LingLang Lunch (11/9/2016): Chelsea Sanker (Brown University)

Phonetic Convergence across measures and across speakers

Speakers have a tendency to sound increasingly like their interlocutors, a phenomenon called phonetic convergence, which is observed in a range of linguistic characteristics (e.g. vowel formants, Babel 2012; intensity, Gregory and Hoyt 1982; timing of conversational turns and pauses, Street 1984). In this talk, I use data from a range of phonetic measures to shed light on whether individuals exhibit tendencies for convergence across different characteristics, in different tasks, and with different partners.

Convergence varies across individuals, but each individual has some consistency in convergence exhibited in her conversations, compared across measures, both when interacting with different partners and when undertaking different tasks with the same partner. This correlation was present in phonological measures (vowel formants) and prosodic measures (intensity, pitch, phonation), but was not significant for turn-taking and speech rate patterns.

Convergence varies across measures, but there was no significant correlation between convergence in different measures; patterns exhibited by a speaker in one measure are not predictive of her patterns in other measures.

These results indicate that convergence results in one measure will not necessarily be representative of what would be found in other measures, which has implications for designing convergence research and for interpreting results. Moreover, it suggests that the process underlying convergence in different characteristics is not equivalent, but may be mediated by individual differences in attention or other aspects of phonological processing or storage.