Research

publications (PDFs) on Academia.edu

Curriculum vitae (May 2017)

About me

I'm a doctoral candidate in Linguistics at the University of Chicago. In 2015 I held a Whiting Dissertation-Year Fellowship via the UChicago Division of the Humanities. I like to ask questions about in the interplay between phonetic variation and phonological change, including the roles of psychoacoustic and social factors in sound change. I think sociophonetics is neat and also crucial in sound change research. Long-distance phonological phenomena have always caught my eye, especially dissimilation. I'm also interested in (heritage) bilingualism and language acquisition, and I've co-taught a freshman-level class on language taboos which I found to be great fun.

Dissertation

It has long been accepted that the variation exhibited by individual speakers in their pronunciation of phonological categories occurs around a constant mean, and that overall, adult speakers show remarkable stability over time. Yet over the past several decades, linguists have repeatedly observed that at least some speakers exhibit time-dependent phonetic variation, at scales ranging from minutes (as induced in the laboratory, e.g., Babel 2009, Nielsen 2007, Yu et al. 2013) to months and years (as observed in longitudinal studies, e.g., Harrington 2006, Sankoff 2004, Sonderegger 2012). Significantly, this research supports a long-standing hypothesis that within-speaker shifts in both the short and long term are a crucial component of lasting sound change in a population.

Using the SCOTUS Corpus, a novel spontaneous speech corpus comprising approximately 600 hours of audio and 8 million phonetically transcribed words gleaned from U.S. Supreme Court oral argument proceedings over 15 years, I focus on an 8-year time period (2004-2011) characterized by significant changes on the Court, and analyze vowel formants for 4 of the Court's justices: Alito, Sotomayor, and Kagan, and Chief Justice Roberts, with each court case (~70 per year) as a time point. I hypothesize that speakers undergo significant, systematic transformation whenever a new justice joins the Court. By modeling individual phonetic patterns over various time scales (e.g., months, full terms, and multi-year periods), I conduct a time-series analysis to examine patterns of time-dependent phonetic variation. This research is part of the larger SCOTUS Project, led by Alan Yu (Linguistics, University of Chicago) and Daniel Chen (Economics, TSE).

“You don't talk to a linguist without having what you say taken down and used in evidence against you at some point in time. ” — David Crystal

Get In Touch

  • Department of Linguistics, Rosenwald Hall 1101 E. 58th St., Chicago IL 60637
  • (773) 336-2655
  • carissa@uchicago.edu
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