INTERSECTIONS • October 22-25, 2015

Info for Presenters
Invited Speakers
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Staying in Toronto
Student Awards
Sponsors/ Organizers


NWAV 44 will feature several presentation formats in addition to individual papers and posters:

• For more details about the Variation at the Crossroads sessions anchored by the five invited speakers, please see the invited speakers page.

• There will be the usual Thursday afternoon workshops.

• Additionally, there will be a Wikipedia editing session and a workshop on careers outside academia over lunch on Friday. Note that you need to register for these workshops on Eventbrite in order to reserve a spot and pay for your lunch in advance. The deadline for registration is October 10 at 11:59 PM (EDT).

Please refer to the schedule for more details about the timing.

Thursday Afternoon Workshops

As usual, the Thursday workshops will focus on practicalities and training. Note that the schedule layout will be as follows:


Room 1

Room 2

Room 3


(Di Paolo et al.)


GIS mapping
(Jeon et al.)


Praat speech synthesis
(Koops and Niedzielski)

mixed-effects models


Towards best practices in sociophonetics
Marianna Di Paolo (University of Utah)

This workshop continues the discussion of best practices in sociophonetics that was begun at NWAV33. The ever-expanding range of knowledge necessary to do high-quality work in the interdisciplinary field of sociophonetics demands that we provide quick access to the best methodological, technical, and procedural information to all researchers.

Now that it is relatively easy to construct large corpora of digital speech and that sociolinguistic studies from the most prestigious labs quite often report on token sizes in the thousands, how can researchers without a lot of funding or working on less studied varieties take part in this data analysis explosion? In this workshop, we will be focusing on emerging language-technology systems that very soon will help to close this gap. The key is that linguists engaged in sociolinguistics and language documentation experience similar problems when it comes to efficiently processing large corpora of recorded speech, and may share similar solutions. The two workshop segments are as follows:

Segment 1: Automatic speech recognition in sociophonetics: Using DARLA for completely automated measurements
Sravana Reddy (Dartmouth College)
James N. Stanford (Dartmouth College)
Michael Lefkowitz (UCLA)

In recent years, sociolinguists have begun extracting vowel formants using semi-automated methods, such as Forced Alignment Vowel Extraction (FAVE - Rosenfelder et al. 2011). With FAVE, human annotators must first take the time to create sentence-level transcriptions, and then the vowels can be extracted by the system. But sociolinguistics may be on the brink of another transformative technology: large-scale, completely automated extraction without any human transcription. With such technology, it would be possible to quickly and automatically analyze vowels and other features from virtually limitless hours of recordings.

This workshop segment introduces the completely automated tool DARLA ("Dartmouth Linguistic Automation"), which uses Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) and FAVE. The best ASR technology still cannot transcribe as accurately as humans at the word- or sentence-level. However, for stressed vowels, it may be reliable enough for certain sociophonetic purposes. We examine these possibilities and invite participants to try DARLA with their own recordings. Participants should bring their own laptops and, if possible, sample recordings from their own (English) data.

Segment 2: Training Prosodylab-Aligner for sociophonetic research on uncommonly-studied language varieties
Lisa M. Johnson (University of Utah)
Marianna Di Paolo (University of Utah)
Carter Holt (University of Utah)
Adrian Bell (University of Utah)

Prosodylab-Aligner (Gorman et al. 2011) is a software suite with the potential of providing automatic phonemic/phonetic alignment for any variety of English, no matter how phonologically different from "general" North American English, and for any language, even relatively understudied languages. As such, it (and other such digital tools like it currently under development) could revolutionize sociophonetic research.

In this workshop segment, we report on the process of training Prosodylab-Aligner on recorded data from Tongan and Tongan English with the ultimate goal of studying variation associated with vowel devoicing in a large corpus. We will also address the questions of validity and of efficiency of the automated process in comparison to manual time alignment. Time permitting, we will include results of using Prosodylab-Aligner for Shoshoni, another language that exhibits variable vowel-devoicing.

Gorman, Kyle, Jonathan Howell and Michael Wagner. 2011. Prosodylab-Aligner: A tool for forced alignment of laboratory speech. Canadian Acoustics, 39(3): 192-193.

