Journal of Sociolinguistics

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Volume 15 Issue 4 (September 2011), Pages 431-552

Properties of the sociolinguistic monitor (pages 431-463)

This paper investigates the perceptual aspect of quantitative sociolinguistic variation in order to derive properties of a sociolinguistic monitor integrated into linguistic processing in real time. A series of experiments measured listeners’ sensitivity to frequencies in the form of variable percentages of the non‐standard apical form of the variable (ING). Subjects heard ten trial readings of broadcast news from the same speaker, and rated them on a seven‐point Likert scale of professional suitability. Responses conformed closely to a logarithmic function in which the effect of each deviation from the norm was proportional to the percent increase in deviations. The logarithmic pattern of responses was replicated in group and individual experiments in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and in group experiments in Columbia, South Carolina and Durham, New Hampshire. South Carolina subjects were less critical of the /in/ variant in news broadcasting but showed the identical logarithmic function in reacting to Northern and Southern speakers. Inferences are drawn on the window of temporal resolution of the sociolinguistic monitor, its sensitivity and the pattern of attenuation over time.

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