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P* Group, 04/06 – Connie Ting

At this week’s p group meeting, Apr 6 12pm, Connie will lead discussion on phonology puzzles in Kirundi. It will be our last meeting this semester, hope to see you all there!

P* Group, 2/16 – Xuanda Chen

At this week’s P group meeting, Feb 16 12pm,  Xuanda will lead a discussion on the paper “Comparing acoustic analyses of speech data collected remotely” (Zhang et al., 2021).

Abstract: Face-to-face speech data collection has been next to impossible globally as a result of the COVID-19 restrictions. To address this problem, simultaneous recordings of three repetitions of the cardinal vowels were made using a Zoom H6 Handy Recorder with an external microphone (henceforth, H6) and compared with two alternatives accessible to potential participants at home: the Zoom meeting application (henceforth, Zoom) and two lossless mobile phone applications (Awesome Voice Recorder, and Recorder; henceforth, Phone). F0 was tracked accurately by all of the devices; however, for formant analysis (F1, F2, F3), Phone performed better than Zoom, i.e., more similarly to H6, although the data extraction method (VoiceSauce, Praat) also resulted in differences. In addition, Zoom recordings exhibited unexpected drops in intensity. The results suggest that lossless format phone recordings present a viable option for at least some phonetic studies.

P* Group, 2/9 – Morgan Sonderegger

At this week’s P group meeting, Feb 9 12pm,  Morgan will lead a discussion on the paper “A surprisal–duration trade-off across and within the world’s languages” (Pimentel, T. et al., 2021).

Abstract: While there exist scores of natural languages, each with its unique features and idiosyncrasies, they all share a unifying theme: enabling human communication. We may thus reasonably predict that human cognition shapes how these languages evolve and are used. Assuming that the capacity to process information is roughly constant across human populations, we expect a surprisal–duration trade-off to arise both across and within lan- guages. We analyse this trade-off using a cor- pus of 600 languages and, after controlling for several potential confounds, we find strong supporting evidence in both settings. Specifically, we find that, on average, phones are pro- duced faster in languages where they are less surprising, and vice versa. Further, we confirm that more surprising phones are longer, on average, in 319 languages out of the 600. We thus conclude that there is strong evidence of a surprisal–duration trade-off in operation, both across and within the world’s languages.

P* Group, 2/2 – Meghan Clayards

At this week’s P group meeting, Feb 2 12pm,  Meghan will lead a discussion on the paper “A Cross-Language Acoustic Space for Vocalic Phonation Distinctions” (Patricia Keating et al., 2021).


Many languages use multiple phonation types for phonemic or allophonic distinctions. This study examines the acoustic structure of the phonetic space for vowel phonations across languages, focusing on the acoustic phonetic space for languages with non-modal phonation on vowels (rather than on consonants, or as coarticulation from consonant contrasts). Our sample of 11 languages, from five language families, includes languages with contrastive phonation types on vowels, allophonic non-modal phonation associated with particular tones, and English as a single-category case. Together these 11 languages provide 29 instances from among the following categories: Modal, Breathy, Creaky, Lax, Tense, Harsh, and/or Pharyngealized.

P* Group, 01/26 – First Meeting

This semester our p group meeting will happen every Wednesday 12-1pm. The first meeting will be next Wednesday, Jan 26. Note that you need to first register at this link: https://mcgill.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZApcO-rqzsiHNRdMTmpnjjT_BGciaTWWoNM and you will get a zoom link for all our meetings this semester.

P* Group, 12/16 – Avleen and Heather

At this week’s P group meeting, Dec 16 1pm, Avleen and Heather will give a presentation on “Obstruent-approximant-vowel strings in Hindi”.

Abstract: In this paper, we examine the syllabification of obstruent-approximant-vowel (CAV) strings in Hindi. We propose four alternative representations for CAV: CA may form a complex onset; AV may form a light diphthong; A may simultaneously be part of a complex onset and light diphthong; or C and A may be separated by an empty nucleus. Evidence for the various alternatives comes from: phonotactic constraints that hold on sonority and place dimensions; the presence or absence of devoicing of A; the presence or absence of a pause between C and A; and the location of stress. We conclude that data from Hindi motivate an approach to syllabification that is both hierarchical and abstract.

P* Group, 12/09 – David Shanks

At this week’s P group meeting, Dec 9 1pm, David will give a presentation on “The sounds of Southern Tutchone”.

Abstract: Southern Tutchone is an understudied Dene (Athabaskan) language spoken in the Yukon. It has a privative tone system with two level and two contour tones, a large phonemic inventory, and highly complex morpho-phonological processes. This talk will frame these issues in a discussion of the possessive system, which has been my focus in this initial stage of work on the language.

P* Group, 12/2 – Tommy Liu

December 2nd at 1pm, Tommy will give a presentation on “Silent Heads and Pwd-Edges in Quebec French”. 


