Papers, presentations, & posters







To appear




Dialect surveys and student-led data collection  
Vignette, Data Collection in Sociolinguistics: Methods and Applications, Second Edition.







2016




The dynamics of variation in individuals  

This paper examines the factors conditioning the production of linguistic variables in real time by individual speakers: the study of what we term the dynamics of variation in individuals. We propose a framework that recognizes three types of factors conditioning variation: sociostylistic (s-), internal linguistic (i-), and psychophysiological (p-). We develop two main points against this background. The first is that sequences of variants produced by individuals display systematic patterns that can be understood in terms of s-conditioning and p-conditioning (with a focus on the latter). The second main point is that p-conditioning and i-conditioning are distinct in their mental implementations; this claim has implications for understanding the locality of the factors conditioning alternations, for the universality and language-specificity of variation, and for the general question of whether grammar and language use are distinct. Throughout the paper, questions about the dynamics of variation in individuals are set against the typical community-centered variationist perspective, with an eye towards showing how findings in the two domains, though differing in explanatory focus, can ultimately be mutually informative.

Paper with Meredith Tamminga and David Embick, Linguistic Variation 16(2).




Production planning effects on variable contraction in English  

This paper explores the potential role of the incremental planning of speech in interfering with the conditioning of the variable contraction of English is. Previous research has found that a variable alternation which is conditioned by the nature of the element that follows it can have this conditioning disrupted when a speaker fails to plan what that following element will be (Wagner 2011, Tanner et al. 2015). The strength of the effect of that following element on the variable alternation thus diminishes the less likely advance planning is. I extend this research, which has so far only examined following phonological elements, to look at whether this finding holds when a following element effect is localized in the syntactic domain.

Taking is-contraction as my dependent variable, I first provide a detailed account of the role of following constituent category in conditioning this variable, documenting a robust effect in Mainstream American English with a hierarchy of environments very similar to what has been found in studies of the contraction and deletion of is in African American English. I then investigate an acoustic proxy for advance planning—duration of the word following is—and find that, while it does play a role in conditioning contraction, it does not interact with the following constituent effect. I connect this finding to the proposal that advance planning scope differs for different levels of grammar (Wagner et al. 2010). More broadly, I underscore that the patterning of sociolinguistic variation may be shaped, not only by the language-internal and social factors that are familiar from decades of research, but also by constraints on the language production system.

Paper, Penn Working Papers in Linguistics 22.2, 121–130.








Eliciting copula variation in the lab   [abstract]
Poster with Hilary Wynne, NWAV 45.







2015




Doing sociolinguistics: A practical guide to data collection and analysis
Book, with Miriam Meyerhoff and Erik Schleef, Routledge.




Opacity over time: Charting the paths of fricative voicing in English plurals   [abstract]
Oral presentation, The Second Edinburgh Symposium on Historical Phonology.












The PM's t's: David Cameron's t-glottalling over time   [abstract]
Poster with Charlotte Graham, UKLVC 10.







2014




/s/-lenition and the preservation of plurality in Modern Occitan  

This paper examines the variable weakening and deletion of /s/ in the Languedocian variety of Modern Occitan, with particular attention to how it has affected the system of plural marking in noun phrases. Using data from linguistic atlases, I demonstrate that /s/-lenition in this variety involves a stage of vocalization to [j]. I find that, where /s/ on the definite article has vocalized to [j], the immediately-preceding vowel of the definite article has undergone concomitant raising to [e]. This raising appears to preserve the difference between singular and plural despite the plural’s weakening /s/. I argue that these results support Labov’s (1994) hypothesis that the meaning of a weakening element may be transferred to a stable, co-occurrent one.

Paper, Journal of Linguistic Geography 2:59–73. © Cambridge University Press.








Crowdsourcing dialectology in the undergraduate classroom   [abstract]
Oral presentation with George Bailey and Danielle Turton, Methods in Dialectology XV.




Elaborating extragrammatical effects on variation   [abstract]
Oral presentation with Meredith Tamminga, special session on the locus of linguistic variation, LSA 2014 Annual Meeting.




Examining extragrammatical effects on English auxiliary contraction  
Poster with Constantine Lignos, LSA 2014 Annual Meeting.



2013




Locating linguistic variation: A case study of English auxiliary contraction
Paper, NELS 41: Proceedings of the 41st Annual Meeting of the North East Linguistic Society.




English auxiliary realization and the independence of morphology and phonetics  

One of the key questions in the study of language concerns the architecture of the grammar. At issue is the nature of and relationship between the systems that generate linguistic output. The present paper tests the predictions of two competing theories of grammatical architecture for a variable process of h-deletion in connected speech. A usage-based theory of grammar predicts that this phonetic lenition rule will show word-sensitivity, while a modular, feed-forward theory predicts a uniform rate of h-deletion across lexical items. Data from the Switchboard corpus supports the latter prediction.

