Sculptures listening

Preparing for our own sociolinguistic analysis

Now we’ll move on to analysing some of our very own sociolinguistic data! For this, you’ll want to keep a few items handy:

  • Pen and paper

  • Earphones/headphones

This recording is of Abbie and Catherine, the same speakers we heard back in Step 1.7. Here, they’re talking about their so-called ‘phone voices’ (or the voice they ‘put on’ when speaking on the phone at work).

A big part of sociolinguistic research is looking for evidence of language variation. What we’re going to focus on for our group study, is how Abbie and Catherine pronounce the ‘t’ sound in the middle and end of words. If you recall in Step 2.4, we heard some examples of [t] (like the sound you hear at the beginning of words like ‘table’ or ‘tank’). We also listened to some examples of the glottal stop sound (the ‘uh’ sound you can sometimes hear in words like ‘water’ or ‘what’).

The main question we’re going to explore together is do these speakers consistently produce [t] when they speak or do they consistently pronounce ‘t’ as a glottal stop?

There are many sensible ways you could go about this task, but here is a checklist to get you started:

  • Listen to the recording (you can find it in the following step). Feel free to listen to it as many times as you like.

  • Write down any words where you would expect to hear a [t] sound. For example, if you expect to find [t] in the word ‘cat’ then add it to your list.

  • Listen again to how the speaker pronounces that ‘t’ sound and make a note of it on your list. If you like, you could draw a table with two columns: one to list the words you’ve selected from the recording, and another column for whether you hear a [t] or a glottal stop sound. Your table might look something like this:

Word Pronunciation
cat [t]
attic [t]
water glottal stop

Again, there is no single right or wrong way of approaching this task - try whatever comes naturally to you! If you do get stuck, or if you’re not sure about your analysis, don’t panic! We’ll be discussing how we found this task a little later on. There will also be an article to read later on which summarises what types of ‘t’ are present in the recording. That way, you can compare your results to what a sociolinguistic researcher found.

When you’re ready, have a listen to the data in the next step!

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This article is from the free online course:

An Introduction to Sociolinguistics: Accents, Attitudes and Identity

University of York

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