How do you pronounce biopic, synod, and Breughel? - and why? Do our cake and archaic sound the same? Where does the stress go in stalagmite? What's odd about the word epergne? As a finale, the author writes a letter to his 16-year-old self.
Review of The Oxford Handbook of Laboratory Phonology
EDITORS: Abigail C. Cohn, Cécile Fougeron and Marie K. Huffman TITLE: The Oxford Handbook of Laboratory Phonology SERIES TITLE: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics PUBLISHER: Oxford University Press YEAR: 2012
Phoebe M.S. Lin, Department of Chinese, Translation and Linguistics, City University of Hong Kong
SUMMARY Cohn, Fougeron and Huffman’s ‘Oxford Handbook of Laboratory Phonology’ provides a comprehensive overview of laboratory phonology, an approach that first began to gain explicit recognition in 1987 in close association with the biennial conference of the same name (known as LabPhon). The volume consists of 22 papers in 5 parts: I: Introduction (Chapters 1-3), II: Nature and Types of Variation: Their Interpretation within a Laboratory Phonology Perspective (Chapters 4-7), III: Multidimensional Representations of Knowledge of Sound Structure (Chapters 8-13), IV: Integrating Different Perspectives: Insights from Production, Perception and Acquisition (Chapters 14-16) and V: Methodologies and Resources (Chapters 17-22).
Chapter 1, ‘Introduction’ by Abigail C. Cohn, Cécile Fougeron and Marie K. Huffman, sets the scene by providing the background and a brief history of laboratory phonology before introducing the book’s organisation. Beginning with the first LabPhon conference at Ohio State University, laboratory phonology has sought to advance our understanding of human speech by situating it in the wider context of the human cognitive and biological systems. As a multidisciplinary approach to human speech research, it draws on theories and methods from a diverse range of experimentally-oriented fields, including phonetics, sociolinguistics, language acquisition, speech science and psycholinguistics. The book is designed to illustrate key topics, methods and outcomes in the field.
Chapter 2, ‘Introduction, Papers in Laboratory Phonology I: Between the Grammar and Physics of Speech’ by Mary E. Beckman and John Kingston, is a reprint (with re-editing) of the authors’ (1990) introduction to the proceedings of the first LabPhon conference. The paper lays out the authors’ vision for laboratory phonology and discusses how the then budding field offers the opportunity to overcome the unnecessary division of labour between phonetics and phonology.
Chapter 3, ‘Conceptual Foundations of Phonology as a Laboratory Science’ by Janet B. Pierrehumbert, Mary E. Beckman and D. Robert Ladd, is a reprint of a 2000 book chapter. To clarify the position of laboratory phonology, the chapter draws on recent work in the philosophy of science regarding the hallmarks of successful scientific communities. Those present in the field of laboratory phonology include population size (i.e. the number of member in the field) and the diversity of viewpoints of the members, the existence of auxiliary theories, the maintenance of a common vocabulary and the use of mathematics to make precise theoretical predictions. The chapter ends with a discussion of fundamental issues, including discrete/continuous formalism, categoriality and competence/performance.
Chapter 4, ‘Speaker-Related Variation -- Sociophonetic Factors’ by Gerard Docherty and Norma Mendoza-Denton, bridges the gap between sociophonetics and laboratory phonology by addressing their differences in terms of frame of reference, terminology and analytic methodology. Despite the increasing convergence of the two areas, it is important to get them to--in the authors’ words--‘speak the same language’. The paper highlights the ways in which sociophonetics and laboratory phonology may be mutually beneficial and argues that any comprehensive account of speech processing and representation should factor in social-indexical components, such as an individual’s previous linguistic experience in the speech community, his/her self-identity, and his/her identity in relation to the audience in the immediate communicative context. In this regard, the exemplar approach to phonological representation shows promise as a comprehensive framework that brings together sociophonetics and laboratory phonology and adequately factors in the social-indexical aspect.
