Open-Mouthed or Stiff Upper Lip? Exploring Language-Specific Articulatory Settings in English-German Bilinguals

Lead Research Organisation: Queen Margaret University Edinburgh
Department Name: Clinical Audiology Speech &Lang Res Cen

Abstract

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Publications

10 25 50
 
Description There are many reasons for why languages sound different. Languages differ, for example, in the sets of sounds they are composed of, and in how intonation is used throughout utterances. However, languages may make a distinction on an even more basic level, namely in the characteristic way speakers of a language set up their articulators, i.e. their tongue, their lip and their jaw - during speech, and in the preparation for speech. This phenomenon is often referred to as language-specific articulatory settings.

The aim of our project was to develop a methodology suitable to empirically determine whether bilingual speakers keep their two languages apart by setting up their articulators in a different manner for each language. To this end we have employed articulatory instrumentation to explore the speech production of German-English bilinguals. Specifically, we used Ultrasound Tongue Imaging to record the overall shape of the tongue, the motion-capture system Vicon to record the position of the jaw and the lips as they change over time, and Electropalatography to record contact patterns of the tongue with the roof of the mouth.

The results of our project show that the bilinguals we tested do indeed produce their two languages differently, and that these differences can be quantified. Moreover, we have developed a naturalistic and generalisable methodology that can be utilised in future research on articulatory settings, and that can be expanded to a range of language dyads. Crucially, we have also gained important insights into speech preparation, more generally, as well as further refined our articulatory measurements.
Exploitation Route We had a lot of interest from researchers working on bilingualism as well as researcher working on principles of speech production and speech preparation more generally.
Sectors Education,Healthcare

 
Description Queen Margaret University Project Investment Bid scheme
Amount £2,000 (GBP)
Organisation Queen Margaret University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2010 
End 03/2010
 
Description Research Associate role 
Organisation Economic and Social Research Council
Department ESRC Centre for Research on Bilingualism in Theory & Practice
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution My publications have been submitted under annual reports to the ESRC. I have been invited to give a talk at the Centre.
Collaborator Contribution On-going intellectual exchange with Centre staff have informed my research.
Impact Mennen, I., Scobbie, J., deLeeuw, E., Schaeffler, S., Schaeffler, F. (2010). Measuring Language-Specific Phonetic Settings. In: Second Language Research 26 (1): 13-41.
Start Year 2008
 
Description Articulatory aspects of clicks 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Delivered at workshop on clicks
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity
 
Description Language-specific articulatory settings in L2 speech 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Presented at Newsounds 2010
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
 
Description Newspaper coverage 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact We were approached by a journalist of the Sunday Times, a bilingual herself, who was interested in our research and wanted to report on it.

We invited her to spend the day at our lab, participate in our experiment and have a look at our equipment.

This resulted in an article in the Times on Sunday with the title "Study puts the accent on English for foreigners" (15 Nov 2009).


After reading the newspaper article, various people approached me asking about research on Bilingualism and other related activities in Edinburgh - mainly parents to children growing up with two or more languages. I could assure these members of the public about the benefits of bilingualism and also made them aware of community activities led by "Bilingualism Matters" (http://www.bilingualism-matters.ppls.ed.ac.uk/). Any reassurance to parents of bilingual children and the offer of support where needed can in my experience help to ensure that parents will continue to use more than one language at home.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
URL http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/scotland/article6917405.ece
 
Description Phonological analysis and the interpretation of phonetic patterns : with particular reference to social variation and articulatory ultrasound data 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Invited talk as part of seminar series
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity
 
Description Sounds and ultrasound in Scotland : seeing what people can & can't hear 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Invited talk
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity