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Phonetics Lab Alumnus Becky Butler promoted to Assistant Director at UNC Southeast Asia Initiative

Phonetics lab alumnus Becky Butler (PhD 2014) was recently appointed Assistant Director for Southeast Asia Initiatives at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill.    

As such, she supports the study of Southeast Asia at UNC by writing grants, coordinating Southeast Asia events, making connections among folks with an interest in the region, and facilitating opportunities for UNC’s Southeast Asian and Southeast Asian American students.

In particular, Becky  is supporting the Carolina Asia Center (CAC) current grant, “Bringing Southeast Asia Home,” and she is also working with the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Vietnamese language program.

13th January 2023

Linda Heimisdottir is the new COO for Miðeind ehf!

Phonetics Lab alumnus Dr. Linda Heimisdottir (PhD 2015) is now the Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Miðeind ehf,  which develops NLP and AI technology for the Icelandic language.   

Prior to joining Miðeind ehf, Linda served as Linguistic Program Manager at Appen - a company focused on applying AI/Natural Language Processing to Data Labeling and Model Evaluation. 

13th January 2023

Seung-Eun Kim Accepts Postdoctoral Fellow Position at Northwestern University

Seung-Eun Kim has accepted a position as a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Linguistics at Northwestern University.


She will be working with Professors Matt Goldrick and Ann Bradlow on the NSF project titled “Enhancing research on speech and deep learning through holistic acoustic analysis”. 


She will be joining the department from January 2023, after completing her Ph.D. Congratulations Seung-Eun!

6th December 2022

Francesco Burroni successfully defends his dissertation

On Tuesday, Nov. 22, PhD Candidate Francesco Burroni successfully defended his dissertation, which is titled:  "Dynamics of F0 Planning and Production: Contextual and Rate Effects on Thai Tone Gestures"


Pictured from left to right:  Francesco Burroni, committee member Dr. Draga Zec (top image, remote), committee member Dr. Chutamanee Onsuwan of Thammasat University, Bangkok ,Thailand (lower image, remote),  Committee Chair Dr. Sam Tilsen, and committee member Dr. Abby Cohn.




How can a phonological category, like a Falling tone, consisting of High and Low phonological targets, be mapped to a continuous f0 contour? This dissertation studies this mapping of a phonological representation to phonetic implementation in physical space and real time through the angle of two production experiments on contextual variation in the production of Thai tones.


Experiment 1 presents the results of an acoustic investigation where the Thai Falling and Rising tone production is studied as a function of following tonal context, speech rate, and their interaction. This experiment demonstrates the existence of systematic anticipatory dissimilatory contextual tonal variation effects.


Experiment 2 presents the result of an acoustic and electromagnetic articulography (EMA) investigation of consonants, vowels, and tones production in Thai. The effects of following tonal contexts, speech rate, and their interaction are examined. Four main findings emerge. First, we find that tones are more stably anchored to articulatory events rather than acoustic events. Second, all observed timing patterns displayed by Thai speakers are compatible with a split-gesture competitive coupling model of tone. Third, tonal contexts produce effects on inter- and intragestural tonal timing that offer a partial basis for the dissimilatory effects, albeit not a complete one. Fourth, asymmetric effects of rate on consonantal closures, releases, vowels, and tones duration are uncovered.


We argue that modeling dissimilatory effect among tones reported in experiment 1 and 2 requires a conceptual dissociation between observed contextual changes in tonal targets and their spatio-temporal execution as gestures. This is computationally implemented by adding an intentional planning field to the Task Dynamic model of Articulatory Phonology.


The articulatory timing patterns reported in experiment 2 are modeled using a computational implementation of the coupled oscillator model of Articulatory Phonology. It is shown that such a model can generate both the observed group patterns and all the patterns of individual variation by minimally altering coupling strength between pairs of gestural planning oscillators. Model limitations are also discussed.


In sum, this dissertation presents empirical and modeling evidence that advances the understanding of coarticulatory patterns and articulatory timing.


22nd November 2022