Title

Making sense of variation: Pleasantness and education ratings of Southern vowel variants

Abstract

An earlier study (Fridland, Bartlett, and Kreuz 2004) showed that listeners in Memphis, Tennessee, judged more perceptually salient those vowel shifts that the local dialect used as opposed to vowel shifts that Memphis had in common with other U.S. dialects. This study examines the perceptions of 209 natives of Memphis in two tasks: recognizing vowel shifts as Southern and rating a range of synthesized variants of ey, ε, uw, and ow for level of education and sounding pleasant. In the first part, participants were successful in recognizing vowel variants as Southern. In the second, they discerned slight phonetic shifts and assigned lower ratings for education and pleasantness to those vowel variants that they recognized as most Southern. The results add support to the evidence that perceptual judgments of speech depend on both linguistic and social information. Copyright © 2005 by the American Dialect Society.

Publication Title

American Speech

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