Acoustic Phonetics - Current Projects

Current Acoustic Phonetics projects

Introduction:

The ability of listeners to discriminate literal meanings from figurative language, affective language, or rhetorical devices such as irony is crucial for a successful social interaction. This discriminative ability might be reduced in listeners supplied with cochlear implants (CIs), widely used auditory prostheses that restore auditory perception in the deaf or hard-of-hearing. Irony is acoustically characterised by especially a lower fundamental frequency (F0), a lower intensity and a longer duration in comparison to literal utterances. In auditory perception experiments, listeners mainly rely on F0 and intensity values to distinguish between context-free ironic and literal utterances. As CI listeners have great difficulties in F0 perception, the use of frequency information for the detection of irony is impaired. However, irony is often additionally conveyed by characteristic facial expressions.

Objective:

The aim of the project is two-fold: The first (“Production”) part of the project will study the role of paraverbal cues in verbal irony of Standard Austrian German (SAG) speakers under well-controlled experimental conditions without acoustic context information. The second (“Perception”) part will investigate the performance in recognizing irony in a normal-hearing control group and a group of CI listeners.

Method:

Recordings of speakers of SAG will be conducted. During the recording session, the participants will be presented with scenarios that evoke either a literal or an ironic utterance. The response utterances will be audio- and video-recorded. Subsequently, the thus obtained context-free stimuli will be presented in a discrimination test to normal-hearing and to postlingually deafened CI listeners in three modes: auditory only, auditory+visual, visual only.

Application:

The results will not only provide information on irony production in SAG and on multimodal irony perception and processing, but will, most importantly, identify the cues that need to be improved in cochlear implants in order to allow CI listeners full participation in daily life.

Projektleitung: Michael Pucher

Beginn des Projekts: 1. Februar 2019

Projektbeschreibung:

Um den aktuellen Zustand einer Sprache zu erheben, soll bekanntlich der Sprachgebrauch eines alten, ländlichen, nicht mobilen Mannes analysiert werden. Für Entwicklungstendenzen einer Varietät sollte man jedoch die Sprache einer jungen und gebildeten Frau im urbanen Bereich untersuchen. Der Sprachgebrauch von jungen Frauen stellt ein besonders interessantes Forschungsfeld dar: Sie gelten als Initiatoren und Treibkräfte linguistischer Neuheiten einer Sprache, lautlich wie lexikal, die sich von Großstädten aus in den weiteren Sprachraum verbreiten können. Ebenso wird angenommen, dass aufgeschlossene junge Frauen linguistische Innovationen rascher übernehmen als ihre männlichen Peers. Sie verleiben sich eine neue Art zu sprechen schneller ein und geben diese an ihre späteren Kinder weiter. Frauen tendieren auch dazu, sprachliche Merkmale als social identifier zu verwenden, um sich der gleichen Peergroup zugehörig zu zeigen und können dadurch zu einem Sprachwandel beitragen.

Die Stadt Wien hat sich in den vergangenen 30 Jahren stark verändert; so ist die Bevölkerung um 15% gestiegen und mit ihr auch die Anzahl der gesprochenen Sprachen. Laut einer Erhebung der Arbeiterkammer werden in Wien ca. 100 verschiedene Sprachen verwendet und man kann Wien nicht absprechen, weiterhin als ein Schmelztiegel verschiedenster Sprachen und Kulturen in Mitteleuropa zu gelten. Dass sich diese gesellschaftlichen bzw. gesellschaftspolitischen Veränderungen nicht nur im lexikalischen Sprachgebrauch der WienerInnen widerspiegeln, sondern ebenso in ihrer physiologischen Stimme zum Ausdruck kommen, soll hier den Ausgangspunkt der Studie darstellen.

In dieser Untersuchung wird die Stimme als der physiologische und im Vokaltrakt modulierter Schall zur Lautäußerungen des Menschen gesehen. Die Stimme kann abgesehen davon auch als Ort des verkörperlichten Herz der gesprochenen Sprache gelten, die den Körper durch Indexikalität im sozialen Raum verankert. Als Vehikel der persönlichen Identität kann die Stimme nicht nur soziokulturelle, sondern auch gesellschaftspolitische Merkmale (bspw. „Frauen in Führungspositionen haben eine tiefere Stimme“) widerspiegeln. Hier übernimmt die Soziophonetik eine tragende Rolle, denn sie stellt ein wichtiges Instrument dar, das es ermöglicht, den sozialen Raum und seine gesellschaftsrelevanten Diskurse mit dem Individuum zu verknüpfen.

