From: Lucia Pozzan <lpozzangc.cuny.edu>
Subject: Experiment on the Temporal Window for Sociolinguistic Variables
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Studies of speech communities have shown that sociolinguistic variables
display a fine-grained social and stylistic stratification in production. A
recent series of experiments examined the perceptual aspect of this
variation. The experiments were designed to explore the sensitivity and
temporal window of the monitoring faculty. The variable (ING), representing
the alternation of morphemes with apical and velar nasals, was selected as
one of the most stable and well recognized variables of this type.
Listeners heard a series of trials by a speaker auditioning for a job as a
broadcast announcer, in which the frequency of the /in/ variant ranged from
0 to 100%, and were asked to assign a rating on a scale of job suitability.
Judges in Philadelphia displayed a close fit to a logarithmic function in
responses to this task, in which the impact of a given deviation from the
norm was equivalent to the proportional increase in deviations.
The same function appeared in responses of college student judges in
Columbia, South Carolina and Durham, New Hampshire, for local and non-local
speakers. However, judges of high school age showed only a linear response
at a lower level of precision, varying according to social class. Among
college students, age was also relevant. Above the age of 23, all judges
showed the logarithmic function at a high level of precision. College
students from 18 to 23 displayed a bimodal distribution, evenly divided
into those who responded with the logarithmic function and those with
little sensitivity to the variable. Such sensitivity to frequencies
represents an aspect of sociolinguistic maturation much later in the
lifespan than any so far discovered.
Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics
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