Understanding Dialect Variation

Understanding Dialect Variation

Psychology Professor Jennifer Pardo hopes to gain greater understanding of the differences in dialects and accents with the help of a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

“My research focuses on acoustic-phonetic variation in conversational settings,” says Pardo. “The aim is to understand how personal and situational factors influence the production and perception of spoken language.” Her three-year grant allows her to continue her work on the differences in the ways people pronounce consonants and vowels—particularly in accents or dialects—a study that was also funded by the NSF. “We are hoping to understand the mechanisms behind patterns  of dialect variation and people’s ability to modify their accent—or not,” she explains. Six graduate and undergraduate students are currently assisting Pardo in this work.         

By recruiting equal numbers of male and female participants and including minority groups in all activities, Pardo’s project also broadens the participation of underrepresented groups in psychology studies. “Speech production is highly variable,” she says. “My research bridges gaps between psycho- and social-linguistic approaches by treating speech-variability as an integral part of a talker’s cognitive and social repertoire.”