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Phonological Variation and Change in Canadian and U.S. French  

Edith Szlezák

The varieties of Canadian French are the result of both conservatism and innovation. The conservatism is manifested in the retention of archaic structures, which derive on the one hand from the dialects of northern and western France, the areas of origin of the Quebecker and Acadian settlers, and on the other hand from the common vernacular of the Ile-de-France area, the français populaire. Innovation has occurred independently of France because of the political rupture between France and New France in 1763, which also severed emotional ties: France had to cede territories to Great Britain due to its defeat in the Seven Years’ War and chose to separate from its North American colony while holding onto more profitable colonies, such as Guadeloupe. All normative influence on the development of Canadian French stopped. Since the French-speaking territories in North America have never been united administratively, and English has been the dominant language for the majority of citizens in Canada, no common institution providing prescriptive guidelines as to language use (such as the Académie Française in France) has been established. The varieties of Quebec and Acadian French spoken in Canada—and subsequently in the United States—developed freely. This resulted in an almost indescribable amount of linguistic variants in all fields. Whereas the phonological systems of Canadian and standard French (i.e., the hexagonal norm), in other words the inventory of sounds, barely differ, there is considerable variation in phonetics (i.e., pronunciation). The traditional areas of settlement for speakers of predominantly northern French dialects (Quebec) and predominantly western French dialects (Acadia and Maritime Provinces) have stayed administratively separate, resulting in considerable variation among the varieties of Canadian French.


The Early History of Romance Palatalizations  

Marcello Barbato

Strictly speaking, palatalization is a phonetic process of assimilation which can generate new palatal phonemes. However, in Romance linguistics, the term is traditionally used to describe any evolution (1) of velar stops preceding a front vowel, (2) of the palatal approximant (also known as “yod”) and clusters involving yod. Therefore, not only does “Romance palatalization” involve a segment which is already palatal, [j], but the result is also not always a palatal consonant: Sometimes it is a dental/alveolar (firstly an affricate, then in some cases a fricative). The article proposes a two-phase chronology for the early Romance palatalization, with the first phase affecting /kj/, /tj/ and in some cases /k/ and /g/ before front vowels, while the second phase affects other clusters involving /j/. It also draws a distinction between the varieties which show palatalization of velar consonants before front vowels (western Romània, central Italy) and varieties which do not show it or only show it at a late stage (Sardinia, southern Italy, the Balkans). The Romance data confirm some trends identified in typological literature and in some cases enable more precise descriptions. The consonants most susceptible to palatalization are: regarding the manner of articulation, stops (the most resistant are rhotics); regarding the place of articulation, velars (labials are the most resistant). Geminate segments are also more susceptible to palatalization.


Arthur Abramson  

Philip Rubin

Arthur Seymour Abramson (1925–2017) was an American linguist who was prominent in the international experimental phonetics research community. He was best known for his pioneering work, with Leigh Lisker, on voice onset time (VOT), and for his many years spent studying tone and voice quality in languages such as Thai. Born and raised in Jersey City, New Jersey, Abramson served several years in the Army during World War II. Upon his return to civilian life, he attended Columbia University (BA, 1950; PhD, 1960). There he met Franklin Cooper, an adjunct who taught acoustic phonetics while also working for Haskins Laboratories. Abramson started working on a part-time basis at Haskins and remained affiliated with the institution until his death. For his doctoral dissertation (1962), he studied the vowels and tones of the Thai language, which would sit at the heart of his research and travels for the rest of his life. He would expand his investigations to include various languages and dialects, such as Pattani Malay and the Kuai dialect of Suai, a Mon-Khmer language. Abramson began his collaboration with University Pennsylvania linguist Leigh Lisker at Haskins Laboratories in the 1960s. Using their unique VOT technique, a sensitive measure of the articulatory timing between an occlusion in the vocal tract and the beginning of phonation (characterized by the onset of vibration of the vocal folds), they studied the voicing distinctions of various languages. Their long standing collaboration continued until Lisker’s death in 2006. Abramson and colleagues often made innovative use of state-of-art tools and technologies in their work, including transillumination of the larynx in running speech, X-ray movies of speakers in several languages/dialects, electroglottography, and articulatory speech synthesis. Abramson’s career was also notable for the academic and scientific service roles that he assumed, including membership on the council of the International Phonetic Association (IPA), and as a coordinator of the effort to revise the International Phonetic Alphabet at the IPA’s 1989 Kiel Convention. He was also editor of the journal Language and Speech, and took on leadership roles at the Linguistic Society of America and the Acoustical Society of America. He was the founding Chair of the Linguistics Department at the University of Connecticut, which became a hotbed for research in experimental phonetics in the 1970s and 1980s because of its many affiliations with Haskins Laboratories. He also served for many years as a board member at Haskins, and Secretary of both the Board and the Haskins Corporation, where he was a friend and mentor to many.