Paper with Charles Yang, Penn Working Papers in Linguistics 19.2, 121–129.




Variation in English auxiliary realization: A new take on contraction  

English auxiliary contraction has received much attention in the linguistic literature, but our knowledge of this variable has remained limited due to the absence of a thorough corpus study. This paper examines contraction of six auxiliaries in two corpora, considering three distinct phonological shapes in which they occur and the implications for an analysis of the grammatical processes that underlie the surface alternation in form. I argue that the data best support a two-stage analysis of contraction, one under which variation in the morphology is followed by phonetic and phonological processes. Moreover, I show that this particular analysis explains a number of patterns in the data that would otherwise be accidental. In this way, I underscore the importance of approaching the study of variable phenomena with both quantitative data and formal analysis.

Paper, Language Variation and Change 25:17–41. © Cambridge University Press.  












Animacy effects in English contraction   [abstract]
Oral presentation with Brittany McLaughlin, UKLVC 9.




English auxiliary contraction and the locus of variability   [abstract]
Oral presentation, themed session on language variation and linguistic theory, LAGB 2013 Annual Meeting.




Two case studies on the non-local conditioning of variation   [abstract]
Oral presentation with Meredith Tamminga, LSA 2013 Annual Meeting.



2012




Locating variation above the phonology  

The goal of this thesis is to develop a model of sociolinguistic variation that takes into account "variation above the phonology," namely, variable phenomena that implicate the morphology and/or the syntax. I develop a model under which intra-speaker linguistic variation is the product of two systems: (a) a grammar which derives forms and is partially probabilistic; and (b) a system of language use, distinct from the grammar, which deploys variants based on psycholinguistic and sociostylistic constraints. I illustrate this proposal using data from an in-depth corpus study of the variable contraction of six English auxiliaries. Two sets of findings from the corpus study support the partially probabilistic derivational grammar. First, I show that the patterning of auxiliary forms in spontaneous speech provides evidence in favor of a two-stage model of contraction, under which variation in the morphosyntax is followed by variable phonological processes. This analysis explains a number of patterns in the data which would otherwise be accidental. Second, I examine the linguistic conditions on contraction and argue that they are incompatible with an analysis under which string frequency predicts the occurrence of contraction. Accordingly, internal conditions on contraction are best treated as being encoded in the grammar, rather than as emerging from language use. Evidence in favor of a system of language use distinct from the grammar comes from the finding that contraction shows a strong effect of the number of words in an auxiliary's noun phrase subject, with contraction becoming less and less likely as a subject increases in length. I argue that this effect displays a kind of non-locality which is uncharacteristic of alternations that are the purview of the grammar, and that it should instead be interpreted as stemming from extra-grammatical, memory-based constraints on the system of language production. I localize these constraints, along with sociostylistic constraints on language variation, to a grammar-external system of language use. The dissertation thus provides evidence that variation in surface forms may be attributable to more than one underlying locus, and opens up new lines of research into conditions on variation that have their source in extra-grammatical systems.

Doctoral dissertation, University of Pennsylvania.




English auxiliary contraction as a two-stage process: Evidence from corpus data  

This paper describes the results of a corpus study of English auxiliary contraction and their implications for the place of variation in a grammatical architecture. Specifically, I argue that the quantitative patterns displayed by this variable lend themselves to a two-stage analysis of contraction, as follows: a variable process of morphosyntactic adjunction conditions insertion of either a full or a contracted form; then, low-level phonetic and phonological processes alter the phonological shape of that form. I support this analysis with data showing an effect of subject length on contracted forms, such that contracted forms are disfavored after longer subjects, with an apparent eight-word cut-off after which contracted forms categorically do not surface. I conclude by addressing the implications of this finding for a grammatical architecture, proposing that this eight-word cut-off may be best localized in a system of "usage" distinct from the grammar.

Paper, Proceedings of WCCFL 29, 152–160.




Can patterns of variation shed light on grammar? English contraction's the place to look   [abstract]
Plenary address, The Manchester and Salford New Researchers Forum in Linguistics.




Non-local conditioning of variation: Evidence and implications   [abstract]
Oral presentation with Meredith Tamminga, NWAV 41.








Size matters: The effect of subject length on contraction   [abstract]
Oral presentation with Constantine Lignos, GURT 2012.







2011




New results from multilevel models of the speech community   [abstract]
Oral presentation with Josef Fruehwald, NWAV 40.




"Heaviness" as evidence for a derive-and-compare grammar   [abstract]
Poster with Anton Karl Ingason, MFM 19.











