Locating de-lateralization in the pathway of sound changes affecting coda /l/

Patrycja Strycharczuk, Jason Shaw, and I just published Locating de-lateralization in the pathway of sound changes affecting coda /l/, in which we analyze New Zealand English /l/ using Ultrasound and Articulometry. You can find the article here. Put in the simplest English terms, the article shows the process by which /l/-sounds in speech can change over time from a light /l/ (like the first /l/ in ‘lull’) to a darker /l/ (like the second /l/ in ‘lull’). This darkening is the result of the upper-back, or dorsum, of the tongue moving closer to the back of the throat. This motion in turn reduces lateralization, or the lowering of the sides of the tongue away from the upper teeth. This is followed, over time, by the tongue tip no longer connecting to the front of the hard palate – the /l/ becomes a back vowel or vocalizes.

Two subcategories identified in the distribution of TT raising for the Vl#C context. Red = vocalized.

If you want a more technical description, Here is the abstract:

‘Vocalization’ is a label commonly used to describe an ongoing change in progress affecting coda /l/ in multiple accents of English. The label is directly linked to the loss of consonantal constriction observed in this process, but it also implicitly signals a specific type of change affecting manner of articulation from consonant to vowel, which involves loss of tongue lateralization, the defining property of lateral sounds. In this study, we consider two potential diachronic pathways of change: an abrupt loss of lateralization which follows from the loss of apical constriction, versus slower gradual loss of lateralization that tracks the articulatory changes to the dorsal component of /l/. We present articulatory data from seven speakers of New Zealand English, acquired using a combination of midsagittal and lateral EMA, as well as midsagittal ultrasound. Different stages of sound change are reconstructed through synchronic variation between light, dark, and vocalized /l/, induced by systematic manipulation of the segmental and morphosyntactic environment, and complemented by comparison of different individual articulatory strategies. Our data show a systematic reduction in lateralization that is conditioned by increasing degrees of /l/-darkening and /l/-vocalization. This observation supports the idea of a gradual diachronic shift and the following pathway of change: /l/-darkening, driven by the dorsal gesture, precipitates some loss of lateralization, which is followed by loss of the apical gesture. This pathway indicates that loss of lateralization is an integral component in the changes in manner of articulation of /l/ from consonantal to vocalic.

The Impacts of a Community-Based Health Education and Nutritional Support Program on Birth Outcomes Among Migrant Workers in Maesot, Thailand: A Retrospective Review

Used by permission: Charis Project / Shade Tree Foundation.

Wayland Joseph Blue, myself, and Carrien Leith Blue have co-authored a paper on the benefits of community-based health education and nutritional support on the birth outcomes among migrant workers in Maesot, Thailand, recently published in the International Social Science Review.

We worked on this article together because it was important to share with the world how low-cost education and nutritional supplementation can massively improve birth weight and early childhood health. The Charis Project / Shade tree Foundation have been active on such tasks for many years now, and I have be honoured to get to be a part of documenting their great work. To quote the first author Wayland: “These approaches aren’t limited to developing countries. They are as relevant in inner-city communities in the United States as they are in rural Thailand and Myanmar.”

Used by permission: Charis Project / Shade Tree Foundation.

The acknowledgment section of the article didn’t make it through proofing, so I put that material here on my website. We wanted to thank Zohreh Bayatrizi for being an early reader of the article and providing great feedback, and for TinTin’s efforts in helping us meticulously work through all of the data we had – she spend many days enduring my rather thorough questions. These questions extended beyond what we put in the article, and helped Charis reorganize their records. I am also grateful that UC permitted me to spend some of my Sabbatical time on this task as it is outside of my usual research focus. In addition, Pi Gamma Mu has proven itself dedicated to making excellent social science research freely available. In an age of far too many important articles behind paywalls, I am glad that this article is not, and I would like to thank Pi Gamma Mu and all of their alumni for making this possible.


Here is presented a retrospective review of the Charis Project’s Family Engagement Program (FEN) as it existed in 2014-2017. FEN was a program of women’s health education, nutrition supplements, and family visitation. The education program consisted of a 12-week course on nutrition, maternity, and sex education taught individually and in groups, focusing on pregnant Burmese migrant laborers, but including approximately 20 percent male participation. The nutrition supplements consisted of 5 kilograms of fresh vegetables and 12 eggs weekly to pregnant mothers, from course onset to about six months after childbirth depending on family needs. Family visitation took place during food deliveries, and focused on individual counselling and family stability. The program served 39 families from 2014-2017. FEN did not reduce neonatal mortality (due to a miscarriage and severe congenital birth defect), but resulted in all surviving infants being born normal weight and surviving to the end of 2019, representing a significant improvement over the 25.6 percent low birth weights reported for Kayin State, Myanmar.

