jueves, 17 de agosto de 2017

PTLC, part 3

Hello, again! This is my last post on the Phonetics Teaching and Learning Conference at UCL (click to read parts 1 and 2 ). I will not be able to to report on all the content of every talk, so you'll have to excuse my selection. Any error (if any) is due to my low caffeine levels or lack of understanding of what the claims in the talks were, and I'm happy to make corrections if the authors point them out. And the proceedings will be available soon, so you will be able to read the full papers in a couple of months!

Andrej Stopar Perception of the General British vowels /ʌ/, /ɑ:/, /ɒ/, and /ɔ:/ by Slovenian speakers of English
Stopar presented a continuation of his presentation in 2015, in which Slovenian speakers of English are reported to have participated in perception experiments on different English vowel contrasts after instruction. Slovenian vowels are very similar to Spanish, so I found the results quite interesting, since the vowel that appears to have given students more trouble is that in the LOT set. Stopar mentions a few errors that could actually be due to the fact that words and non-words were used (students choosing a THOUGHT vowel for the nonsense word "fot"). In general the perception pre-test results were quite good for one of the groups, but the biggest difference was made in the group whose pre-test had been quite weak.

Kakeru Yazawa, Mariko Kondo and Paola Escudero: "Modelling Japanese speakers' perceptual learning of English /iː/ and /ɪ/ within the L2LP framework". This talk discussed  Escudero's model of Second Language Linguistic Perception for Japanese students working on American English vowels /iː/ and /ɪ/, and they discussed their results in the light of Boersma's (1998) Stochastic Optimality Theory, that unlike traditional OT sees a gradient (and not a categorical set) of ranking values and constraints and the perception process as a continuum that should not easily assign vowel perceptions to a particular phonological category. 

Yumi Ozaki, Kakeru Yazawa and Mariko Kondo: "L2 English speech rhythm of Japanese speakers: An alternative implementation of the Varco metrics" Ozaki et al propose an alternative form of using the Varco metrics, because Japanese constraints render the use of the regular Varco metrics for vocalic and consonantal intervals as problematic. Instead of using the mean duration of intervals, they suggest an nVarco: using overal segmental durations. More proficient Japanese learners have been found to exhibit more variability in vocalic and consonantal duration.

Hui-Chuan Liu:  "Identification of Mandarin high-level tone and high-falling tone by Vietnamese learners"
Liu discussed the problems that her Vietnamese learners had in the identification of two contrastive tones, high-level vs high-falling. Since Vietnamese tones have no large falling slopes, this tone brings about difficulty for those learning Mandarin. In her study, Liu found that duration of syllables had a bearing on the type of errors made by learners, but she recommended  not using length as a teaching resource because it is not distinctive, nor reliable.

Eva Estebas-Vilaplana: "How imitation can help the acquisition of L2 pronunciation"
I love Estebas-Villaplana's presentations in general (and her book is so useful!), and even more so because she teaches at UNED, a distance learning uni in Spain. Teaching English pronunciation to Spanish speakers in distance education is a great challenge, so I was very curious about what she would be presenting this time. The experience that Estebas presented involved getting Spanish speakers to read a text in their own L2 English accent, and another version in an accented English version of Spanish (Spanglish or Englishñol, should I say?). Her students imitated English rhythm and reduction better in their "mock" versions, than in their real L2 English. 
Estebas suggests using these "mock" Spanish accents to see what kinds of features students store in connection to how they believe English sounds, and use them to improve their L2 English accents.
For some years now, we have used this strategy in Buenos Aires for /t/ and /d/, and it worked quite well. Many of our students have access to accents of Spanish like Puerto Rico or singers like Ricki Martin, whose /t,d/ are alveolar, and that has proven useful. But I had never considered that students can also improve on rhythm using this strategy!

Yusuke Shibata, Masaki Taniguchi and Young Shin Kim: "A brief intensive method to help Japanese learners perform English tonicity" Shibata et al presented a few methods they have used to help learners acquire narrow focus. Basically, they worked on short exchanges like the ones in textbooks where there is verbatim repetition, and they trained learners in deaccenting repeated items. They tested them before and after instruction, and their improvement was considerable. Some audience members suggested doing a longitudinal study to see how much of this "sticks" some time after instruction, since the exchanges used to test were very short, and students may have got the hang of it strategically rather than actually learning about narrow focus.

