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The Sociophonetics of Gender: Acquisition and Processing Across the Lifespan

Date: Friday, December 7, 2018

Time: 11:30 am – 1:00 pmBenjamin Munson

Location: TSH 203


Bio: Benjamin Munson is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences at University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, MN, USA.  He received his MA in Speech-Language Pathology (1997) and his PhD in Speech and Hearing Science (2000) at Ohio State University.  His research has two broad themes.  The first of this concerns interactions among speech perception, speech production, and vocabulary development in children with and without speech, language, and hearing impairments.  His second thread examines how socially relevant linguistic variation (particular variation related to gender, sexuality, and race) is learned and processed throughout the lifespan.  Much of his work has been conducted in collaboration, including in long-term collaborations with Jan Edwards (University of Maryland), Mary Beckman (Ohio State University), and Molly Babel (University of British Columbia).  He is a past associate editor of Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research and Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, and he is a fellow of both the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and the Acoustical Society of America.

Abstract: Speaker sex and gender leave a robust signature in spoken language. In this talk, I will review my career work on we how the articulatory, acoustic and perceptual characteristics of speech vary as a function of individuals’ biological sex, and of their gender identity, their gender expression, and their participation in different communities.  Specifically, I will emphasize the differences that we believe are the consequence of learned social and cultural practices in speech communities, rather than being simply rooted in sexual dimorphism within our species. This is illustrated through studies of sexual orientation and speech in adults, and through studies of the acquisition of both inherently biological and learned, gendered speech patterns.  A thread that runs throughout these studies is that instrumental analyses and detailed perception experiments can reveal unique facts about gender and spoken language.