Phonological contrast and phonetic variation: the case of velars in Iwaidja

Jason A. Shaw, Christopher Carignan, Tonya Agostini, Robert Mailhammer, Mark Harvey and I have recently had an article on Iwaidja accepted to Language. The article is now out, is an open publication, and can be accessed at project MUSE here.

Figure 3 from the article

It was a privilege to be a part of this project!. The article represents several years of work on the part of all of us – my part seeming to me to be the least of all. We acknowledge a host of granting agencies, lab supporters, and researchers, but most of all the Iwaidja speakers: Charlie Mangulda, David Cooper, James Cooper, Henry Guwiyul, Ilijili Lamilami, Isobel Lamilami, and Maggi Maburnbi for sharing the Iwaidja language and culture. (For those of you who don’t know, Iwaidja is an endangered Australian Language from NorthWest Australia.) The abstract itself summarizes the article succinctly.


A field-based ultrasound and acoustic study of Iwaidja, an endangered Australian aboriginal language, investigated the phonetic identity of non-nasal velar consonants in intervocalic position, where past work had proposed a [+continuant] vs [-continuant] phonemic contrast. We analyzed the putative contrast within a continuous phonetic space, defined by both acoustic and articulatory parameters, and found gradient variation from more consonantal realizations, e.g. [ɰ], to more vocalic realizations, e.g. [a]. The distribution of realizations across lexical items and speakers did not support the proposed phonemic contrast. This case illustrates how lenition that is both phonetically gradient and variable across speakers and words can give the illusion of a contextually restricted phonemic contrast.

Native language influence on brass instrument performance

Matthias Heyne, myself, and Jalal Al-Tamimi recently published Native language influence on brass instrument performance: An application of generalized additive mixed models (GAMMs) to midsagittal ultrasound images of the tongue. The paper contains the bulk of the results form Matthias’ PhD Dissertation. The study is huge, with ultrasound tongue recordings of 10 New Zealand English (NZE) and 10 Tongan trombone players. There are 12,256 individual tongue contours of vowel tokens (7,834 for NZE, 4,422 for Tongan) and 7,428 individual tongue contours of sustained note production (3,715 for NZE, 3,713 for Tongan).

Figure 4 in the paper.

The results show that native language influences tongue position during Trombone note production. This includes tongue position and note variability. The results also support Dispersion Theory (Liljencrants and Lindblom 1972; Lindblom, 1986; Al-Tamimi and Ferragne, 2005) in that vowel production is more variable in Tongan, which has few vowels, then in NZE, which has many.

The results also show that note production at the back of the tongue maps to low-back vowel production (schwa and ‘lot’ for NZE, /o/ and /u/ for schwa). These two result sets support an analysis of local optimization with semi-independent tongue regions (Ganesh et al., 2010, Loeb, 2012).

The results do not, however, support the traditional brass pedagogy hypothesis that higher notes are played with a closer (higher) tongue position. However, Matthias is currently working with MRI data that *does* support the brass pedagogy hypothesis, and that we might not have seen this because of the ultrasound transducer stabilization system needed to keep the ultrasound probe aligned to the participant’s head.

Liljencrants, Johan, and Björn Lindblom. 1972. “Numerical Simulation of Vowel Quality Systems: The Role of Perceptual Contrast.” Language, 839–62.

Lindblom, Björn. 1963. Spectrographic study of vowel reduction. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 35(11): 1773–1781.

Al-Tamimi, J., and Ferragne, E. 2005. “Does vowel space size depend on language vowel inventories? Evidence from two Arabic dialects and French,” in Proceedings of the Ninth European Conference on Speech Communication and Technology, Lisbon, 2465–2468.

Ganesh, Gowrishankar, Masahiko Haruno, Mitsuo Kawato, and Etienne Burdet. 2010. “Motor Memory and Local Minimization of Error and Effort, Not Global Optimization, Determine Motor Behavior.” Journal of Neurophysiology 104 (1): 382–90.

Loeb, Gerald E. 2012. “Optimal Isn’t Good Enough.” Biological Cybernetics 106 (11–12): 757–65.

Tri-modal speech: Audio-visual-tactile integration in speech perception

Figure 3 in paper.

