Z.L. Zhou


  • The phonetics-phonology interface
  • Learnability and exceptionality
  • Phonologization
  • Intonation

Current projects

Generative phonetics

For my MA, I'm attempting to model the COG of English /ʃ/ as a variable dependent on phonetic, phonological, lexical, and sociolinguistic factors. In effect, I hope to make a model which produces one type of phonetic detail with significant accuracy in order to elucidate the interactions between these variables.

Although each of these variables has been found to have an effect on phonetic realization, no study has looked at their interactions in detail — a situation which clearly deserves to be remedied.

Newscaster voice

I am working with Byron Ahn at Princeton University and Emily Gasser and Donna Jo Napoli at Swarthmore College on the phonetic correlates of sounding like a newscaster. This project is being wrapped up.

Analysis has shown some interesting results: neither the amount nor proportion of accented words seems to have an effect on the perceived newscaster-ness of a speaker, even though the general intuition is that newscasters emphasize more words. We have found that newscasters spend much less time in the lowest 25% of their range than non-newscasters, and much more time in the middle 50% — despite this, listeners only attend to the increased time in the middle 50%. Surprisingly, we have also found that, although newscasters speak slower than non-newscasters, speech rate has no effect on perceived newscaster-ness.

We argue that these phonetic differences between newscasters and non-newscasters reflects a difference in the goals that each population is attempting to achieve. The mismatch between performance and perceived newscaster-ness we argue to reflect an incorrect/imprecise understanding of what newscasters are attempting to do, conversationally.