Category Archives: Phonetics

Language and Music Workshop this Sunday May 12th

The UMass Amherst Department of Linguistics and the Department of Music and Dance, with additional support from the Interdisciplinary Studies Institute, will host a Language and Music Workshop on the afternoon of Sunday May 12th. The event will take place from noon until 5:45 in N400 in the Integrative Learning Center. Parking is free in permit lots on Sunday; the ILC is at the top corner of the pond on this map.

There are five invited speakers, and five poster presentations listed below. Please join us for lunch beforehand!

Questions? Please e-mail Joe Pater at


Noon – Catered lunch

1:00 Bob Ladd – University of Edinburgh

Two problems in theories of tone-melody matching (Abstract)

1:45 François Dell – Centre de Recherches Linguistiques sur l’Asie Orientale (CRLAO) CNRS / EHESS, Paris

Delivery design: towards a typology (Abstract)

2:30 Laura McPherson – Dartmouth College

Tonal adaptation across musical modality: A comparison of Sambla vocal music and speech surrogates (Abstract)

3:15 Poster session (see below for a list of posters)

4:15 Christopher White – University of Massachusetts Amherst

Analogies with Language in Machine-learned Musical Grammars

5:00 Mara Breen – Mount Holyoke College

The Cat in the Hat: Musical and linguistic metric structure realization in child-directed poetry (Abstract)

5:45 Goodbye.


Ellie Abrams, Laura Gwilliams, Alec Marantz (NYU, NYU Abu Dhabi)

Tracking the building blocks of pitch perception in auditory cortex (Abstract)

Kyle Marcos Allphin, Smith College ’19

Perception of Emotional Characteristics in Diatonic Chords (Abstract)

Ahren B. Fitzroy (Mount Holyoke College, University of Massachusetts, Amherst) and Mara Breen (Mount Holyoke College)

Implicit metric structure in aprosodic productions of The Cat in the Hat modulates auditory processing (Abstract)

Bronwen Garand-Sheridan, Yale University

Sound-symbolic semantics of pitch space (Abstract)

Emily Schwitzgebel, UMass Amherst and Will Evans, UMass Amherst

Subtle Violations in Harmonic Expectancy (Abstract)

“Phonetic knowledge” (1994) appears in Best in Language III

From John Kingston

Thanks to Seth, I learned that a paper Randy Diehl and I had published in Language in 1994, “Phonetic knowledge,” had been chosen for inclusion in the third collection of Best in Language for the period 1986-2106. Here’s a link to the collection:

The criteria for inclusion are that the paper be “influential, controversial, or otherwise interesting.” You decide which criteria our paper met.

Now I have to get to work to produce another.

Magnuson CogSci talk at noon Wednesday in ILC N400

James Magnuson ( will present a talk sponsored by the Five College Cognitive Science Speaker Series in ILC N400 from at noon Wednesday 27th. Pizza will be served. The title and abstract are below. All are welcome!

EARSHOT: A minimal neural network model of human speech recognition that learns to map real speech to semantic patterns

James S. Magnuson, Heejo You, Hosung Nam, Paul Allopenna, Kevin Brown, Monty Escabi, Rachel Theodore, Sahil Luthra, Monica Li, & Jay Rueckl

One of the great unsolved challenges in the cognitive and neural sciences is understanding how human listeners achieve phonetic constancy (seemingly effortless perception of a speaker’s intended consonants and vowels under typical conditions) despite a lack of invariant cues to speech sounds. Models (mathematical, neural network, or Bayesian) of human speech recognition have been essential tools in the development of theories over the last forty years. However, they have been little help in understanding phonetic constancy because most do not operate on real speech (they instead focus on mapping from a sequence of consonants and vowels to words in memory), and most do not learn. The few models that work on real speech borrow elements from automatic speech recognition (ASR), but do not achieve high accuracy and are arguably too complex to provide much theoretical insight. Over the last two decades, however, advances in deep learning have revolutionized ASR, with neural network approaches that emerged from the same framework as those used in cognitive models. These models do not offer much guidance for human speech recognition because of their complexity. Our team asked whether we could borrow minimal elements from ASR to construct a simple cognitive model that would work on real speech. The result is EARSHOT (Emulation of Auditory Recognition of Speech by Humans Over Time), a neural network trained on 1000 words produced by 10 talkers. It learns to map spectral slice inputs to sparse “pseudo-semantic” vectors via recurrent hidden units. The element we have borrowed from ASR is to use “long short-term memory” (LSTM) nodes. LSTM nodes have a memory cell and internal “gates” that allow nodes to become differentially sensitive to variable time scales. EARSHOT achieves high accuracy and moderate generalization, and exhibits human-like over-time phonological competition. Analyses of hidden units – based on approaches used in human electrocorticography – reveal that the model learns a distributed phonological code to map speech to semantics that resembles responses to speech observed in human superior temporal gyrus. I will discuss the implications for cognitive and neural theories of human speech learning and processing.

