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Bibliographic information and abstracts for selected publications. Please consult the original periodical or book for the complete text.


Podesva, Robert J. and Devyani Sharma, eds. 2013. Research Methods in Linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

This volume provides an advanced overview of research methods in linguistics. It is suitable for advanced undergraduate and graduate students, who are already familiar with linguistics concepts, phenomena, and theory, but who are relatively new to doing original research. The volume can additionally serve as a reference text for experienced researchers and current practitioners. Linguistics has recently begun moving toward productive exchanges of methods across sub-disciplines (e.g. the use of experimental methods in syntax and sociolinguistics), and this volume aims to reflect and further these recent moves. As a result, while the methods themselves may not be new to more advanced researchers, links across methods will be new to many. As an edited volume the book offers more detailed expertise in each area than a basic textbook, permitting a comprehensive training in state-of-the-art data collection and analysis techniques.

The book comprises three parts: Data Collection, Data Processing and Statistical Methods, and Foundations for Data Analysis. These areas are separated in order to emphasize to developing and experienced practitioners the need to plan each methodological step carefully, the relationships among these three aspects of methodology, and the potential for fruitful cross-fertilization and hybridization of methods.

Podesva, Robert J. and Patrick Callier. 2015. Voice quality and identity. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics.

Variation in voice quality has long been recognized to have functions beyond the grammatically distinctive or phonetically useful roles it plays in many languages, indexing information about the speaker, participating in the construction of stance in interaction, or serving to identify the speaker as a unique individual. Though the links between voice quality and identity have been studied in phonetics, sociolinguistics, linguistic anthropology, forensic linguistics, and speech technology, considerable work remains to be done to problematize the ways in which the voice is taken as covering privileged, immediate meanings about the speaker's body, and to break apart the ideologies that construct it as an inalienable, unitary, and invariant facet of a speaker’s identity. We point out promising directions in recent research on the voice and bring up ideas for where this important area of research should be taken.

Podesva, Robert J., Jermay Jamsu, and Patrick Callier. 2015. Constraints on the social meaning of released /t/: A production and perception study of U.S. politicians. Language Variation and Change.

Previous studies on released /t/ collectively suggest that the linguistic feature is associated with intelligence and education, social meanings that can be recruited in constructing articulate personas. This study examines the production of released /t/ by six prominent U.S. political figures, as well as the social meanings listeners attribute to the variant. Employing a matched guise technique facilitated by digital stimuli manipulation, we find that the social meanings associated with released /t/ are constrained by linguistic and social factors. Regarding the former, word-medial /t/ releases carry stronger social meanings than those appearing word-finally. With respect to social factors, listener interpretations vary according to the identity of the speaker and knowledge of how frequently particular speakers produce /t/ releases. Thus, even though conventionalized associations between linguistic forms and meanings can be drawn upon to construct articulate personas, not all speakers can do so with equal effectiveness.

Podesva, Robert J. 2011. Salience and the social meaning of declarative contours: Three case studies of gay professionals. Journal of English Linguistics 39.3: 233-264.

Most studies exploring the social meaning of variation have focused on phonological variables at the segmental level. This article investigates the social meaning of intonational variation in the speech of three gay professionals. To examine how intonational meanings can be exploited as symbolic resources, this study takes an intraspeaker approach, inspecting declarative intonation patterns across three situations per speaker. The analysis reveals that speakers exhibit systematic patterns of variation on either of two levels—the frequency with which variants are employed or their phonetic manifestations—depending on the salience of variants. The social significance of these patterns is inferred by situating them in their discourse and ethnographic contexts. Importantly, intonational meaning surfaces in both the choice of a variant and its phonetic rendering. The categorical choice of a variant conveys pragmatic meaning, while the variant’s phonetic realization reflects the strength of its social meaning.

Podesva, Robert J. 2011. The California vowel shift and gay identity. American Speech 86.1: 32-51.

Research on the acoustic correlates of sounding gay has underexamined the role of regional accent features like vowel quality. This article explores the potential connection between the California Vowel Shift (CVS) and gay identity by investigating intraspeaker vowel variation in the speech of one gay man from California (Regan). An acoustic analysis reveals significantly more shifted variants of four components of the CVS (fronting of BOOT and BOAT, raising of BAN, and backing of BAT) when Regan is speaking with friends than when talking in other situations. Regan’s use of advanced variants of the CVS furthermore correlates with non-heteronormative prosodic patterns in voice quality and intonation. Based on these patterns and an analysis of the contexts in which they are produced, I argue that Regan is constructing a gay ‘partier’ persona. One component of this persona is the set of social meanings indexed by the CVS (e.g. ‘laid back,’ ‘fun’), meanings that find roots in the stereotypical character types (e.g. surfer, valley girl) that led to the enregisterment of Californian speech styles. These meanings can be recruited in constructing particular brands of gay identity, such as Regan’s ‘partier’ persona. The analysis crucially leaves room for regional accent features to index identities, including sexual identities, which may have little to do with geographic region.

Moore, Emma and Robert J. Podesva. 2009. Style, indexicality, and the social meaning of tag questions. Language in Society 38.4: 447-485.

This article illustrates how the notions of style and indexicality can illuminate understanding of the social meaning of a specifi c linguistic variable, the tag question. Drawing on conversational speech and ethnographic data from a community of high school girls in northwest England, it quantitatively and qualitatively examines the discourse, grammatical, and phonological design of tag questions in this community. Members of four social groups are shown to use tag questions to similar effect, as a means of conducing particular points of view. However, these groups also exhibit striking differences in the stylistic composition of tags, distinctions that indexically construct stances and personas, which may in turn come to represent group identity. These data suggest that the social meaning of tag questions can be best ascertained by examining their internal composition and by situating them in their broader discursive and social stylistic contexts.

Podesva, Robert J. 2007. Phonation type as a stylistic variable: The use of falsetto in constructing a persona. Journal of Sociolinguistics 11.4: 478-504.

Although the field of sociolinguistics has witnessed a growing interest in the sociophonetic aspects of segmental and intonational variation, few studies have examined variation in voice quality. This paper addresses the gap by investigating the stylistic use of falsetto phonation. Focusing on the speech of Heath, a speaker exhibiting considerable cross-situational variation, I show that when attending a barbecue with friends, Heath’s falsetto is more frequent, longer, and characterized by higher fundamental frequency (f0) levels and wider f0 ranges. Advancing recent approaches to variation which treat linguistic features as stylistic resources for constructing social meaning, I draw on an analysis of the discourse contexts in which falsetto appears to illustrate that the feature car ries expressive connotations. This meaning is employed to construct a ‘diva’ persona and may also participate in building a gay identity.

Campbell-Kibler, Kathryn, Robert Podesva, Sarah Roberts, and Andrew Wong, eds. 2002. Language and Sexuality: Contesting Meaning in Theory and Practice. Stanford: CSLI Publications.

Language and Sexuality explores the question of how linguistic practices and ideologies relate to sexuality and sexual identity, opening with a discussion of the emerging field of “queer linguistics” and moving from theory into practice with case studies of language use in a wide variety of cultural settings. The resulting volume combines the perspectives of the field's top scholars with exciting new research to present new ideas on the ways in which language use intersects with sexual identity.