Francisco Ordóñez

Catalan is a “medium-sized” Romance language spoken by over 10 million speakers, spread over four nation states: Northeastern Spain, Andorra, Southern France, and the city of L’Alguer (Alghero) in Sardinia, Italy. Catalan is divided into two primary dialectal divisions, each with further subvarieties: Western Catalan (Western Catalonia, Eastern Aragon, and Valencian Community) and Eastern Catalan (center and east of Catalonia, Balearic Islands, Rosselló, and l’Alguer). Catalan descends from Vulgar Latin. Catalan expanded during medieval times as one of the primary vernacular languages of the Kingdom of Aragon. It largely retained its role in government and society until the War of Spanish Succession in 1714, and since it has been minoritized. Catalan was finally standardized during the beginning of the 20th century, although later during the Franco dictatorship it was banned in public spaces. The situation changed with the new Spanish Constitution promulgated in 1978, when Catalan was declared co-official with Spanish in Catalonia, the Valencian Community, and the Balearic Islands. The Latin vowel system evolved in Catalan into a system of seven stressed vowels. As in most other Iberian Romance languages, there is a general process of spirantization or lenition of voiced stops. Catalan has a two-gender grammatical system and, as in other Western Romance languages, plurals end in -s; Catalan has a personal article and Balearic Catalan has a two-determiner system for common nouns. Finally, past perfective actions are indicated by a compound tense consisting of the auxiliary verb anar ‘to go’ in present tense plus the infinitive. Catalan is a minoritized language everywhere it is spoken, except in the microstate of Andorra, and it is endangered in France and l’Alguer. The revival of Catalan in the post-dictatorship era is connected with a movement called linguistic normalization. The idea of normalization refers to the aim to return Catalan to a “normal” use at an official level and everyday level as any official language.


Acquisition of L1 Phonology in the Romance Languages  

Yvan Rose, Laetitia Almeida, and Maria João Freitas

The field of study on the acquisition of phonological productive abilities by first-language learners in the Romance languages has been largely focused on three main languages: French, Portuguese, and Spanish, including various dialects of these languages spoken in Europe as well as in the Americas. In this article, we provide a comparative survey of this literature, with an emphasis on representational phonology. We also include in our discussion observations from the development of Catalan and Italian, and mention areas where these languages, as well as Romanian, another major Romance language, would provide welcome additions to our cross-linguistic comparisons. Together, the various studies we summarize reveal intricate patterns of development, in particular concerning the acquisition of consonants across different positions within the syllable, the word, and in relation to stress, documented from both monolingual and bilingual first-language learners can be found. The patterns observed across the different languages and dialects can generally be traced to formal properties of phone distributions, as entailed by mainstream theories of phonological representation, with variations also predicted by more functional aspects of speech, including phonetic factors and usage frequency. These results call for further empirical studies of phonological development, in particular concerning Romanian, in addition to Catalan and Italian, whose phonological and phonetic properties offer compelling grounds for the formulation and testing of models of phonology and phonological development.


Phonetic Transcription and the International Phonetic Alphabet  

Claire Brierley and Barry Heselwood

Phonetic transcription represents the phonetic properties of an actual or potential utterance in a written form. Firstly, it is necessary to have an understanding of what the phonetic properties of speech are. It is the role of phonetic theory to provide that understanding by constructing a set of categories that can account for the phonetic structure of speech at both the segmental and suprasegmental levels; how far it does so is a measure of its adequacy as a theory. Secondly, a set of symbols is needed that stand for these categories. Also required is a set of conventions that tell the reader what the symbols stand for. A phonetic transcription, then, can be said to represent a piece of speech in terms of the categories denoted by the symbols. Machine-readable phonetic and prosodic notation systems can be implemented in electronic speech corpora, where multiple linguistic information tiers, such as text and phonetic transcriptions, are mapped to the speech signal. Such corpora are essential resources for automated speech recognition and speech synthesis.


Discriminative Learning and the Lexicon: NDL and LDL  

Yu-Ying Chuang and R. Harald Baayen

Naive discriminative learning (NDL) and linear discriminative learning (LDL) are simple computational algorithms for lexical learning and lexical processing. Both NDL and LDL assume that learning is discriminative, driven by prediction error, and that it is this error that calibrates the association strength between input and output representations. Both words’ forms and their meanings are represented by numeric vectors, and mappings between forms and meanings are set up. For comprehension, form vectors predict meaning vectors. For production, meaning vectors map onto form vectors. These mappings can be learned incrementally, approximating how children learn the words of their language. Alternatively, optimal mappings representing the end state of learning can be estimated. The NDL and LDL algorithms are incorporated in a computational theory of the mental lexicon, the ‘discriminative lexicon’. The model shows good performance both with respect to production and comprehension accuracy, and for predicting aspects of lexical processing, including morphological processing, across a wide range of experiments. Since, mathematically, NDL and LDL implement multivariate multiple regression, the ‘discriminative lexicon’ provides a cognitively motivated statistical modeling approach to lexical processing.


