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LINGUIST List 23.4307

Mon Oct 15 2012

Diss: Phonetics/ Phonology/ Socioling/ Spanish: MacLeod: 'The Effect of Perceptual Salience on...'

Editor for this issue: Lili Xia <lxialinguistlist.org>

Date: 12-Oct-2012
From: Bethany MacLeod <beth_macleodcarleton.ca>
Subject: The Effect of Perceptual Salience on Phonetic Accommodation in Cross-Dialectal Conversation in Spanish
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Institution: University of Toronto
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2012

Author: Bethany MacLeod

Dissertation Title: The Effect of Perceptual Salience on Phonetic Accommodation in Cross-Dialectal Conversation in Spanish

Linguistic Field(s): Phonetics

Subject Language(s): Spanish (spa)

Dissertation Director:
Yoonjun Kang
José Ignacio Hualde
Alexei Kochetov
Laura Colantoni

Dissertation Abstract:

Phonetic accommodation is the process whereby speakers in an
interaction modify their speech in response to their interlocutor. The
social-psychological theory of Communication Accommodation Theory
(Giles 1973) predicts that speakers will converge towards (become
more similar to) their interlocutors in order to decrease social distance,
whereas they will diverge from (become less similar to) their
interlocutors to accentuate distinctiveness or show disdain. Previous
studies have found that phonetic accommodation is affected by many
social, situational and linguistic factors (Abrego-Collier et al. 2011;
Black 2012; Babel 2009, 2010, 2012; Babel et al. 2012; Kim, Horton &
Bradlow 2011; Nielsen 2011; Pardo et al. 2012). With respect to
accommodation across dialects, a handful of studies have suggested
that the perceptual salience of the various differences between two
dialects might affect the pattern; however, these studies make
conflicting predictions. Trudgill (1986) predicts that speakers will
converge more towards the more salient dialectal differences, while
Kim et al. (2011) and Babel (2009, 2010) suggest the opposite: that
speakers will converge on the less salient differences.

This thesis investigates how the perceptual salience of 6 differences
between Buenos Aires Spanish and Madrid Spanish affect the pattern
of phonetic accommodation in conversation. The results are
considered both in terms of the magnitude of the changes that the
participants make as well as the direction of the change (convergence
or divergence). The results show that perceptual salience has a
significant effect on the magnitude of the change, with all participants
making greater changes as perceptual salience increases. On the
other hand, perceptual salience was found not to have a consistent
effect for all speakers on the likelihood of converging or diverging on
the dialectal differences. I argue that the lack of consistent effect of
salience on the direction of the change stems from individual
differences in motivation to take on the opposing dialect norms and
issues of personal identity, whereas the very consistent effect of
salience on the magnitude of the change suggests that there is
something more basic or systematic about how salience interacts with
the extent to which speakers accommodate.

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