Kilbourn-Ceron et al. at CLS

Last week we presented a paper on flapping and production planning at CLS:

Oriana Kilbourn-Ceron, Michael Wagner & Meghan Clayards (McGill University) The effect of production planning locality on external sandhi: A study in /t/

The intervocalic flapping of English coronal stops /t, d/ is nearly categorical when the VTV sequence is within a word but variable when a word boundary intervenes, and occurs only rarely across a large boundary such as a clause edge. This is pattern cross-linguistically common in external sandhi — but why are segmental processes at word edges often more variable, and what influences the rate of variability? Previous literature on phonological variability has proposed that phonological rules make reference to syntactic structure or that phonological process are tied to prosodic domains. In contrast, we propose that phonological variability is only indirectly influenced by syntax and prosody through the locality of production planning. This hypothesis is motivated by psycholinguistic models of speech production, and we test its predictions for English flapping in a corpus study and a production experiment. Results show that syntax may have an effect above and beyond prosodic boundary strength, and that the lexical frequency of the following word has a significant influence on rate of flapping, consistent with the LPP hypothesis.

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prosodylab this summer in Tübingen

This summer, McGill’s prosodylab will be represented at the DGFS summer school in Tübingen on Mapping Meaning: Theory – Cognition – Variation, which is held August 15th – 26th, 2016 in Tübingen/Germany.  Early bird registration is open until June 1st.




The course is titled Prosody and Incremental Processing, an abstract is posted here.


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toward an intonational bestiary

Check out tomorrow’s prosodylab poster at NELS 46 at Concordia:

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 9.50.13 PM

Daniel Goodhue, Lyana Harrison, Yuen Tung Clémentine Su, and Michael Wagner (2015). Toward a bestiary of English intonational tunes. Poster at the 46th Conference of the North Eastern Linguistic Society, at Concordia University, in Montréal. [abstract] [poster] [items.]

If you want to know about the project, have a look here.

The sound data can be explored here:

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Contact us if you’d like to learn more, or want to suggest other annotations or ways to analyze this data. You can also annotate it yourself if you want.

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paper on relative clause extraposition

We posted a new paper on relative clause extraposition in German on the semantics archive:

Poschmann, Claudia & Michael Wagner (accepted). Relative Clause Extraposition and Prosody in German. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory. [draft: semantics archive]

Whether a relative clause (RC) can be extraposed has been argued to depend both on contextual focus and on whether an RC is restrictive or appositive. However, no previous study has looked at the interaction between these two factors in restricting extraposition, despite the fact that different types of relative clauses are generally taken to differ in how they relate to focus. Furthermore, previous studies have not looked at the role of prosody in accounting for the effect of focus on extraposition, and have found contradictory results with respect to the prosodic differences between appositive and restrictive relative clauses. This paper presents the results of a production experiment on German which crosses the location of focus and the type of RC in order to explore how they interact in affecting prosody and extraposition.

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information structure and production planning

Just posted a forthcoming review paper on information structure and production planning on the semantics archive:

Wagner, Michael (accepted). Information Structure and Production Planning. To appear in: Féry, Caroline & Shinishiro Ishihara: The Handbook of Information Structure. Oxford University Press. [draft: semantics archive]

Utterances are planned and realized incrementally. Which information is salient or attended to prior to initiating an utterance has influences on choices in argument structure and word order, and affects the prosodic prominence of the constituents involved. Many phenomena that the linguistic literature usually treats as reflexes of the grammatical encoding of information structure, such as the early ordering of topics, or the prosodic reduction of old information, are treated in the production literature as a consequence of how contextual salience interacts with production planning. This article reviews information structural effects that arise as a consequence of how syntactic and phonological information is incrementally encoded in production, and how we can tell these effects apart from grammatically encoded aspects of information structure that form part of the message.

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Earlier this week some of us went to McGill’s gorgeous Gault nature reserve for a language labs lab meeting (lalala).

