The Berkeley Phonetics, Phonology and Psycholinguistics Forum ("Phorum") is a weekly talk and discussion series featuring presentations on all aspects of phonetics, phonology, and psycholinguistics. We meet on Fridays from 4(:10)-5pm (unless specified otherwise below), in Dwinelle 1229 (Zoom link shared upon request). Phorum is organized by Amber Galvano and Noah Macey. Our emails are respectively "amber_galvano" and "noah.macey"

Schedules from previous semesters can be found here.

Spring 2024 Schedule

January 19

No meeting.

Please check out the panel at 3:30pm (at Social Science Matrix, 8th floor Social Sciences Building) on Prof. Andrew Garrett's new book 'The Unnaming of Kroeber Hall'.

January 26

Gašper Beguš (UC Berkeley): Vowels and Diphthongs in Sperm Whales

Sperm whale vocalizations are among the most intriguing communication systems in the animal kingdom. Traditionally, sperm whale codas, or groups of clicks, have been primarily analyzed in terms of the number of clicks and their inter-click timing. This presentation brings a new dimension to the study of sperm whale communication — spectral properties — and argues that spectral properties are likely actively controlled by whales and potentially meaningful in this communication system. We uncover previously unobserved recurrent spectral patterns that are orthogonal to the traditionally analyzed properties. We present a visualization technique that allows us to describe several previously unobserved patterns. We introduce the source-filter analysis of sperm whale codas and argue that they are on many levels analogous to human vowels and diphthongs: vowel duration and pitch correspond to the number of clicks and their timing (traditional coda types), while spectral properties of clicks correspond to formants in human vowels. We identify two recurrent and discrete spectral patterns that appear across individual sperm whales: the a-coda vowel and i -coda vowel. Both coda vowels are possible on different traditional coda types. Our discovery thus suggests that spectral (filter) properties are independent of the source properties (number of pulses and timing). We also show that sperm whales have diphthongal patterns on individual codas: rising, falling, rising-falling and falling-rising formant patterns are observed. Finally, we control for whale movement and present several pieces of evidence suggesting that the observed patterns are not artifacts, but are actively controlled by sperm whales. We also show that the two coda vowels (the a-vowel and i -vowel) are actively exchanged by sperm whales in dialogues. These uncovered patterns suggest that spectral properties have the potential to add to the communicative complexity of codas independent of the traditionally analyzed properties.

February 2

Spectrogram club! Come keep your phonetics skills sharp by deciphering some spectrograms.

February 9

Andrew Garrett (UC Berkeley): Alfred Kroeber’s documentation of Inuktun (Polar Inuit): Philology, phonetics, phonology

Few episodes in American anthropology and linguistics are more disturbing than the 1897 removal of six Polar Inuit people from northern Greenland to New York by the Polar explorer Robert Peary at the request of Franz Boas. Four died of tuberculosis in 1898; a notorious deceit was done to a child. Boas's 21-year-old student Alfred Kroeber was charged with documenting their language, Inuktun. In this paper, I draw attention to the contents and significance of Kroeber’s field materials, consisting of five notebooks that are held at the Bancroft Library and unknown in Inuit studies. They include transcriptions of about 50 short texts (and elicited vocabulary and sentences), also notably featuring 15 pages of transcriptions by Boas. Two generations before any other text or even substantial language documentation of Inuktun, these materials open a window onto an early stage of the language. Some of its characteristic phonological innovations had not yet happened, for example, affording greater precision in placing Inuktun within the Inuit dialect continuum.

February 16

Ana Lívia Agostinho (Federal University of Santa Catarina): Creole word-prosodic typology: the role of African-origin words

Even though the “consensus among creolists specialized in phonology is that there is nothing typologically special or distinctive about creole languages that set them apart from non-creoles” (Bakker and Daval-Markussen 2017, 79), it has been shown that creoles can provide unique insights into what is possible when different word-prosodic systems come into contact, therefore contributing to a broader understanding of word-prosodic typology (Agostinho and Hyman 2021; Good 2008, 2009). This presentation is concerned with word-prosodic systems of Afro-European creole languages that show a correlation between lexical origin (African vs. European) and prosodic pattern (Agostinho, 2023). The discussion is based on the evidence from four languages: Saramaccan (Good 2004b, 2004a, 2009), Nigerian Pidgin English (Faraclas 1984, 2003), Pichi (Yakpo 2009, 2019), and Lung’Ie (Agostinho and Hyman 2021). I examine how the study of word-prosodic systems of creoles can contribute to phonological typology and to the debate of whether creoles are “different” from non-creoles. I hypothesize that such systems can only be found in creole languages and that their existence further confirms that sociohistorical processes – such as historic contact – can shape phonological systems. Finally, I conclude that the analysis of African-origin words is crucial to our understanding of creole phonology.

