Institute of Phonetics and Speech Processing

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Typology of Vowel and Consonant Quantity in Southern German varieties: acoustic, perception, and articulatory analyses of adult and child speakers

In cooperation with Michael Pucher (Acoustics Research Institute, Austrian Academy of Sciences) and Stephan Schmid (Phonetics Laboratory, University of Zurich)

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Funding, application period

DFG (D-A-CH), 2020-2023 (project stage 2)  

Project description

An extended investigation of the (in)stability of phonemic quantity in vowel plus consonant (VC) sequences in southern German varieties has provided new evidence (1) for the Bavarian VC timing system to be currently changing both in Austria and Germany primarily due to dialect levelling, (2) for the cross-generational stability of VC patterns in Swiss dialects, and (3) for the emergence of aspirated stops in younger speakers of Bavarian and Swiss dialects. The highly successful collaboration between the IPS (Munich), the ARI (Vienna), and the Phonetics Laboratory (Zurich) will be continued in this renewal proposal which builds upon the large database and the results obtained during the initial project. We now explore issues related to the trajectory of a sound change from its origin to its spread, with foci on (1) the voicing contrast, (2) the experimental testing of specific hypotheses formulated in sound change theories such as the reweighting of acoustic cues and lexical diffusion, and (3) the exploration of potential spin-offs from basic research to speech technology. The present proposal embraces the opportunity to examine for the first time gradual apparent-time changes in the hierarchy of acoustic cues to the phonemic voicing contrast such as closure and aspiration duration, the release strength, and intrinsic perturbations of fundamental frequency (Cf0) during the process of phonological change while considering potential effects of regional intonation differences on Cf0. The main aim is to contribute to a better understanding of the time course of phonological change. The proposal subsumes four specific aims: (1) to examine the development of trading relations between acoustic cues in diachronic change; (2) to further investigate how language contact and interaction trigger sound change by means of agent-based modelling; (3) to provide experimental evidence for the sound change in progress to be one of lexical diffusion; and (4) to expand the analyses to dialect synthesis. The innovation of the renewal proposal lies in the combination of phonetic analyses of speech production and perception data in the testing of linguistic theories, the application of computational methods to large-scale, cross-linguistic, apparent-time data (including data from older speakers and children), and the consideration of potential applications for speech technology. The proposed project links acoustic, perceptual, and computational methods for studying the production-perception-relation in speakers of different ages developed in Munich with methods from speech technology established at the ARI for analyses of Austrian regional varieties as well as with typology-based methods for quantifying Swiss varieties established in Zurich. In the long-term the collaboration aims at the development of a model of linguistic (in)stability that integrates sociolinguistic and experimental phonetic data.