Studien aus dem angloamerikanischen Raum wie legen nahe, dass sich die Stimme der jungen Frau in einem Wandel befindet. Das soziophonetische Stimmphänomen Vocal Fry hat sich inzwischen im angloamerikanischen Raum zum prominenten Sprachmerkmal junger, gebildeter und urbanen Frauen entwickelt.

Basierend auf zwei Korpora soll eine Longitudinalstudie entstehen, die nachskizziert, inwiefern sich die Stimme der jungen Wienerin geändert hat. Soziophonetische Studien zu Frauenstimmen gibt es in Österreich nicht, vor allem in Hinsicht auf die angestrebte Qualität der Studie. Durch ihren longitudinalen Charakter kann sie aufzeigen, in wie weit das gesellschaftliche Geschehen Einfluss auf die Stimme der Frau ausübt.

Darüber hinaus bietet diese Studie eine einmalige Gelegenheit, eine Momentaufnahme der Wienerin und ihrer Stimme zu erhalten und sie in einen historischen Kontext zu setzen.

 

Informationen zur Teilnahme finden Sie hier!

Effects of the subthalamic stimulation on the characteristic of speech by parkinson patients.

Vowel and consonant quantity in Southern German varieties: D - A - CH project granted by DFG, FWF, SNF

Principal investigators: Felicias Kleber, Michael Pucher, Sylvia Moosmüller†, Stephan Schmid 

Start of the project: 1st of June 2015

Project description:

Introduction:

The Central Bavarian varieties, to which the Viennese varieties belong, seem to have changed diachronically. From the first phonetic descriptions (Pfalz 1913) to more current descriptions (Moosmüller & Brandstätter 2014) the diachronic change becomes visible on several levels of the varieties.

In this project we focus on the (in)stability of the timing system, or more precise, the quantity relations in Vowel + Consonant sequences and compare our results with the project partners in Zurich and Munich.

Aims:

The aims of this project are two-fold. The first aim is to develop a typology of the Vowel + Consonant quantities in Southern German varieties (Bavarian (Munich + Vienna) and Alemannic (Zurich)) in C1V1C2V2 contexts (where C2 can be either fricatives or nasals or plosives) and in consonant cluster sequences with increasing initial and final consonant cluster complexity. The second aim is to investigate prosodic changes in an apparent-time study and to examine the influence of internal factors (eg. speech rate) and external factors (language attitudes) on the production of speech.

Method:

Recordings and analyses of 40 speakers of the Viennese varieties (balanced for age, gender, and educational background) will be conducted. During the recording sessions the speakers are asked to read and repeat sentences in two speech rates. Furthermore a subset of speakers is asked to participate in an articulatory recording with an electromagnetic articulograph (EMA). These recordings take place at our project partners’ laboratory in Munich.

Application:

The results will not only provide insight in the current timing system of speakers of the Viennese varieties but also enable us to draw conclusions about sound changes in progress.

 

Derzeit stellen SprecherInnen aus Deutschland die größte AusländerInnengruppe in Österreich und insbesondere in Wien dar. In diesem vom Kulturamt der Stadt Wien geförderten Projekt wird untersucht, ob und inwieweit aufgrund des Kontakts mit der deutschen Standardaussprache diese einen Einfluss auf die österreichische Standardaussprache ausübt und umgekehrt. Es werden akustische Aufnahmen von mehreren SprecherInnengruppen mit unterschiedlich intensivem Kontakt zu deutschen SprecherInnen durchgeführt

Objective:

The aim of this study is to investigate the phonetics of second language acquisition and first language attrition, based on the acoustic and articulatory lateral realizations of Bosnian migrants living in Vienna. Bosnian has two lateral phonemes (a palatalized and an alveolar/velarized one), whereas Standard Austrian German features only one lateral phoneme (an alveolar lateral). In the Viennese dialect however, this phoneme also has a velarized variant.

This phonetic investigation will be conducted with respect to the influence of language contact between Bosnian and SAG, and Bosnian and the Viennese dialect, as well as concerning the influence of gender and identity construction.

Method:

The recordings will be conducted with female and male Bosnian speakers, aged between 20 and 35 years at the time of emigration, who came to Vienna during the Bosnian war 1992-1995. Additionally, control groups of monolingual L1 speakers of Bosnian, SAG and Vd will be recorded. All recordings will include reading tasks in order to elicit controlled speech, as well as spontaneous speech in the form of biographical interviews. The analyses will comprise quantitative and qualitative aspects. Quantitatively, the acoustic parameters formant frequencies (especially F2 and F3), duration and intensity of the laterals and their phonetic surrounding will be analyzed. Additionally, articulatory analyses will be performed using EPG and UTI data. Qualitatively, biographical information, language attitudes and social networks will be analysed in order to obtain information about speaker-specific or group-specific characteristics.