Marina Cantarutti: "Questioning the teaching of “question intonation”: the case of classroom elicitations" - My paper had two big parts: the first section consisted in reviewing the theory on 'question intonation' that you can find in the intonation textbook materials used at Teacher Training Colleges in Buenos Aires (Wells, Tench, Brazil, Baker...). Starting from their assumptions, and based on my prior experience of these materials being insufficient to account for the choices speakers make in different speech styles and genres, I did a short corpus study of Teacher Talk (one of the speech situations we train teachers on in their 3rd year), in particular, of teacher elicitations in the recitation stage. By making a conversation-analytic approach of turn-taking, sequencing, and embodied behaviour, I have found the role of "terminal" tone (the last tone in the question) to be related to epistemic assymetries and the handling of the turn-taking system, and not in any way related to the syntax of the question, or attitudinal approaches, neither to finding out or making sure concerns (unless we redefine these notions, something I mention in the full paper). My biggest claim is that we can no longer apply "one-size-fits-all" syntactic and attitudinal approaches to intonation, and that functional approaches work only if properly combining top-down generic analyses with bottom-up, local, turn-by-turn analyses.

Miriam Germani and Lucía Rivas: "A genre approach to prosody teaching intonation from a discourse perspective" 
I'm a big fan of Germani & Rivas' work, we are quite like-minded in our approaches to intonation teaching, and I was very lucky to work with them on different occasions. Germani and Rivas (as I did on my own preso) discussed the shortcomings of intonation textbooks, and the simplifications that these make, that create two common problems (that all of us who do real discourse intonation face!): a) students taxonomise but do not do any real discourse-functional study, they merely repeat classifications; b) students fail to see the contributions that intonation makes to textual organisation and interpersonal projections of meaning. By using Systemic Functional Linguistics, and following the basis in Martin & Rose's (2008) "Genre Relations", and the descriptions of intonation in Brazil and Halliday & Greaves, among others, Germani & Rivas have helped their students make better top-down, holistic descriptions of meaning in text, and have improved their students' accounting of intonation choices.

Hajar Binasfour, Jane Setter and Erhan Aslan: "Enhancing L2 learners’ perception and production of the Arabic emphatic sounds". Binasfour et al describe how the use of Praat can help learners improve on their perception and production of Arabic emphatic sounds, by teaching them how to identify pharyngealisation in spectrograms and compare their production of sounds to that of accurate Arabic emphatics.

Pekka Lintunen, Aleksi Mäkilähde and Pauliina Peltonen: "Learner perspectives on pronunciation feedback" Lintunen et al reviewed the results of an experience of peer and teacher-led feedback on pronunciation. There were some interesting findings, including the fact that students valued peer feedback for pronunciation, and that they trusted the feedback of their non-native teachers of English. Lintunen et al also made a point of the fact that pronunciation feedback-giving is different from other feedback practices, and so it needs to be taught to teacher trainees as a special skill.

Gladys Saunders What does the rapid spread of /u/-fronting in American English have to do with the teaching of French phonetics? Saunders mentions the now established process of GOOSE-fronting and the way this can be used as a reference point to learn specific French vowel sounds.

Daniela Martino: "Sequencing and technology–aided activities in the acquisition of foreign sounds" Martino presented a sequence of presentation and practice of phonetic and phonological features and a number of web platforms that she has used to help her trainees improve on their English pronunciation. The first stage was identification, and she used Sonocent AudioNotetaker (which Cauldwell has popularised), PlayPhrase.me (now down, unfortunately), and TubeQuizard, to create tasks and quizzes leading students to perceive processes such as weakening. Students are also invited to do transcriptions in IPA by using subtitling software. During the imitation stage, students use Soundcloud to record and upload their productions and they use the front facing camera of their mobiles to monitor their articulation. Martino has found the combination of these tools and this sequence to be effective for her students' progress.

 Ana Cendoya: "Technology–aided pronunciation teaching in an ESP/EAP course" Cendoya described the techniques she uses to help her engineering students to improve on their pronunciation when making presentations. She mentioned the use of E-portfolios and strategies to build proprioception, and mentioned how students with time became less "resistant" to recording, and feedback.

