Research

Current Research Projects

The E-muet

My primary research interest is the French schwa (also known as the e-muet or the e-caduc.) This is the <e> that can be deleted in every day speech in French (ie. un cerise ~ un c'rise ; un arbre ~ un arb' ; rappeler ~ rapp'ler). My research employs large amounts of data to work toward a purely phonological redefinition of the e-muet. I am interested in this phenomenon from four distinct points of view.

      1. Sociolinguistics -- Since language is a primarily social phenomenon, what social factors condition the realization of schwa and how do they do so? Geographical factors are well-documented predictors of schwa realization, but what other social factors are? Are deletion and epenthesis sociolinguistically affected in the same way? And how do these sociolinguistic factors interface with phonological factors?

      2. Deletion -- Under what contexts and situations can this vowel be deleted? How does the deletion of this vowel affect the syllables near it? Why is it this vowel in particular that can be deleted: what makes it 'weak'?

      3. Epenthesis -- When can we add this vowel in every day speech? Only for hesitation? What about the trends of primarily upper-class, female speakers in Paris that seem to add this vowel before a pause (ie. Bonjour-uh!)? How does the addition of this vowel in speech interact with the deletion of other consonants (ie. un arbre vs. un arbr' vs. un arb')?

      4. L2 Learners -- Finally, how do learners of French learn when this vowel can be deleted and can be epenthesized? More specifically, are they able to effectively conceptualize and form a representation of a 'moving target' in the speech signal or in the language classroom? Is schwa realization 'sociophonologically' conditioned for learners as it appears to be in the speech of native speakers?

I am also interested in the use of large-scale corpora for both their research and pedagogical implications. Part of my dissertation research focuses on the cleaning and further specification data in the PFC corpus. More specifically, what can large amounts of data tell us about phonological variation? Corpora are also valuable pedagogical tools. How can language teachers incorporate large-scale oral corpora into their syllabi, specifically to improve and instruct pronunciation and practical phonetics?

Nasal Vowel Elision (with Adam McBride)

This research program investigates a subset of data from Prof. McBride's research program on the phonetics of nasal vowels in native speakers of French as well as learners of French. We are interested in a previously undocumented phenomenon: the deletion of the nasal vowel in the possessive adjective son (ie. son appartement ~ sn'appartement.) What exactly are the phonetics of this elidable vowel as well as the phonological contexts which may condition the zero realization of this vowel?

Publications

Journal Articles

  • Griffiths, Joshua M. 2022. Competing Repair Strategies for Word-Final Consonant Clusters in French. Journal of French Language Studies. 32.1: 124. (Accessible here)

  • McBride, Adam F. and Joshua M. Griffiths. 2020. Nasal vowel deletion in Spoken French. The French Review 94.2: 147–160. (Accessible here)

  • Griffiths, Joshua M. 2019. On the rapid diffusion of Optimality Theory at the end of the twentieth century. Historigraphia Linguistica, 46.1/2: 133–162. (Accessible here)

Submissions to Edited Volumes

  • Griffiths, Joshua M. and Bernard Laks. to appear. From diachrony to synchrony: The French schwa between stability and instability. French Schwa: Phonological Analysis in Light of Quantitative Data. ed. by H. Andreassen and E. Putska. (Language Variation). Berlin: Language Sciences Press.

  • Griffiths, Joshua M. accepted. Data cleaning methods to improve the accuracy of coding in the Projet Phonologie du Français Contemporain Corpus: A Case Study of Schwa Realization. Proceedings of the 49th Linguistic Symposium on Romance Languages.

Conference Presentations

  • Un traitement quantitatif de la sociophonologie du schwa en français métropolitain. (December 2019). Presented at the Journées FLORAL-(I)PFC 2019.

  • Data cleaning methods to improve the accuracy of coding in the Projet Phonologie du Français Contemporain Corpus: A Case Study of Schwa Realization. (May 2019). Presented at the 49th Linguistic Symposium on Romance Languages, Athens, Georgia. *Selected as Best Student Paper

  • Applying Harmonic Grammar to PFC Data. (May 2018). Presented at the Journée d'études de l'Association française de la linguistique cognitive, Nanterre, France

  • Big Data, Free Variation & Weighted Constraints: An Example from French. (July 2016). Presented at the 14ème Rencontre du Réseau Français de Phonologie, Nice, France.

  • The Effect of Language Experience on the Perception of a New Vowel Inventory. (June 2016; with Barbara E. Bullock). Presented at New Sounds 2016: The 8th International Conference on Second Language Speech, Aarhus, Denmark.

  • A History of Constraint-Based Grammars: Why Optimality? (January 2016). Presented at The Annual Meeting of the North American Association for the History of the Language Sciences, Washington, DC.