2010




/s/-deletion and the preservation of plurality in Modern Occitan  

This paper examines the weakening and deletion of /s/ in the Languedocian dialect of Modern Occitan, particularly with regards to how it may affect the system of plural marking in noun phrases. Using data from linguistic atlases, and taking the geographical distribution of variants to represent the history of a change, I reconstruct a trajectory of s-loss in Languedocian by which /s/ aspirates to [h], then vocalizes to [j] before deleting entirely. I find that, where /s/ on the definite article has vocalized to [j], the immediately-preceding vowel of the definite article has undergone concomitant raising to [e]. This raising appears to preserve the difference between singular and plural despite the plural's weakening /s/. I argue that these results support Labov’s (1994:596) hypothesis that the meaning of a weakening element may be transferred to a stable, co-occurrent one.

Paper, Penn Working Papers in Linguistics 16.2, 123–132.




A quantitative analysis of diphthongization in Montreal French  

In Montreal French, a process of diphthongization affects long vowels: those that are inherently long due to historical compensatory lengthening (Yaeger-Dror and Kemp, 1992), and those that are allophonically lengthened before voiced fricatives and /R/ (Dumas, 1981; Santerre and Millo, 1978). Our quantitative analysis of diphthongization in real time examines both the trajectory of this change through the community as well as individual speakers’ participation in it across their lifespans. Our study also provides acoustic measurements of the Montreal French vowel system. We tracked individuals’ vowel trajectories across a 24-year span for a panel of six speakers of diverse social classes. Matched trend samples from the 1971 and 1984 Montreal corpora, with four speakers sampled per year, provide a picture of the community as a whole. We find that four vowels show significant lowering and/or backing in the community, and that all long vowels show decreased diphthongization. Some panel speakers’ longitudinal movements mirror these changes, while other speakers are stable across their lifespans and still others show apparently anomalous movements. We discuss these results and their interpretation.

Paper with Gillian Sankoff, Penn Working Papers in Linguistics 15.2, 91–100.












Reduplication in Itawes   [extended abstract]
Poster, LSA 2010 Annual Meeting.



2009








Issues in longitudinal vowel analysis: Evidence from Montreal French   [abstract]
Oral presentation with Gillian Sankoff, CVC III.




Longitudinal evidence for vowel change in Montreal French   [abstract]
Oral presentation with Gillian Sankoff, LSA 2009 Annual Meeting.




A po-mo boho in SoHo: Emerging specificity in English templatic hypocoristics   [abstract]
Oral presentation with Kyle Gorman, LSA 2009 Annual Meeting.



2008




A quantitative analysis of diphthongization in Montreal French   [abstract]
Oral presentation with Gillian Sankoff, NWAV 37.




The acoustic and visual phonetic basis of place of articulation in excrescent nasals   [abstract]
Oral presentation with Keith Johnson and Christian DiCanio, LSA 2008 Annual Meeting.



2007




The acoustic and visual phonetic basis of place of articulation in excrescent nasals  

One common historical development in languages with distinctively nasalized vowels is the excrescence of coda velar nasals in place of nasalized vowels. For example, the dialect of French spoken in the southwestern part of France (Midi French) is characterized by words ending in the velar nasal [ŋ] where Parisian French has nasalized vowels and no final nasal consonant ([savɔ̃]~[savɔŋ] "soap"). More generally, there is a cross-linguistic tendency for the unmarked place of articulation for coda nasals, and perhaps also for stops, to be velar. In four experiments, we explored why the cross-linguistically unmarked place for the excrescent nasal is velar. The experiments test Ohala's (1975) acoustic explanation: that velar nasals, having no oral antiformants, are acoustically more similar to nasalized vowels than are bilabial or alveolar nasals. The experiments also tested an explanation based on the visual phonetics of nasalized vowels and velar nasals: velar nasals having no visible consonant articulation are visually more similar to nasalized vowels than are bilabial or alveolar nasals. American English listeners gave place of articulation judgments for audio-only and audio-visual tokens ending in nasal consonants or nasalized vowels. In the first and second experiments, we embedded recorded tokens of CVN (N = /m/, /n/, or /ŋ/) words in masking noise and presented them in audio-only and audio-visual trials. We also synthesized "placeless" nasals by repeating pitch periods from the nasalized vowel to replace the final consonant in CVm with nasalized vowel. These stimuli provide a direct test of Ohala's acoustic explanation of coda velarity in nasals. The third and fourth experiments extended these results with tokens in which the last portion of CVN (N = /m/, /n/, or /ŋ/) and Cx̃ syllables were obscured with masking noise. These experiments were designed to force listeners to assume the existence of a final consonant and to rely primarily on visual cues in a more direct test of the visual similarity of nasalized vowels and velar nasals. Taken together, the results of these four experiments suggest that excrescent coda nasals tend to be velar because nasalized vowels are both acoustically and visually similar to velar nasals.

Paper with Keith Johnson and Christian DiCanio, UC Berkeley Phonology Lab Annual Report, 529–561.



2006




Visual-phonetic cues in the phonology of Toulousain French   [abstract]
Oral presentation with Keith Johnson, Phonetic Bases of Distinctive Features.




  laurel.mackenzie@nyu.edu

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