Hsuehchu Chen and Qianwen Han: "A corpus-based online Mandarin pronunciation learning system for Cantonese learners: development, evaluation, and implementation" Chen et al described the new Mandarin corpus system (http://ec-concord.ied.edu.hk/mandarin_pronunciation/) and how by using its features, and Praat, they have helped their Cantonese learners improve on their pronunciation.

Shawn L. Nissen, Kate E. Lester, Laura Catharine Smith, Lisa D. Isaacson and Teresa R. Bell "Using electropalatography in second language pronunciation instruction: a preliminary examination of voiceless German fricatives" Nissen showed us the evolution of electropalatography through the ages, and displayed the newest technology, which has made access to these devices much cheaper. The experiment presented, though limited to a few participants, shows how the information derived from EPG may help learners fine-tune their sounds, especially when the differences between their production and the expected target are quite small.
(Image credits: PTLC Twitter account)

Lunch and coffee breaks were as enjoyable as the talks. PTLC seems like a small conference, but it has the right atmosphere, and UCL with all its phonetic history makes the perfect setting for this meeting. Unlike other conferences, PTLC requires in their call for papers that full papers (not abstracts) are presented, so if you are thinking of participating in 2019, get your research going today!

Thanks to Michael, Joanna and Molly for organising, and thank you for trusting me with paper reviews as well. It's been a fabulous experience, and I really hope I can present more interesting stuff in two years' time, when my own research will (hopefully!) have yielded some results!

sábado, 12 de agosto de 2017

PTLC 2017, part 2

Find below a brief report on the two keynote presentations on day 2 at UCL's PTLC conference. As usual, you will see info from the presentations interspersed with my own comments. Any errors in interpretation are my own!

Jim Flege - The cross-language acquisition of stops differing in VOT: Historical review and key findings 
It was truly exciting to see THE Jim Flege in the flesh, and I am not going to include much factual information on the presentation, as it is freely available here. I think I would like to mention a few things I have found really useful and/or comment-worthy in Flege's very interesting presentation on VOT acquisition and learning in different languages.
First, it came as a bit of shock to hear from Flege that his interest lies with pronunciation acquisition in "naturalistic" contexts, that is, his research is not necessarily concerned with instructional settings (where, funnily enough, many of us have studied/applied his models), but with how the Speech Learning Model works in contexts where the L2 is spoken (and yes, this is a common phenomenon, much of the research we cite is for second language in immersion contexts, rather than foreign language pronunciation learning in places where the L2 is not spoken outside the classroom...).
Flege makes an interesting criticism to experimental work:

It was really inspiring to see Flege criticise his own past research, and to see what "mistakes" (sic) he has made in past papers (e.g. 1987) regarding data collection, participant selection, and conclusions drawn. I think that only a true respected academic can really admit that things may not have been done correctly (unknowingly at the time), and the ability to look back and reflect using the current state of knowledge is really brave, and also promotes good, honest science. Part of this review of past research included the current need to displace the role of age of acquisition and the Critical Period Hypothesis to foreground the role of L1 input.

Flege highlights the role and importance of L1 input ("good input from native speakers", I quote) in the acquisition of VOT contrasts and timing. I totally see the point of native speaker input, and I support it, but I wonder if this view somehow undermines all our own input as non-native speakers (I did not ask this question, so I cannot really say if this is what Dr. Flege actually implied...again Flege's concern is with language learning "in situ", as it were). I think that even though our daily input in lessons may not be native-like, we also provide instructional input, based on our own knowledge and experience of what it is to have learned the phonology and phonetics of a language other than our own, so...complex stuff.
Flege proposes that there should be a 10-year period  (!) of native speaker input for phonological features to be fully acquired and formed (in particular with relation to VOT), since the formation of categories in L1 is also a lengthy process.
Flege also reminds us that the acquisition and formation of phonetic categories does not need then to be related to age, nor to a "special ability"

I also found interesting that studies on the "loss" of L1 features have been carried out, and yes, I believe I may have lost the naturalness of some of my own Spanish features (I would say in terms of intonation, especially).

Please refer to the slides in Flege's website for a review of all the research on VOT presented, which I obviously cannot do any justice to!

