Abstract: Linguists have long observed systematic variation in the production of features at the level of prosody, which includes intonation and acoustic properties of the voice itself. However, the ways in which these features may be subject to ethnolinguistic variation is still poorly understood, despite the fact that they are salient for lay listeners and involved in the formation of popular linguistic ideologies. In this talk, I will present evidence from three different studies that have focused on how black American speakers employ such variation, as well as discuss how these features may be perceived differently by different listeners. By examining how black speakers utilize prosodic features in variable contexts, we may begin to shed light on the acoustic properties involved in ethnicity judgments as well as linguistic profiling and discrimination.
Bio: Dr. Nicole Holliday is an assistant professor of linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania. She received her Ph.D. in linguistics from New York University in 2016, where she wrote a dissertation entitled “Intonational Variation, Linguistic Style and the Black/Biracial Experience”. Her research focuses on what it means to sound black, both phonetically and socially, and from the perspectives of both speakers and listeners. Her work has appeared in scholarly venues such as Journal of Sociolinguistics, Laboratory Phonology, and American Speech. She has also made appearances in media outlets such as the New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Washington Post.