Application:

The results of this study are relevant to understanding the processes of sound-realization and sound-change in the domains of language contact (phonetic processes in second language acquisition and first language attrition), sociolinguistics, and the sociology of identity construction

BE-SyMPHONic: French-Austrian joint project granted by ANR and FWF

Principal investigators: Basilio Calderone, Wolfgang U. Dressler
Co-applicants: Hélène Giraudo, Sylvia Moosmüller

Start of the project: 13th January 2014

Introduction:

Language sounds are realized in several different ways. Every language exploits no more than a sub-set of the sounds that the vocal tract can produce, as well as a reduced number of their possible combinations. The restrictions and the phonemic combinations allowed in the lanquage define a branch of phonology so-called phonotactics.

Phonotactics refers to the sequential arrangement of phonemic segments in morphemes, syllables, and words and underlies a wide range of phonological issues, from acceptability judgements (pseudowords like <poiture> in French or <Traus> in German are phonotactically plausible) to syllable processes (the syllabic structure in a given language is based on the phonotactic permission in that language) and the nature and length of possible consonant clusters (that may be seen as intrinsically marked structures with respect to the basic CV template).

Objective:

Exploring the psycho-computational representation of the phonotactics in French and German is the aim of this research project.

In particular, our researh will focus on the interplay between phonotactics and word structure in French and German, and investigate the behavioural and computational representations of phonotactic vs. morphonotactic clusters.

As a matter of fact, the basic hypothesis underlying this research project ist that there exist different cognitive and computational representations for the same consonant cluster according to its phonotactic setting. In particular, the occurence of a cluster across a morpheme boundary (morphonotactic cluster) is considered as particularly interesting.

Method:

Our research will focus on the interplay between phonotactis and morphology and investigate the behavioural and computational representations of consonant clusters according to whether they are: a) exclusively phonotactic clusters, i.e. the consonant cluster occurs only without morpheme boundaries (e.g. Stein in German); b) exclusively morphonotactic clusters, i.e. the consonant cluster occurs only beyond morpheme boundaries (e.g. lach+st), c) both are true with one of the two being more or less dominant (e.g. dominant lob+st vs. Obst)[1]. Thus we test the existence of different ‘cognitive and computational representations’ and processes for the same and for similar consonant clusters according to their appartenance to a) or b) or c).

The central hypothesis which we test is that speakers not only reactively exploit the potential boundary signaling function of clusters that result from morphological operations, but take active measures to maintain or even enhance this functionality, for example by treating morphologically produced clusters differently than morpheme internal clusters in production or language acquisition. We call this hypothesis, the ‘Strong Morphonotactic Hypothesis’ (henceforth: SMH) (Dressler & Dziubalska-Koɫaczyk 2006, Dressler, Dziubalska-Koɫaczyk & Pestal 2010).

In particular, we suppose that sequences of phonemes exhibiting morpheme boundaries (the ‘morphonotactic clusters’) should provide the speakers with functional evidence about the morphological operation occurred in that sequence; such evidence should be absent in the case of a sequence of phonemes without morpheme boundaries (the ‘phonotactic clusters’).

Hence our idea is to investigate the psycho-computational mechanisms underlying the phonotactic-morphonotactic distinction by approaching the problem from two angles simultaneously: (a) psycholinguistic experimental study of language acquisition and production and (b) language computational modelling.

We aim therefore at providing, on one hand, the psycholinguistic and behavioural support to the hypothesis that morphologically produced clusters are treated differently than morpheme internal clusters in French and German; on the other, we will focus on the distributional and statistical properties of the language in order to verify whether such difference in clusters’ treatment can be inductively modelled by appealing to distributional regularities of the language.

The competences of the two research teams overlap and complement each other. The French team will lead in modelling, computational simulation and psycholinguistic experiments, the Austrian team in first language acquisition, phonetic production and microdiachronic change. These synergies are expected to enrich each group in innovative ways.


[1] An equivalent example for French language is given by a) prise (/priz/ ‘grip’, exclusively phonotactic cluster), b) affiche+ rai (/afiʃʁɛ/ ‘I (will) post’, exclusively morphonotactic cluster) and c) navigue+ rai (/naviɡʁɛ/ ‘I (will) sail’) vs. engrais (/ãɡʁɛ/ ‘fertilizer’), the both conditions are true with morphonotactic condition as dominant.

FWF DACH I 536-G20: 2011-2013
Cooperation with the Institute of Phonetics and Speech Processing, LMU Munich.