Abstract: In the first part of my talk, I present novel phonetic evidence from my corpus (Montreal metro annoucements) to support the theory of silent heads in French. With this theory, I will examine C-clusters at the edges of Pwds in Québec French, including words like [tabaʁnakl] > [tabaʁnak], [mnemɔnik], and the exceptional [sɛptʁ]. All data and analysis is completely novel, and not documented in any previous literature, therefore there is no reading for this talk.

P* Group, 11/25 – Rachel Soo

At this week’s P group meeting, Nov 25 1pm, Rachel Soo, a PhD student in University of British Columbia, will give a presentation on “Recognition and representation of Cantonese sound change variants in a bilingual lexicon”.

Abstract: Systematic phonetic variation within and across languages and dialects exposes listeners to different pronunciation variants. While previous research has shown that speech perception may be robust to phonetic variation, the effects on spoken word recognition do not necessarily follow suit. I present joint work with Molly Babel examining phonetic variation through the lens of an ongoing sound change in Cantonese involving word-initial [n] and [l] in two primed lexical decision tasks (Experiment 1: Immediate repetition priming task, Experiment 2: Long distance priming task). Our main question is: How are sound change pronunciation variants recognized and represented in a bilingual lexicon? The results of both experiments suggest that (1) [n]- and [l]-initial variants are processed equivalently in both short and long-term spoken word recognition, and (2) while the [n]-initial “prestige” variant may hold a preferential status, regular exposure to Cantonese endows bilingual listeners with the perceptual flexibility to dually-map pronunciation variants to a single lexical-representation.

P* Group, 11/18 – Alex Zhai

At this week’s P group meeting, Nov 18 at 1pm, Alex will present the paper “English /r/-/l/ category assimilation by Japanese adults: Individual differences and the link to identification accuracy” (Kota Hattori and Paul Iverson).


Native speakers of Japanese often have difficulty identifying English /r/ and /l/, and it has been thought that second-language (L2) learning difficulties like this are caused by how L2 phonemes are assimilated into ones native phonological system. This study took an individual difference approach to examining this relationship by testing the category assimilation of Japanese speakers with a wide range of English /r/-/l/ identification abilities. All Japanese subjects were assessed in terms of (1) their accuracy in identifying English /r/ and /l/, (2) their assimilation of /r/ and /l/ into their Japanese flap category, (3) their production of /r/ and /l/, and (4) their best-exemplar locations for /r/, /l/, and Japanese flap in a five-dimensional set of synthetic stimuli (F1, F2, F3, closure duration, and transition duration). The results demonstrated that Japanese speakers assimilate /l/ into their flap category more strongly than they assimilate /r/. However, there was little evidence that category assimilation was predictive of English /r/-/l/ perception and production. Japanese speakers had three distinct best exemplars for /r/, /l/, and flap, and only their representation of F3 in /r/ and /l/ was predictive of identification ability.

P* Group, 11/11 – Irene Smith

At this week’s P group meeting, Nov 11 1pm, Irene will lead a discussion on the paper “Uniformity in phonetic realization: Evidence from sibilant place of articulation in American English” (Eleanor Chodroff and Colin Wilson).

Abstract: Phonetic realization is highly variable and highly structured within and across talkers. We examine three constraints that could structure the phonetic space of related speech sounds: target, contrast, and pattern uniformity. Target uniformity requires a uniform mapping from distinctive features to their corresponding phonetic targets within a talker; contrast uniformity requires a consistent difference in the phonetic targets that realize featural contrasts across talkers; and pattern uniformity requires a uniform template of phonetic targets across talkers. Focusing on American English sibilant fricatives, we measure and compare each constraint’s influence on the phonetic targets corresponding to place of articulation. We find that target uniformity is the strongest constraint: each talker realizes a given distinctive feature value in highly similar ways across related sounds. Together with similar findings for other sound classes, this result reveals fine-grained systematicity in the mapping from phonology to phonetics and has implications for theories of speech production and speech perception.

P* Group, 10/21 – Wei Zhang

At this week’s P group meeting, Oct 21 1pm,  Wei will lead a discussion on the paper “A non-contrastive cue in spontaneous imitation: Comparing mono- and bilingual imitators” (Kwon, 2021).

