ABSTRACT - Understanding the emergence of sound patterns from an individual-difference perspective Linguists generally discuss language in terms of groups of speakers, even though it is often acknowledged that no two individuals speak alike. The focus on language as a group-level phenomenon can obscure important insights that are only apparent when systematic individual variation is taken into account. In this talk, I review evidence of individual variability in speech perception and production and argue that understanding the nature of such individual linguistic differences is crucial for the understanding the origins of sound change, the primary source of sound patterns in language.
Alan Yu is a linguist currently working on questions related to language variation and change. He is particularly interested in tackling the so-called actuation problem: what causes the inception of language change, if the linguistic conditions favoring particular changes are always present? He approaches this question from the point of view of individual differences, focusing particularly on how differences in cognitive processing styles (particularly traits related to the Broad Autism Phenotypes) lead to variability in perceptual and production norms across individuals and how such variability relates to socio-indexical factors. He also works on Cantonese and Washo, a Native American language spoken in California and Nevada. In his spare time, Alan also works on the morphology-phonology interface, his first love in linguistics.