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Bibliographic information and abstracts for selected publications. Please consult the original periodical or book for the complete text. A full list of publications is available on my CV.

Voigt, Rob, Penelope Eckert, Dan Jurafsky, and Robert J. Podesva. 2016. Cans and cants: Computational potentials for multimodality with a case study in head position. Journal of Sociolinguistics 20.5: 677-711.

As the study of embodiment and multimodality in interaction grows in importance, there is a need for novel methodological approaches to understand how multimodal variables pattern together along social and contextual lines, and how they systematically coalesce in communicative meanings. In this work, we propose to adopt computational tools to generate replicable annotations of bodily variables: these can be examined statistically to understand their patterning with other variables across diverse speakers and interactional contexts, and can help organize qualitative analyses of large datasets. We demonstrate the possibilities thereby with a case study in head cant (side-to-side tilt of the head) in a dataset of video blogs and laboratory-collected interactions, computationally extracting cant and prosody from video and audio and analyzing their interactions, looking at gender in particular. We find that head cant indexes an orientation towards the interlocutor and a sense of shared understanding, can serve a ‘bracketing’ function in interaction (for speakers to create parentheticals or asides), and has gendered associations with prosodic markers and interactional discourse particles.

Podesva, Robert J. 2016. Stance as a window into the language-race connection. Raciolinguistics: How Language Shapes Our Ideas About Race, ed. by H. Samy Alim, John R. Rickford, and Arnetha Ball. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 203-219.

This paper examines how two linguistic features commonly associated with African American English enable speakers to take stances about race. The analysis is based on the use of (-t/d) deletion and falsetto in sociolinguistic interviews with residents of Washington, D.C. While broad distributional analyses reveal that African American speakers produce both features more frequently than white speakers, the explanation for this pattern can only be found by attending to the interactional moments when speakers use these features the most. For example, an African American woman uses her highest rates of (-t/d) deletion when talking about gentrification, as opposed to other topics that she does not characterize in racial terms. Similarly, African American women generally produce their phonetically strongest instantiations of falsetto when negatively evaluating gentrification and racism. I conclude by underscoring the importance of viewing components of ethnolinguistic repertoires as resources for taking stances about race and racially-charged issues.

Podesva, Robert J. and Janneke Van Hofwegen. 2016. /s/exuality in small-town California: Gender normativity and the acoustic realization of /s/. Language, Sexuality, and Power: Studies in Intersectional Sociolinguistics, ed. by Erez Levon and Ronald Beline Mendes. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 168-188.

Previous sociophonetic research has established that, in some communities, the realization of /s/ may correlate with a speaker’s gender (Strand 1999; Stuart-Smith 2007; Stuart-Smith, Timmins, & Tweedie 2007; Fuchs & Toda 2010; Hazenberg 2012; Zimman 2012; Levon & Holmes-Elliott 2013; Pharao, Maegaard, Møller, & Kristiansen 2014), sexuality (Linville 1998; Munson, McDonald, DeBoe, & White 2006; Levon 2007; Campbell-Kibler 2011; Hazenberg 2012; Zimman 2013; Pharao et al. 2014), or rurality (Campbell-Kibler 2011). While past research has tended to zero in on one of these dimensions, this paper examines how ideologies about the country, gender, sexuality, and their inter-relations play out in the same community. We find it fruitful to consider these connections because communities where rurality constitutes an important axis of social distinction are likely to subscribe to traditional norms regarding gender and sexuality. This paper examines the acoustic realization of /s/ among residents of Shasta County, a community just north of California’s San Joaquin Valley. Drawing on a series of comparisons within the local community, we show that country-identified speakers exhibit different patterns from speakers who orient to the town, and also that members of a tight-knit LGBT community exhibit somewhat different patterns from community members who do not identify as sexual minorities. We further contrast our findings with patterns previously observed for speakers in urban areas and find that in spite of significant differences between straight and LGBT speakers in Redding, both groups of speakers produce more normatively gendered patterns than their counterparts in cities. Our primary claim is that the realization of /s/ is heavily constrained by dominant local ideologies about gender and sexuality. Specifically the sociopolitical conservativism characteristic of this country community polarizes gender distinction and pressures sexual minorities to adhere to normative gender patterns.

Podesva, Robert J., Annette D’Onofrio, Janneke Van Hofwegen, and Seung Kyung Kim. 2015. Country ideology and the California vowel shift. Language Variation and Change 27.2: 157-186.

