Coretta viva-ed

Posted on December 5, 2019 by

It’s Manchet’s favourite type of post: a successful PhD viva. Stefano Coretta, has defended his thesis titled ‘Vowel duration and consonant voicing: A production study’. Beneath this unassuming title hides a volume of immense complexity. Here’s Manchet’s own simplified synopsis.

The vowel in tap is shorter than vowel in tab, and we see a similar thing in many of the world’s languages, although the size of the difference varies. That’s Phonetics 1.01, but why does this happen? Stefano’s work provides new evidence to the so-called compensatory account. The idea is that the consonant and the vowel share a stable duration interval, so if one becomes longer, the other shortens, and vice versa. While this account has been around for a while, a crucial piece of the puzzle had been missing: what is the stable interval exactly? Enter Stefano. He identifies the elusive interval, and confirms its invariance based on evidence from three different languages. He also shows how various articulatory mechanisms (tongue root advancement and glottal spreading) interact with the timing constraints, such that the durational patterns emerge in sound change.

Stefano’s achievements are well-known to readers of Manchet. During his three years at Manchester, he managed to rack up a series of awards, and he has recently published an impressive paper in Glossa. It should then come as no surprise that he’s already bagged himself an attractive academic position. As of November 2019, Stefano is a postdoc at the Institute of Phonetics and Speech Processing at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, where he is working on his favourite things: articulation and sound change. Congratulations!


Featured image shows the post-viva celebrations with the committee and the supervisors. From the left, clockwise: Marianne Pouplier (LMU, Munich), Ricardo, Stefano, Pat, Jim Scobbie (Queen Margaret, Edinburgh)