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You are here: Home / News & Events / CLS Speaker Series / Alex McAllister (Penn State) - Does She Sound Strange or Do They Sound Strange? Exploring the Effects of Dialectal Diffuseness in Perceptual Learning

Alex McAllister (Penn State) - Does She Sound Strange or Do They Sound Strange? Exploring the Effects of Dialectal Diffuseness in Perceptual Learning

When Nov 02, 2018
from 09:00 AM to 10:30 AM
Where Moore 127
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Does She Sound Strange or Do They Sound Strange?
Exploring the Effects of Dialectal Diffuseness in Perceptual Learning

 

Imagine that you’re walking down the street and a stranger asks you a question. You ́re pretty sure she ́s a native speaker of English, but something about the way she produces certain sounds is unfamiliar to you. If you had to make a choice, would you attribute this novel phonetic variation to something particular to the speaker (an idiolect), or a dialect of English you've never heard? What if you lived in a large city, and regularly encountered different dialects of English? Would that change your decision?

In this talk, I will explore how the perceiver ́s linguistic environment affects the cause she assigns to novel phonetic variation. Specifically, I will ask how being a member of a speech community in which multiple dialects of Spanish are spoken affects the perceiver ́s likelihood of attributing novel phonetic variation to a previously unencountered dialect of Spanish.

To investigate how dialectal diversity may affect the causes we assign to phonetic variation, I will present a preliminary analysis of a perceptual learning study testing two Spanish speaking populations. Spanish-English bilinguals from Penn State, a dialectally diffuse community of Spanish speakers, and UC Riverside, a relatively homogenous dialectal group, were exposed to two Spanish speakers whose coda-/s/ productions were replaced with /ʃ/, creating a quasi-novel dialect of Spanish. To test for the cause assigned to this phonetic variation, generalization effects in perceptual learning are examined.

This line of research aims to contribute to the field of sociolinguistics by investigating how phonetic variation becomes attributable to indexically-linked groups of speakers. Although it is well established that perceivers use top-down level knowledge to make predictions of the cause of phonetic variation (Drager 2011; Hay et al. 2006; Hay & Drager 2010; Koops et al. 2008), how these links are formed is not well understood. This research aims to fill that gap, and does so by investigating how the perceiver’s environment influences the likelihood of these correlations forming.