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Whistled Speech and Language Discrimination

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Oliver Mayeux.


Speech in whistled modality is attested around the globe and currently attracting increased research interest. Such varieties are based on the ambient spoken language in all known cases. In this talk I will review the nature and current status of whistled speech, before reporting the results of a series of recent experiments on the perception of whistled language by non-whistling native speakers of the corresponding spoken language. Such speakers are able to discriminate between their language and others when whistled, and also display sprachbund-like effects dependent on the contrasting language. Additional individual factors affecting perception and discrimination are also investigated.

About the speaker

Mary Ann Walter is Associate Professor of Teaching English as a Foreign Language at the Middle East Technical University, Northern Cyprus Campus, and currently DTAL visiting scholar. Her research interests include experimental phonology and language contact, particularly among the languages of the Middle East and Balkans.

Photo credit: Sicoli, Mark. 2013. Fragments of a language practice: Documenting the Chinantec whistled speech register. Recovering Voices Seminar, Smithsonian Institution.

This talk is part of the Cambridge Endangered Languages and Cultures Group series.

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