Wazaat? How speech changes as we age

Wazaat? How speech changes as we age

with Dr. Ben Tucker

Wednesday, November 16, 2022 7:00 PM MST
In-person at the Sound Studies Institute
with refreshments
Old Arts Building and Convocation Hall
Room 3-47
Click here for the livestream

A 2003 Pickles comic strip depicts a spontaneous conversation between two elderly friends: Earl asks Clyde, “Jeet yet?” (or “Did you eat yet?”) Clyde answers, “No, joo?” (instead of “No, did you?”) Earl says, “Nope. Let’s gweet,” to which Clyde responds, “Kay.” A linguist might observe that these elderly men reduced, blended or deleted sounds. Yet these characters, and interlocutors more broadly, do not seem to have a problem understanding the intended meaning in their spontaneous conversation. This scenario raises the question: Does our ability to produce and understand spontaneous reduced speech change as speakers age, and if “yes”, how? 

Canada’s population is aging. Statistics Canada estimates that by 2030, one in four Canadians will be over 65. Spontaneous conversation is the way communication most often occurs. It is essential that we have an understanding of how aging affects the way in which words and sentences are produced and recognized in spontaneous, reduced speech. In this talk we will explore the research around this topic and describe “what we know” about how speech changes as we age and “what we don’t yet know”.

Dr. Benjamin V. Tucker is a Professor of Phonetics in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Alberta. His research focuses on cognitive aspects of the production and perception of spontaneous speech (e.g., “Wazat?” for “What is that?”) over the lifespan. He also works on the documentation of endangered and under-documented languages.