Speaker Series: Abby Walker (Virginia Tech.)

Sep 16, 2016 at - | Fisher-Bennett Hall, Room 401 (3340 Walnut Street)


The effects of Multidialectal vs. Monodialectal Exposure on

Linguistic Processing

Abby Walker

Virginia Tech


Some people are exposed to more dialects than others, perhaps since birth, or throughout their lifetime due to social or regional mobility. Similarly, some people experience being ÒaccentedÓ in a way that other speakers do not. In this talk I will present two studies that highlight the ways in which these differences in experience result in differences in linguistic processing. The first study is a cross-modal lexical decision task where we find that listeners who have lived in multiple dialect regions show less facilitation and more inhibition than monodialectal listeners. We interpret this difference as a Òkeep your options openÓ strategy by the former group resulting from the dialect-based ambiguity in their linguistic histories. The second study is a listening in noise transcription task in which native listeners who self- reported having an accent were more accurate with non-native speech than ÒunaccentedÓ listeners. Error analysis reveals that ÒaccentedÓ listeners were attempting more answers than unaccented listeners.

I will then present a third study in which English and American expatriates and non-migrants were recorded reading English- and American- themed wordlists. Looking at two variables (intervocalic /t/ and rhoticity), I measured production shifts between British and American English depending on the topic. While the expatriates show overall evidence of second dialect acquisition compared to the non-migrants, there is no difference between the two groups in how much they shifted depending on the topic: all groups shifted about the same degree. I argue that while multidialectal experience clearly impacts a personÕs linguistic system, topic-based shifting is rooted in stereotypical representations of dialects, and as such is not impacted by experience, as much as dialect exposure does not alter dialect stereotypes.