Chapter 5, ‘Integrating Variation in Phonological Analysis’, argues that an adequate model of phonological grammar should give a full account of variation instead of relegating it to the background. The first half of the chapter by Andries W. Coetzee points out that phonological variation, whether it is gradient or discrete, is the result of multiple factors. These factors can be grammatical (e.g., the following phonological context) or non-grammatical (e.g., the age of the speaker and lexical frequency). The second half by Arto Anttila demonstrates how variability can be accounted for using a model based on Optimality Theory. The cases of English t/d deletion and Finnish word stress illustrate the proposed model.
Chapter 6, ‘Message-Related Variation’, discusses segmental and tonal variations. In the first half, Mirjam Ernestus reviews the different models that have been proposed to account for the production and comprehension of pronunciation variants involving assimilation and reduction (e.g., Articulatory Phonology, the exemplar-based model and the Underspecification Theory). In the second half, Yiya Chen examines tonal co-articulation across languages with particular focus on languages that have lexical tones (e.g., Sinitic languages). The idea that emerges from Chen’s review of earlier work is that the way focus is realised through pitch is similar whether it is a language with lexical tones (e.g., Mandarin Chinese) or a language without (e.g., English): the pitch range of the focused item is expanded, while that of the post-focus items is compressed and lowered and that of the pre-focus items remains neutral.
Chapter 7, ‘System-Related Variation’ by Philip Hoole, Barbara Kühnert and Marianne Pouplier, explores the ways in which the biomechanics of the speech organs contribute to variations in the acoustics of segments. Through examining the cases of velar stops and intrinsic f0 effects on vowel height and consonant voicing, it becomes clear that system-related variation is delicate and complex in nature. The difficulty with investigating system-related variation is due to the lack of comprehensive data on the dynamic actions of the speech organs in speech production as well as the challenges in separating the contributions of variance of the higher-level control structures and the executing system.
Chapter 8, ‘Lexical Representations’, presents four different perspectives on the dynamics of lexical representation. Based on the observation that speech perception is not hindered by the great surface variation in the phonetic realisation of words, the first section by Adam Albright examines how much phonological information is stored in the mental lexicon. As Albright notes, researchers hold very different views about the need to include predictable or redundant phonetic specifications in lexical representations and the sufficiency of the phonological grammar in handling surface variation of phonetic realisations. The second section by Aditi Lahiri presents a view of lexical representation built upon the notion of a Featurally Underspecified Lexicon (FUL). She offers a brief description of FUL and a demonstration of how FUL operates from the extraction of features in the speech signal to the successful recognition of words. The third section by Sarah Hawkins challenges the existence of a mental lexicon and the status of the word as a privileged linguistic and meaning unit, and proposes an alternative speech processing model based on domain-general perceptual mechanisms. The final section by Janet B. Pierrehumbert considers the dynamic relationship between the lexical systems of individuals and the lexical systems of the community with a particular focus on the factors that influence the rise and fall of (new) words in the community lexicon (e.g., a word’s frequency of use and some social factors).
Chapter 9, ‘Phonological Elements’, covers distinctive features, contrastive tone and a model of phonological category learning. The first section on distinctive features by Jeff Mielke deals with the typology of sound patterns with a particular focus on human cognition. According to Mielke, cognitive biases can influence the typology of sound patterns in a complex manner, and the mechanism of this influence needs to be accounted for. The second section by Elizabeth C. Zsiga addresses various questions pertaining to contrastive tone, including its nature, representation and realisation, by drawing on different laboratory approaches (e.g., acoustic measurement of f0 patterns, perception and articulatory studies and modelling). The final section by Paul Boersma presents a model of category learning, including its characteristics and how it compares with similar models. The model is an extension of the Boersma (1998) model and involves computer simulations of a learning algorithm developed based on Optimality Theory.
Chapter 10, ‘Organisation of Phonological Elements’, presents three approaches to the organisation of phonological elements. The first section by Adamantios Gafos and Louis Goldstein discusses the organisation of phonological elements from the perspective of Articulatory Phonology, and explains how the construct of speech gesture may explain various phonological phenomena, including syllable structure. The second section by Marie-Hélène Côté argues for the psycholinguistic reality of the syllable as a phonological unit in phonological processes, production and perception studies and statistical analyses of the lexicon. The final section by Alice Turk provides an account of durational variability associated with prosodic organisation, including the use of segment or syllable lengthening to signal prominence and the use of pause and initial lengthening to signal prosodic boundaries. The author also considers Articulatory Phonology to be a powerful theory because it provides different ways of modelling durational variability and its complex interactions with other layers of the prosodic hierarchy.