Addressing the dearth of variation research in nonurban, noncoastal regions of California, this study examines the extent to which speakers in Redding, an inland community just north of the Central Valley, participate in the California Vowel Shift (CVS). We acoustically analyze the fronting of the back vowels BOOT and BOAT, the raising of BAN and backing of BAT, and the merger of BOT and BOUGHT, in sociolinguistic interviews with 30 white lifelong residents. Results reveal a change in apparent time for all analyzed variables, indicating the CVS’s progression through the community, though not as robust as in urban, coastal areas. Additionally, we provide evidence that shifting patterns for different vowels are structured by the ideological divide between town and country. Thus, as the CVS spreads through Redding, speakers utilize particular features of the shift differently, negotiating identities relevant in California’s nonurban locales.

Podesva, Robert J. and Patrick Callier. 2015. Voice quality and identity. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics 35: 173-194.

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 Reynolds, Patrick Callier, and Jessica Baptiste. 2015. Constraints on the social meaning of released /t/: A production and perception study of U.S. politicians. Language Variation and Change 27: 59-87.

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., Patrick Callier, Rob Voigt, and Dan Jurafsky. 2015. The connection between smiling and GOAT fronting: Embodied affect in sociophonetic variation. Proceedings of the International Congress of Phonetic Sciences 18.

This study examines the effect of smiling on GOAT fronting, a sound change common to many varieties of American English. The data are audiovisual recordings of ten speakers of American English recorded in dyadic conversations in an interactional sociophonetics laboratory. We applied an existing computer vision algorithm for smile detection to the video recordings to identify smiling intervals. A mixed-effects linear regression reveals that higher F2 (i.e., auditorily fronter GOAT) positively correlates with whether speakers are smiling while articulating the vowel and their self-reported comfort levels in the interaction. The latter factor does not correlate with whether vowels were smiled. Together, the findings suggest that GOAT fronting is not only a phonetic consequence of smiling, but also serves an affective, interactional function. While sociophonetic studies typically analyze audio recordings alone, patterns of variation are better explained by also attending to embodied practices observable only in the visual domain.

Podesva, Robert J., Penelope Eckert, Julia Fine, Katherine Hilton, Sunwoo Jeong, Sharese King, and Teresa Pratt. 2015. Social influences on the degree of stop voicing in inland California. University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics 21.2: 166-176.

This paper examines social influences on the realization of voiced stops in inland California. We analyzed sociolinguistic interviews with 62 white residents from Redding, Merced, and Bakersfield (which mark the northern, middle, and southern points of California’s Central Valley), balanced for sex class, age, and whether a speaker earns their livelihood off the land. We follow Jaciewicz, Fox, and Lyle (2009) in examining the extent of voicing during stop closures (duration of voicing during closure relative to total duration of closure), and also adopt a novel measure of the magnitude of voicing, which captures the intensity of a stop closure relative to the following vowel. Mixed effects linear regression models were constructed for both voicing measures, with a number of linguistic and social predictors considered in addition to random effects. Results show that the extent of voicing measure was insufficiently sensitive to differentiate speakers, as nearly everyone exhibited voicing throughout the closure. The voicing intensity measure, however, was shown to reveal significant effects of place of articulation, closure duration, and ties to the land. Most importantly, speakers who earn their livelihood off the land exhibit significantly stronger voiced stops than those who do not. We argue that even though strongly voiced stops likely entered California during a large-scale in-migration of Southerners during the Dust Bowl (Jaciewicz et al. 2009 report more extensive voicing among women from the South compared to the Midwest), they have since taken on locally significant indexicalities reflecting the values and ideals of land-oriented communities throughout the Central Valley (and do not simply mean “Southern”). Our findings also raise questions about where the linguistic limits of socially structured variation lie, given the systematic social patterning observed here for low-level phonetic details (i.e., voicing intensity) that likely operate far below the level of consciousness.

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.

Voigt, Rob, Robert J. Podesva, and Dan Jurafsky. 2014. Speaker movement correlates with prosodic indicators of engagement. Proceedings of Speech Prosody 7.

Recent research on multimodal prosody has begun to identify associations between discrete body movements and categori- cal acoustic prosodic events such as pitch accents and bound- aries. We propose to generalize this work to understand more about continuous prosodic phenomena distributed over a phrase - like those indicative of speaker engagement - and how they covary with bodily movements. We introduce movement am- plitude, a new vision-based metric for estimating continuous body movements over time from video by quantifying frame- to-frame visual changes. Application of this automatic metric to a collection of video monologues demonstrates that speak- ers move more during phrases in which their pitch and intensity are higher and more variable. These findings offer further evi- dence for the relationship between acoustic and visual prosody, and suggest a previously unreported quantitative connection be- tween raw bodily movement and speaker engagement.

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 specific 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.