Methods in Dialectology XV

    Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in workshop, seminar, course


    Special themed workshop: 'Of vowels and systems: new methods for the study of vocalic variation The study of variations in vowel production and within vocalic configurations (often conceptualized as ‘systems’ and ‘subsystems’ within sociolinguistic theory, e.g. in Labov 1994) forms part of the paradigmatic foundation of sociolinguistics. Recently, new developments in the methods employed in the quantitative study of vowels have emerged, both in terms of methodologies of measurement and of graphical representation of vowel configurations or ‘systems’. While formant extraction has been the key form of instrumental analysis in acoustic phonetics since Joos 1948 and Peterson and Barney 1952, and in sociolinguistics since Labov, Yaeger and Steiner 1972, techniques deriving from speech recognition work, for example, have recently made inroads into the field, and speech perception has taken a leading role within sociophonetics in particular. Forced alignment and programming in R for new quantitative analysis methods are becoming ever more widespread tools. In the light of new ways of looking at vowels, we want to ask for example whether there is a need for sociolinguistics/dialectology to challenge the fundamental idea of the vowel system as a ‘system’ in the first place. To what extent can the system be thought of as a theoretical convenience, or is it ‘real’ in some sense, and what arguments and evidence dominate each position? Why do we think of the vowels of language X as operating as a coherent and homeostatic series of contrasts, and what are we claiming when we present evidence of the system changing in some way? This panel will address questions such as this while showcasing a set of cutting-edge papers that illustrate some of the new methodologies and conceptualizations of the vowel space, which makes Methods XV an ideal venue for this collection of presentations. The discussion will aim to open up the possibilities these new techniques provide, and to ask how these methodologies and analytical approaches might have consequences for the ways in which we conceptualize vowel variation theoretically. We begin by looking at conceptualizations of the vowel space, move to concrete methodological issues and round off the session by looking at vowel perception and the predictive implications of seeing the vowel space as a system.
    Period12 Aug 2014
    Event typeConference
    LocationGroningen, Netherlands


    • methods in sociophonetics