Language dissected at the Manchester Science Festival

Posted on November 13, 2015 by



On 29 October, LEL teamed up with the Manchester Science Festival to put on a day-long, interactive language science spectacular. Dissecting Language was hosted at the Museum of Science and Industry’s innovative pop-up Platform for Investigation and featured all kinds of hands-on linguistics activities. From phonetics to syntax, there was something for proto-linguists of all interests and ages, and all ages were indeed in attendance, with visitors ranging from 18 months to 68 years old.

The Dissecting Language team are pleased and proud to report that the event smashed attendance records for the Science Festival: estimates for visitor numbers on the day are in the neighbourhood of 1200–1500 people, which explains why the team were so shattered afterward! Below is a graph showing approximate visitor numbers by half-hour (thanks to the diligent MoSI employee who kept count!).

visitor-numbers

The organizing team – Dr Laurel MacKenzie, BA/MA alum Charlotte Graham, and current MA student Louise Middleton – were joined by an incredibly professional and enthusiastic team of volunteers, from lecturers all the way down to first-year undergraduate students. Manchet hopes you will join us in wishing a job well done to Dr George Walkden, Fernanda Barrientos Contreras, Laura Arman, Kathleen Easlick, George Bailey, Qiuhui Peng, Donald Morrison, Andrew Wells, Ethan Newton, Nicole Rajan, Natasha Hirata-Smith, Tian Li, Xiaoxuan Liu, Emily Driscoll, Katherine Miller, Alberto Moron Hernandez, Joss Hardem, Elif Ademhan, Chiharu Morita, Yuqi Guo, Kaiyue Xing, Yixin Zhang, Debbie Ng, Phoebe Chao, and the Multilingual Manchester team. A special thank-you as well to Deepthi Gopal for her help behind the scenes, and to the SALC Research Impact Fund for financial support.

Catch a peek below of what one visitor described as “tongue-wiggly fun”! Images © Derek Trillo/SALC 2015.

Our most popular activity let visitors watch their tongues move thanks to LEL’s state-of-the-art ultrasound machine.

MA students Donald Morrison and Nicole Rajan help some young visitors discover the two different /l/ sounds in English.

MA students Donald Morrison and Nicole Rajan help some young visitors discover the two different /l/ sounds in English.

Third-year undergraduate Emily Driscoll helps a young visitor see her tongue.

Third-year undergraduate Emily Driscoll helps a young visitor see her tongue.

Our second-most popular activity invited visitors to pin their dialect on a map, recreating an offline version of Our Dialects.

Do the words "foot" and "strut" rhyme? Blue for yes, red for no.

Do the words “foot” and “strut” rhyme? Blue for yes, red for no.

Kathleen Easlick (centre) chats with visitors about dialect variation.

Kathleen Easlick (centre) chats with visitors about dialect variation.

Louise Middleton (left) and a visitor do a dialect quiz.

Louise Middleton (left) and a visitor do a dialect quiz.

A laptop running Praat allowed visitors to estimate the length of their vocal tract based on the frequency of their first formant when uttering schwa. Visitors then got to plot themselves on a graph of vocal tract lengths by age and sex (red = female, blue = male).

Alberto Morón Hernández helps a young visitor get his vowels recorded.

Alberto Morón Hernández helps a young visitor get his vowels recorded.

Dr Laurel MacKenzie looks on as another data point is recorded for science.

Dr Laurel MacKenzie looks on as another data point is recorded for science.

Due to technical difficulties, we couldn’t get our nasal airflow machine working, but our volunteers gamely soldiered on without it.

Natasha Hirata-Smith helps a young visitor discover how and why her speech sounds funny when she has a cold.

Natasha Hirata-Smith helps a young visitor discover how and why her speech sounds funny when she has a cold.

It wasn’t all phonetics! At our syntax station, visitors got to explore syntactic ambiguity by building different structures of the same sentence with Duplo blocks.

Tian Li explores sentence structure with a family.

Tian Li explores sentence structure with a family.

See the full set of photos here.

Advertisements