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Intonational variation and incrementality in listener judgments of ethnicity

Holliday, Nicole and Villarreal, Dan (2020) Intonational variation and incrementality in listener judgments of ethnicity. Laboratory Phonology: Journal of the Association for Laboratory Phonology, 11 (1). p. 3. ISSN 1868-6354

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The current study examines how listeners make gradient and variable ethnolinguistic judgments in an experimental context where the speaker’s identity is well-known. It features an open-guise experiment (Soukup, 2013) that assessed whether sociolinguistic judgments are subject to 'incrementality', with judgments increasing in magnitude as variable stimuli demonstrate more extreme differences. In particular, this task tested whether judgments of President Barack Obama as sounding ‘more’ or ‘less’ black (e.g., Alim & Smitherman, 2012) are sensitive to differences in intonation. Half of critical stimuli featured an L+H* pitch accent, which occurs more frequently in African American Language than in Mainstream U.S. English (Holliday, 2016). Four stimuli apiece were created from these phrases by making each pitch accent more extreme by semitone-based F0 steps. Seventy-nine listeners rated these stimuli via the question, “How black does Obama sound here?” Mixed-effects modeling indicated that listeners rated more phonetically extreme L+H* stimuli as sounding blacker, regardless of listener identity. A post-hoc analysis found that listeners attended to different voice quality features in L+H* stimuli. We discuss implications for research in intonation, ethnic identification, incrementality, language attitudes, and sociolinguistic awareness.


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Item Type: Article
Status: Published
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Holliday, Nicole
Villarreal, Dand.vill@pitt.edud.vill
Date: 1 April 2020
Date Type: Publication
Journal or Publication Title: Laboratory Phonology: Journal of the Association for Laboratory Phonology
Volume: 11
Number: 1
Publisher: Ubiquity Press
Page Range: p. 3
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.5334/labphon.229
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Linguistics
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: intonation, perception, sociophonetics, african american language, language attitudes, variation
ISSN: 1868-6354
Official URL:
Article Type: Research Article
Date Deposited: 27 Apr 2021 15:02
Last Modified: 27 Apr 2021 15:02


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