Second Dialect Acquisition +
When someone moves to a new region, (how) do they change their accent? What can these changes tell us about language and the people who use it? My own work suggests that accent changes occur primarily at the word level, with fine-grained lexical and phonetic patterning that is best accounted for within a theory that includes phonetically rich underlying representations. Relatedly, I've found that mobile people who are exposed to a new (for them) cot/caught contrast may produce a phonetic distinction between those word classes while apparently failing to recognize a more abstract contrast between them (in fact, metalinguistic awareness of the contrast doesn't seem to correlate at all with whether someone actually produces the distinction in their conversational speech).
Mobile people don't just absorb new dialect forms, however: my research has also indicated that speakers learn new links between dialect forms and social meaning, and use both their native and new accent features to convey stance and complex place identity.
I'm continuing and broadening this work as part of an NSF-supported project titled Second Dialect Acquisition and Stylistic Variation in Mobile Speakers. Read more about the project (and if applicable, sign up to participate!) here.
Methods in Sociophonetics +
Several of my collaborative projects involve comparing or developing ways of dealing with data at various stages of collection and analysis. Shannon Mooney and I have been working to develop a novel game-based task for studying vowel convergence between speakers. Paul De Decker and I have examined how different audio compression formats affect acoustic vowel measurements, and have used ultrasound imaging alongside acoustic measurements to show how different articulatory strategies may underlie essentially the same acoustic signal, even within a community.
Once we have our measurements, we must then decide what they mean: how large are the observed differences between groups, and are they significant? Lauren Hall-Lew and I have compared and evaluated several methods for quantifying vowel difference, work which has supported our individual research projects in vowel merger and distinction as well as those of the wider sociophonetics community.