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Centre members take centre stage at ICPhS2019

Date: 16 August 2019

By any measure, the 18th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS2019) in Melbourne – held for the first time in the southern hemisphere – was a big enterprise. Almost 1000 attendees had the opportunity to take in 787 oral and poster presentations by authors from 63 different countries. (Notably, 276 of these were student papers.)

As a sponsor and co-organiser, the contribution of our Centre was equally substantial. This included six of the nine members of the Organising Committee: Chief Investigator Paola Escudero, Research Fellow Rosey Billington, and Affiliates Felicity Cox, Gerry Docherty, Paul Warren and Shunichi Ishihara. At least 27 members gave presentations at the conference. (See below for the full list – apologies if we’ve missed anyone!)

Paola Escudero took on the mammoth job of one of the conference's three Scientific Chairs – a role that has dominated the last several years of her professional life. She says the undisputed success of the conference has made it all worthwhile. “The Scientific Committee dealt with more than 1100 submissions and 800 presentations, and we did our best to showcase the best research from all 19 specialty Areas historically presented at ICPhS,” Paola says. “We are proud to have brought this important event to the community of phoneticians and linguists in Australia.”

Paola Escudero at ICPHS2019 
Scientific Chair Paola Escudero, a key driving force behind ICPhS2019, was also involved in a number of co-authored presentations with collaborators from WSU, UoM and international institutions.

Melbourne-based Chief Investigator Janet Fletcher was a member of the local advisory committee and sits on the executive of the Australasian Speech Science and Technology Association, the major sponsor of ICPhS2019.  Janet says that it was an “incredible experience” and a huge event for the Australian speech science community.

“The most impressive for me was the number of junior researchers who attended,” Janet says. “We heard about the state of the art in our field, which is taking on board the tools in big data analysis and new ways of exploring the way we produce and understand speech sounds.

“We had the wonderful ‘talking head’ keynote presentation that shows how you can use speech synthesis, speech recognition and artificial intelligence to manipulate a robot – cutting edge work from Jonas Beskow. Bryan Gick from the University of British Columbia presenting on ‘how bodies talk’, modelling speech articulation, was equally exciting.”

Janet Fletcher and Rosey Billington at ICHPS2019

Janet Fletcher and Rosey Billington at their poster on the prosodic marking of focus in the Nafsan language of Vanuatu (co-authored with Nick Thieberger).

Centre researchers instilled a regional flavour into an event dominated by a traditional focus on big, well-resourced languages of the northern hemisphere. Even before the conference began, they ran a satellite workshop on the Intonational Phonology of Typologically Rare or Understudied Languages at the University of Melbourne attended by some 50 international participants. CoEDL PhD students Katie Jepson and Catalina Torres Orjuela presented papers on intonational patterns in Djambarrpuyŋu and Drehu respectively.

At the conference itself, Director Nick Evans introduced the global audience to the sound systems of Australian and Papuan languages in a keynote presentation on ‘Australia and New Guinea: Sundered hemi-continents of sound’. Rosey Billington co-organised a special session on ‘Phoneticians in partnership with communities in language revitalisation and maintenance’ with themed talks (including from alumnus Hywel Stoakes) and a productive discussion.

Janet Fletcher was also the Area Chair for Speech Prosody, and points out that CoEDL is filling an obvious gap in our understanding of the speech sounds systems of the world. “In my own specialisation, it was quite revealing that of 140 odd papers there were only about 10 that concerned the languages of our region,” she says. “American colleagues said to me that they had no idea about the sound diversity of our region, which shows that it has been neglected for too long.”

Joshua Clothier at ICPHS2019

Joshua Clothier presents an analysis of the pronunciation of /l/.

From other members presenting, special mention goes to PhD scholar Josh Clothier, whose paper on ‘A sociophonetic analysis of /l/ darkness and Lebanese Australian ethnic identity in Australian English, was announced as one of only six shortlisted for Best Student Paper at the closing ceremony. This was after it had already been awarded one of four Gösta Bruce Scholarships. Eleanor Lewis, another of our PhD students at the University of Melbourne, presented an acoustic study of New Caledonian French nasal vowels, and received an International Phonetic Association Student Award.

Janet concludes that feedback from the international visitors was very positive: “The president of the ICPHS Council said it was one of the best meetings he’s attended in recent years – a huge success!”

Paola concurs, saying that a lot of hard work had been done behind the scenes to put on a seamless, world class event. “I would like thank all those who contributed to giving participants the best possible experience. The keynotes were very well received, and I hope everyone had a wonderful time.”

Nick Evans at ICHPS2019

Nick Evans delivering his keynote on 'Australia and New Guinea: Sundered hemi-continents of sound'.

Centre members who presented at ICPhS2019 include: chief investigators Nick Evans, Anne Cutler, Paola Escudero, Janet Fletcher, Nick Thieberger, Catherine Travis, Gillian Wigglesworth; associate investigators Brett Baker, David Bradley and Carmel O'Shannessy; postdocs Rosey Billington, Laurence Bruggeman, Matthew Carroll, Simon Gonzalez, James Grama, Deborah Loakes and Alba Tuninetti; PhDs Joshua Clothier, Katie Jepson, Eleanor Lewis, Catalina Torres Orjuela and Jenny Yu; alumni Jaydene Elvin, Karen Mulak, Hannah Sarvasy, Hywel Stoakes and James Whang; and Advisory Committee member Professor Jen Hay, The proceedings of ICPhS2019 are available via the ASSTA website:

Main image, ICPhS2019 Organising Committee, left to right: Rosey Billington (CoEDL/University of Melbourne), Donald Derrick (University of Canterbury), Gerry Docherty (Griffith University), Paul Warren (Victoria University of Wellington), Marija Tabain (La Trobe University), Felicity Cox (Macquarie University), Sasha Calhoun (Victoria University of Wellington), Paola Escudero (CoEDL/Western Sydney University), Shunichi Ishihara (Australian National University).

  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University