Investigating the Impact of Dialect Prestige on Lexical Decision

Mairym Lloréns Monteserín, Jason Zevin

The speech signal encodes both a talker’s message and indexical information about a talker’s identity. Dialectal variation is one way in which non-linguistic information about a talker is conveyed through her speech. A talker’s dialect tends to correlate strongly with her demographic background, and listeners are known to form beliefs about speakers based on their dialect alone: talkers of lower-status dialects are consistently downgraded on positively-valued attributes relative to talkers of canonical dialects. Hypothesizing that pre-formed beliefs about a low-status talker might impact optimal perception of her speech, this study investigated the influence of the relative prestige of talker dialect on listeners’ behavior in three lexical decision experiments. The finding of significantly increased propensity to incorrectly reject words uttered in an arguably low-prestige variety of American English relative to both normative General American English and British English suggests that talker status may play a role in the success with which talker messages are perceived by listeners. These results as well as unexpected interactions of dialect and word frequency in some but not all experiments are discussed in the context of signal detection theory.

DOI: 10.21437/Interspeech.2016-1549

Cite as

Monteserín, M.L., Zevin, J. (2016) Investigating the Impact of Dialect Prestige on Lexical Decision. Proc. Interspeech 2016, 2214-2218.

author={Mairym Lloréns Monteserín and Jason Zevin},
title={Investigating the Impact of Dialect Prestige on Lexical Decision},
booktitle={Interspeech 2016},