Title: What is imitated in word shadowing? Linguistic structure, social variation, and token-by-token variability
Word shadowing tasks, in which a participant repeats words aloud after a pre-recorded model talker in a laboratory setting, elicit imitation of the model talker’s speech by the shadowing participant, even in the absence of explicit instructions to imitate. However, the magnitude of this imitation varies substantially within and across shadowers, model talkers, and linguistic features. Recent research in my laboratory has considered this variation in imitation in word shadowing to address the question of what is (and what is not) imitated in these tasks. We have found (1) imitation of phonetic structure in vowel shifts and intonation contours, rather than direct imitation of acoustic formant frequencies and f0; (2) imitation of non-stereotyped social variants, but not of stereotyped social variants; and (3) both convergence to overall production patterns and synchrony with token-by-token variability in the speech of the model talker. Together, these results suggest a strong perception-production link that operates in real time and is mediated by linguistic and social representations.