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Speaking and listening fast and slow

Date: Friday April 3, 2020

Time: 11:30 am to 1:00 pm

Location: ABB 166

Guest Speaker: Dr. Yoonjung Kang

Bio: Dr. Yoonjung Kang (Ph.D., MIT) is a Professor of Linguistics in the Centre for French and Linguistics and Graduate Coordinator in the Department of Linguistics, University of Toronto. Her area of specialization is phonology and its interface with phonetics and morphology, with a special focus on Korean. Current research projects include loanword phonology, dialectal variation Korean sound patterns, heritage languages, synchronic variation and sound change, and sound symbolism of gender in personal names.

She is an associate editor of Phonology.

Abstract: Speech is highly variable: the same words are produced differently depending on the context and the speaker. For a long time, variability was considered a problem to overcome in search of invariance. More recently, however, researchers recognize that highly structured variation aids communication by providing cues to linguistic context and speaker identity. Variation is also the basis of future innovation: language change happens when speakers take on speech characteristics from the pool of existing variants and propagate them through their speech community and/or when listeners fail to compensate for systematic variation in speech perception and take on novel production target forms.

This talk will focus on one particular type of speech variation–variation due to how fast one speaks. Speech rate variation is ubiquitous and is one of the major causes of variability in speech. Fast speech introduces ‘lenition’ processes and shortens segments, thereby obscuring contrasts between ‘long’ and ‘short’ sounds. I will discuss the results from a series of production and perception experiments on English, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, and Cantonese that explore the extents and the limits of speech rate-induced variation in production and perception, and discuss their potential implications for synchronic speech rate variation as a source of sound change.

This talk draws from joint work with Danielle Berardinelli, Timothy Gadanidis, Karina Kung, Luan Li, Na-Young Ryu, Connie Ting, Kristen Wong, and Jasmine Yeung.