Reassignment of consonant allophones in rapid dialect acquisition
German, James S.
Pierrehumbert, Janet B.
Date of Issue2013
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
In an experiment spanning a week, American English speakers imitated a Glaswegian (Scottish) English speaker. The target sounds were allophones of /t/ and /r/, as the Glaswegian speaker aspirated word-medial /t/ but pronounced /r/ as a flap initially and medially. This experiment therefore explored (a) whether speakers could learn to reassign a sound they already produce (flap) to a different phoneme, and (b) whether they could learn to reliably produce aspirated /t/ in an unusual phonological context. Speakers appeared to learn systematically, as they could generalize to words which they had never heard the Glaswegian speaker pronounce. The pattern for /t/ was adopted and generalized with high overall reliability (96%). For flap, there was a mix of categorical learning, with the allophone simply switching to a different use, and parametric approximations of the “new” sound. The positional context was clearly important, as flaps were produced less successfully when word-initial. And although there was variability in success rates, all speakers learned to produce a flap for /r/ at least some of the time and retained this learning over a week's time. These effects are most easily explained in a hybrid of neo-generative and exemplar models of speech perception and production.
Journal of phonetics
© 2013 Elsevier Ltd. This is the author created version of a work that has been peer reviewed and accepted for publication by Journal of Phonetics, Elsevier. It incorporates referee’s comments but changes resulting from the publishing process, such as copyediting, structural formatting, may not be reflected in this document. The published version is available at: [http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.wocn.2013.03.001].