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3-136 - Two sides of the same coin: Approaching accent from different perspectives

Sat, April 8, 12:30 to 2:00pm, Hilton Austin, Meeting Room 400

Session Type: Paper Symposium

Integrative Statement

Listeners encounter considerable linguistic variability in their environment. Accent variation in particular, plays two important roles in cognitive processing. On one hand, it presents a challenge for speech processing, particularly for younger language learners. Typically, infants and children struggle to recognize familiar words when they are mispronounced, or produced with an accent (e.g., Durrant et al., 2015; vanHeugten & Johnson, 2014). On the other hand, this variation is highly informative, providing cues about the speaker such as their nationality, ethnic group and social status (e.g., Kinzler et al., 2007; Weatherhead et al., 2016). Children reliably make such social inferences on the basis of language and accent. Both of these topics have been studied extensively separately; however, there has been very little overlap between these two areas of study.

The purpose of this symposium is to explore the dual nature of accent variation by asking three very different questions. Presentation 1 explores the role of linguistic experience in toddlers’ ability to recognize accented forms of familiar words. Presentation 2 demonstrates that the type of accent and previous linguistic exposure plays a role in children’s social preferences. Presentation 3 utilizes children’s social inferences about accent to gauge how “accented” a speaker is. Finally, the discussant will discuss these findings in terms of children’s social inferences and evaluations. Ultimately, this symposium strives to bridge the gap between accent as a perceptual topic and accent as a social topic, and to promote discussion and collaboration between these two areas of study.

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