Chapter 11, ‘Prosodic Representations’, explores the nature of prosodic representations from the perspective of the autosegmental-metrical (AM) model of intonational phonology. The first section by Sónia Frota shows that it is possible to integrate three different views of prosodic structure (i.e., rule-based structure, intonation-based structure and prominence-based structure) and raises issues of prosodic constituents and levels of phrasing. The second section by Amalia Arvaniti reviews the fundamental principles of the AM approach to intonation, in which prosodic constituents and levels of phrasing are key. The final section by Mariapaola D’Imperio addresses issues pertaining to tonal alignment (i.e., how target tones are temporally coordinated or synchronized with prosodic units and their constituents), including its variability and language specificity.
Chapter 12, ‘Phonological Representations in Language Acquisition: Climbing the Ladder of Abstraction’ by Benjamin Munson, Jan Edwards and Mary E. Beckman, discusses the progressive development of phonological representations in first language learners. From before birth to 12 years of age, phonological representations constantly change and grow in terms of the level of abstraction. Language specificity takes shape before a child turns 1. While a child’s perception of speech segments, language input and early speech production all play a part in the dynamic changes of phonological representations in the brain, the researchers particularly note the interdependence between vocabulary size and phonological representations. In other words, a child’s vocabulary size grows with his/her speech perception ability and the increase in vocabulary size further enhances speech perception ability. This knowledge and discernment of speech segments is derived from multiple factors, including the segments’ articulation and acoustics, and their functions in the mental lexicon and socially situated communication.
Chapter 13, ‘Changes in Representations’, examines the link between synchronic variation and diachronic language change from different approaches. The first section by Ioana Chitoran presents an overview of the type of changes (e.g., listener-perceived versus speaker-produced variation) and explains the relationship between synchronic variation and diachronic change using the concept of phonologisation, exemplified by the transition from phonetic variation to phonological variation in Hyman’s (1976) model. The second section by Jonathan Harrington focuses on addressing why languages and varieties across the world appear to follow similar paths of diachronic change despite ostensibly random phonetic variation. The chapter points to the significance of unwitting imitation of speech behaviours among interlocutors in propagating diachronic change. The final section by Robert Kirchner offers an exemplar theory-based account of language change. The Phonological Exemplar-Based Learning System (PEBLS) is presented as a solution to a specific problem with generating a composite output from a collection of unique, variable-length signals.
Chapter 14, ‘Insights from Perception and Comprehension’, reviews research on speech category learning and the mapping of the input speech signal to phonological representations in the speech perception process. The first half of the chapter by Lori L. Holt reviews key research evidence pertaining to native and non-native speech category learning by infants, children and adults (as well as animals) with the aim of isolating the factors of speech category learning. The second half by Noél Nguyen examines theories that attempt to explain the mechanism of spoken word recognition. According to Nguyen, the Featurally Underspecified Lexicon model (also referred to as the abstractionist model) and the exemplar-based model differ in their views of the role of context and the relevance of fine phonetic detail in speech perception. However, there are also recent models that aim to bridge the gap between the abstractionist and the exemplar-based models (e.g., Tuller et al., 1994; Tuller, 2004).
Chapter 15, ‘Emergent Information Level Coupling between Perception and Production’ by Bob McMurray and Ashley Farris-Trimble, argues that perception-production coupling emerges as a by-product of distributional/statistical learning, part of the general learning mechanism. To illustrate the underpinnings of this coupling, the authors discuss three cases (i.e., interactive spread activation, developmental mechanisms and the identification of categories in the presence of variability in the input). They conclude that perception results in a probabilistic representation, which is fundamental in accounting for the link between perception and production.