Students from Meghan Clayards‘s Speech Learning Lab, Florian Jaeger‘s HLP lab, Chigusa Kurumada‘s Kinder Lab, Morgan Sonderegger‘s Montreal Language Modeling Lab, and Michael Wagner‘s prosody.lab presented on current projects.

gault2[photo: gui garcia]

Research presentations:

  • Esteban Buz: Contextual confusability, feedback and their effects on speech production
  • Guilherme Garcia: Stress and gradient weight in Portuguese
  • Dan Goodhue: It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it: Intonation, yes, and no
  • Oriana Kilbourn-Ceron: Phrasing and phonological variability
  • Linda Liu: Learning under causal uncertainty in speech perception
  • Amanda Pogue: Exploring expectations based on speaker-specific variation in informativity

Idea talks:

  • Zach Burchill: Are accents hard to learn?
  • Guilherme Garcia: Second language acquisition of English stress by Québec French speakers
  • Sarah Colby: Effects of normal aging on perceptual flexibility for speech
  • Dan Goodhue: Towards a probabilistic explanation of contextual evidence
  • Dave Kleinschmidt: Learning to adapt
  • Maryam Seifeldin: Adaptation to and generalization of unfamiliar phonetic features

LaLaLa was co-sponsored by funds to the PIs of all participating labs

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etap3–deadline this monday!

Experimental and Theoretical Advances in Prosody (ETAP) 3: Prosody and Variability

Date: 28-May-2015 – 30-May-2015
Location: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA
Call for Papers

Deadline: January 11 2015

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Tools for Linguistic Fieldwork and Experimentation

Tomorrow at the LSA Meeting in Portland, there’ll be a tutorial on LingSync and ProsodyLab-Aligner: Tools for Linguistic Fieldwork and Experimentation. If you plan on attending and would like to try out the Prosodylab-Aligner while being there, you should try to install the aligner beforehand. You’ll find it here:


The aligner has just undergone some revisions, and we currently only have installation instructions for the new aligner for Mac users:

Prosdoylab-Aligner: Installation Instructions for Mac Users

Please keep tuned for updates in the coming week, since we’re still finalizing the documentation of the new features and changes. In the meantime, if you’d like to use the old aligner (compatible with the video tutorial below), then you can still install that here:

Prosodylab-Aligner, Previous Version

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recent work

McClay, Elise & Michael Wagner (in press). Accented Pronouns and Contrast. To appear in the Proceedings of the 50th Meeting of the Chicago Linguistics Society in 2014. [paper]

Abstract: Both the lack of accentuation on a referring expression and the choice of a pronoun over a full noun phrase have been tied to a higher accessibility of the referent. Why, then, would a pronoun ever be accented? We consider three perspectives: Kameyama’s (1999) Complementary Preference Hypothesis, Smyth’s (1994) Parallel Function view, and Rooth’s (1992) Alternatives Theory of Focus, and present experimental evidence in favour of the focus view. We conclude by noting issues with respect to the definition of contrast that arise when considering cases of multiple foci as in the data of our experiments.

Wagner Michael (in press). Phonological Evidence in Syntax? In: Tibor Kiss and Artemis Alexiadou (Eds.): Syntax – Theory and Analysis. An International Handbook. Handbooks of Linguistics and Communication Science. 42. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2015 [paper]

Abstract: Linguistic constituents that encode salient information are often prosodically reduced. Recent studies have presented evidence that higher contextual accessibility of referents results in lower prosodic prominence. Accounts of reduction in terms of accessibility set out to explain a range of phenomena that include those that are in the domain of linguistic theories of focus and givenness. The tacit assumption is that more general and independently motivated accessibility factors will be able to supplant the more specialized grammatical accounts of prosodic prominence. This paper reviews previous results and finds that existing accessibility accounts cannot explain a range of data easily captured by the alternatives theory of focus, and that various experimental studies motivating the accessibility view actually fail to distinguish between the two accounts. New experimental data is presented that teases apart the effects of accessibility and linguistic focus.

Wagner, Michael & Jeffrey Klassen (in press). Accessibility is no Alternative to Alternatives. To appear in Language, Cognition and Neuroscience. [paper]

Abstract: Linear precedence is one of the key sources of evidence for the syntactic structure of complex expressions, but other aspects of the phonological representation of a sentence, such as its prosody, are often not considered when testing syntactic theories. This overview provides an introduction to the three main dimensions of sentence prosody, phrasing, prominence and intonational tune, focusing on how they can enter syntactic argumentation.

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prosody and constituent structure

The conference eti3: Prosody and Constituency at McGill (co-organized by Emily Elfner, Jessica Coon, Lisa Travis, and myself) is now over. Thanks everyone for participating!

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