Judeo-Spanish (Judezmo, Ladino)  

David M. Bunis

The Ibero-Romance-speaking Jews of medieval Christian Iberia were linguistically distinct from their non-Jewish neighbors primarily as a result of their language’s unique Hebrew-Aramaic component; preservations from older Jewish Greek, Latin, and Arabic; a tradition of translating sacred Hebrew and Aramaic texts into their language using archaisms and Hebrew-Aramaic rather than Hispanic syntax; and their Hebrew-letter writing system. With the expulsions from Iberia in the late 15th century, most of the Sephardim who continued to maintain their Iberian-origin language resettled in the Ottoman Empire, with smaller numbers in North Africa and Italy. Their forced migration, and perhaps a conscious choice, essentially disconnected the Sephardim from the Spanish language as it developed in Iberia and Latin America, causing their language—which they came to call laðino ‘Romance’, ʤuðezmo or ʤuðjó ‘Jewish, Judezmo’, and more recently (ʤudeo)espaɲol ‘Judeo-Spanish’—to appear archaic when compared with modern Spanish. In their new locales the Sephardim developed the Hispanic component of their language along independent lines, resulting in further differentiation from Spanish. Divergence was intensified through borrowing from contact languages of the Ottoman Empire such as Turkish, Greek, and South Slavic. Especially from the late 18th century, factors such as the colonializing interests of France, Italy, and Austro-Hungary in the region led to considerable influence of their languages on Judezmo. In the 19th century, the dismemberment of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires and their replacement by highly nationalistic states resulted in a massive language shift to the local languages; that factor, followed by large speech-population losses during World War II and immigration to countries stressing linguistic homogeneity, have in recent years made Judezmo an endangered language.


Phonological Variation and Change in European French  

Nigel Armstrong

We discuss here the considerable amount of phonological variation and change in European French in the varieties spoken in France, Belgium, and Switzerland, the major francophone countries of Europe. The data discussed here derive from the perceptual and especially behavioral studies that have sought to extend the Labovian paradigm beyond Anglo-American variable linguistic phenomena to bear upon Romance. Regarding France, what emerges is a surprisingly high degree of uniformity in pronunciation, at least over the non-southern part of the country, and most Southern French varieties are also showing convergence to the Parisian norm. Pockets of resistance to this tendency are nevertheless observable. The Belgian and Swiss situations have in common the looming presence of a supralocal and indeed supranational norm playing a role often attested in other discussions of standard or legitimized languages, that of the variety representing what commonly corresponds to the nonlocal. Indeed, it may be that Belgium and Switzerland typify the local–standard relation most often reported, while the French situation, because of its relatively leveled character, is less easily described as one of standardization.


The Source–Filter Theory of Speech  

Isao Tokuda

In the source-filter theory, the mechanism of speech production is described as a two-stage process: (a) The air flow coming from the lungs induces tissue vibrations of the vocal folds (i.e., two small muscular folds located in the larynx) and generates the “source” sound. Turbulent airflows are also created at the glottis or at the vocal tract to generate noisy sound sources. (b) Spectral structures of these source sounds are shaped by the vocal tract “filter.” Through the filtering process, frequency components corresponding to the vocal tract resonances are amplified, while the other frequency components are diminished. The source sound mainly characterizes the vocal pitch (i.e., fundamental frequency), while the filter forms the timbre. The source-filter theory provides a very accurate description of normal speech production and has been applied successfully to speech analysis, synthesis, and processing. Separate control of the source (phonation) and the filter (articulation) is advantageous for acoustic communications, especially for human language, which requires expression of various phonemes realized by a flexible maneuver of the vocal tract configuration. Based on this idea, the articulatory phonetics focuses on the positions of the vocal organs to describe the produced speech sounds. The source-filter theory elucidates the mechanism of “resonance tuning,” that is, a specialized way of singing. To increase efficiency of the vocalization, soprano singers adjust the vocal tract filter to tune one of the resonances to the vocal pitch. Consequently, the main source sound is strongly amplified to produce a loud voice, which is well perceived in a large concert hall over the orchestra. It should be noted that the source–filter theory is based upon the assumption that the source and the filter are independent from each other. Under certain conditions, the source and the filter interact with each other. The source sound is influenced by the vocal tract geometry and by the acoustic feedback from the vocal tract. Such source–filter interaction induces various voice instabilities, for example, sudden pitch jump, subharmonics, resonance, quenching, and chaos.