February 23

Kai Schenck (UC Berkeley): A constraint-based analysis of Yurok [spread glottis]

In Yurok, the [spread glottis] feature straddles the line between predictable and contrastive. Although there is predictable epenthesis of h word-initially and word-finally, and predictable final aspiration and sonorant devoicing, there are also multiple instances of morpheme-specific irregularity, as well as a robust contrast involving final h following non-high vowels preceding obstruents. First, I present a basic, constraint-based analysis of the distribution of [spread glottis] in Yurok. Then, I analyze a case of opacity involving an inalienably possessed root, drawing on previous work that investigates differences in the phonological behavior and syntactic structure of inalienable and alienable nouns (Dobler 2008; Newell et al. 2018; Popp 2022). Ultimately, I give a preliminary investigation of the applicability of two theories to this problem: Stratal OT (Bermúdez-Otero 1999, 2011; Kiparsky 2000, 2008) and Cophonologies by Phase (Sande & Jenks 2018; Sande et al. 2020), and see if they can lend further explanatory power to the behavior of this feature as a whole.

March 1 

Elizabeth Wood (UT Austin): Acoustic and (morpho)phonological evidence for word-initial glottal stops in K’iche’ (Mayan)

Since the beginning of the modern linguistic study of Mayan languages, it has been commonly stated that all words in these languages must begin with a consonant. Words that appear to begin with vowels are argued to have an initial glottal stop. However, glottal stop is not contrastive in this position, and the generalizations of its distribution are typically made on the basis of auditory perception rather than acoustics or phonological patterning. I use data from a documentary corpus of spontaneous narratives and show both acoustic and (morpho)phonological evidence that there are in fact vowel-initial words in K’iche’. Word-initial glottal stops, whether realized as stops or as glottalization cues on the following vowel, are found only on words beginning with a stressed vowel and in certain phrasal contexts (following a pause or another vowel). Furthermore, when present these segments must be epenthetic rather than phonemic. These results show a very different pattern than what is commonly reported in the literature, suggesting the need to reassess the question of the typology of glottal stop in Mayan languages and highlighting the pitfalls of impressionistic descriptions of non-contrastive sounds.

March 8

Nikolai Schwarz-Acosta (UC Berkeley): Investigating the Predictability of an Upcoming Code-switch in Cantonese-English Bilinguals

Systematic phonetic cues are observable in bilingual speech. For example, code-switched utterances exhibit a number of phonetic variations in the phones approaching a code-switch (Balukas & Koops, 2015; Gutierrez Topete 2023; Fricke et al., 2016; Olson 2013; Piccinini & Garellek, 2014, Torres Cacoullos, 2020), and bilingual listeners use these cues to aid the processing of an upcoming code-switch (Shen et al., 2020). Although prosodic and segmental features have been shown to vary when approaching a switch, the consistency and relative magnitude of effect for each of these features have not yet been compared. A major goal of this project is to evaluate the predictability of an upcoming code-switch based on the phonetic cue preceding the site of the code-switch. In this investigation, I empirically and computationally explore the phonetic variability in words immediately before a code-switch from English to Cantonese to assess which phonetic features aid more in the acoustic predictability of the upcoming code-switch. The data is taken from the SpiCE Corpus, a corpus of sociolinguistic interviews with Cantonese-English bilinguals (n=34) (Johnson, K. A. et al., 2020). I employ the use of a statistical model and neural networks to evaluate the predictability of phonetic features. The speech rate and vowel qualities before a code-switch in both English and Cantonese were extracted from the corpus. Preliminary results show that for English-Cantonese code-switch data, vowel qualities do not significantly change, and speech rate does change significantly (p<0.05). Two separate PyTorch neural networks (Paszke et al., 2019) were trained (11 epochs) to assess the usefulness of vowel quality and speech rate in predicting an upcoming code-switch. The test accuracy for vowel quality was 42.31% while the speech rate data showed a 60% accuracy.

March 15

William Clapp (Stanford): The Socially Guided Memory Encoding of Spoken Language

Listeners are more likely to recognize a word upon second presentation if it is repeated in the same voice as compared to a different voice (e.g., Palmeri et al., 1993; Goldinger, 1996). These now-classic talker-specificity effects have served as the basis of exemplar theories of speech perception and have been replicated widely. However, nearly all talkers and listeners have been white, college-aged Midwesterners. As more recent advances have highlighted the asymmetrical encoding of spoken words based on social information (Sumner et al., 2014), we might reconsider these classic studies through a new lens that centralizes demographic diversity. In this talk, I discuss findings from three recent experiments in which inter-talker variation proves central to patterning memory for spoken words. All three used the continuous recognition memory paradigm, following the methods of Palmeri et al. (1993). Exp. 1 used a demographically diverse talker set, Exp. 2 used a homogenous but contextually non-standard talker set, and Exp. 3 compared responses to two demographically-matched talkers directly. Considerable variation in memory patterns measured through accuracy and RT was found in all three experiments, both across and within social categories. These results indicate that listeners are finely attuned to talker and social information in the speech signal and allocate memory resources on an ad-hoc basis. I will argue that this process is guided in part by social ideologies, experience, and cultural dynamics. The findings provide new ways forward in the study of episodic memory and illustrate both how cognitive processes are entangled with social realities, and how we might reliably investigate them in our research.

March 22

Larry Hyman (UC Berkeley): Latent High Tones in Limba (Tonko dialect, Sierra Leone)

March 29

No meeting: Academic and Administrative Holiday

April 5

Adam Albright (MIT): TBA

April 12

No meeting.

Please check out WCCFL 42, hosted by UC Berkeley's Linguistics department.

April 19

Allegra Robertson (UC Berkeley): TBA

April 26

Drew McLaughlin (Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language): TBA

May 3

No meeting: Reading/Review/Recitation Week