Chantal Gratton

Research Projects

Vowel realization and stancework


Prior work has found that vowel frontness (F2) correlates with affective stances (Eckert 2010, 2011; Podesva et al. 2015; Podesva forthcoming; Wong 2014), with fronter vowels marking positive affect and backer vowels marking negative affect. If this correlation is truly reflective of a sound symbolic or embodied link to positive-negative dimensions, then we should expect other stances measured along such poles (like alignment) to exhibit similar patterns. My current work explores this possibility, looking at vowel realization in dyadic interactions where alignment and stancework is prevalent.

The role of alignment in pitch variation among non-binary speakers


This project expanded on my Masters research, focusing on variation in vocal pitch and adding an analysis of stance. I examined the alignment between interlocutors and how it related to the variation in vocal pitch that I had previously found.

The impact of interaction on the perception of contrastive intonation

Qualifying Paper

Both experimental pragmatic and discourse analytic branches are interested in how distinct intonational forms are tied to particular meanings, though they heavily differ in their approaches (Goodhue et al. 2016; Ladd 1980; Ward and Hirschberg 1985; Ogden 2006). Despite this, the meanings attributed to intonational forms should be broadly applicable across disciplines and the forms should consist of the minimally sufficient elements required for implicatures to be drawn in any environment.

One form which has been of interest to both experimental and discursive approaches is contrastive intonation (either L+H* or L+H* L-H\%). Experimental pragmatic work has shown that contrastive intonation triggers sets of alternatives, which shape listener inferences in referential contexts (Dahan et al. 2002; Dennison and Schafer 2010; Ito and Speer 2008; Kurumada et al. 2012). I examined whether contrastive intonation would trigger inference in interactional contexts, specifically evaluation, while focusing on the generalizability of both form and meaning.

Though contrastive intonation on evaluations does trigger pragmatic inferences of disagreement, the a high final rise was not required for drawing such inferences. Thus, the generalizable form of contrastive intonation is simply the contrastive pitch accent (L+H*). However, the high final rise carried additional interactional meaning for some speakers, who were perceived as nicer when using high final rises to mitigate disagreements.

Resistance and resilience: The linguistic construction of non-binary transgender identities

Masters Thesis

This project examined the linguistic practices of a subset of four individuals from a non-binary transgender community of practice, located in the Greater Toronto Area, Canada. It explored how members within this community utilize language in particular ways to variably construct their gender identities within different contexts: out-group and in-group discussions. Also, it sought to determine whether group membership was marked by particular linguistic practices and what local social meanings these patterns hold. To this end, it examined variation in vocal pitch — mean F0, F0 range and F0 excursion — and (ING) usage.

The analyses uncovered intraspeaker variation between contexts, in which the group employed lower mean F0 and a greater use of the [ɪn] variant in out-group discussions, as compared to in-group ones. Also, it found that a hierarchical social structure within the group is marked linguistically, with central members employing greater control of the floor to mark their positions as spokespersons for the community; established members making greater use of the [ɪŋ] variant overall to index their roles as repositories for cultural knowledge; all established members making use of comparatively smaller F0 rangers and shorter F0 excursions to index stances of seriousness and earnestness towards the somber reality of non-binary lives; and all speakers marking their community membership through the pattern of intraspeaker variation mentioned above. Additionally, this research found that discussions can also be marked as relatively supportive through an increase in F0 ranges and F0 excursions.