Abstract: This study tests the hypothesis that imitators of different native languages imitate the same targets in distinct ways predicted by their native phonology, by investigating the role of a non-contrastive phonetic property in spontaneous imitation of English voiceless stops by English monolingual and Seoul Korean-English bilingual imitators. The primarily contrastive phonetic property for English voiceless stops is voice onset time (VOT), with the fundamental frequency (f0) of the post-stop vowel being non-contrastive but still informative for the voicing contrast. On the other hand, in Seoul Korean, stop VOT is a non-primary cue, but it is necessary to maintain the full three-way laryngeal contrast in the language. Post-stop f0 is the primary cue for the Seoul Korean aspirated stops. Seoul Korean speakers have been reported to imitate aspirated stops with longer VOT by raising their post-stop f0 (Kwon, 2019). In this study, English monolingual speakers and Seoul Korean-English bilingual speakers heard and shadowed model speech containing English voiceless stops manipulated by either raising post-stop f0 or lengthening VOT. Their imitation was assessed with two acoustic measurements, stop VOT and post-onset f0, of the voiceless stops, before and after the imitators heard the model speech with the two manipulations. A separate discrimination test confirmed that both manipulations were reliably perceived by both the monolingual and the bilingual imitators. English monolingual speakers’ imitation data suggest that their shadowing productions reflect the phonological significance of the two phonetic properties, and only the imitative changes induced by a contrastive cue last beyond the immediate shadowing targets. In addition, Seoul Korean-English bilingual speakers, when performing the spontaneous imitation tasks in English, do not draw on their native (Seoul Korean) phonology. Implications of these findings on the role of phonology in the spontaneous imitation of bilingual and monolingual speakers are discussed.

P* Group, 10/07 – Connie Ting

At this week’s P group meeting, Oct 7 1pm,  Connie will lead a discussion on the paper “Tonogenesis” (Michaud and Sands, 2020).


Tonogenesis is the development of distinctive tone from earlier non-tonal contrasts. A well-understood case is that of Vietnamese (similar in its essentials to that of Chinese and many languages of the Tai-Kadai and Hmong-Mien language families), where the loss of final laryngeal consonants led to the creation of three tones, and the tones later multiplied as voicing oppositions on initial consonants waned. This is by no means the only attested diachronic scenario, however. There is tonogenetic potential in various series of phonemes: glottalized vs. plain consonants, unvoiced vs. voiced, aspirated vs. unaspirated, geminates vs. simple (and, more generally, tense vs. lax), and even among vowels, whose intrinsic fundamental frequency can transphonologize to tone. But the way in which these common phonetic precursors to tone play out in a given language depends on phonological factors, as well as on other dimensions of a language’s structure and on patterns of language contact, resulting in a great diversity of evolutionary paths in tone systems. In some language families (such as Niger-Congo and Khoe), recent tonal developments are increasingly well-understood, but working out the origin of the earliest tonal contrasts (which are likely to date back thousands of years earlier than tonogenesis among Sino-Tibetan languages, for instance) remains a mid- to long-term research goal for comparative-historical research.

If you want to come and haven’t registered, you can do it here.

P* Reading Group

The time of the P* group meeting will be 1-2 pm on Thursdays. The first meeting will be on Sept 23 (1: 00 pm). To attend the meeting, please first register here: https://mcgill.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUofu6oqzwvGNcO_blbZvGfDVIeVp2G71mb.  The meeting link will be sent to you after the registration. You only need to register for the first meeting. If you would like to be added to the PGROUP Mailing List, please email Wei with your contact information. 

P* Reading Group Scheduling

We’re scheduling a time that works best for the weekly P* group meeting for this semester. If you are interested in attending, please mark down all time slots that work for you in this poll:


Email Wei (wei.zhang16@mail.mcgill.ca) with any questions.

P* Reading Group, 4/12 — Alex Zhai

This Monday at 12:30pm, Alex (Z.) will present on her project titled “Acoustic characteristics of vowel reduction in advanced Spanish-English bilinguals”. All are welcome! To join the meeting, please use the information in the confirmation email that you received following registration. If you haven’t registered, please do so here.

P* Reading Group, 3/29 — Meghan Clayards

Next Monday at 12:30pm, Meghan will lead a discussion on “Context-dependent phonetic enhancement of a phonation contrast in San Pablo Macuiltianguis Zapotec” (Barzilai, M. L. & Riestenberg, K. J., 2021).

To join the meeting, please use information in the confirmation email that you received following registration. If you haven’t registered, please do so here.

P* Reading Group, 3/22 — Alex Zhai

This week Alex Zhai will be presenting work titled “Acoustic characteristics of vowel reduction in advanced Spanish-English bilinguals”. P* Group meets on Mondays at 12:30pm. All are welcome! To get information on how to join the meeting, please register here.

P* Reading Group, 3/8 — Alex Cucinelli

This week Alex Cucinelli will be leading discussion on “Assessing the psychological status of the Vowel Shift Rule” (Jaeger 1984). P* Group meets on Mondays at 12:30pm. All are welcome! To get information on how to join the meeting, please register here.

P* Reading Group, 2/22 — Natália Brambatti Guzzo

This week Natália Brambatti Guzzo will be leading discussion on “Pretonic Vowel Reduction in Brazilian Portuguese: Harmony and Dispersion”. P* Group meets on Mondays at 12:30pm. All are welcome! To get information on how to join the meeting, please register here.

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