A non-technical introduction to mixed-effects models for the statistically hesitant linguistic researcher
David Eddington (Brigham Young University)

Mixed-effects statistical analysis has become more and more common in recent years. Because linguistic data often includes multiple responses from a single person (e.g. tokens in sociolinguistic interviews, responses in psycholinguistic experiments), mixed effects are ideal for accounting for such repeated measures. Unfortunately, mixed-effects models have only become feasible in recent years and as a result, many linguists, even those with a background in statistics, may not be familiar with them. For the statistically uninitiated, they may be particularly ominous, especially since they are often presented as something that must be carried out in R, which is a command-line, programming type language without a graphical interface that has a steep learning curve. My presentation, on the other hand, will show how such analysis can be carried out in SPSS, which is a much more user-friendly program. Time permitting, the use of R for the same tasks will also be demonstrated. The purpose of my presentation is to explain in non-technical terms why mixed-effects models are ideally suited to language data. Using examples from sociolinguistic studies, I will demonstrate the concepts of random intercept and random slope, which are the basic components of a mixed-effects model.

Analyzing and mapping sociolinguistic data with Geographic Information Systems
Lisa Jeon (Rice University)
Patricia Cukor-Avila (University of North Texas)
Chetan Tiwari (University of North Texas)

Since the 1980s, geographers have achieved major advances in two areas: the development of powerful Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software and the development of statistical models for the analysis of geographical patterns of data. Modern GIS and its incorporated spatial analysis tools allow sophisticated and efficient analysis of spatial data by researchers in many fields (ESRI 2015). Although the spatial variation of language has long been of interest to linguists, researchers have made little use of the power of GIS to address hypotheses regarding spatial variation of language and correlated physical and social variables. Linguists have applied GIS technology in constructing language atlases, including recent online atlases; however, the steps of analyzing and aggregating the data using GIS are seldom discussed in detail. In addition, many linguistic studies that incorporate maps created with GIS treat them only as graphics, omitting the spatial aspect of the data. Consequently, they neglect space and spatiality (i.e., characteristics of geographical space and the way people inhabit it), two factors that have found to be important in language variation and change (Britain 2010).

To address these issues, the aim of this workshop is to present GIS tools and techniques researchers can use to study spatial patterns in sociolinguistic data. The advantages of using GIS for these types of studies are many. To date, GIS has been used successfully for perceptual dialectology studies in Evans (2011), Jeon (2012), Cukor-Avila et al. (2012), Montgomery (2012), Montgomery and Stoeckle (2013), and Jeon and Cukor-Avila (Forthcoming, 2015). In this workshop, we specifically discuss the advantages of using GIS for: (1) aggregating and visualizing complex data sets and their geographic distribution; (2) exploring and analyzing subsets of data sets; and (3) transforming linguistic data into user-friendly resources such as maps for online publications and presentations. This approach integrates the geographical distribution of linguistic variation together with the influence of social factors, while simultaneously providing a way to assess trends and relationships across linguistic variables. Furthermore, the results enable an analysis of the data with many linguistic variables and subsets of respondents, as well as with individual linguistic variables and speakers. This workshop will provide the tools to enable researchers using various types of sociolinguistic data (perceptual dialectology, sociophonetic, morphosyntactic, etc.) to validate empirical evidence and improve mapping of dialects as well as to study differences in the geographical distributions of linguistic variables. During the workshop, participants will experiment with these methods themselves by applying them to datasets provided by the workshop organizers. We will instruct how to install and use open source GIS software, including a step-by-step demonstration of how to digitize and aggregate map data, explore and stratify results by linguistic variables and other subsets, perform statistical queries, and create composite maps using ArcGIS. Participants will receive all relevant workshop materials one month before the conference. Note that this workshop will employ the following freeware: XDAT, QGIS, and PostGIS.

Britain, D. (2010). Conceptualisations of geographic space in linguistics. In Lameli, A, Kehreign, R. & Rabanus, S. (eds.), Language and space: An international handbook of linguistic variation, volume2: Language mapping, 69-97. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Cukor-Avila, P., Jeon, L., Rector, P. C., Tiwari, C., & Shelton, Z. (2012). Texas - it's like a whole nuther country: Mapping Texans' perceptions of dialect variation in the Lone Star State. In Lawrence, A., Stout, T., & Chatterjee, A. (eds.), Texas Linguistic Forum 55 (Proceedings of the Twentieth Annual Symposium About Language and Society), 10-19. Austin, TX: Department of Linguistics, University of Texas at Austin.

Evans, B. E. (2011). 'Seattletonian' to 'Faux Hick': Perceptions of English in Washington State. American Speech, 86: 383-414.

ESRI (2015). What is GIS?

Jeon, L. (2011). Drawing boundaries and revealing language attitudes: Mapping perceptions of dialects in Korea. MA thesis, University of North Texas.

Jeon, L. & Cukor-Avila, P. (forthcoming). Urbanicity and language variation and change: Mapping dialect perceptions in and of Seoul. In Cramer, J. & Montgomery, C. (eds.), Cityscapes and perceptual dialectology: Global perspectives on non-linguists' knowledge of the dialect landscape. Berlin: Mouton.