Myself, Doreen Hansmann, and Catherine Theys just published our article on “Tri-modal Speech: Audio-visual-tactile Integration in Speech Perception” in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. This paper was also presented as a poster at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) Annual Convention in Orlando, Florida, November 21-22, 2019, winning a meritorious poster award.

TL-DR; People use auditory, visual, and tactile speech information to accurately identify syllables in noise. Auditory speech information is the most important, then visual information, and lastly aero-tactile information – but we can use them all at once.


Speech perception is a multi-sensory experience. Visual information enhances (Sumby and Pollack, 1954) and interferes (McGurk and MacDonald, 1976) with speech perception. Similarly, tactile information, transmitted by puffs of air arriving at the skin and aligned with speech audio, alters (Gick and Derrick, 2009) auditory speech perception in noise. It has also been shown that aero-tactile information influences visual speech perception when an auditory signal is absent (Derrick, Bicevskis, and Gick, 2019a). However, researchers have not yet identified the combined influence of aero-tactile, visual, and auditory information on speech perception. The effects of matching and mismatching visual and tactile speech on two-way forced-choice auditory syllable-in-noise classification tasks were tested. The results showed that both visual and tactile information altered the signal-to-noise threshold for accurate identification of auditory signals. Similar to previous studies, the visual component has a strong influence on auditory syllable-in-noise identification, as evidenced by a 28.04 dB improvement in SNR between matching and mismatching visual stimulus presentations. In comparison, the tactile component had a small influence resulting in a 1.58 dB SNR match-mismatch range. The effects of both the audio and tactile information were shown to be additive.

Derrick, D., Bicevskis, K., and Gick, B. (2019a). “Visual-tactile speech perception and the autism quotient,” Frontiers in Communication – Language Sciences 3(61), 1–11, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fcomm.2018.00061

Gick, B., and Derrick, D. (2009). “Aero-tactile integration in speech perception,” Nature 462, 502–504, doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/nature08572.

McGurk, H., and MacDonald, J. (1976). “Hearing lips and seeing voices,” Nature 264, 746–748, doi: http://dx.doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1038/264746a0

Calculating an Erdös-Chomsky-Bacon number – 13

Some days it is hard to focus on work – any day where I have to look at large-scale copy-edits is one of them. So I decided to procrastinate by calculating my Erdös-Chomsky-Bacon number (modified), which is any publication links across co-authors to Paul Erdös and Noam Chomsky, as well as any filmed acting across actors to Kevin Bacon. That last part is a cheat because a Bacon number is supposed to be movie-only connections, but I’m OK with that because I was paid to do the acting.

My Erdös-Chomsky-Bacon number is 13:

Erdös Number = 4

Donald Derrick -> Daniel Archambault
Derrick, Donald and Archambault, Daniel Treeform: Explaining and exploring grammar through syntax trees. Literary and Linguistic Computing, (2010). 25(1):53–66.

Daniel Archambault -> David G. Kirkpatrick
Archambault, Daniel; Evans, Willam; Kirkpatrick, David Computing the set of all the distant horizons of a terrain. Internat. J. Comput. Geom. Appl. 15 (2005), no. 6, 547–563.

David G. Kirkpatrick -> Pavol Hell
Kirkpatrick, D. G.; Hell, P. On the complexity of general graph factor problems. SIAM J. Comput. 12 (1983), no. 3, 601–609.

Pavol Hell -> Paul Erdős
Erdös, P.; Hell, P.; Winkler, P. Bandwidth versus bandsize. Graph theory in memory of G. A. Dirac (Sandbjerg, 1985), 117–129, Ann. Discrete Math., 41, North-Holland, Amsterdam, 1989.

Chomsky number = 5

Donald Derrick -> Michael I. Proctor
Examining speech production using masked priming.
Chris Davis, Jason A. Shaw, Michael I. Proctor, Donald Derrick, Stacey Sherwood, Jeesun Kim
Proceedings of the 18th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, 2015

Michael I. Proctor -> Louis Goldstein
Analysis of speech production real-time MRI.
Vikram Ramanarayanan, Sam Tilsen, Michael I. Proctor, Johannes Töger, Louis Goldstein, Krishna S. Nayak, Shrikanth Narayanan
Computer Speech & Language, 2018

Lousi Goldstein -> Srikantan S. Nagarajan
A New Model of Speech Motor Control Based on Task Dynamics and State Feedback.
Vikram Ramanarayanan, Benjamin Parrell, Louis Goldstein, Srikantan S. Nagarajan, John F. Houde
Proceedings of the Interspeech 2016, 2016

