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Plenary speakers

Mirjam Ernestus (Radboud University Nijmegen)
The production and comprehension of casual speech
Most research into the production and comprehension of casual speech focuses on well articulated speech, and all existing experimental paradigms are originally designed for investigating this speech register. Investigating casual speech is much more difficult since participants typically do not produce casual speech in the laboratory and since they only expect casual speech in the right context. In this talk, I will discuss the successes and failures of several (new) experimental paradigms for the investigation of casual speech.
Stefan Grondelaers (Radboud University Nijmegen)
Why do we use them when we know perfectly well it should be they? Speaker evaluation research into ongoing syntactic change.
Dutch syntacticians are publicly alarmed, but privately delighted by a change which is happening right under their noses, viz. the rapid spread of the object pronoun hun in subject position (as in Als je zo speelt krijgen hun natuurlijk altijd kansen ‘If you will play like that them will always get chances’). This change excites (extreme) irritation on the part of the cultural and educational establishment, even to the extent that the former Dutch minister of education decided to take concrete action against it (in a well-meant but ill-reasoned attempt at linguistic Don Quixotism).
In recent corpus-based work we have uncovered a major internal motivation for the change: subject-hun is significantly preferred in contexts in which it profiles a negative contrast between its referent and the speaker (group). Since this internal factor does not explain the astonishing rapidity of the change, we have pre-empirically proposed (Grondelaers and Van Hout 2011: 215) that the rapid diffusion of subject-hun is co-conditioned by an external factor, viz. “a certain covert prestige inherent in the anti-authoritarian challenge of a conservative [standard language] ideology which is rapidly crumbling”.
In this paper we report the data from two perceptual experiments into the evaluation and ideological construction of subject-hun. An open response experiment with participants from two age groups (< 25 and > 50) was conducted to track changes in public discourses about subject-hun. In order to gain access into deeper, more private evaluations – which motor language change to a larger extent than public evaluations (Kristiansen 2009) –, we conducted a speaker evaluation experiment in which older and younger listener-judges evaluated unlabelled speech clips, in which subject pronouns and two phonological variables were manipulated to contrast standard and nonstandard usage.
Oliver Niebuhr (Christian-Albrecht-University, Kiel)
Reduction phenomena: hindrance or gain in speech communication?
In its traditional use, the term ‘reduction’ implies that the corresponding production phenomena undermine the speech code and thus hinder speech communication. Distinctive features or entire sound segments are lenited, elided, or take over features of neighbouring segments. A number of studies in the past 20 years have contributed to attenuating this destructive view of speech reduction by showing (a) that reduction is a gradual rather than a categorical process, i.e. local exponents of the reduced features or sounds remain, and (b) that listeners can easily handle (and may under some circumstances even perceptually revert) reduction processes. The talk aims at continuing this line of evidence.
Based on recent production and perception studies on German, it is argued that even those reduction processes that appear complete at the level of sound segments often leave salient traces of the affected sound(s) in the form of ‘articulatory prosodies’. Moreover, it seems that speech reduction is not only driven by reducing production efforts. Reduction phenomena (in their specific contexts) also convey communication functions that relate to discourse organization and speaker attitudes. In summary, the growing body of evidence amounts to the conclusion that reduction is actually more of a gain than a hindrance in speech communication.
Antonella Sorace (University of Edinburgh)
Variation in anaphoric expressions in early and late bilingualism
Bilinguals from childhood and adult late bilinguals both show variability in linguistic intuitions and behavior that appears to be (a) especially prominent at the interfaces between syntax and pragmatics and (b) asymmetrically visible in one language but not in the other. I will illustrate these patterns of variability with experimental data from bilinguals speaking different language combinations, focusing in particular on the use of anaphoric expressions. I will argue that an age-sensitive subtle interplay of linguistic constraints and specific executive functions is at the root of variation. I will conclude that a better understanding of the interactions between language and general cognition requires a range of sensitive experimental methods and an interdisciplinary approach to the data.


Last updated by: Merete Borch 12/03/2013