Phonetics and Phonology

Phonetics and Phonology

We investigate speech production, speech perception, and phonological organization in human language. We are interested in capturing phonetic and phonological phenomena and processing in adults, during the development of a first or second language, and in terms of the change that can occur in a speech community. We house and use a range of phonetic equipment to tackle our research questions, including -for perception- eye-tracking, and -for production- electromagnetic articulography (EMA), ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), electroglottography (EGG), and electropalatography (EPG).

Current projects

Solving the puzzle of complex speech sounds

Speech sounds that fall into the 'l' and 'r' family of consonants ('liquids') are amongst the most difficult to master, both for children and for second language learners. Liquids are complex consonants, requiring finely tuned, and language-specific, coordination of articulatory gestures, but the details of this complexity remain poorly understood. Using state-of-the-art articulatory methods, we are examining liquid production and perception in four typologically-distinct languages, to shed more light on the phonological properties of this class of sounds. Key contact: Michael Proctor.

Kaytetye and prosodic theory

We are examining the phonological structure of the Australian language Kaytetye, a member of the Arandic language family. Arandic languages have previously been analyzed as having unusual (VC) syllable structures, raising important questions for phonological theory. Through careful documentation and phonetic analysis of Kaytetye word and sentence structure, we aim to shed more light on its phonological organization, and implications for general theories of phonology and universals in language. Key contact: Michael Proctor.

Sociophonetic effects during bilingual speech perception

Every time we say something, the speech signal carries two different types of information: linguistic and indexical. The linguistic information conveys the meaning of the message ("what was said"), while the indexical information provides details about the speaker ("who said it"). Indexical/sociophonetic information includes the speaker's age, sex, social class, regional and ethnic background, etc. Results from our psycholinguistic experiments suggest that sociophonetic information is simultaneously activated in a bilingual's two languages during speech perception. In particular, we investigate the activation of ethnicity in Maori-English bilingual New Zealanders, and the activation of speaker sex - and its effect on the processing of grammatical gender - in Italian-English bilinguals living in Australia. This parallel activation has implications for models of the bilingual cognitive architecture, which need to take indexical information into account. Key contact: Anita Szakay.

Infant-directed speech

Infant-directed speech is the register that almost all caregivers cross-linguistically automatically adopt when speaking to young infants and children. Our research is aimed at better understanding the diversity as well as the consistency in the phonetic characteristics of infant-directed speech across languages (e.g., Nepali or Dutch rather than English) and across speakers (e.g., fathers rather than mothers). Our collaborations with child development experts across disciplines highlight the role that infant-directed speech can play in the development of the parent-infant bond and the early stages of healthy emotional development. Key contact: Titia Benders.

The acoustics of suprasegmental variation in dialects of English

Speakers of different dialects sound different. Often this is due to segmental variation, i.e. differences in the pronunciation of particular vowels and consonants. We are investigating how speakers of different ethnic varieties of English use suprasegmentals such as speech rhythm, voice quality, and pitch. Our research draws on data from Maori English in New Zealand, Multicultural London in English in the UK, and Lebanese English in Australia. Through production and perception experiments we examine how speakers index their ethnic identity with regard to prosody, and whether listeners can rely on suprasegmental cues to correctly identify a speaker's ethnicity. Key contact: Anita Szakay.

Our people

Academic staff

Felicity Cox
Michael Proctor
Anita Szakay
Titia Benders
Katherine Demuth

Post-doctoral researchers

(Note that the post-doctoral researchers are primarily affiliated with the Child Language Lab, more information on their work can also be found via the CLL web page)

Ivan Yuen
Nan Xu
Carmen Kung
Laurence Bruggeman

Current associates

Linda Buckley
Robert Mannell
Sallyanne Palethorpe

Current MRes and PhD students directly supervised by Felicity, Michael, Anita, or Titia

(Note that many of the students in the Child Language Lab are also affiliated with the Phonetics & Phonology Lab. Information about the work of students primarily affiliated with the Child Language Lab can be found via that lab's webpage. The students listed here are primarily affiliated with the Phonetics & Phonology Lab.)

Sean Boyland
Joshua Penney
Louise Ratko
T√ľnde Szalay
Elise Tobin
Michael Walker

Current research assistants, PACE internship students, and volunteers

Caitlin Pugh

Contact us

Titia Benders Titia.Benders@mq.edu.au

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