As a result of complex international migration patterns, listeners in large urban centres such as London, UK, likely encounter large amounts of variation in spoken language. However, although dealing with variation is crucial to communication, relatively little is known about how the ability to do this develops. Still less is known about how this might be affected by language background. The current study investigates whether early experience with variation, specifically growing up bilingually in London, affects accent categorization. Sixty children (30 monolingual, 30 bilingual) aged 5--7 years, were tested in their ability to comprehend and categorize talkers in 2 out of 3 accents: a home, unfamiliar regional and unfamiliar foreign-accented variety. All children demonstrated high, above-chance performance in the comprehension task, but language background significantly affected the children's ability to categorize talkers. Bilinguals were able to categorize talkers in all accent conditions, but although all children were able to understand the talkers, monolingual children were only able to categorize talkers in the home-foreign accent condition. Overall, the results are consistent with an approach in which gradient representations of accent variation emerge alongside an understanding of how variation is used meaningfully within a child's environment.
It has long been debated whether speech production and perception remain flexible in adulthood. The current study investigates the effects of language dominance switch in Galician new speakers (neofalantes) who are raised with Spanish as a primary language and learn Galician at an early age in a bilingual environment, but in adolescence, decide to switch to using Galician almost exclusively, for ideological reasons. Results showed that neofalantes pattern with Spanish-dominants in their perception and production of mid-vowel and fricative contrasts, but with Galician-dominants in their realisation of unstressed word-final vowels, a highly salient feature of Galician. These results are taken to suggest that despite early exposure to Galician, high motivation and almost exclusive Galician language use post-switch, there are limitations to what neofalantes can learn in both production and perception, but that the hybrid categories they appear to develop may function as opportunities to mark identity within a particular community.
This paper examines the vowel productions of three groups of adult Galician-Spanish bilinguals: Spanish-dominant (SD) bilinguals, Galician-dominant (GD) bilinguals, and Dual Switch (DS) bilinguals who had early experience with Galician in the home, predominantly used Spanish upon school entry, but in adolescence/adulthood switched to Galician for ideological reasons. To examine how linguistic experience with Galician and Spanish affected the participants' speech, a cued picture-naming task, conducted in unilingual and code switched conditions, was used to elicit the Galician mid vowel contrasts /e-ɛ/ and /o-ɔ/ and the Spanish mid vowels /e/ and /o/. The results revealed no difference in either condition in normalised F1 and F2 across the front and back vowels in the two languages. These patterns not only held for the SD bilinguals, for whom vowel mergers were expected, but also the DS and GD bilinguals. As such, the study is the first to document widespread mergers of Galician mid-vowels in bilinguals with extensive early Galician language experience and regular use, and to demonstrate overlap with Spanish mid-vowel categories. The findings suggest that psycholinguistic factors, such as age of acquisition or language use, can only partially explain the data and that input-related and socio-indexical factors are equally critical in understanding the acquisition and maintenance of language-specific speech patterns.
It has long been debated whether speech processing remains flexible in adulthood. This thesis contributes to our understanding of this question by investigating bilingual speech development in a naturalistic setting. Galician ‘new speakers’ (neofalantes) are unbalanced bilinguals raised with Spanish as a primary language, who learn Galician at an early age in a bilingual environment, but in adolescence, decide to switch to using Galician almost exclusively, for ideological reasons. Study 1 examined whether neofalantes changed aspects of their production and perception of Galician post-switch. Change was inferred by com- paring this group to two control groups, Galician-dominant and Spanish-dominant bilinguals. Results showed that neofalantes pattern with Spanish-dominants in their perception and production of mid-vowel and fricative contrasts, but with Galician-dominants in their realisation of unstressed word-final vowels, a highly salient feature of Galician. However, Study 2 demonstrated that these shifts in production were not sufficient to enable Galician listeners to identify the neofalantes’ accent as a distinctive variety. Instead, neo- falantes were categorised as both Galician- and Spanish-dominant speakers. Study 3 used eye-tracking to investigate the effects of language dominance and long-term language switch on spoken word recognition. Results showed that recognition was slower for Spanish-dominants, however, the level of lexical activation of the confusable competitors was similar for Galician- and Spanish-dominant groups. Like in perception tasks, neofalantes behaved more similarly to Spanish-dominant listeners. These results indicate that despite early exposure to Galician, high motivation and almost exclusive Galician language use post-switch, there are limitations to what neofalantes can learn in production, perception and processing. However, although underlying categories appear hard to change, with modifications to production and perception constrained by early experience with a particular language, the resulting hybrid categories may function as opportunities to mark identity within a community.
Mimicry and laughter are two social signals displaying affiliation among people. To date, however, their relationship remains uninvestigated and relatively unexploited in designing the behaviour of robots and virtual characters. This paper presents an experiment aimed at examining how laughter and mimicry are related. The hypothesis is that hand movements a person produces during a laughter episode are mimicked through equivalent or other hand movements other participants in the interaction produce when they laugh. To investigate this, we analysed mimicry at two levels of specificity during laughter and non-laughter periods in a playful triadic social interaction. Changes in mimicry rates over the whole interaction were analysed as well as possible leader-follower relationships. Results show that hand movement rates were varied and strongly dependent on group. Even though hand movement are more frequent during laughter, mimicry does not increase. Mimicry levels, however, increase over the course of a session indicating that familiarity and comfort may increase emotional contagion.
In minority language communities, language choice may be related to identity. In the bilingual community of Galicia, some speakers switch language dominance at a late stage in development, normally during adolescence. These 'new speakers', neofalantes, are originally dominant in Spanish but switch to Galician for cultural or ideological reasons. The present study investigated the consequences of this language shift for neofalantes' production and perception of Galician. The results demonstrated that neofalantes produced intermediate categories that were different from those of Spanish and Galician- dominants, but that changes in production were not accompanied by changes in perception. Although these findings might suggest that neofalantes process their new, dominant language through the categories of their former dominant language, another possibility is that they change aspects of their production to try to fit in with a new group of speakers, Galician-dominants, whilst retaining some Spanish variants to show belonging to the neofalantes community.