Jeon, L. & Cukor-Avila, P. (2015). 'One country, one language?': Mapping perceptions of dialects in South Korea. In Parea, M.-P. & Aurrekoetxea, G. (eds.), Dialectologia, 14: 17-46.

Montgomery, C. (2012). The effect of proximity in perceptual dialectology. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 16(5): 638-668.

Montgomery, C & Stoeckle, P. (2013). Geographic Information Systems and perceptual dialectology: A method for processing draw-a-map data. Journal of Linguistic Geography, 1, 52-85.

Acoustic editing and speech synthesis with Praat
Chris Koops (University of New Mexico)
Nancy Niedzielski (Rice University)

This workshop aims to familiarize participants with key acoustic editing and synthesis/resynthesis functions of the free acoustics software Praat (Boersma and Weenink 1992-2015). The focus will be on parameters and procedures relevant to producing stimulus items for sociolinguistic perception experiments. We start with acoustic parameters that are more easily manipulated - duration, amplitude, and pitch - and go on to the more-complex issues of formant frequencies and, time permitting, voice quality. Sample sound files, Praat scripts, and a hand-out with step-by-step instructions will be provided. Participants are encouraged to bring a laptop to work through the examples together. The workshop is aimed primarily at those less familiar with the topic; no detailed knowledge of Praat and no scripting skills are required. We still encourage those with more extensive experience to attend as well, as there will be time to share experiences and have a broader discussion of the pros and cons of different methods.

Contrast and comparison in linguistic analysis: Cross-disciplinarity in practise
Sali A. Tagliamonte (University of Toronto)

Analytic methods in linguistics are notoriously discipline-specific and difficult to reconcile across sub-domains of intellectual inquiry due to varying ideas, assumptions and ideology (Cheshire, 1987; Cornips & Corrigan, 2005; Mufwene, 1994). However, there is a growing consensus in formal theory that optionality in linguistic data is relevant and must be taken into account (e.g. Adger & Trousdale, 2007; Biberauer & Richards, 2006). This workshop will confront this issue directly by challenging four analysts to address the same research question - what explains alternation between was/is and were/are in existential constructions, as in (1)?

(1) There were. Because we didn't belong to the school board. There was only a handful of parents. So there was no buses, no transportation for our children. And they did that for years until we got under the jurisdiction of the school board 'til there were more towns. (John Regan, 84)

Confirmed participants are:

Graeme Trousdale (University of Edinburgh) - construction grammar
Diane Massam (University of Toronto) - theoretical syntax
Jenny Cheshire (Queen Mary University of London) - variation and discourse
Rosalind Temple (Oxford University) - sociophonetics

These particular scholars were selected because their recent research specifically addresses variation, but their intellectual interests take them to varying degrees outside the variationist paradigm. In this workshop, each scholar (along with the convenor) will demonstrate his or her methods and analysis by taking the audience through the steps of their research practise with the phenomenon of optional existential agreement as a case study. Scrutiny of the same feature from different analytic traditions will provide the ultimate opportunity for contrast. Further, the novelty of a consistent data set will create the ideal test for discerning the pros and cons of each method's argumentation and interpretation. The data comes from two small communities in a peripheral location in Ontario where there is robust variation in these constructions and a contrastive sociolinguistic typology - mining town vs. farming community; hierarchical social structure versus co-operative economy; mixed ethnic groups versus British founders. What insights will one approach offer that the others do not and what will a synthesis of the results reveal? Each scholar will address one of the most compelling issues for cross-disciplinary research in linguistics - the dialectic between grammar and usage and/or structure vs. practise. Both presenters and participants will go away with enhanced knowledge of the phenomena in (1), but most importantly greater knowledge of different ways of approaching data as well as an increased understanding of the practicalities of cross-disciplinary concerns and prospects. Due to the fact that these linguistic phenomena are ubiquitous across varieties of English, it is hoped that the workshop will generate future research (potentially collaborative) on the same topic by attendees, participants and presenters.

Adger, David & Trousdale, Graeme (2007). Variation in English syntax: theoretical implications. English Language and Linguistics, 11(2): 261-278.

Biberauer, Theresa & Richards, Marc (2006). True optionality: When the grammar doesn't mind. In Boeckx, C. (ed.), Minimalist essays. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 35-67.

