Changes and challenges in explaining speech variation

A brief review


  • Susanne Fuchs Laboratory Phonology Group, Leibniz-Centre General Linguistics (ZAS), Berlin



variation, sociophonetics, speaker-specific behaviour, acoustic-articulatory relations


In this brief overview I review how our understanding of speech variation has changed over the last decades. I argue that depending on the motivation of the scientific investigations and the theoretical points of view, variation has been discussed with respect to biological, social and communicative factors as well as with respect to the nonlinearities between acoustics, articulation, and perception. Since all of these factors can potentially interact with each other, the core challenges now are to explain the underlying mechanisms, to use appropriate methodologies for the analyses, and to understand how far the underlying mechanisms can be generalized to other speakers or communicative events. I conclude that speech variation is not an obstacle, but rather a rich source that allows us to examine the many facets of language.