Resources: “DO YOU SOUND ASIAN WHEN YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?” RACIAL IDENTIFICATION AND VOICE IN CHINESE AND KOREAN AMERICANS ENGLISH — Newman and Wu 86 2: 152 — American Speech

 

 

 

The use of speech in racial identification has important legal consequences.  Many of my students are shocked when statements about the racial identity of unseen speakers is allowed in court testimony (e.g. the OJ Simpson trial).  In my experience, though, they are more accepting when hear that the Fair Housing Office manipulates racial and ethnic vocal qualities in order to determine whether or not a real estate group is screening their phone calls.

Although there have been very few legal cases that have employed linguistic experts when subjects like these come up, the standards seem to be pretty obvious.  If you are going to allow legal testimony about the racial/ethnic vocal qualities of a speaker, you need to determine (1) what the person testifying explicitly and implicitly knows about those speech patterns of that racial/ethnic group AND (2) whether the speaker in question follows those patterns.

In the past, most of the linguistic research that could inform this issue has focused on the patterns of three very broad ethnic groups: Whites, Blacks, and Latinos.  A new article by Newman and Yu promises to contribute to another very broad category, that of “Asians.”  A link to this article, which appears in one of the latest editions of American Speech, can be found below:

 “DO YOU SOUND ASIAN WHEN YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?” RACIAL IDENTIFICATION AND VOICE IN CHINESE AND KOREAN AMERICANS ENGLISH — Newman and Wu 86 2: 152 — American Speech.

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About LingEducator

Dr. Jaclyn Ocumpaugh received a PhD for her dissertation on regional variation in the acoustics of Mexican American English (Michigan State University, East Lansing). Before that, she received an MA in English/Linguistics from North Carolina State University for her work on the acoustics of /r/--a sound which is highly variable in the English language. Her passion, however, has always been to understand the social implications of language variation. In addition to her work in acoustic sociophonetics, she has worked with rape trial analysis, developed cognitive methods for understanding discourse level variation between men and women, and created sophisticated tools for teaching future educators about the kinds of dialect variation they will find in the classroom. She has taught classes in English, Linguistics, and Education at Old Dominion University, William & Mary, the University of Mary Washington, and Virginia Wesleyan College. She is currently a Post Doctoral Fellow of Learning Sciences and Technologies at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where she is helping to develop models of student engagement in the classroom. She also consults in the private sector.
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