Christian DiCanio, Ph.D.

Christian DiCanio's picture
Research Scientist
300 George St 9th Fl, New Haven, CT 06511-6624


Research Scientist
Haskins Labioratories

Assistant Professor
Department of Linguistics
University at Buffalo
cdicanio at buffalo dot edu

About my research

Speech sounds are surprisingly variable across different languages and speech contexts. Many of the sounds that seem the same across languages often differ from each other in subtle and surprising ways. What accounts for this variability in speech sounds and how can we characterize it? Moreover, in what ways are our theories in speech production and perception sufficiently broad so as to capture these differences? My research examines these basic questions from two angles: by exploring variation in the production and perception of suprasegmentals and through phonetic fieldwork. One largely unexplored area where languages greatly differ is in suprasegmental contrasts (length, tone, phonation, stress, intonation). In my work on suprasegmentals, I have examined the relationship between the acoustic cues for tone and phonation contrasts in speech production and perception. I have been able to do this by adopting laboratory phonetic methods in my linguistic fieldwork on Itunyoso Triqui, Ixcatec, and Yoloxóchitl Mixtec, all Oto-Manguean languages spoken in Mexico.

This work has motivated me more recently to broadly investigate the word-external linguistic factors which influence tone production, such as tonal context, prosody, and speech rate. I am currently pursuing work in each of these topics by examining controlled phonetic data from several different languages, including Itunyoso Triqui, Yoloxóchitl Mixtec, and Ixcatec. One of my prominent goals is to investigate the interaction between prosody and tone in Itunyoso Triqui and Yoloxóchitl Mixtec. My NSF grant involves the annotation and segmentation of an existing Mixtec speech corpus and the development, annotation, and segmentation of a Triqui speech corpus. The segmentation will be facilitated by using both existing forced alignment (automatic segmentation) tools (DiCanio et al., 2012, 2013) and through collaborative work with colleagues at the University of Delaware. The application of these computational tools for accessing natural speech data has been one of my primary research goals and has allowed me to investigate phonetic data from large corpora. In addition to this grant on prosody, I am involved in a collaborative NSF grant creating a computational model of prosody (D.H. Whalen, Yi Xu (PIs)). It seeks to create a computational prosody platform (CPP) which will explicitly test models of prosody and train them using analysis-by-synthesis stochastic learning. Data from my work on Triqui tonal coarticulation and tone-laryngeal coarticulation will be used to construct and test the platform.

I pursue my work on suprasegmentals almost entirely through data from my linguistic fieldwork. In addition to work on the phonetics of suprasegmentals, I have focused on topics in the phonological systems of Oto-Manguean languages, including tonal alignment, morphophonology, laryngealization, and consonant types. In addition to these topics, I am involved in descriptive phonetic and phonological work on Ixcatec and Yoloxóchitl Mixtec in collaboration with several colleagues. I have been heavily involved in the development of a Triqui dictionary and in improving Triqui language literacy (DiCanio and Cruz Martínez, 2010). Within my phonetic fieldwork, my research has attempted to fit articulatory and acoustic details of each of the languages I investigate into the larger grammatical system and within a typology of languages.

Representative Publications

DiCanio, C., Zhang, C., Whalen, D.H., Amith, J.A., and Castillo García, R. (submitted) Phonetic structure in Yoloxóchitl Mixtec consonants.

DiCanio, C. (submitted) Tonal classes in Itunyoso Trique person morphology, in Tone and Inflection, Empirical Approaches to Language Typology series, Mouton de Gruyter.

Armstrong, M., Henriksen, N., & DiCanio, C. (In press). Sociophonetic analysis of young Peninsular Spanish women’s voice quality. In Hispanic linguistics at the crossroads: Theoretical linguistics, language acquisition and language contact, ed. by R. Klassen, J. M. Liceras & E. Valenzuela. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

DiCanio, C., Zhang, C., Whalen, D.H., Amith, J.A., and Castillo García, R. (2015) Vowel variability in elicited vs. running speech: evidence from Mixtec. Journal of Phonetics: Special issue on the Impact of Stylistic Diversity on Phonetic and Phonological Evidence and Modeling 48:45–59.

DiCanio, C. (2014) Triqui tonal coarticulation and contrast preservation in tonal phonology, Proceedings from Sound Systems of Mexico and Central America, Yale University, New Haven, CT.