Dominic Watt - Private Ear training: Phonetics teaching for the next generation of forensic speech scientists  

Watt discussed something I have found fascinating for years: forensic speech science. He discussed some principles and features of this way of doing phonetics, such as the fact that a great part of what is done includes applied sociophonetics (synchronic and diachronic variation is taken into account); that both the typicality and the similarity of voice features get analysed, and language is seen as a "moving target", and not as a stagnant, stative thing (something we all ought to remember, especially for pronunciation!)

The work that people in FSS do is quite tricky, as it requires objectivity, conservatism and caution bearing in mind that their duty is to the court, and the results can only answer specific questions but clearly not assess levels of innocence. Human analysts can and do fail, and problems like confirmation bias and perceptual priming are to be avoided. We were shown a few cases where experts cannot agree on what the words of a certain segment are, and different kinds of evidence are weighed in order to submit candidate hearings. Plus, as we were told and show, the work that FS scientists do differs greatly from what you can see in CSI and other crime series!

Some interesting things about FSS that Watt has mentioned include:
  • the need to focus on the individual as a potentially unique language user, and of each human voice as a holistic Gestalt as well as a constellation of features;
  • the fact that even though the degrees of freedom in individual speech is unknown, the assumption is that there is  less intraspeaker variability than interspeaker variability;
  • the quest in FSS is to identify most potent/reliable speaker discriminants;
  • the fact that technology has advanced, but it will never yet replace human work.
Some of the tasks that FSS carry out include: 
  • speaker profiling
  • transcription
  • resolution of disputed content
  • speaker attribution
  • enhancement
  • authentication
  • design of voice parades
  • acoustic scene reconstruction
  • language analysis for determination of origin (LADO)
  • speaker comparison 
The University of York has an MSc in Forensic Speech Science, and if you want to read further about the programe, just click here.

miércoles, 9 de agosto de 2017

Brief report: PTLC 2017, part 1

I'm still conference-crawling, and this time, I'm at UCL, in London, for the lovely Phonetics Teaching and Learning Conference (PTLC), held every two years (hashtag for all the live-tweeting: #ptlc2017). The "Argentinian Delegation" is quite large this time, which makes me really happy and proud, so I got to be reminded of some of our everyday struggles and challenges when teaching Phonetics in my country.

Here's a brief report on Day 1 (click on the presenters' names to access their academic websites), with my usual "comment bites". As always, any error or mis-representation/misunderstanding of the content of the talks is entirely my fault!

Jane Setter "Research-led teaching in phonetics: an exercise in research literacy"

Prof. Jane Setter made a review of the work she has done in her undergraduate courses to contribute to developing students' awareness and literacy of everything involved in research, which is also part of the University of Reading's own strategy. The paper illustrated a few ways of involving students in phonetics research by conducting "research-led teaching", that is, teaching based on someone's (in this case, Jane's) own research on Global Englishes. I once again enjoyed the reference to Dale's Cone of Experience (1969), that estipulates that students retain only 5% of what is presented in a lecture, and 90% when the content is to be taught or applied immediately. Prof. Setter's students made a few interesting remarks after the experience that reveals that they are better acquainted with the challenges of good phonetic research, such as problems with obtaining good quality recordings, liasing with other collaborators, and setting up the technology.

Marina Grasso "Reflecting upon students’ problems in phonemic dictations"

Grasso (whose paper was read by Daniela Martino) discusses a very familiar picture to us, Phonetics professors in Argentina: the number of failed written transcriptions and dictations because of segmental features in Phonetics II exams, where the focus and training is on suprasegmentals. Grasso's list of errors included the misuse of strong and weak forms, overgeneralisation or lack of application of transcription rules, spelling-to-sound and grammar errors. Part of the proposal for improvement consisted in asking students to follow three steps during the transcription revisiion period: 1) Go top-down: reread the transcription to make sense of meaning; 2) Go bottom-up: review rules; 3) after marking intonation: go over weak and strong forms. Error correction activities may also help the reactivation of information presented.
During the question period, two interesting comments came up. RA Knight mentioned that surprisingly, those native speakers of English she has taught make the same type of phonemic transcription errors, which means that there could be some other sort of underlying problem. M Ashby suggested the possibility of doing transcription copying activities, basically, doing some "scribe-like" work of copying a transcription, since errors do also come up in these activities and they can tell us a lot about what processing issues may be at play.
I still think there are quite a few factors involved in the problem that Grasso discusses and which at least those of us who have taught Phonetics in Argentina know very well about, and I think these problems lie in a multiplicity of factors. It's quite fascinating, in any case, to see how common these issues are, and how we can, perhaps, find a way of researching them together, given that we all seem to encounter the same issues!

