Multicultural Australian English: The New Voice of Sydney - ARC Future Fellowship 2018 awarded to Associate Professor Felicity Cox

Multicultural Australian English: The New Voice of Sydney - ARC Future Fellowship 2018 awarded to Associate Professor Felicity Cox

The ARC Future Fellowship project Multicultural Australian English: The New Voice of Sydney aims to help us understand the speech patterns of young people from complex culturally and linguistically diverse communities across Sydney. Australia is one of the most ethnically diverse communities in the world yet the complex relationship between speech production and cultural diversity is largely unknown in 21st century multicultural Australia. Our current understanding of speech patterns in Australia is based on an Anglo-centric model that does not represent the community in which we live. Through the Future Fellowship project we will generate an integrated and inclusive model of Australian-English, through meticulous phonetic analysis of young people's speech. Project outcomes are expected to inform sociophonetic theories of variation, ethnicity, and identity, and provide a crucial framework for supporting sociocultural cohesion in Australia.

Establishing how adolescents from different ethnicities use speech patterns to symbolically express their diverse sociocultural identities offers a window into understanding a rapidly changing Australian society. Social benefit will be achieved through a unified model that provides a structure to underpin advances in speech research at the intersection of phonetics/phonology, ethnicity, and society. Such research is critical for a deeper understanding of speech patterns in child language acquisition, atypical populations, second language learners, youth social cohesion; and for applications associated with immigration, refugee/asylum seeker integration, forensic speech science, national security, law enforcement, and social robotics.

The history of excellence in Australian English phonetic studies and state-of-the-art facilities make Macquarie University's Linguistics Department the optimal location for this project. Australian English phonetic research dates back to the inception of the University. The father of Australian English studies Professor Alex Mitchell was the founding Vice-Chancellor of Macquarie University from 1965 until his retirement in 1975. Mitchell's legacy remains in his advocacy of Australian English as a legitimate variety of English, a position that he championed throughout the second half of the 20th century. Mitchell along with colleague Professor Arthur Delbridge (founding Chair of the Macquarie Linguistics Department) published the influential Speech of Australian Adolescents in 1965 based on an impressive survey of over 7000 teenagers from across the country. This was one of the first, and remains one of the largest, sociophonetic studies in the world. Ground-breaking work on Australian English phonetics continued at Macquarie Linguistics through the work of Professor John Bernard, Professor John Clark, Professor Jonathan Harrington, Dr Robert Mannell, Dr Sallyanne Palethorpe and Associate Professor Felicity Cox. In short, Macquarie Linguistics researchers have been pushing the boundaries of phonetic sciences for over 50 years. This tradition of excellence in Australian English phonetic studies continues today with a new breed of Macquarie phoneticians including Centre for Language Sciences (CLaS) members 2015 ARC DECRA and DP awardee Dr Michael Proctor, Dr Titia Benders and Dr Anita Szakay along with colleagues in child language including 2013 ARC Laureate Fellow Distinguished Professor Katherine Demuth.

The Macquarie University Phonetics Laboratory situated in the Australian Hearing Hub is one of the best equipped phonetics laboratories in the world, with over $350,000 of University infrastructure funding awarded to the Phonetics group during 2014-2016 to create a state-of-the-art facility for speech science research. The Phonetics Laboratory incorporates world-class speech science equipment including ultrasound, electromagnetic articulography (NDI WAVE), electroglottography, airflow measurement systems, Tobii-x120 and SMI eye tracking systems, anechoic acoustic recording facilities, EEG systems, state-of-the-art laboratory-based and mobile speech perception facilities, and extensive data acquisition, processing and archiving technologies.

The 2018 Future Fellowship awarded to Associate Professor Felicity Cox will ensure that the tradition of excellence in Australian English phonetic research at Macquarie continues, allowing us to make even greater contributions to speech science into the future.

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