2017 Young Language Science Scholar (YLSS) Speaker Series - Abby Walker (Virginia Tech) Listening with an Accent: Long-term Multidialectal Exposure and Speech Perception
Listening with an Accent: Long-term Multidialectal Exposure and Speech Perception
Some people are exposed to a broader range of dialects than others, perhaps since birth, or throughout their lifetime due to social or regional mobility. Similarly, some people experience being “accented” in a way that other speakers do not. In this talk I will present three studies that highlight the ways in which these differences in experience result in differences in how people listen. In the first study, English and American expatriates and non-migrants transcribed English and American speakers in noise. There is evidence that participants with the most transatlantic experience do better with their non-native dialect than those with less-experience, reflecting the well-attested fact that greater familiarity with a dialect results in more accurate transcriptions. However, there is also evidence of some asymmetry between English and American listeners that may be due to the relative prestige of the two dialects.
In the second study, again using a listening in noise transcription task, we found that L1-English listeners who self-report having an accent were more accurate with L2-English than “unaccented” listeners. Error analysis reveals that “accented” listeners were attempting more answers than unaccented listeners. Finally, in a cross-modal lexical decision task 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 “keep your options open” strategy by the former group resulting from the dialect-based ambiguity in their linguistic histories. Taken together, these findings highlight the ways in which (socio)linguistic experience may shape speech perception beyond familiarity.