University of Toronto Phonetics Lab

Current research in the phonetics lab

Below are some short blurbs about research projects currently underway using lab equipment and/or facilities. This page is still being updated – this is very much not an exhaustive list!

Breathy phonation in Gujarati speakers

Kiranpreet Nara

Breathy phonation is fairly rare among consonants in the languages of the world and even rarer among vowels, and Gujarati contrasts breathy and modal phonation in both consonants and vowels. This research looked at the acoustic and articulatory parameters of breathy and modal vowels in two groups of Gujarati speakers: heritage and native. Native speakers had arrived in Canada from Gujarat, India from 2013–2016 and the heritage Gujarati speakers were either born in Canada or arrived before the age of seven years. Heritage speakers' command of their home language may be weaker with respect to vocabulary, morphosyntax, or vowel production; this study revealed that phonation type is also affected in heritage speakers. The acoustic measures that were studied were spectral measures (H1-H2, H1-A1, etc.), noise (harmonic-to-noise ratio), periodicity (cepstral peak prominence), and fundamental frequency. The articulatory part of the study used electroglottography (EGG) to measure the contact quotient of the vocal folds during the two phonation types. Overall results indicated that compared to native speakers, heritage speakers had fewer acoustic and articulatory parameters that distinguished breathy and modal vowels. The magnitude of the breathy/modal difference was also smaller for heritage speakers than for native speakers.

Vocal fold contact quotient (CQ) in Gujarati breathy vs. modal voice

Nasal harmony in Slovenian

Peter Jurgec et al.

In the summers of 2016 and 2017, Peter Jurgec and two groups of undergraduate students travelled to the town of Mostec in Slovenia to collect data on nasal harmony in the local dialect.

Mostec Slovenian is the first reported case of nasal harmony in a Slavic language. This was confirmed through nasalance studies using both real words and sets of nonce words, with results confirming bidirectional nasal harmony that targets vowels and most liquids. The trigger of nasal harmony in nonce words is only the nasal glide; nasal sonorant stops, in contrast, display only nasalization of adjacent vowels, but no nasal harmony. The disparity between triggers and non-triggers is likely due to cross-linguistic, perceptual, and diachronic causes.

Perception of Korean contrasts by Mandarin learners

Na-Young Ryu

Native speakers of Mandarin, which L1 has only a binary laryngeal contrast, must acquire a three-way laryngeal contrast in stops and affricates when they learn Korean. This research involves two perception experiments with a focus on Korean L2 language proficiency in L1 Mandarin speakers. The results reveal that most Mandarin learners do not reach the same level of perceptual discrimination accuracy as native speakers; however, advanced learners perceive contrasts more accurately than beginning and intermediate learners. In addition, Mandarin listeners are more successful at perceiving Korean aspirated stop and affricate contrasts compared to fortis and lenis, regardless of L2 proficiency. Finally, lenis is least likely to be differentiated perceptually by Mandarin listeners across all proficiency groups. This suggests that Mandarin listeners pay less attention to f0, which is the most relevant dimension for native Korean listeners in discriminating lenis consonants from fortis and aspirated consonants.

Articulation & perception of rhotics

Phil Howson

Rhotics are problematic as a natural class because there is significant phonological evidence for class membership, but there is little phonetic, acoustic, or perceptual evidence to support this. Part of the difficulty in unifying these segments is that they span a large number of places and manners. This research aims to target segments commonly left out of rhotic analyses, including fricative and uvular segments. The goal is to find both articulatory and perceptual patterns across rhotics and to apply these findings to explain their phonological and phonotactic patterning.

Past research

Some highlights from past work in the lab.

Ejectives in Oromo & Slavey

Maida Percival

This research is a cross-linguistic acoustic study of stop contrasts in languages with ejectives. Speakers of Eastern Oromo (Cushitic; Ethiopia) from Toronto’s immigrant population were recorded in the phonetics lab, and speakers of Slavey (Dene) in Délįne, Northwest Territories recorded themselves on-site. Acoustic variation in the duration, intensity, and coarticulatory effects of ejective stops was compared to similar analyses by other researchers on other languages; comparisons were conducted both within the recorded languages and between other languages considered in the study. I found compared to other stops within and across languages. The results suggest that ejectives can be considered a multidimensional continuum of acoustic cues, which group closely in certain language families (i.e. the Dene/Athabaskan one). Future work will investigate the relative importance of the cues within and across languages in a series of perception studies.

Updated Oct 11 2017