Imitation, Awareness; and Folk Linguistic Artifacts
Brunner, Elizabeth Gentry
Doctor of Philosophy
Imitations are sophisticated performances displaying regular patterns. The study of imitation allows linguiSts to understand speakers' perceptions of sociolinguistic variation. In this dissertation, I analyze imitations of non-native accents in order to answer two questions: what can imitation reveal about perception, and how are folk linguistic artifacts (Preston 1996) involved in imitation? These questions are approached from the framework offolk linguistic awareness (Preston 1996). By redefining the concept of salience according to the modes of folk linguistic awareness, I am able to more precisely consider how imitation reflects salience. I address both of these questions by eliciting imitations from speakers in which folk artifacts are present. For my investigation, twenty speakers read a short passage in English. Ten were non-native speakers of American English (NNAE) and ten were native speakers of American English (AE). The AE speakers were recorded reading the passage in their regular voice and with two types of imitated accents: free imitations, which were spontaneously produced, and modeled imitations, which were produced directly after hearing the NNAE speakers. Free imitations revealed folk linguistic artifacts, while modeled imitations were more reflective of the immediate target. Participants listened to the authentic and imitated accents and were asked to determine the accent and authenticity of each speaker. I found that there was not a significant difference in the pitch and vowels between free and modeled AE imitations, which indicated that these aspects of imitations are largely based on folk linguistic artifacts. Listeners were able to determine which voices were authentic and which were imitated. Listeners were also able to identify the speakers' accents, perhaps aided by the folk artifact status of these particular accents. Listeners were better at identifying the accents of free imitations than modeled imitations, which suggested that listeners prefer imitations that are solely based on folk artifacts. Overall, I found that imitation is a valuable tool for the analysis of speech perception. The modes of folk linguistic awareness are useful in interpreting imitations and understanding salience. This research shows that folk linguistic artifacts are the foundation of imitations and an important tool in perceptual categorization.