Project leader (Austria): Sylvia Moosmüller
Project leader (Germany): Jonathan Harrington

Objective:

Across languages, the distinction between so-called tense and lax vowels, e.g., Miete - Mitte ("rent" - "center") or Höhle - Hölle ("cave" - "hell"), is encountered in many languages. However, many different articulatory adjustments might cause this distinction, and these are language-specific.

In the current project, we address this issue by analysing high tense and lax vowel pairs of the type bieten - bitten ("to offer" - "to request"), Hüte - Hütte ("hats" - "hut"), and Buße - Busse ("penance" - "busses") in two related language varieties: Standard Austrian German (SAG) and Standard German German (SGG). Previous studies suggest that high lax vowel pairs like bitten, Hütte, or Busse tend to approximate their respective tense cognates bieten, Hüte, and Buße.

The research questions were investigated by a) comparing the tense and lax vowel pairs in SAG and SGG, b) by investigating whether high lax vowel pairs approximate their tense cognates in SAG, c) by investigating whether the high vowel pairs in SAG are distinguished by quality, by quantity, or by quantity relations with the following consonant, and d) by investigating whether an ongoing sound change can be observed in SAG, with young SAG speakers exhibiting a higher degree to merge the vowels than old SAG speakers.

Main Results:

SGG speakers clearly distinguish the high vowel pairs by quality, whereas speaker-specific strategies can be observed in SAG, with some speakers distinguishing high tense and lay vowel pairs by quality, others merging the quality contrast, but restricting the merger to velar contexts only, and still others merging high tense and lax vowels alltogether. In case of distinction, the differences between high tense and high lax vowels are less pronounced in SAG than in SGG and still less pronounced in the speech of young SAG speakers as compared to old SAG speakers. The same result was observed for quantity distinctions: All speakers differentiate the high vowel pairs by quantity, meaning that the tense vowels of the type bieten, Hüte, and Buße are longer than their respective lax cognates. Again, the differences are most pronounced in SGG and least pronounced in the speech of the young SAG speakers, meaning that the tense vowels of the type bieten, Hüte, and Buße are truncated in the speech of young SAG speakers as compared to old SAG speakers and SGG speakers. Results on the quantity interactions of vowel + consonant sequences prove quantifying aspects in SAG. Again, some age-specific differences emerged insofar as overall, young SAG speakers have shorter durations than old SAG speakers. However, they maintain the timing relations observed for the old SAG speakers. Results on perception strongly suggest that SAG speakers make use of quantity cues in order to distinguish the vowel pairs, whereas SGG speakers rather rely on cues connected with quality. Generally, it can be concluded that quantity distinctions are more relevant in SAG than in SGG.

Project Related Publications:

Harrington, Jonathan, Hoole, Philip, & Reubold, Ulrich. (2012). A physiological analysis of high front, tense-lax vowel pairs in Standard Austrian and Standard German. Italian Journal of Linguistics, 24, 158-183.

Brandstätter, Julia & Moosmüller, Sylvia. (in print). Neutralisierung der hohen Vokale in der Wiener Standardsprache – A sound change in progress? In M. Glauninger & A. Lenz (Eds.), Standarddeutsch in Österreich – Theoretische und empirische Ansätze. Vienna: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

Brandstätter, Julia, Kaseß, Christian H., & Moosmüller, Sylvia (accepted). Quality and quantity in high vowels in Standard Austrian German. In: A. Leemann, M-J. Kolly & V. Dellwo (Eds.), Trends in phonetics and phonology in German-speaking Europe. Zurich: Peter Lang.

Cunha, Conceição, Harrington, Jonathan, Moosmüller, Sylvia, & Brandstätter, Julia (accepted). The influence of consonantal context on the tense-lax contrast in two standard varieties of German. In: A. Leemann, M-J. Kolly & V. Dellwo (Eds.), Trends in phonetics and phonology in German-speaking Europe. Zurich: Peter Lang.

Moosmüller, Sylvia. (in print). Methodisches zur Bestimmung der Standardaussprache in Österreich. In: M. Glauninger & A. Lenz (Eds.), Standarddeutsch in Österreich – Theoretische und empirische Ansätze. Vienna: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht (=Wiener Arbeiten zur Linguistik).

Moosmüller, Sylvia & Brandstätter, Julia. (in print). Phonotactic Information in the temporal organisation of Standard Austrian German and the Viennese Dialect. Language Sciences.

Forensic Speech Analysis is currently being developed using two main methodologies:

  • Automatic methods, applying digital signal processing algorithms and Bayes Statistics.
  • Acoustic Phonetics and Phonology based on acoustic measurements of speech parameters, such as formant frequencies and fundamental frequency of speech segments. 

The Institute investigates both approaches in the framework of the FSAAWG (Forensic Speech and Audio Working Group) of ENFSI (the European Network of Forensic Science Institutes).