Rice University study focuses on merged vowel sounds in different dialects
When Rice University alumna Brianna Conrey was in third grade in Stillwater, Okla., she misspelled "pen" on a test because her teacher unknowingly pronounced it "pin." At the time, Conrey never would have guessed that she would write a senior thesis in college about the brain activity that takes place in people who don't distinguish between similar-sounding words like "pin" and "pen." Nor would she have guessed that her thesis would get published several years later in the journal Brain and Language.
While working on a B.A. in linguistics at Rice, Conrey wanted to study the variation in spoken American English in certain regions of the U.S. "I lived in a lot of different areas of the country as a kid and was exposed to many different ways of talking, so this topic was really fascinating," Conrey said. "We know from sociolinguistics - the study of language variation and change - that a great deal of phonetic variation occurs even within a single language."