Friday, 2 April 2010

BAAP day one

Seriously, though (cf. yesterday’s blog), there were indeed several interesting presentations at the BAAP meeting. I wasn’t able to attend everything, but among those that especially captured my attention on the first day were

• a study by Esther de Leeuw et al showing that native speakers of German living in Canada produce an l-sound that is darker than that of monolingual German speakers but not as dark as that of Canadian native speakers of English.

• work by Rob Drummond showing that native speakers of Polish living in Manchester can have a STRUT vowel ranging in quality anywhere from Polish a via RP-like ʌ to northern ʊ. The longer they have lived there, the more likely they are to have abandoned the open vowel they were taught at school for the closer vowel that Mancunians actually use. (More here.)

• a plenary in which Sophie Scott discussed the neurophysiology of the brain. Trained phoneticians, and those good at learning languages, tend to have a more developed Heschl’s gyrus and more white matter (connectivity) in the brain areas crucial for language. (More here and in my blog for 15 October 2008.)

More to follow next week.


  1. But do trained phoneticians have a more developed Herschel's gyrus because their work develops it, or do they succeed in becoming trained physicians because they already have a more developed Herschel's gyrus?

  2. The UCL media relations piece appears to be written for rhotics who are not fussy about the use of 'i.e.': "The Hindi sound is pronounced with the tongue curled upwards onto the roof of the mouth i.e. ardent."

    Your blog for 15 October 2008 is so right about the way one falls in love with phonetics. When you say discovering it was like falling in love, I get the impression that you discovered it for yourself. You recently wrote that as a schoolboy you found Daniel Jones’s Outline of English Phonetics in the local public library (so did I). Was that the moment of discovery? I was lucky enough to be taught phonetics from day 1 of French. Would it were ever thus!

  3. Yes, I've noticed the trend identified by Rob Drummond. The word "bus" (a STRUT word) is an interesting one since it exists in many other European languages and is pronounced in many different ways.

    Back in "Accents of English" (page 111), you used Punjabi accents in Bradford as an example of immigrant accents. It's interesting to see what's happened: many third- and fourth-generation British Asians retain some sort of Asian accent in cities such as Bradford (where they make up a large proportion of the population), but they don't seem to have affected accents amongst other communities at all.