Mirjam J.I. de Jonge  "Spectrogram reading as a tool to teach acoustic phonetics"

This presentation by de Jonge was really enjoyable. We were challenged as an audience to do spectogram reading several times (oh, yes, audience participation! Scary!), first to guess a mystery word, then to match spectograms to the pronunciation of Dutch numbers. de Jonge proposed a sequence of introduction to the acoustics of English and Dutch, beginning with the introduction of vowels (not from a spectogram, but from a waveform, in order to show how periods work), and diphthongs. Later on, plosives are best introduced, which reveal that even gaps in the spectogram can be useful information to consider, and finally, fricatives, recorded in different audio qualities and sampling rates, to show how problem recordings can really spoil the output and the readings. I particularly enjoyed the fact that students in these sessions at the University of Amsterdam are invited to record themselves and bring spectograms to class. I also found it really impressive that they get to introduce tone, intonation, acoustics, speech perception and production, and quite a few other big topics in just 12 weeks (with a three or four session-a-week frequency).

Claire Timmins "Online video assessment of clinical phonetic transcription skills in Speech and Language Pathology"

Prof. Timmins discussed a pilot experience meant at testing the validity of their final exam in a module in the training of speech and language pathologists. The final exam situation is meant to be quite close to a real speech assessment situation where professional faces the client and needs to phoneticially transcribe their speech in real time. Timmins highlighted the need for speech therapists to be aware and use the IPA and the extension to the IPA for disordered speech in order to take down as much detail as possible regarding the child/adult facing speech difficulties (I was immediately reminded of the transcriptions in Local and Kelly's "Doing Phonology"!).
What I found interesting (and which I keep insisiting I would have looooooved to be able to do in my own final exams) is that students were each given a PC, and the audio sample was played in each computer, so that students could listen to the sample through their headphones, and do the transcription (in one go, however! Just one, fleeting, listening chance!). A considerable number of students who tried the pilot enjoyed the experience and valued the possiblity of listening to the sample on the PCs (previous exam experiences consisted in live dictations, a speaker dictating in one room with all the students there). Technical issues were always there, ready to spoil the whole thing, as some students reported, but this was just a pilot, and it was great, in my humble opinion, that the professors at Strathclyde were considering ways of changing their exams and were setting up pilot trials to that end. 
An issue which also came up is that of the actual assessment of these transcrptions. Triallers were given "competent" or "non competent" as a grade, and Timmins mentioned that as a sociophonetician she was more demanding in her expectations than speech pathologists.
My own, humble, personal opinion, is that speech therapists should have great control over the IPA in order to make observations and find common patterns..

Hyunsong Chung "Review of the Lingua Franca Core for English pronunciation teaching in Korea"

Chung started his presentation by reviewing some of the basics of the Lingua Franca Core (Jenkins, 2000, 2007), in order to address issues that Korean speakers find problematic when speaking English: vowel qualities, and liquids-rhotics, for example. Some interesting audio samples were presented that illustrated some of these problems. Chung mentioned several points, among them the fact that the LFC as an idea appears to be appealing, but in practice, many learners may not want to be trained for intelligibility in the terms proposed in the LFC, and also that what is intelligible for a group of speakers may not be for others. Chung makes a bold proposition (which I cannot truly assess because I am not familiar with his context), which is, training learners in different world Englishes for listening purposes, but with a native-like aim for production purposes, leaving the LFC priorities for more advanced leraners, who are then in a position to make all the possible accommodations. 
The need to work on "GloCal" Englishes came up, which also seems to have been discussed by David Deterding, and in other materials (which to be entirely honest, I am not familiar with, so I will not comment on further!).

