Previous Seasons Meetings

PhilSoc welcomes proposals for papers to be read at meetings. Proposals should be forwarded to the Honorary Secretary (contact details on the Contact page). Papers may be on any topic falling within the scope of PhilSoc's interests, but speakers are asked to bear in mind that the audience will represent a wide range of linguistic interests, and papers should therefore be accessible to non-specialists.


January 2022

The Origins of the Greek Verb
Andreas Willi (Oxford) in conversation with James Clackson (Cambridge)

Remote meeting at 4.15pm GMT


November 2021

Corpus approaches to phonetic~phonological variability and stability.
Sam Hellmuth (York), Eleanor Chodroff (York), Justin Lo (UCL), Benjamin Molineaux (Edinburgh)

Remote meeting 4.00 pm GMT

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PhilSoc ECR Round Table 2021-22

Corpus approaches to phonetic~phonological variability and stability.

Friday 26th November 4pm-6.30pm *note new start time*

The event will take place online via Zoom.



Dr Eleanor Chodroff, University of York

Dr Justin Lo, University College London/University of York

Dr Benjamin Molineaux, University of Edinburgh


Dr Sam Hellmuth, University of York



4.00-4.05      Welcome (Sam Hellmuth)

4.05-4.45      Ben Molineaux:  “How to [PLACE] fricatives in the Corpus of Historical Mapudungun”

4.45-5.25      Justin Lo: “Comparing /s/ with /s/: Cross-linguistic acoustic (in)stability among English–French bilinguals”


5.30-6.10      Eleanor Chodroff: “Structure in phonetic realization across talkers and languages”

6.10-6.25      15 minutes round table Q&A with all panellists

6.25-6.30      Closing words (Sam Hellmuth)

Each talk will be approx. 35 mins, with a short time available for questions immediately afterwards.






How to [PLACE] fricatives in the Corpus of Historical Mapudungun

Ben Molineaux (University of Edinburgh)

Minority, non-European languages — such as indigenous American ones — are critically underrepresented in the literature on historical phonology and sound change. Even where they are available, historical sources for such languages tend to be under-explored and a true philological tradition is lacking. In this talk, I will suggest that corpus methods emerge as ideal means for systematically compiling and exploring the available phonological data for such minority languages, focusing in particular on the missionary materials available in the Americas.

Using the newly-developed Corpus of Historical Mapudungun (CHM), I will explore the available evidence for the historical roots of this language's remarkable range of fricative place articulations, including labio-dental [f], interdental [θ], alveolar [s], alveolo-palatal [∫], retroflex [?] and velar [?]. An analysis of spellings and grammarian's comments over the past 400 years will be called upon to establish the contrastive status of the different segments. Particular focus is given to the nativisation of Spanish and Quechua loans which led to the borrowing of /s/, and to the various processes of `affective' alternation between [θ], [s], [∫] and [?] and their phonemic status throughout the historical record for Mapudungun.


Comparing /s/ with /s/: Cross-linguistic acoustic (in)stability among English–French bilinguals

Justin Lo (University College London/University of York)

This talk focuses on the production of the sibilant fricative /s/ among bilingual speakers. Cross-linguistically, the acoustic quality of /s/ is highly similar, yet second language (L2) learners may be attuned to fine-grained phonetic differences and accordingly shift their realisation across languages (Boyd 2018; Kitikanan et al. 2015; Quené et al. 2017). At the same time, speakers in other bilingual communities produce generally similar /s/ in each language (Johnson et al. 2019; Schertz et al. 2019). In the case of English and French, coronal consonants are often described to be articulated with different places of articulation and tongue-tip gestures, although the articulatory evidence for the fricatives /s z/ remains mixed (Dart 1991, 1998; Toda 2009). Using data drawn from the Voice ID Database (Royal Canadian Mounted Police, 2010–2016), the acoustic-phonetic study presented here investigates the extent to which bilingual speakers of English and French adopt distinct realisations of /s/ in the two languages.

