James Kirby at ILLS

Posted on March 14, 2013 by

Tuesday 19th sees a talk by computational-phonetician-and-phonologist James Kirby (Edinburgh) as part of the ILLS Seminar series. The title will be “Dialect variation and phonetic change: Incipient tonogenesis in Khmer”. Here’s the abstract:

Unlike many languages of Southeast Asia, Khmer (Cambodian) is not a tone language. However, an emergent pitch-based contrast in several Khmer dialects has been described for at least 50 years (e.g. Noss, 1966). Moreover, while tonogenesis is common in Southeast Asia, the manner by which it might be taking place in Khmer – as a result of loss of /r/ in onset clusters – has not been reported for any other language.

In this talk, I investigate this change in progress by contrasting acoustic and perceptual data from two varieties of Khmer: the colloquial speech of the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh (PP), and the dialect spoken in Kiên Giang province, Vietnam. Although incipient tonogenesis has taken hold in both varieties, the two populations differ both in terms of production as well as perception. Comparison of these findings suggests that their points of divergence might be explained by differential compensation for a single phonetic precursor, as suggested by a ‘listener-based’ account of sound change (e.g. Ohala, 1981; Blevins, 2004) that allows for partial compensation for intrinsic phonetic variability.

The talk will be at 4.15 in Ellen Wilkinson A2.16, as usual.