Di Canio colloquium Friday Nov. 30

Christian DiCanio of the University of Buffalo will present a colloquium entitled “Is intonation universal?” on Friday Nov. 30th at 3:30 pm in ILC N400 (abstract below). The talk will be followed by a reception. All are welcome!

Abstract. Languages with large lexical tone inventories represent a unique challenge to studies of intonation and prosody. Such languages typically involve less freedom for suprasegmental properties of speech to be manipulated for indicating either pragmatic meaning or phrasal constituency (Connell 2017). Might it be possible for a complex tonal language to lack intonation altogether? In this talk, I report on two phonetic studies carried out in the field examining how the nine complex tones of Itunyoso Triqui (Otomanguean: Mexico) are affected by information structure (broad focus, narrow focus, contrastive focus) and utterance boundaries. Though prosodic lengthening occurs, tones are surprisingly consistent across these contexts, maintaining both their shape and height. These findings are examined in relation to an emerging typology of the tone-intonational interface and in comparison with a set of parallel experiments carried out on a related language with a complex tonal system (Yoloxóchitl Mixtec, c.f. DiCanio et al 2018). What seems to distinguish tonal languages with strong intonational effects from those with weak effects is the degree to which prosodic and pragmatic distinctions have been grammaticalized as non-suprasegmental processes, a fertile topic at the interface of linguistic fieldwork, phonetics, and phonology

UMass Linguistics at NELS 49 at Cornell, October 5-7, 2018

UMass Linguistics was well represented at NELS 49 at Cornell. Cutting and pasting from the NELS website, I find:

The Reversible Core of ObjExp, Location, and Govern-Type Verbs.
Michael Wilson.
Besides Exceptives.
Ekaterina Vostrikova.
Phase Sensitive Morphology and Dependent Case.
Kimberly Johnson.
Don’t give me that attitude! Anti-De Se and Feature Matching of German D-Pronouns.
Alexander Göbel.
A secondary crossover effect in Hindi and the typology of movement.
Rajesh Bhatt and Stefan Keine.
Complementizers in Laz are attitude sensitive.
Omer Demirok, Deniz Ozyildiz and Balkiz Ozturk.
Romanian loves Me: Clitic Clusters, Ethics & Cyclic AGREE.
Rudmila-Rodica Ivan.

UMass Alum Maria Gouskova was one of the invited speakers. There were enough of us to justify a group picture.


UMass Linguistics at CreteLing 2018: Part 3 [Distributed Group Photos]

There was frost outside this morning. So it might be a good time to think about summer. This summer the UMass Linguistics department was very well represented at the CreteLing 2018 summer school in Rethymnou, Crete. Since there are a lot of pictures, I’ll break them into three parts. The third part is distributed group photos. It was difficult to get everyone into one picture. So there are many pictures.

In the big group picture you can see Elena Benedicto, Rajesh Bhatt, Satoshi Tomioka, Kai von Fintel, Petr Kusliy, William Quirk, Bobby Tosswill, Ede Zimmerman [partially], Caroline Fery, Winnie Lechner, Katia Vostrikova, Zahra Mirrazi, Rodica Ivan, Leah Chapman, Kyle Johnson, and Deniz Özyildiz.



UMass Linguistics at CreteLing 2018 Part 2: [Extracurricular Activities]

There was frost outside this morning. So it might be a good time to think about summer. This summer the UMass Linguistics department was very well represented at the CreteLing 2018 summer school in Rethymnou, Crete. Since there are a lot of pictures, I’ll break them into three parts. The second part is extracurricular activities.