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PAC "La Phonologie de l’Anglais Contemporain: usages, variétés et structure : The Phonology of Contemporary English: usage, varieties and structure" is a project coordinated by Philip Carr, Jacques Durand and Anne Przewozny-Desriaux from France.

Among other things it aims at:

  • giving a better picture of spoken English in its unity and diversity (geographical, social and stylistic)
  • testing phonological and phonetic models from a synchronic and diachronic point of view, making room for the systematic study of variation
  • favouring communication between specialists in speech and in phonological theory
  • providing data and analyses which will help improve the teaching of English as a foreign language

To achieve these goals our project is involved in the construction of a corpus of spoken English from a wide variety of locations in the English-speaking world on the basis of a common protocol. While there are important corpora of spoken English, most of them have been devised on sociolinguistic (rather than explicit phonological) principles and they do not always offer a uniform methodology allowing for a comparison of results and comparable studies of selected problems.

The approach adopted within PAC is a well tested one since it has been followed in the international project ‘La Phonologie du Français Contemporain’ (PFC) coordinated by Marie-Hélène Côté (Ottawa University), Jacques Durand (Toulouse II), Bernard Laks (Paris X) and Chantal Lyche (Oslo/Tromsø): for more information see Durand, Laks & Lyche (2002) and the internet site: http://www.projet-pfc.net/.

The methodology is inspired by the classical work of Labov in that, for each selection of speakers, it involves the reading of a word list and a passage as well as formal and informal conversation (cf. section 2). But in each area surveyed, the speakers (usually groups between 10 and 20 informants) are selected on a network principle well known in the United Kingdom, particularly from the work of the Milroys and their associates (see Milroy 1980).

In the initial phase of the project we favour geographical variation, that is the recording and analysis of cohorts of speakers from as many different locations as possible in the English-speaking world. Within each location, however, we require that the groups include an equal number of men and women and well defined age ranges (e.g. 70+, 40+, 20+). Social diversity is less easy to achieve with small groups of speakers and it has been found profitable to study family networks which allow for better comparison of age- grading especially when the social world of the informants has remained stable.

In terms of linguistic study, the recordings obviously lend themselves to various types of exploitation (including syntax and pragmatics). However, all participants in the project commit themselves to studying three areas: 1) Phonological inventories (oppositions and main variants), 2) Rhoticity (Is the accent rhotic / non rhotic? Does it have /r/ intrusion? How is /r/ phonetically realized in different positions? etc.), 3) T/D (How is the contrast between /t/ and /d/ phonetically realized in different contexts? Is it ever neutralized? Is there a process of tapping? etc.). Beyond these questions, researchers will obviously pursue their own interests (fast speech processes, stress, rhythm, intonation, etc.).

It should be noted that the protocol is neutral as to the selection of informants and it is intended that, after this initial phase, some locations will be analysed from a stricter sociolinguistic perspective. In this initial stage, we control the parameters mentioned above (location, gender, age) and carefully record as much information as possible about the speaker (education, professional status, ethnicity, other languages spoken within the community, etc.). We should stress however that colleagues who, because of limited time and resources, can only study individual speakers on the basis of our protocol are welcome to join the project and contribute to the setting up of our database.

To meet our new linguistic requirements which go further than the traditional phonological focus of PAC, the PAC programme has developed into a variety of thematic research groups with dedicated  research interests:
-    ICE-IPAC: the Interphonology of Contemporary English
-    PAC-Syntaxe: the syntax, semantics and pragmatics of contemporary spoken English
-    PAC-Prosodie : analysis of speech prosody and tools
-    PAC-Recherche: annotation issues and tools for PAC
-    PAC-EFL : the teaching of English as a second language and pedagogical tools which may be derived from the PAC programme
-    LVTI (PAC+PFC) : the study of English in urban contexts

 

Sophie Herment (LPL, Aix-Marseille University)
Anne Przewozny-Desriaux (CLLE-ERSS, Toulouse Jean Jaurès University)
Jacques Durand (CLLE-ERSS, Toulouse Jean Jaurès University)
Philip Carr (EMMA, Montpellier III University)

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