Dissertation Proposal Defense: Wade

Dec 18, 2018 at - | The Linguistics Department Seminar Room (Room 326, 3401-C Walnut Street, Suite 300, C Wing)

Lacey Wade will be defending her 
dissertation proposal on Tuesday, December 18th at 10am in 
the Linguistics Department Seminar Room  (Room 326, 3401-C 
Walnut Street, Suite 300, C Wing).

The proposal can be found here 
and the abstract can be found below.


(Working) Title: The Social and the Linguistic 
Intertwined: Accommodation to Southern Speech
Advisor: Meredith Tamminga
Proposal Committee: Don Ringe, David Embick, Gareth Roberts

Five decades ago, William Labov objected to the term 
“sociolinguistics,” on the grounds that there is no way to 
truly study language without taking social dimensions into 
account. Since then sociolinguists have continued to find 
that social and linguistic information are inextricably 
linked. Linguistic features have been shown to index various 
social meanings (e.g., Campbell-Kibler 2009, 2011; Eckert 
2000; Mendoza-Denton 2008). Conversely, individuals have 
been shown to possess implicit social knowledge that can 
influence the way language is perceived (e.g., Niedzielski 
1999; Hay & Drager, 2006). I propose a set of experiments to 
test the relationships between linguistic and social 
information in both speech perception and production, using 
accommodation to the Southern dialect as a test case. I 
distinguish between the more commonly discussed input-driven 
accommodation, which involves a linguistic target triggered 
by the same linguistic form observed in real-time, and 
knowledge-driven accommodation, which entails accommodating 
toward a previously stored and then recalled target that is 
not locally observed. The goal of the dissertation is to 
determine whether input-driven and knowledge-driven 
accommodation are governed by the same cognitive mechanisms 
and/or are similarly influenced by social information.

Experiment 1 finds evidence for knowledge-driven 
accommodation; participants converge toward an in- 
terlocutor’s Southern dialect by producing more 
monophthongal (i.e., more Southern) tokens of /ay/ after 
listening to a Southern-accented talker who never produces 
the /ay/ vowel. I use a Word Naming Game designed to elicit 
tokens of /ay/ and other vowels subject to the Southern 
shift; participants’ productions are compared before and 
after exposure to a Southern or Midland (control) talker. 
Experiment 2 tests whether the mechanism that allows for the 
type of generalization observed in Experiment 1 is socially 
or structurally rooted. I use the same design as in 
Experiment 1, but also manipulate the social labels/dialects 
of the talk- ers (with/without labels and matched/mismatched 
labels). This experiment will help to tease apart three 
possible explanations knowledge-driven convergence: social 
priming, associative co-occurrence, or structural 
extrapolation. Experiment 3 pinpoints the perceptual changes 
that must take place in order for accommodation to occur, as 
well as the role of social information in both early 
perceptual changes and more controlled productive behaviors. 
I ultimately investigate whether input-driven and 
knowledge-driven accommodation are determined by the same 
perceptual mechanisms and similarly influenced by social 
information. This experiment consists of a joint 
perception-production task to see whether participants’ /ay/ 
category boundary shifts with exposure to either 
monophthongal /ay/ (Experiment 3a) or other Southern vowels 
(Experiment 3b). Surveys will be included to gauge the 
influence of social and attitudinal information.

In addition to shedding light on the mental representations 
and mechanisms involved in processing linguistic and social 
information, results are expected to provide new insights 
into the relationships between linguistic perception and 
production, have implications for the role of perceptual 
flexibility and accommodative behaviors in sound change, and 
illuminate the importance of considering social dimensions 
in theories of linguistic representation and processing.