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Research on Sound Change at the IPS Munich

The transmission of speech between a speaker and a listener is infinitely variable and an inherently dynamic activity. At the same time, speech can be considered to be composed of a finite set of categories including, at a minimum, consonants and vowels that function to distinguish meaning. The main concern of research in this group is how these dynamics and categorical aspects of speech are connected and how sound change can emerge from the sometimes ambiguous relationship between the two. This research question includes how sound change is related to biases in the distribution and combinations of sounds in the world's languages. Another major focus is on how the production and perception of speech are related within each individual and whether differences in the production-perception relationships across different individuals can contribute to the likelihood of sound change taking place. Other areas of interest include long-term sound change over an adult's lifespan and the possible contribution of imitation to sound change. Our experimental techniques for carrying out this research are based on speech acoustics, speech physiology (in particular electromagnetic articulometry), and speech perception. The major part of our analyses have in the last two years been based on regional varieties of German, Standard Austrian, Standard Southern British, Andalusian Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese (European and Brazilian). Within the ERC project SCATS we aim to investigate the variability inherent in the production and perception of both child and adult speech and determine the relevance for sound change. This research has so far been undertaken for German and will also be extended to Polish and Cantonese.