UIC TiL: Kenneth Konopka

Tomorrow, February 5th, we will have another session of UIC Talks in Linguistics from 3 PM to 5 PM in 1750 University Hall (601 S. Morgan Street 60607). This week we will have a talk from Kenneth Konopka of Northwestern University. As always, light refreshments will be served. The talk is entitled, “Vowels of Mexican Heritage English: Beyond the static.”

Kenneth Konnopka (Northwestern University)
Vowels of Mexican Heritage English: Beyond the static

Mexican Heritage English (MHE) speakers are first generation Mexican-Americans who are native speakers of English living in communities characterized by the general presence of the Spanish language. In this talk I compare the vowel structure of MHE to that of the regional Anglo dialect in the Albany Park community of Chicago. Analyses of vowel formant trajectories and durations provide evidence for a Spanish influence that is not captured in traditional static vowel plots.

The participants in the study comprise four groups: Anglo speakers of the regional dialect characterized by the Northern Cities Vowels (N=12F); MHE speakers who are life-long community residents with varying Spanish proficiency (N=14F); late learners of English (L2E) who are native Mexican Spanish speakers (N=12F); and native Mexican Spanish speakers (N=7F). Speakers from the first three groups were recorded responding in English to a variety of materials. From CVC wordlist productions eleven English vowels were analyzed. These vowels, from a range of consonantal contexts, were analyzed for duration and first and second formant values at .20, .50 and .80 of the duration. Mexican Spanish speakers were also recorded reading tokens from a Spanish wordlist for a corresponding analysis.

In this talk I will show how temporal cues reveal clear distinctions between the vowels of the regional dialect, MHE, and L2E. In addition, I will provide evidence from Spanish for the origins of these cues. I will discuss the resultant vowel structure of MHE and how it provides insight into the interaction of the two disparate vowel systems. In addition to their relevance for the study of language contact, we will see how features normally considered secondary in vowel production may provide a basis for systematically evaluating vowel structure resulting from language contact.

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