Last week I attended the British Association of Academic Phoneticians Colloquium (12th til 14th April) at the University of Kent. This is the biannual conference for those who study speech, particularly from an empirical/variationist perspective. It was my first time attending this conference but everyone was very friendly and supportive of each other. I presented a poster on the results from the first case study of my PhD (a copy of the poster is available here and the abstract here). I have been looking at whether the comments posted on YouTube videos can influence a vlogger’s speech over time (so I couldn’t help but grab a photo in front of YouTube’s offices in London as I wandered past it on the journey home). I was so pleased that those who talked to me about my work found it exciting, but I also received some constructive feedback, and many people pointed me to YouTubers they watched and found interesting.
Apart from my own, there was little work that included technology. However, the research that was related to technology was very novel and exciting! This came from Adrian Leeman from Lancaster University. He has designed and released ‘dialect apps’ for the UK and Switzerland. The users of these apps answer questions about the way they speak, as well as record snippets of them reading aloud. Not only is this method novel but allows for lots of data to be collected while using very little resources (time, money). Adrian has been using this crowd-sourced data to look at how speech varies geographically and by social factors such as age and gender. Adrian presented his findings on the “R” sounds in Swiss German speakers, and his colleague Ben Gittelson (currently at Amazon Alexa) presented a study on voice quality (eg. the creakiness or whisperiness of someone’s voice) in the UK. Both studies used data from nearly 3000 speakers!
The work presented that didn’t include technology was also inspiring – I made sooooooooo many notes! And I have many new ideas for what speech features to examine in YouTube, how and why. I particularly liked Anna Jespersen’s work on uptalk (a rising pitch on statements so some listeners may describe them as sounding like questions) in Belfast English because I have been looking at uptalk in my data. I’ve returned to NorSC with a renewed enthusiasm and confidence in my work, and look forward to taking my research further. I’m already looking forward to attending the next BAAP in 2020!