Pronunciation Differences

Instructors: Charlotte Gooskens, Wilbert Heeringa, John Nerbonne and Martijn Wieling



LOT Winter School 2012, Tilburg
Seminar room:
Mon. Jan.9.- Fri., Jan.13 14:15-16:15


Course level


Course description

This course will focus on using edit distance as a measure of pronunciation difference and especially on its use in dialectology. We will present the basic procedure and variants, show how to analyze the differences we find, and briefly introduce Gabmap, a web application for dialectology (day 1). We will then examine a more extended dialectological analysis (of Norway) using Gabmap, reflecting on what it is to measure something, and considering what questions to ask of a putative measure (day 2). Next, we examine a second dialectological case (Dutch) more extensively and place edit-distance-inspired work in an historical context (day 3). We then explore an attempt to refine the measure and, simultaneously its application to foreign accents (day 4). Finally we close the week by considering the relation of 'different sounding' to comprehensibility as well as noting what more needs to be done to understand pronunciation differences (day 5).

Note that the course requires the use of computers equipped with web browsers and Google Earth.

Our objectives in this course are that students learn to use software for analyzing pronunciation (transcription) differences and to understand it critically.

Day-to-day program, Slides


John Nerbonne, Introduction to measuring pronunciation differences, application in dialectometry. Slides avail. here. Wilbert Heeringa, Gabmap film, brief walk-through. Exercise on Norwegian


Wilbert Heeringa, Validation. Slides avail. here. Gabmap exercise on Dutch


John Nerbonne, Analyzing Linguistic Distances. Slides avail. here.


Martijn Wieling (& John Nerbonne), Segment Distances & Foreign Accents. Slides avail. here. Sound files avail. here.


Charlotte Gooskens, Intelligibility of dialects and related languages.Slides avail. here.

Reading materials

  • 1. Wikipedia 'Dialect' and also Wikipedia 'Dialectology'
  • 2. John Nerbonne (2009) Data-Driven Dialectology Language and Linguistics Compass 3(1), 175-198. DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-818x2008.00114.x
  • 3. John Nerbonne, Rinke Colen, Charlotte Gooskens, Peter Kleiweg and Therese Leinonen. (2011) Gabmap — A Web Application for Dialectology. Dialectologia. Special Issue II, 65-89. (Spec. Iss. Production, Perception and Attitude ed. by John Nerbonne, Stef Grondelaers, Dirk Speelman & Maria-Pilar Perea)
  • 4. John Nerbonne and Wilbert Heeringa (2010) Measuring Dialect Differences. In: Jürgen Erich Schmidt and Peter Auer (eds.) Language and Space: Theories and Methods in series Handbooks of Linguistics and Communication Science. Berlin: Mouton De Gruyter, Chap. 31, 550-567.
  • 5. Martijn Wieling, Wilbert Heeringa and John Nerbonne (2007) An Aggregate Analysis of Pronunciation in the Goeman-Taeldeman-van Reenen-Project Data. In Taal en Tongval 59(1), 2007. 84-116.
  • 6. Martijn Wieling, Eliza Margaretha and John Nerbonne (in press). Inducing phonetic distances from dialect variation. Computational Linguistics in the Netherlands Journal, 1, 2011. 109-118.
  • 7. Sebastian Kürschner, Charlotte Gooskens & Renèe van Bezooijen (2008). Linguistic determinants of the intelligibility of Swedish words among Danes International Journal of Humanities and Arts Computing, 2 (1-2), 83-100.
  • 8. Charlotte Gooskens, Karin Beijering & Wilbert Heeringa (2008). Phonetic and lexical predictors of intelligibility. International Journal of Humanities and Arts Computing, 2 (1-2), 63-81.
  • Course readings

    Lecture 1: Wikipedia articles; Nerbonne, (2009) 'Data-driven dialectology'

    Lecture 2: Nerbonne et al. (2011) 'Gabmap'

    Lecture 3: Nerbonne & Heeringa (2010) 'Measuring ...', Wieling et al. (2007)

    Lecture 4: Wieling et al. (in press) 'Inducing ...'

    Lecture 5: Kürschner et al. (2008), Gooskens et al. (2008)

    Background and further readings

  • 1. John Nerbonne (2010) Measuring the Diffusion of Linguistic Change. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 365, 3821-3828. DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2010.0048.
  • 2. John Nerbonne (accepted) How much does Geography Influence Language Variation?. Submitted (12/2010) to Peter Auer, Martin Hilpert, Anja Stukenbrock, & Benedikt Szmrecsanyi (eds.) Proc. of the Freiburg (FRIAS) language and space workshops. Mouton de Gruyter: Berlin.
  • 3. Charlotte Gooskens (2005) Traveling time as a predictor of linguistic distance. Dialectologia et Geolinguistica, 13.
  • 4. Charlotte Gooskens and Wilbert Heeringa (2004) Perceptive evaluation of Levenshtein dialect distance measurements using Norwegian dialect data. Language variation and Change, 16 (3), 189-207.
  • 5. Nathan Sanders and S. B. Chin (2009) Phonological distance measures. Journal of Quantitative Linguistics 16(1), 96-114.
  • Literature

    A more comprehensive literature list.

    Some Useful Links

    1. Gabmap home page.
      1. See Therese Leinonen's tutorial.
      2. See also the easy-to-follow demo.
    2. LAMSAS home page
    3. Dialectometric work on LAMSAS at the University of Groningen
    4. An online demo of how Levenshtein distance works.
    5. Hans Goebl's Dialectometry Project.


    Are available here.
    John Nerbonne
    Last modified: Mon Jan 2 16:52:19 CEST 2012