Abstract: Work in sociolinguistic variation has traditionally examined correlations between linguistic features and macro-social factors, such as gender, socioeconomic class, or region of origin. However, more recent approaches have focused on the ways that speakers deploy socially meaningful bundles of linguistic features, or styles, to project holistic social personae in interactions. While these personae (e.g. a Business Professional, a Valley Girl, etc.) inhabit and constitute these macro-categories, they are theorized to be more immediately relevant in interactions than macro-social categories. While the body of work on sociolinguistic style is growing, less is known about the cognitive basis of links between features of linguistic styles and social meanings. This talk explores the social information that can be connected with linguistic expectations for a listener, focusing on how information about a speaker’s holistic persona can influence perceptual behavior in a variety of tasks. First, I'll present findings that illustrate how persona-based information can affect low-level linguistic perceptions of a single phonetic feature. I then explore how our persona-based expectations mediate macro-social effects on linguistic recall. Together, these studies show that social knowledge of a speaker is integral to linguistic perception, and that knowledge related to a speaker’s holistic persona must be represented and linked with linguistic features in the mind.
Speaker bio: As a sociolinguist, Professor D’Onofrio studies how humans create, learn, and represent the social through language. Her research brings together insights and methods from sociolinguistics and social theory with speech perception and psycholinguistics, primarily through the investigation of phonetic variables.