Molly Babel (UBC). Faculty host: Claire Moore-Cantwell.
When do listeners care about phonetic variation?
Spoken language is immenselyvariable. Some of that variation may be associated with social categories andsome may be idiosyncratic to an individual’s voice. Either of these sources ofvariation may affect the typical patterning of meaningful contrasts in alanguage. Listeners certainly care about sociolinguistic andtalker-idiosyncratic variation to the extent that they readily make socialevaluations about voices, have knowledge about social-linguistic associations,and use phonetic variation in talker recognition and related processes. Incases where phonetic variation affects linguistic categories, listeners mayneed to adapt their systems to adjust to that variation. The question addressedin this talk is when do listeners care about phonetic variation such that itwarrants a change to linguistic categories or processes. Across a series ofexperiments using two perceptual learning paradigms (e.g., Norris et al., 2003;Maye et al., 2008), I demonstrate that listeners’ adaptation to phoneticvariation is bounded from a number of angles: it is modulated by the nature ofphonetic attention, category typicality, and linguistic experience, but not socialpreferences. Together, this suggests that attention and experience eithermoderate the nature of the phonetic detail that is apprehended in speechperception or the way the phonetic detail is encoded for use in subsequentspoken language processing.