Variation and change in a diverse society: Sydney Speaks
I work on a project entitled Sydney Speaks which aims to capture the influence of migrant groups in Australia's largest and most ethnically and linguistically diverse city, Sydney. Using a unique and highly regimented corpus of recorded conversational interviews, we investigate how Sydney English has changed, who has been instrumental in those changes, and how social factors and social networks play a role in those changes. For more, visit the Sydney Speaks website, and see our papers and talks below.
Grama, James, Catherine E. Travis, & Simon Gonzalez. 2019. Initiation, progression, and conditioning of the short-front vowel shift in Australia. In Sasha Calhoun, Paola Escudero, Marija Tabain & Paul Warren (eds.), Proceedings of the 19th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, Melbourne, Australia 2019, 1769-1773.
Grama, James, Simon Gonzalez, & Catherine E. Travis. 2018. Phonological conditioning in rotation of short-front vowels in Australian English. Poster presented at 17th Speech Science and Technology Conference, Sydney, NSW, Australia, December 2018.
Travis, Catherine E., James Grama, & Simon Gonzalez. 2017. General extenders over time in Sydney English: from ‘or something’ to ‘and stuff’. Paper presented in Language, Variation and Change, Australia 3, pre-conference session at Australian Linguistic Society 2017, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia, December 2017.
Radar plot showing boundary displacement for MFA, FAVE, LaBB-CAT and MAUS
(from Gonzalez, Grama & Travis 2018)
Assessing forced alignment efficacy
One of my interests is gauging how good the tools are that sociophoneticians use. At the moment, this interest has largely been focused on the accuracy of forced alignment, especially as it pertains to doing research on minority languages. See our papers below for more.
Barth, Danielle, James Grama, Simon Gonzalez, & Catherine E. Travis. Opening the door to forced alignment for minority languages. University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics, 25(2): 1–10.
Gonzalez, Simon, Catherine E. Travis, James Grama, Danielle Barth & Sunkulp Ananthanarayan. 2018. Recursive forced-alignment: A test on a minority language. In Julien Epps, Joe Wolfe, John Smith, and Caroline Jones (eds.), Proceedings of the Seventeenth Australasian International Conference on Speech Science and Technology, 145–148.
View of Nā Mokulua ("The Mokes") from the top of the Pillboxes trail off the windward coast of O‘ahu
Creoles and Englishes: Variation in Hawai‘i
I work on language varieties spoken in Hawai‘i. This includes the local creole (known to linguists as Hawai‘i Creole, and to Locals as Pidgin). By comparing recordings with Pidgin speakers recorded in the 1970s with speakers recorded in the 2000s, my work has demonstrated that Pidgin has undergone radical phonetic changes. What's more, these changes appear to be linked with the use of Pidgin morpho-syntactic forms, such that speakers who speak "heavier" Pidgin produce more canonically Pidgin-like vowels. For more, check out my dissertation, and watch this space for upcoming articles.
My work also focuses on the varieties of English spoken in Hawai‘i. I'm part of a broader team of researchers whose research is focused on how sounds vary systematically throughout the islands. To find out more about the project, check out our publications below!
Drager, Katie, M. Joelle Kirtley, James Grama, & Sean Simpson. 2013. Language variation and change in Hawaiʻi English: KIT, DRESS and TRAP. University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics, 19(2): 41–50.
Of course, knowing what people do with language is only half the story. I've also done work that investigates how people's perception of language variation is distributed in physical space. Read about that here.
Chain shifting: Variation in California
I also work on my native dialect, California English. Together with Bob Kennedy, we have investigated what's called the California Vowel Shift (CVS) or, more recently, the Low Back Merger Shift (LBMS). This is the shift in which vowels we call TRAP (as in bad and cat), DRESS (as in set and rest), and KIT (as in sit and kid) lower and retract in California. Of particular interest to us is the role played by LOT and THOUGHT; we find that complete neutralization of contrast between these two sets is not a necessary precursor to the initiation of the LBMS. More can be found below.
Grama, James & Robert Kennedy. Dimensions of variance and contrast in the low-back merger and Low-Back Merger Shift. In Kara Becker (ed.), The Low-Back-Merger Shift: Uniting the Canadian Vowel Shift, the California Vowel Shift, and short front vowel shifts across North America. Publications of the American Dialect Society, 104(1): 31–55.
Some California vowels