Lunchtime Colloquium with Márton Sóskuthy on Wednesday 13 November

We are pleased to announce Dr Márton Sóskuthy as our next presenter for the School’s 50th anniversary colloquium series. He will present during the lunch hour on Wednesday 13 November.

Dr Márton Sóskuthy joined UBC Linguistics in August 2018 as an assistant professor in phonetics and cognitive systems. He completed his PhD in 2013 at the University of Edinburgh and was a lecturer at the University of York in the United Kingdom between 2013–2018. His main research interests lie at the intersection of language change, phonetics and cognitive science, with a primary focus on speech dynamics, sound systems and emergent phenomena. He approaches questions from these areas using a combination of computational modelling, advanced statistics and corpus methods.

WHEN: Wednesday 13 November, 12:30- 1:20 PM
WHERE: Friedman Room 355
TITLE: Dynamic speech phenomena in the context of clinical linguistics

In this talk, I outline several recent methodological and theoretical advances in speech science and sociophonetics that are all connected by the underlying theme of speech dynamics. My goal is to bring attention to the potential clinical relevance of these phenomena and to take a step towards bridging the gap between clinical practice and theoretical research on the principal dimensions of variation in speech.

In the first part of the talk, I focus on dynamic adjustments to word durations as a function of word usage. Previous work has shown that words that are frequent, predictable or low in terms of information content are often produced with reduced articulatory effort. This finding is robust and has been replicated many times using a variety of large corpora. In this talk, the emphasis is on across-speaker variation in the strength of these effects. I explore variation across nearly 600 speakers in the Origins of New Zealand English corpus, showing that speakers vary considerably in the extent to which they show usage-based reduction effects. This variation is of considerable interest from a clinical perspective, insofar as usage-based reduction effects require detailed knowledge of usage patterns, implicit awareness of the listener’s needs and fine control over articulatory effort; and these same abilities may be impaired in clinical populations.

The second part of the talk looks at methodological and theoretical aspects of dynamic patterns in the articulation of vowels. I introduce two key techniques for studying variation in acoustic trajectories: generalised additive models and functional principal components analysis. Using these methods, I show that across-speaker variation in diphthongs in New Zealand English involves timing effects that are not easily captured by traditional descriptions. Dynamic variation in vowels is emerging as an area of central focus in sociophonetics and forensic speech science; I suggest a number of ways in which it may also be relevant to clinical approaches to conditions such as dysarthria.