Common protocol

, by Sylvain Navarro

The common PAC protocol provides access to various speech styles, on a continuum from spontaneous/informal to monitored/formal for each speaker, by recording the following tasks:
- reading of two wordlists
- reading of a text
- formal (semi-guided) interview
- informal conversation


The two wordlists in the PAC protocol include 192 items altogether and focus on segmental phenomena. The first wordlist tests the vowel system by notably presenting potential minimal pairs in a randomized order. The second wordlist does the same for the consonant system. Both lists allow for the study of rhoticity, vowel length and the realization of /t/ (tapping, glottaling), among other phenomena. For more information on the relevance of the wordlists with regards to the programme’s ambitions, see Brulard et al. (2015) and Carr et al. (2004).

Researchers in the different thematic groups are likely to add extra reading tasks to focus on more regionally specific phenomena. For further information, check the thematic research pages.


The text is entitled "A Christmas interview". It is a two-page-long passage originally adapted from a newspaper article but substantially modified to hide its source and include a number of phonological and phonetic phenomena worth investigating, and notably post-lexical processes such as r-sandhi and assimilations.

Before the recording, informants may take a few minutes to read the text to themselves. This gives them a chance to run through the text and know what it is about, and thus be more at ease and perform better for the recording. This is important in order to guarantee the necessary fluidity for the study of connected speech processes.

Formal conversation

The formal (semi-guided) interview involves the fieldworker and the informant. It has two main goals:
- it provides invaluable background information on the speakers,
- and it represents one of the four speech styles on the stylistic continuum aimed to be captured by the PAC methodology, i.e. a more formal register than that used in familiar conversation between friends for instance.

After the interview, the fieldworker fills out a questionnaire for each informant (see below "information sheet") based on the recorded dialogue in order to establish their sociolinguistic profile.

PAC’s formal conversations are based on the PAC-LVTI questionnaire which gathers information about the speaker’s language, identity, work and relationship to the area they live in.

Informal conversation

The informal conversation is recorded either with two or more informants without the fieldworker being present, or with one or more informants and the fieldworker. There are no topics or directions imposed on the conversation as its main goal is to provide access to the most spontaneous and casual speech style possible.

Experience has shown that recordings with more than three speakers are rather difficult to exploit. Informal conversations, therefore, should be recorded with two or a maximum of three informants at the same time.

All in all, about 45 minutes of spontaneous speech should be recorded for each informant (approximately 20 minutes of formal interview and 20 to 30 minutes of informal conversation) – a sufficient basis for the subsequent annotation and analysis of each speech style for each speaker, as required by the programme standards.

Information sheet

In order to build a comprehensive database of speaker profiles, the PAC methodology requires for the fieldworker to enquire about the following:
- age
- gender
- place of birth
- place of residence
- family and ancestry
- occupation
- education
- leisure activities
among other personal information


Below are links to some of the tools we use within the PAC programme:

- Praat (Paul Boersma & David Weenink (2018): Praat: doing phonetics by computer)

- Phonometrica (Eychenne, Julien & Léa Courdès-Murphy (2019). Phonometrica: an open platform for the analysis of speech corpora. Proceedings of the Seoul International Conference on Speech Sciences 2019, Seoul National University, pp. 107-108.)

- SPPAS (Brigitte Bigi (2015). SPPAS - Multi-lingual Approaches to the Automatic Annotation of Speech. In "the Phonetician" - International Society of Phonetic Sciences, ISSN 0741-6164, Number 111-112 / 2015-I-II, pages 54-69.)

If you are interested in using the copyrighted PAC protocol for your fieldwork, feel free to contact us to enquire about PAC membership.