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Linguistics Vanguard

A Multimodal Journal for the Language Sciences

Editor-in-Chief: Bergs, Alexander / Cohn, Abigail C. / Good, Jeff


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2199-174X
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The role of context in sociolinguistic perception

Katherine Hilton
  • Corresponding author
  • Stanford University, Department of Linguistics, Margaret Jacks Hall, Building 460 Rm. 127, Stanford, CA 94305, USA
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/ Sunwoo Jeong
Published Online: 2019-04-18 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/lingvan-2018-0069

Abstract

Previous research demonstrates that listeners make social inferences about people based on how they speak, and that these inferences vary depending on the linguistic and social context. An open question is exactly how contextual enrichment (i.e. information about the speaker and speaking situation) comes to influence sociolinguistic perception. This paper addresses this question by analyzing data from 10 perception experiments investigating three different linguistic phenomena: number agreement in existential there constructions, intonation contours in declarative sentences, and overlapping speech in conversation. We observe an overall trend that increasing contextual enrichment obscures the effects of linguistic forms. In contextually impoverished stimuli, number nonagreement and rising declaratives trigger perceptions that speakers are less educated and more polite, respectively, but show no effect on listener perceptions when embedded in more contextually rich stimuli. By contrast, overlapping speech shows robust effects on perceived interruptiveness, even in contextually rich stimuli. Drawing on theories from social psychology and linguistic anthropology, we argue that if listeners are able to form sufficient impressions of speakers before encountering the target linguistic feature, they will not modify their impressions to incorporate the social meanings conveyed by the target linguistic feature, unless these social meanings are highly enregistered.

This article offers supplementary material which is provided at the end of the article.

Keywords: sociolinguistic perception; experimental methods; social cognition; enregisterment; implicitness

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About the article

Received: 2018-11-24

Accepted: 2018-12-13

Published Online: 2019-04-18


Citation Information: Linguistics Vanguard, Volume 5, Issue s1, 20180069, ISSN (Online) 2199-174X, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/lingvan-2018-0069.

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