Linguistics Colloquium - Phonetic imitation in word shadowing: Intonation and dialect variation

Cynthia Clopper (Ohio State University Department of Linguistics)

Abstract: In a word shadowing task, participants are asked to repeat auditorily-presented words aloud, providing a speech “shadow” to the stimulus materials. Previous research has demonstrated that even in this kind of non-interactive, non-social task, participants’ speech is more similar to the stimulus materials during shadowing than during a baseline reading task. These results are taken as evidence for implicit phonetic imitation during word shadowing. The first experiment in this study examined imitation of intonation contours in a word shadowing task, in which participants repeated a set of words after hearing them produced with a non-falling intonation contour, consistent with “list intonation” in reading. Although the participants produced more than 50% non-falling contours in their baseline productions, they produced significantly more non-falling contours in the shadowing task, suggesting imitation of the intonation contours produced by the model talker. The second experiment in this study examined phonetic imitation of Southern American English by native speakers of Midwestern American English in a word shadowing task. The results revealed selective imitation of the duration, formant frequencies, and formant trajectories of different vowels. The implications of these findings for our understanding of the cognitive processes underlying phonetic imitation will be discussed.