UCL Psychology and Language Sciences


Speech Science Forum 22nd October - Dr Sam Kirkham

22 October 2020, 4:00 pm–5:00 pm

Please join us on 22nd of October for Dr. Sam Kirkham's SSF talk, "Articulatory dynamics of palatalisation in Scottish Gaelic".

Event Information

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Dr. Antony Scott Trotter – Speech, Hearing and Phonetic Science


Articulatory dynamics of palatalisation in Scottish Gaelic


Contrastive secondary palatalisation is well-documented in pairs of consonants in Slavic and Goidelic, as well as many other languages (Kochetov 2002, Bennett et al. 2018). In this study, however, we report an unusual *three-way* contrast in secondary palatalisation in Scottish Gaelic. This contrast is reported to take place between palatalised, alveolar and velarised phonemes across the entire lateral, nasal and rhotic systems (Borgstrøm 1940, Ladefoged et al. 1998). We test the validity of this proposal by tracking the acoustic and articulatory dynamics of palatalisation as it unfolds over sonorant consonants. Our analysis shows maintainence of the contrast in laterals, but a more complex picture for nasals. We also demonstrate clear articualatory correlates of palatalisation versus velarisation. We contextualise the future development of this typologically unusual system in terms of the simultaneous endangerment and revitalisation of Scottish Gaelic (Jones 1998).

About the Speaker

Dr Sam Kirkham

Lecturer at Department of Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University

Dr Kirkham's research interests lie in the interdisciplinary study of speech, sound and language. His researh focuses on how people produce the sounds of speech, with a focus on its physical mechanisms and how this varies between language and dialects. Dr Kirkham utilises a combination of fieldwork and laboratory research to address descriptive and theoretical questions in this area, using methods including acoustic analysis, vocal tract imaging, articulatory modelling and statistical modelling. Dr Kirkham's work is cross-linguistic and cross-dialectical, focusing on languages including Punjabi, Scottish Gaelic, Twi, Sylheti, and varieties of English across the UK and beyond.

Dr Kirkham's current addresses the following themes:

  • Acoustic-articulatory dynamics of speech production
  • Phonetics of bilingualism and language contact
  • Sociophonetics and dialect variation
More about Dr Sam Kirkham