This study explores phonetic convergence during conversations between pairs of talkers with varying language distance. Specifically, we examined conversations within two native English talkers and within two native Korean talkers who had either the same or different regional dialects, and between native and nonnative talkers of English. To measure phonetic convergence, an independent group of listeners judged the similarity of utterance samples from each talker through an XAB perception test, in which X was a sample of one talker's speech and A and B were samples from the other talker at either early or late portions of the conversation. The results showed greater convergence for same-dialect pairs than for either the different-dialect pairs or the different-L1 pairs. These results generally support the hypothesis that there is a relationship between phonetic convergence and interlocutor language distance. We interpret this pattern as suggesting that phonetic convergence between talker pairs that vary in the degree of their initial language alignment may be dynamically mediated by two parallel mechanisms: the need for intelligibility and the extra demands of nonnative speech production and perception.
© 2011 Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, Berlin/New York