a comprehensive bibliography related to this project. You can also learn more about Southern speech via the examples gathered here

Recent Publications:

Stanley, Joseph A., Margaret E. L. Renwick, Katherine I. Kuiper & Rachel M. Olsen. 2021. Back Vowel Dynamics and Distinctions in Southern American English. Journal of English Linguistics. SAGE Publications Inc 49(4). 389–418.