The relative effects of phonetic and phonological salience on speech sound processing

Regions: North Slave Region

Tags: social sciences, aboriginal language, linguistics, Tlîchô, phonology

Principal Investigator: Barzilai, Maya L (1)
Licence Number: 16519
Organization: Georgetown University
Licenced Year(s): 2019
Issued: Mar 28, 2019
Project Team: Maya Barzilai (Principal Investigator, Georgetown University)

Objective(s): To use a recall study and an artificial language learning study to examine the relative processing of high and low toned syllables by Tlicho speakers.

Project Description: The objective of this project is to examine cases in which the phonetic and phonological properties of a pair of speech sounds make conflicting about predictions in which sound will be more easily processed. Tlicho, a phonologically Low-marked language, provides an ideal test ground for this question. High tones are more phonetically salient, where as low tones are more salient in the grammatical system of Tlicho. Therefore, this dissertation aims to use a recall study and an artificial language learning study to examine the relative processing of high and low toned syllables by Tlicho speakers.

The participants in this test case will be ten Tlicho speakers. Speakers will first be asked to read a passage in Tlicho aloud, for acoustic analysis of high and low tones. Following this, speakers will participate in two experiments. In the first experiment, participants will listen to sequences of syllables with either high or low tones. After each sequence, a mid tone syllable will play. Participants will be asked to determine whether the sounds of the final syllable match any of those in the sequence syllables. In the second experiment, participants will learn the names of objects in an artificial language. The names will have the tonal sequence HLH or LHL. The participants will be trained on the pronunciation of the whole word. Then, in the testing period, the participants will hear one target word and one word that differs from the target word only in the middle syllable. The participant will then be asked to determine which of the words is the correct name for each object.

The proposed research plan will provide insight into the ways in which the Tlicho language is processed by native speakers. These findings will contribute to scientific literature and will add to the visibility of this language in the linguistic community. Furthermore, findings will be applicable to the ongoing language maintenance efforts currently being undertaken by the Tlicho community. Results can be developed into more effective pedagogy to be implemented by teachers of the language. Finally, this research plan offers the opportunity for the researcher to contribute in other ways to the Tlicho language maintenance and documentation, in however the community sees fit.

The results of this study could have valuable impacts on language teaching in this community. The statistical results and analysis will be made available to the community through online sharing and dissemination of the findings. The principal investigator will also be available for discussion on how to translate the results into more effective teaching methodologies. In addition to collecting experimental data, recordings will be collected of speakers reciting a text. These recordings will be made available to the community for archiving or other documentation via online sharing.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from June 1, 2019 to June 30, 2019.