Chapter 16, ‘Insights from Acquisition and Learning’, reviews work on phonological development in early first language acquisition, bilingualism, multilingualism and second language acquisition. The first section by Katherine Demuth and Jae Yung Song presents an overview of factors that influence within-speaker variability in first language acquisition, including syllable and prosodic word structures, children’s articulatory control and the phonotactic complexity and position of the target items in the utterance. The second section by Paola Escudero brings together previous empirical research findings in order to pin down the various language processing difficulties facing sequential and simultaneous bilinguals and multilinguals. For instance, simultaneous bilinguals (but not sequential bilinguals) can perform like monolingual listeners when perceiving vowels and consonants in behavioural speech perception studies (but not in studies that use electroencephalography). The final section by Rajka Smiljanic outlines key research questions in second language speech perception and production research. These key questions include the phonetic effect that L2 exhibits on the L1 and the extent to which the absence of a specific phonetic contrast in L1 may lead to difficulties in perceiving and producing the same contrast present in the inventory of the L2.
Chapter 17, ‘Corpora, Databases, and Internet Resources’, focuses on the issue of data sources in phonetics and phonology research. The first section by Jennifer Cole and Mark Hasegawa-Johnson focuses on corpus phonology. After introducing the various uses of speech corpora in phonological research, they discuss practical issues, including how to choose a corpus and how to transcribe a corpus prosodically and phonetically. The second section by Dan Loehr and Linda Van Guilder examines the uses of the internet as a source of data. The discussion has two parts: a list of phonological databases and resources that are available on the internet, and points to note when conducting phonological experiments via the internet. The third section by Henning Reetz introduces techniques in speech manipulation, speech synthesis and forced alignment (i.e., the forced mapping of each phone in a word on some portion of its acoustic signal). The final section by Stefan A. Frisch considers the use of lexical corpora in studies of language phonology and concentrates on the opportunities lexical corpora offer in the analysis of the distribution, frequency and probability of phonological patterns.
Chapter 18, ‘Articulatory Analysis and Acoustic Modeling’, describes the theory of and research methods for articulatory, acoustic and aerodynamic analysis of speech. The first section by Khalil Iskarous critically reviews four theories that attempt to deductively explain the physical sources of distinctive features and the contrastive systems of the world’s languages (Quantal Theory, Theory of Adaptive Dispersion, Dispersion-Focalisation Theory and the Distinctive Region Model). The second section by Lisa Davidson discusses issues pertaining to the use of ultrasound as a tool for speech research, including the advantages, practical operation and methodological considerations. The third section by Helen M. Hanson reviews methods used to investigate laryngeal function (e.g., fiberscopy, photoglottography and electroglottography) and aerodynamic properties of speech (e.g., pneumotachography, plethysmography and tracheal puncture). The final section by Christine H. Shadle explores the acoustics and aerodynamics of fricatives with particular focus on recording, measurement and analysis techniques.
Chapter 19, ‘Prosodic Analysis’, surveys research methods in prosodic research. The first section by Pilar Prieto introduces the concepts and uses of a range of experimental methods and paradigms, such as Categorical Perception (CP), the Gating paradigm, Priming, eye-tracking, Event Related Potentials (ERPs) and functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). The second section by Brechtje Post and Francis Nolan considers issues of research design and data collection, including qualitative versus quantitative methods and naturalistic versus elicited data. These issues are discussed with reference to three speech corpora designed for prosody research, including the Romance Languages Database (RLD), the Spontal project and the APriL project.
Chapter 20, ‘Encoding, Decoding, and Acquisition’, introduces experimental methods used to study online processing of speech. The first section by Jessica Maye discusses experimental methods (e.g., tracking of pre-natal infant heart rate, high-amplitude sucking, looking time and head-turn response) and paradigms (i.e., habituation, preference and conditioned response) for testing infants’ phonetic reception. The second section by Niels O. Schiller focuses on methods for investigating phonological encoding in speech production. The methods are divided into two types: behavioural methods (e.g., reaction time, implicit and explicit priming and the picture-word interference paradigm) and neurocognitive methods (particularly electroencephalography). The third section by Paul Iverson introduces methods for investigating phonetic perception in adults, including measurements of categorisation (such as identification tasks and goodness-rating tasks) and measurements of perceptual sensitivity (such as category discrimination, judgements and multidimensional scaling). The fourth section by Shari R. Speer examines the advantages and applications of eye-tracking in speech research and the practical issues concerning its use in laboratory phonology. The final section by William Idsardi and David Poeppel reviews a range of neuroimaging techniques (e.g., electroencephalography, magnetoencephalography, fMRI) and offers advice on the practical operation of electroencephalography and magnetoencephalography for laboratory phonology.