Cheshire, Jenny (1987). Syntactic variation, the linguistic variable, and sociolinguistic theory. Linguistics 25: 257-282. Cornips, Leonie & Corrigan, Karen (eds.) (2005). Syntax and variation: Reconciling the biological and the social. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Mufwene, Salikoko S. (1994). Theoretical linguistics and variation analysis: Strange bedfellows? In Beals, K., Denton, J., Knippen, R., Melnar, L., Suzuki, H. & Zeinfeld, E. (eds.), Papers from the parasession on language variation and linguistic theory. Chicago: Chicago Linguistics Society. 202-217.

Thematic Sessions

Short vowels in varieties of English
Raymond Hickey (University of Duisburg and Essen)

Descriptions of vowel systems in English have concentrated on long vowels and diphthongs, both historically and in present-day varieties of the language. The reason for this is no doubt the long-attested stability of short vowels in the history of English. Apart from the lowering of the STRUT vowel and certain changes in vowel length such as the lengthening of the BATH vowel and the somewhat later shortening of the TOOK vowel, there have not been many systemic changes in the short vowel system in the past few centuries. But the situation in present-day English is somewhat different with the movements in short vowels attested in English-speaking areas as far apart as Canada and Australia. The goal of the workshop is to bring together a range of internationally-renowned scholars working on the sociophonetics of vowel systems in varieties of English and to provide a platform for an exchange of views on the developments of short vowels in recent history and at present.

Linguistic conservatism in heritage and diaspora varieties
Kanjana Thepboriruk, University of Hawai'i at Manoa

Despite a recent surge in interest and scholarship pertaining to heritage language, very little is known of varieties spoken in diasporas and by heritage speakers. There is a general acknowledgement of linguistic conservatism by the speakers in immigrant and diasporic communities. Further, diasporic varieties seem to be perceptibly different to speakers in the 'home' country. This panel brings together scholars whose work in heritage or diasporic varieties describes varieties spoken by displaced speakers, in particular, different aspects of linguistic conservatism found in displaced varieties. Further, this panel is an attempt to begin to identify some cross-linguistic characteristics found in diasporic varieties.

Le français en Ontario
Jeff Tennant (University of Western Ontario)
Anne-José Villeneuve (University of Toronto)

En 1615, Samuel de Champlain jetait les bases de la présence française en Ontario. Au fil des 400 ans qui suivront son arrivée sur le territoire ontarien, le français s'est implanté en vagues successives dans divers coins de la province. La variété laurentienne parlée par des locuteurs natifs de la région d'Ottawa et de diverses communautés francophones a fait l'objet de nombreux travaux examinant, entre autres, les effets du bilinguisme et de la restriction linguistique. Suite à l'essor des programmes d'immersion française, des chercheurs se sont aussi intéressés à la compétence sociolinguistique des apprenants du français langue seconde. Enfin, de plus en plus de francophones venus d'Europe, d'Afrique continentale et de l'Océan Indien se côtoient aujourd'hui dans les grands centres urbains, contribuant ainsi à une nouvelle vitalité du français en Ontario qui reste, en grande partie, à décrire.

À l'occasion du 400e anniversaire de la présence française en Ontario, cette session thématique vise à faire le point sur la variation et le changement linguistiques en français ontarien en rassemblant des chercheurs travaillant sur divers corpus oraux. Nous entendons aussi mettre en lumière des questions demeurées peu exploitées jusqu'à maintenant dans une perspective variationniste, en proposant des pistes de recherche qu'il serait intéressant d'explorer dans l'avenir.

Other Special Events

Wikipedia editathon
Gretchen McCulloch (Mental Floss)

Help improve linguistics-related articles on Wikipedia! Wikipedia is the seventh most visited site on the internet, but many of its linguistics articles are incomplete, out of date, or in need of attention from actual linguists. Editing Wikipedia has a tremendous impact on the perception of our field and is useful practice in explaining linguistics in a neutral and accessible manner. This workshop, led by Gretchen McCulloch, will provide training in editing Wikipedia for complete beginners, plus time and support for independent or small-group editing by beginners and more experienced editors. We'll be focusing on three main areas: linguistics stubs (too-short articles), under-documented languages, and biographic articles of female linguists, linguists of colour, and other under-represented linguists.

For more information about previous linguistics editathons, see posts here or tweet your editing remotely using the hashtag #lingwiki.

What's next: Linguistics training and professional paths
Anastasia Nylund (Georgetown University)

This workshop is designed for linguistics students and faculty who are curious about the professional application of linguistics training beyond the traditional faculty path. The workshop will offer hands-on practice and resources that can form the foundation of your individual career exploration. We will begin by reflecting on the transferrable skills that students acquire through linguistics training, and move on to creating authentic, portable examples that can be used to demonstrate various aspects of your professional abilities. Finally, we will discuss some examples of real job listings where linguists can distinguish themselves, and strategies for applying.

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