Srikantan S. Nagarajan -> David Poeppel
Asymptotic SNR of scalar and vector minimum-variance beamformers for neuromagnetic source reconstruction. (DOI)
Kensuke Sekihara, Srikantan S. Nagarajan, David Poeppel, Alec Marantz
IEEE Trans. Biomed. Engineering, 2004

David Poeppel -> Noam Chomsky
Governing Board Symposium The Biology of Language in the 21st Century. (DOI)
Noam Chomsky, David Poeppel, Patricia Churchland, Elissa L. Newport
Proceedings of the 33th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, 2011

Bacon number = 4

Donald Derrick -> Earl Quewezance
“Frontrunners” by European News at the “Play the Game” conference (2005)

Earl Quewezance -> Rob Morrow
“The Mommy’s Curse”, episode 6, Northern Exposure (1995)

Rob Morrow -> Embeth Davdtz
Emperor’s Club (2002)

Embeth Davidtz -> Kevin Bacon
Murder in the First (1995)

“Articulatory Phonetics” Resources

Back in 2013, Bryan Gick, Ian Wilson and myself published a textbook on “Articulatory Phonetics”. This book contained many assignments at the end of each chapter and in supplementary resources. After many years of using those assignments, Bryan, Ian, and many colleagues figured out that they needed some serious updating.

These updates have been completed, and are available here. The link includes recommended lab tools to use while teaching from this book, as well as links and external resources.

P.S. Don’t get too excited students – I’m not posting the answers here or anywhere else 😉

Aero-tactile integration during speech perception: Effect of response and stimulus characteristics on syllable identification

Jilcy Madappallimattam, Catherine Theys and I recently published an article demonstrating that aero-tactile stimuli does not enhance speech perception during open-choice experiments the way it does during two-way forced-choice experiments.


Integration of auditory and aero-tactile information during speech perception has been documented during two-way closed-choice syllable classification tasks (Gick and Derrick, 2009), but not during an open-choice task using continuous speech perception (Derrick et al., 2016). This study was designed to compare audio-tactile integration during open-choice perception of individual syllables. In addition, this study aimed to compare the effects of place and manner of articulation. Thirty-four untrained participants identified syllables in both auditory-only and audio-tactile conditions in an open-choice paradigm. In addition, forty participants performed a closed-choice perception experiment to allow direct comparison between these two response-type paradigms. Adaptive staircases, as noted by Watson (1983). Were used to identify the signal-to-noise ratio for identification accuracy thresholds. The results showed no significant effect of air flow on syllable identification accuracy during the open-choice task, but found a bias towards voiceless identification of labials, and towards voiced identification of velars. Comparison of the open-choice results to those of the closed-choice task show a significant difference between both response types, with audio-tactile integration shown in the closed-choice task, but not in the open-choice task. These results suggest that aero-tactile enhancement of speech perception is dependent on response type demands.

Derrick, D., O’Beirne, G. A., De Rybel, T., Hay, J., and Fiasson, R. (2016). “Effects of aero-tactile stimuli on continuous speech perception,” Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 140(4), 3225.

Gick, B., and Derrick, D. (2009). “Aero-tactile integration in speech perception,” Nature 462, 502–504.

Watson, A. B. (1983). “QUEST: A Bayesian adaptive psychometric method,” Perceptual Psychophysics, 33(2), 113–120.

TreeForm for Windows reverted to version 1.03

Apologies to all Windows users, but my revised version of TreeForm does not seem to run on your system due to the fact that Java developers have effectively ruined internationalization for windows runs. It will be a least 1 month before I can even begin to have time to address this issue.

I now have SourceForge automatically send you version 1.03 (as TreeFormWindows.zip) if you are running Windows, and that one should work for most users still. Apple users still benefit from the new and improved version.

Apologies for the inconvenience.

Ultrasound Transducer Stabilizer for Children.

Our three-dimensional printable ultrasound transducer stabilizer has been a huge success. It is in use here at the University of Canterbury, as well as the University of Michigan, Hiroshima University, University of California, Los Angeles, and soon at the University of British Columbia. (And it is available at Western Sydney University).

However, Phil Hoole at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich figured out that the transducer stabilizer does *not* work with Children. He developed a solution to that problem, and I am making it available here. Within this zip file, there is a new probe holder. The base and clip-holder should be printed as is. Each remaining file needs to be scaled to 75% of their size and then printed. Each file marked with X2 needs to be printed *twice*.

I will put photos of this version of the probe-holder online once I have printed new copies and sewn all the pieces together sometime in October.