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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton January 29, 2020

Changing perspectives on /s/ and gender over time in Glasgow

  • Jane Stuart-Smith EMAIL logo
From the journal Linguistics Vanguard


This paper considers the relative influence on sociophonetic interpretation of /s/ using “static” and “dynamic” acoustic analysis, where dynamic refers to the use of measures which capture the time-varying nature of segmental acoustics, and static to measures which are taken at a single point, or from an average across the sound (Watson and Harrington 1999, Docherty et al. 2015). Static and dynamic Discrete Cosine Transformation (DCT) analyses of spectral Centre of Gravity (CoG) and spectral Slope measures/trajectories were carried out on gendered productions of /s/ and /ʃ/ for a real- and apparent-time 32 speaker sample of spontaneous Glasgow dialect. Results of static CoG measures, reflecting place of articulation, indicate a reduction of gender differentation over time, such that girls born most recently revert to older vernacular (lower frequency) norms. Adding static spectral Slope, reflecting articulatory constriction, shows a change in gendered differentiation, whereby boys born most recently show a gestural shift. The DCT analysis both confirms the static results and also reveals that dynamic characteristics of both sibilants carry key additional prosodic, linguistic and social information for this community. Our results reflect for the first time the usefulness of changing analytical perspectives on /s/, both in terms of acoustic representation (static and dynamic), but also by considering /s/ alongside its partner sibilant /ʃ/ within the context of shifts in the construction of social gender over time.


This paper extends sketches published in early form in Stuart-Smith (2018), Stuart-Smith 2020. I am grateful: to the Leverhulme Trust, Grant Number: RPG 149, for supporting the construction of the Sounds of the City corpus; to Jonathan Harrington for proper introduction to DCT; to Brian Jose, Rachel Macdonald, Tamara Rathcke, Claire Timmins, Wolf-Gerrit Fruh, for collaboration at different stages; to audiences at LabPhon15, P&P13, ICL20, NZILBB, Newcastle, QMUL, McGill, for feedback, and to the editors of this issue, Anne Fabricius and Nicolai Pharao.


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Received: 2019-03-19
Accepted: 2019-06-12
Published Online: 2020-01-29

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