Lilián Ariztimuño "The expression of emotion in fairy tales: a multimodal approach to improve EFL students’ oral renderings"

Lilián Ariztimuño shared some of the findings of her MA research on fairy tales and the expression of emotion. On a corpus of stories (read by the same speaker), the presenter used the model of Appraisal developed by Martin & White, and the constructs of Inscribed Affect as described by Bednarek (2008) to trace all the emotion-related tokens in the stories that were part of the corpus. Using the description of Emotional Speech and the phonetic features described for it by Roach et al (1998, 2000), Ariztimuño put together a framework that relates the expression of un/happiness, in/security, dis/satisfaction, un/expectedness, dis/inclination with their realisation in the prosodic parameters of pitch height and range, loudness, tempo and some "paralinguistic" features such as voice quality, vocal effects and voice qualifications. This framework has been found to be useful to help students ( teacher trainees) make their readings more expressive.
When asked about whether the "voices" in the texts were considered, the presenter explained that these prosodic parameters were heightened when the voice of the character was evoked. There was also a remark made about different readers possibly choosing different parameters, which is why some of these features may not hold true if compared with other samples.
I think that working on a genre-based type of approach to prosody is something that some of us advocate, and using real English speech to make observations, find generalisations, and translate those into teaching, is always something to be celebrated. There are always things we can do differently, or perhaps be more precise or systematic about, but I agree that this is the way to go.

Christelle Exare "Intrusive tokens of aspiration in French learners’ L2 English"

I enjoyed this presentation very much, but I don't think I can do justice to it, because there was a lot of important and fascinating information I could not take down (soooo looking forward to the proceedings!). Basically this presentation was about French learners of English adding [h] (aspirating, from a Gestural Phonology perspective) to initial vowels, in combinations like "I ate" (as "I hate") . [h] intrusion was done either through aspiration noise, or via a breathy vowel segment. Acoustically, these intrusions were characterised by undetected F0 trace, aspiraton noise in mid frequencies, F1 weakening, and F2 and F3 clear continuous transitions. They would not happen after a fricative or a plosive, and this could be explained through gestural configurations of the larynx and the vocal tract. Perception and production tests were carried out to explain this phenomenon and contrast it to initial glottaling. Some interesting possible explanations included the reconstitution of a CV type of syllable, also gestural mistimings (Davidson and Stone, 2003).

There was a lot more going on in this presentation, but I am sure that the paper in the proceedings will provide all the information I have not been able to provide here.

There is a very exciting line-up for tomorrow, and I don't think I'll be as effective as today, but do expect more live-tweeting on tomorrow + Friday's presentations, and a post like this some time next week!

sábado, 5 de agosto de 2017

Brief report: some phon-related talks at IPrA 2017 in Belfast (July 16-21)

Hello, hello! Hope you are all doing well. Life over here is hectic, as usual, and a few days ago I decided I had to take a holiday after a year (or more) of basically working non-stop, so I'm back at work now, with renewed energy, for a while, at least.

Two weeks ago I attended the fantastic International Pragmatics Association conference in Belfast (hashtag to look up lots of live-tweeting: #ipra2017). I was there in Antwerp in 2015 (see report on panel on prosody, parts 1 and 2), and it was great to be back in this craze of six days of talks and papers and coffee breaks with colleagues, friends, and "academic crushes" (!). I have to admit I was a bit emotional as well, because two years ago at this conference all I was dreaming of was my PhD at York with all this inspiring people, and today, here I am! (Dreams do come true, folks, you just need to work really hard...only to keep working hard!)

I have to say that the number of phonetics-related talks was disappointingly small (see the book of abstracts here), and there was so much overlap (15 concurrent sessions or more!) that I could not see all the presentations I would have liked to see. From an Interactional Linguistic/Conversation Analytic perspective to the study of phonetics/prosody, three universities stood out: University of York & University of Sheffield (UK), and Universität Potsdam (Germany), and I am going to briefly comment on some of the talks I have seen. After my report of each talk, I have included my own remarks and reflections in italics.

