Laboratory Research

Recently, I’ve presented on words like pool, pull, and pole and how the difference between them can be really hard to describe, both by me and the non-specialist alike. Based on my findings in Washington, I decided I wanted to dig a little deeper into what these words are like, so I started a study that is less sociolinguistic and more laboratory phonology-based, which is a little unusual for me.

Broadly, I want to look at the phonetics of English vowels before coda laterals. So, after making a list of lots and lots of possible words, cutting them down based on frequency and other factors, I’ve got a decent list of targeted words.

I got IRB approval just a little too late into the semester to recruit people and offer them extra credit in courses, so I had to wait a few weeks to get started. Now that Maymester has started, I’ve approached some professors and asked them to offer participation in my research as an extra credit opportunity. I even hand out little business cards after I’ve done my pitch to the class, so they have my contact information—an idea that proved very effective for me in Washington:

Recruitment business card

So I’m now meeting with students in the linguistics laboratory that we have here at UGA. It’s unfortunately under-utilized but nonetheless very good. Inside the already very quiet recording studio is a tiny booth where the best recordings can be made. I have participants reading a bunch of carefully selected sentences that target key sounds and then taking a quick follow-up survey. It amounts to about 30–40 minutes of speech from each person, which is kind of a lot.

I don’t have a specific goal for how many people I want to get, but I should have 20 by the end of the month and potentially up to 50 by the end of the summer. My only limitation is how much time I can put into this. I’ll do some preliminary analyses on those and see if I need to recalibrate the sentences or maybe collect more data. This will probably be an ongoing project for a while: the IRB and consent forms are purposely pretty open-ended to allow me to modify things where needed without much hassle.

Anyway, it’s been fun being in the lab, and I’m excited to analyze really clean audio for a change.