Chapter 21, ‘Experimental Design and Data Collection’, discusses issues of research design and methods in sociophonetics. The first section by James M. Scobbie and Jane Stuart-Smith raises awareness about the need to incorporate socially-structured pools of participants in the design of laboratory phonology studies. In Stuart-Smith’s research into Glasgow English, for instance, instead of taking a random sample of Glaswegian participants, care was taken to balance the number of samples taken from each gender, age and social class. The second section by Natasha Warner presents methods for studying spontaneous speech and highlights the usefulness of speech corpora as a source of spontaneous speech data. The final section by Paul Warren and Jennifer Hay examines how laboratory phonology techniques can be brought into sociolinguistics to widen the scope of its investigations, data types and data analysis.
Chapter 22, ‘Statistical Analyses’, presents techniques that can be used in speech research. The first section by John Kingston uses two case studies using linear models of continuous dependent variables and mixed-effects models of ordinal dependent variables. The second section by Harald Baayen focuses on mixed-effects models and argues for their usefulness in revealing the structure of quantitative data. The final section by Cynthia G. Clopper introduces clustering, multidimensional scaling and factor analysis as methods that are useful in visualising and interpreting the relationships between variables in high-dimensional spaces.
EVALUATION ‘The Oxford Handbook of Laboratory Phonology’ aims to serve as a guide to the philosophy, workings and findings of the laboratory phonology approach. It achieves this goal by bringing together leaders in the field to provide state-of-the-art reviews of how laboratory phonology has influenced research in their specialist areas.
Laboratory phonology as an approach to phonetics and phonology emphasizes, amongst other things, experimentation and the use of actual data to support claims and arguments. Its applicability is virtually unlimited, as the papers here make clear. Despite the wide coverage of topics of laboratory phonology, some key concerns of the approach emerge in the Handbook. The concerns relate particularly to the cognition and processing of sounds, such as the representation of sounds in the mental lexicon, the mapping of input sounds with the representation in word recognition, development of phonological knowledge in infants and experimental techniques for testing online language processing. Other recurrent themes include sociophonetic research and the use of spoken corpora in phonology research.
While the breadth of coverage and the depth of knowledge are clear strengths of the book, a difficulty I encountered concerns the organisation. Most chapters are divided into separate sections written by specialists. Although the individual sections are well-written, the connection between sections is not always clear. In the absence of a chapter conclusion or summary, the overall message of the chapter as a whole is often unclear.
The book is written for phoneticians, phonologists, speech scientists and sociolinguists in order to raise awareness of the importance of experimentation. For the specialist, this Handbook is a useful resource as it offers reviews and summaries of the latest research by leaders in the field of phonetics and phonology, though it might be less accessible for a general linguistic audience. It is a good starting point for any researcher who needs an update on the specific research questions covered.
REFERENCES Boersma, P. (1998). Functional phonology: formalizing the interactions between articulatory and perceptual drives. The Hague: Holland Academic Graphics.
Hyman, L. (1976). Phonologization. In A. Juilland (ed.), Linguistic studies presented to Joseph H. Greenberg (pp. 407-418). Saratoga: Anma Libri.
Tuller, B. (2004). Categorization and learning in speech perception as dynamical processes. In M. A. Riley and G. C. Van Orden (eds.), Tutorials in contemporary nonlinear methods for the behavioral sciences. National Science Foundation.
Tuller, B., Case, P., Ding, M. and Kelso, J. A. S. (1994). The nonlinear dynamics of speech categorization. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 20, 3-16.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Phoebe M. S. Lin is Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Chinese,
Translation and Linguistics of City University of Hong Kong. Her research
focuses on the acquisition, processing and use of idiomatic language by
first and foreign language learners. She publishes on corpus linguistics,
applied linguistics, English vocabulary and second language acquisition.
She has a forthcoming monograph on the prosody of formulaic language in
spontaneous English spoken discourse.