Richard Ogden: "The actions of peripheral linguistic objects: clicks"

Undoubtedly, Ogden is one of the people who has studied clicks as a resource in interaction most widely (see a past lecture here). In this presentation, Ogden addressed issues such as how co-participants themselves establish what actions (if any) can be ascribed to clicks. Ogden studied clicks pre-, mid- and post-positioned in TCUs, and also standalone ones, and he has found them to do interactional work for the regulation of turns or sequence (as a "metronome" for the handling of transition space across turns, for example), and/or the display of affect. What is interesting about clicks is that they are not easily manipulated prosodically, but they may co-occur with peaks of embodied activity: examples shown included raised eyebrows, shifts in body posture, and tracing gestures.  In this particular presentation, clicks followed by other continuations (pre-positioned clicks) and standalone clicks treated as a form insufficient response were studied. Participants were found to make sense of clicks in interaction and/or orient to them through their positioning, their deployment in frequent collocations and usages, and through iconicity in their mirroring in next position, or the marking of incipient speakership.
Some of the conclusions after some careful analysis of data and participant orientation (that is, not through analyst-imposed categories but through participant behaviour in the next turn, as we do in CA) has led Ogden to conclude that:
  • clicks in these positions must be deliberate
  • the lack of accompanying verbal material makes participants reliant on other practices to interpret them
  • clicks are interpreted by participants in interaction through: positioning, multimodality, dialogic practices such as rhythm or mirroring.
Clicks are really exciting, and we use clicks and percussives so very often in speech even though they are not phonemic in English or Spanish as they are in many African languages. I have to admit I "fish" for clicks when I listen to my friends' WhatsApp recordings...fascinating!

Traci (Curl) Walker: "The differential design of other-repetition in repair initiation: does form follow function, or function follow form?"

As one of the organisers of the panel that discussed the function-form conundrum (because yes, this is a massive debate in linguistics!), Walker studied other-repetitions in response position. She reported some of the findings in the use of repetitions in interaction, such as the initiation of repair (because of acceptability issues), the checking of understanding, and the display of surprise. Walker identified two types of other-repetitions in her study: framing, and prefacing ones.
Framing repetitions consist of a sequence in which B repeats a part of what A has said, and A repeats/completes the rest. These were found to be hearing or understanding checks, mostly (suspending the display of understanding), and these have been cases where the first turn-compoments are picked up in repetition by interlocutors. Walker found these to be produced with the following prosodic parameters, completion-inducing in a way:
  • tempo: slower than first saying
  • final syllable lengthening
  • flat pitch contour (rises < 2ST)
  • articulatory features: audible release of final plosives, glottal constrictions rare
Prefacing repetitions, on the other hand, include situations where  B repeats a part of what A has said, but B keeps on talking, and in this case, turn-final components are the ones repeated. Most of these cases were followed by an explicit request for repair or further information. Prosodically, they were found to be produced with anticipatory phonetic design, thus:
  • tempo: slower than 1st mention
  • quieter in loudness
  • falling in pitch
Walker concluded that "form and function should be one, joined in spiritual union (sic)".

The form-function debate is a huge thing, and it affects me deeply as a former trainer in Applied Phonetics for speakers of English as a foreign language. The thing is that as teachers we rely a lot on form-function mappings, and for many years, I have felt very guilty when trying to systematise intonation because many of these mappings only work in restricted contexts, and after all, the real "meaning" of linguistic features in interaction is dependent on participant orientation, something we very hardly focus on. 
When analysing conversation and asking my students to decide on intonation patterns, I have tried (with varied degrees of success) to get them to focus on what co-participants do after something has been uttered, in order to trace how a certain stretch of talk has been interpreted (oriented to), what type of action has been ascribed to it. But I know I have sadly fallen into many of the form-function connections that Walker criticises (which, to be fair, ALL textbooks are filled with), due to the need for simplication for teaching purposes. In my defence, at least I know I have not "sinned" with contextless text analysis: context and genre were always at the heart of my intonation-teaching practices, however lacking in other things they may have been.
 The teaching of prosody in ELT and the training of teachers, in my humble opinion, would really benefit from following a conversation-analytic, inductive, qualitative approach (something I will rant about in my upcoming PTLC conference presentation!).

Susanne Reinhardt: "Tying next turns to question-answer sequences: How links between linguistic forms contextualize different kinds of sequence continuation"
Susanne is a PhD student from Potsdam, and has made a very interesting presentation on format tying in post-expansions after question-answer sequences (if you want to know the basics about post-expansions, see this chapter by Sidnell here). She described how clusters of linguistic features helped disambiguate between minimal or non-minimal post-expansions. Reinhard has found that minimal post-expansion initiators had narrow pitch span, and general lowering of pitch values in relation to the question turn, as well as some degree of prosodic matching with the question turn. Non-minimal post-expansion initiators, on the other had, had a wider pitch range, a medianization of pitch values (moving towards the median), and a clear contrast between the question-answer pair, and the third position, initiator of the expansion.

