Jason McLarty

Jason McLarty     Jason is currently in the fifth year of the PhD program here at the University of Oregon, with an interest in sociolinguistics, and sociophonetics in particular. Before coming to Oregon, Jason received his MA in English Linguistics at North Carolina State University under Erik Thomas and Walt Wolfram. Jason’s work primarily focuses on suprasegmental features of African American English, particularly prosody (intonation and rhythm).
     Using modern recordings from older speakers from Raleigh, NC, courtesy of Robin Dodsworth, as well as archival recordings of formerly enslaved African Americans (the Library of Congress) and confederate-era European Americans (Joseph Hall Tapes), Jason is looking at how pitch accents and phrasal accents within intonational phrases behave over time.
     With Tyler Kendall and Charlie Farrington, Jason has studied language variation in Oregon, currently focusing on the language of the Willamette Valley. In one study, they investigated how Oregonians and others in the Pacific Northwest encode past habituality, focusing on the alternation between used to (e.g. “we used to go to the coast, like every other weekend”), would (e.g. “me and my brother would go hunt birds all the time”), and simple past forms (e.g. “we usually went to Portland twice a year”). More recently, using modern recordings, as well as archival recordings from the Dictionary of American Regional English (see http://www.daredictionary.com), Jason, Tyler and Charlie have been able to track the progress of sound changes in Oregon. This work has shown that some vocalic features continue to show incremental change over time, while other vowel configurations in Oregon English appear to have developed earlier in the 20th century and do not show differences between older and younger contemporary speakers, highlighting the fact many relevant changes to the Oregon vowel system occurred in the time period between the two World Wars.
     Currently, Jason is working alongside Tyler Kendall and Charlie Farrington in developing the first public corpus of African American Language. Along with Brooke Josler, Jason is working on designing the website that will house the corpus, as well as a publicly oriented interface designed to appeal to public users (such as K-12 students, families, and other non-linguists), in addition to researchers, with supporting contextual and educational information about AAL. Additionally, Jason has begun working on his dissertation with support of the National Science Foundation (BCS-1627042). This project uses psycholinguistic tasks to investigate how naïve listeners perceive prosodic prominence: words that listeners hear as “highlighted by the speaker” and that stand out from other, non-prominent words. In a series of experiments, listeners representing different social and regional backgrounds will rate the prosodic prominence of words in speech from speakers of both African American and Caucasian ethnicities. The results of this study will help uncover the phonetic cues that listeners use to perceive prosodic prominence and the role that the ethnicity of the speaker and listener plays in such perception.