The results reveal a cross-linguistically stable acoustic target of /s/ for English–French bilinguals, as they do not distinguish /s/ in each language by midpoint spectral moments. Language background does modulate the production of /s/, with L1 French speakers producing lower skewness and kurtosis than L1 English speakers. Language specificity of /s/, however, is found in the shape of the trajectories of its spectral moments and in the degree of within-speaker variability. These findings raise the possibility that there may be subtle differences in the place of articulation and tongue-tip gesture acquired by speakers of different L1s, but such subphonemic distinction is not acquired in the L2. I will further discuss the theoretical and practical implications of these findings for cross-language speaker comparisons in the area of forensic speech science.


Structure in phonetic realization across talkers and languages

Eleanor Chodroff (University of York)

A primary goal of linguistic study is to understand the range and limits of crosslinguistic variation. The study of phonetic variation is no exception to this pursuit, but access to suitable multilingual speech corpora has only recently become available. In this talk, I consider how we can make use of large-scale speech corpora to better understand the process of phonetic realization: that is, the projection of phonological segments into phonetic space. Through a series of case studies, I examine cross-talker and crosslinguistic variation and structure in phonetic realization.


October 2021

The Early French Press: Examining a New Text Type in Historical Linguistics
Mairi McLaughlin (UC Berkeley)

Remote meeting 4.15pm BST


Lecture & AGM

A formal theory of idiolect and its forensic applications
Dr Andrea Nini (Manchester)


May 2021

Contact in the Past: how contact has shaped language in society
Tamsin Blaxter (Cambridge), Victoria Beatrix Fendel (Oxford), Jonathan Kasstan (Westminster), Robin Meyer (Lausanne)

Panel discussion (remote meeting)


March 2021

Workshop on Prominent Possessors

Workshop on Prominent Possessors (organised by SOAS University of London, Murray Edwards College, Cambridge and Surrey Morphology Group)


February 2021

From grammaticalization to agrammatism: a functional approach to grammar
Kasper Boye (Copenhagen)

Remote meeting


January 2021

Reconstructing the accents of Old Celtic: stress without accent marks
Patrizia de Bernardo Stempel (University of the Basque Country)

Remote meeting: please register for the meeting here. Guests welcome. 


November 2020

Workshop on Approaches to lexical variation (organised by University of Sussex)
Postgraduate researchers

Presentations by postgraduate researchers Rhys Sandow (Sussex), Sandra Young (Brighton), and Mary Edward (Brighton), followed by round table discussion, chaired by Dr Justyna Robinson


October 2020

A modular perspective on consonant alternations Finnish and Amuzgo stem formation
Dr Yuni Kim (Essex)

The next meeting of PhilSoc will be held remotely using Zoom. It will take place on Friday 23 October 2020 at 4.15pm (BST). Dr Yuni Kim (Essex) will speak on ‘A modular perspective on consonant alternations in Finnish and Amuzgo stem formation’. We will inform you about registration details closer to the talk.

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This paper examines the division of labour between phonology and morphology in the stem allomorphy of two typologically different languages, Amuzgo (Oto-Manguean) and Finnish (Uralic). Both exhibit complex systems of stem-consonant alternations that, depending on the specific consonant and/or lexical item involved, run the gamut from phonologically transparent to apparently arbitrary in identical morphological contexts. By factoring out productive phonological processes, we can establish a lexical continuum from single underlying stems, to stem allomorphs connected by unproductive phonological rules, to stem-allomorph sets whose relationships cannot be mapped by conventional formal operations of phonology. For Amuzgo noun plurals, the identification of purely phonological processes reduces the patterns to a core of n- prefixation plus the alternations ? ~ k and ts/t?/w ~ Ø. I discuss the extent to which these quasi-phonological alternations can be understood theoretically in terms of abstract scales (Mortensen 2006). In Finnish verbs, there are many classes of exceptions (some surface, some deeper) to the basic phonological conditions on consonant gradation, along with parallels to other stem alternations that fall outside the gradation system. For these cases, I adopt the stratal framework of Bermúdez-Otero (2012, 2013), in particular the twin mechanisms of stem storage and lexical redundancy rules, to capture generalizations without placing disproportionate burden on either the phonology or the lexicon.

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