Dagmar Barth-Weingarten: "Discourse units in English interaction: a prosodic-phonetic perspective"
This was one of my favourite talks in the conference (together with other non-phon talks by Pillet-Shore, Raymond, Hoey, and Heritage). Barth-Weingarten discussed the bases of what she proposes in her new book, a boundary-based approach (rather, a "cesura"-based approach) to the analysis of speech "segmentation" (being particularly careful here not to discuss the notion of "units", which Barth-Weingarten somehow argues against).  The presenter made a very thorough review of different approaches to chunking, and discourse and conversation units, and focused on the similarities and differences between them, as well as the problems, some of which stem from the use of "monologic" data, or the mapping of chunks with syntax or specific pre-determined phonetic parameters. Since units in the end are an epiphenomenon of segmentation in talk as it happens, in order to avoid analyst-imposed categories, Barth-Weingarten proposed focusing on what creates discontinuities in talk, that is, what clusters of features appear to break the flow of talk (which, she states, are in fact what co-participants orient to in the online processing of talk, rather than the units) and how these prosodic parameters display differing degrees of cesuring. By looking at data, real recorded interaction (non-monological), the presenter identified a number of parameters that have a role in marking different degrees of cesuring, including pitch movement, voice quality, tempo, rhtyhm, articulatory features, settings and processes (especially in terms of release, aspiration and glottal constriction), and pauses. 

I see and love the points and criticism made in the presentation and the book to the different theories of "chunking" (tonality). I have done corpus work on this, and I have found syntax-information structure and prosody mappings in pseudo-monological speech (lectures, stories, some speeches). Most of the materials I have developed for my students on this work quite well for these generic types, but it's completely true that when it comes to talk-in-interaction, chunking is fuzzy, and less explicitly (at least) rule-governed. 
At times I think that in ELT we see texts, even oral texts, as finished products. We forget about the essential value of online, emergent speech as it develops. In my intonation lessons, I always felt guilty when asking students to work on texts, because of the unnaturalness of having to see something already developed and treat it as if it was developing. But then again, we need to make peace with the fact that there are different tasks and activities meant to teach and test different things, and having to do transcription or reading aloud work for intonation practice, if applied properly, is a way of testing what was taught. However, if I had the chance to re-plan my intonation courses, I am sure I would go for activities that foreground this developing, online planning aspect of speech, which I did, to a certain extent, with my "first-sight speaking" tasks (emergent, prompt-induced speech tasks) in some advanced courses. 

The following are talks I would have liked to see, but couldn't (refer to the book of abstracts to read about them!):
  • Elena Becker: "Closing telephone conversations: The role of prosody"
  • Marjorie H Goodwin "The intertwining of touch, prosody, and voice"
  • Adriana Cáldiz "Prosody and evidentiality: About how some intonational features pertain the roots of discourse in the Spanish of Buenos Aires"
  • Brown & Prieto: "Multimodal (Im)Politeness"
  • Jesús Romero-Trillo: "The pragmatics of prosody in intercultural communication"

All in all, my IPrA 2017 experience was fantastic, and it spurred on me further feelings of passion about what I do and what I would like to do with my research, while at the same time stirring some of those feelings of inadequacy that come with taking some distance from one's teaching and thinking about what one would have liked to do better, or differently. I wrote a short commentary of what this conference was like for me as a postgraduate student at the ROLSI (Research on Language and Social Interaction) blog here, if you are interested.


I am aware that my posts lately may have been a bit too technical, and yes, at the moment this blog seems to be a way of trying to make sense of English phonetics in real life (now that English is so readily available for me everyday), and my own past practices as a pronunciation teacher. I am sure I have done many things right, and if I see what my students have been able to achieve, and how many of them actually liked the subject and approached it passionately, I am sure I must have done quite a few things well. However, I am still trying, in my head, to find the best possible way to introduce the prosody of English to speakers of other languages based on what happens in real life (and not on the analysts' head as I am sad to see in many textbooks!), and I pretty much guess this will be an ambition to keep me going for a couple of decades.