At this week’s MCQLL meeting, Massimo Lipari will be presenting Rhotic vowels in Quebec French.

Tuesday, February 21, 15:00–16:00 (Montréal time, UTC-4)
MCQLL meetings this semester are in hybrid format. We will meet in-person in room 117 of the McGill Linguistics Department, 1085 Dr-Penfield. If you’d like to attend virtually, the Zoom link is here.

All are welcome to attend.

  • Speaker:
    Massimo Lipari
    Rhotic vowels in Quebec French

    Rhotic-sounding realizations of the front mid rounded vowel phonemes in Quebec French (QF) /ø, œ, œ̃/ have been periodically noted in the literature, but have received little attention. In a corpus and articulatory study, Mielke (2013) found evidence of a change in progress: speakers exhibit varying degrees of tongue bunching in these vowels, resulting in a marked drop in average F3 for speakers born after 1960 which is growing in magnitude over time. No significant effect of gender or socioeconomic class was found, leading to the hypothesis of a change from below—that is, one which speakers are not conscious of as it progresses. Mielke suggests a perceptual motivation for the change: rhotacization serves to enhance the inherent acoustic cues of these vowels due to lip rounding (like low F3)—although not fully spelled out, this presumably serves to increase perceptual distance between them and their unrounded counterparts /e, ɛ, ɛ̃/. However, the unrounded vowels are not included in Mielke’s study, precluding a direct evaluation of this hypothesis. Moreover, only static formants (F3 minimum), whereas in recent years there has been a movement in sociophonetics towards modelling entire formant trajectories. In this talk, I present preliminary results from a new corpus study which attempts to address these two limitations, using generalized additive mixed models (GAMMs) to model the F3 trajectories of all six front mid rounded vowel phonemes.