Phonetic convergence in college roommates

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    1. Introduction

    between and within talkers. Production oftalkers differs according to anatomy, sex, agresidence. In contrast, variability in an indivi

    s lesscan bewever,with

    posureve beeno a m

    self and interacting partners (Shepard, Giles, & Le Poire, 2001).Accordingly, convergence refers to the ways in which a talker

    n for1).evel-

    restricted laboratory settings. For example, talkers who were asked

    Contents lists available at SciVerse ScienceDirect


    Journal of P

    Journal of Phonetics 40 (2012) 1901972004). In these studies, talkers were rst recorded producingE-mail addresses:, (J.S. Pardo).Communication Accommodation Theory proposes that indivi-duals use language to achieve a desired social distance between the

    to repeat recorded words sampled from another talker producedutterances that were more similar to those of the sample talkerthan their baseline utterances (Goldinger, 1998; Namy et al., 2002;Shockley, Sabadini, and Fowler, 2004; but see Vallabha & Tuller,

    0095-4470/$ - see front matter & 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


    n Corresponding author. Tel.: 1 973 655 7924.1.1. Speech accommodationoped in the context of studies that employed social settings,convergence and mimicry have also been examined in morecollege roommates through the academic year and related measuresof phonetic convergence to measures of perceived closeness.

    used to accentuate individual differences or to display disdaianother individual (Bourhis & Giles, 1977; Shepard et al., 200

    Although Communication Accommodation Theory was dlinguistic environment, exhibiting phonetic convergence or gesturaldrift (e.g., Babel, 2010; Evans & Iverson, 2007; Goldinger, 1998;Namy, Nygaard, & Sauerteig, 2002; Pardo, 2006; Sancier & Fowler,1997). Missing from the literature is an understanding of thedynamics of phonetic convergence in a pair of talkers who interactfor longer than a single experimental session. Thus, the currentstudy examined phonetic convergence in previously unacquainted

    whom they are attracted (Byrne, 1971). This proposal has evokedmany hypothetical functions for convergenceconvergence couldresult from a need to gain approval from the interacting partner(Street & Giles, 1982), from a concern that the interaction is carriedout smoothly (Gallois, Giles, Jones, Cargile, & Ota, 1995), or from aneffort to increase ones own intelligibility during the interaction(Triandis & Triandis, 1960). Divergence, on the other hand, can beof a word on different occasions iconversation. Much of this variabilityand pragmatic impact on usage. Hofound to vary acousticphonetic formanother talker and after prolonged exenvironment. In particular, talkers hasimilar in acousticphonetic form trd varies widely boththe same word acrosse, dialect, and region ofdual talkers productionnoticeable in everydayattributed to semantictalkers have also beenvery recent exposure toto a particular linguisticfound to become moreodel or to an ambient

    adjusts speaking style to become more similar to an interactingpartner, whereas divergence refers to changes in speaking stylethat result in reduced similarity to a partner. The changes initiallyobserved in speech included attributes measured over longstretches of dialog such as accent, speaking rate, intensity, low-frequency band variation, pause frequency, and utterance length(e.g., Giles, Coupland, & Coupland, 1991; Gregory, 1990; Gregory,Dagan, & Webster, 1997; Gregory & Webster, 1996; Natale, 1975).The reasons proposed for employing accommodation are varied,but the most prevalent is the similarity attraction hypothesis,which claims that individuals try to be more similar to those toThe acousticphonetic form of a woPhonetic convergence in college roomm

    Jennifer S. Pardo a,n, Rachel Gibbons b, Alexandra Sa Department of Psychology, Montclair State University, 1 Normal Avenue, Montclair, Nb Department of Psychology, Columbia College, Columbia University, United Statesc Department of Public Health, Weill Cornell Medical College, United States

    a r t i c l e i n f o

    Article history:

    Received 20 March 2010

    Received in revised form

    22 September 2011

    Accepted 1 October 2011Available online 19 October 2011

    a b s t r a c t

    Previous studies have fo

    conversational session or

    the current study, ve pai

    intervals during the acade

    similarity test and measu

    during the academic year

    different linguistic items.

    self-reported closeness. T

    variable and moderately rjournal homepage: www.etes

    pes c, Robert M. Krauss b

    043, United States

    that talkers converge or diverge in phonetic form during a single

    result of long-term exposure to a particular linguistic environment. In

    f previously unacquainted male roommates were recorded at four time

    year. Phonetic convergence over time was assessed using a perceptual

    of vowel spectra. There were distinct patterns of phonetic convergence

    oss roommate pairs, and perceptual detection of convergence varied for

    ddition, phonetic convergence correlated moderately with roommates

    e ndings suggest that phonetic convergence in college roommates is

    ed to the strength of a relationship.

    & 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


  • J.S. Pardo et al. / Journal of Phonetics 40 (2012) 190197 191a baseline series of words prompted by a list, and then wereinstructed to listen to the same series of words produced byanother talker and to repeat each word immediately. Imitation ofword forms was assessed by asking a separate set of listeners tojudge the similarity of the baseline and the shadowed utterances tothe model utterances. Across multiple studies using this technique,shadowing talkers were found to converge (i.e., imitate or becomemore similar to) the model talkers that they heard. Shockley et al.(2004) also related perceived convergence to variation in anacousticphonetic attribute (voice onset time: VOT). Thus, sha-dowers were not only heard as sounding more similar to themodel, but they also increased VOTs of shadowed tokens whenshadowing a model token that had a lengthened VOT.

    In a study that examined phonetic variation with long-termexposure to different linguistic environments, Sancier and Fowler(1997) recorded a native Brazilian Portuguese and English (L2)speaker on three occasions: once after spending four months in theUS before leaving for Brazil, again just after returning to the USafter spending 2.5 months in Brazil, and once more after spendingfour months in the US. They found that the talkers BrazilianPortuguese utterances were judged by Brazilian Portuguese listen-ers to be more accented after the talker had spent four months inthe US compared to utterances produced after spending 2.5 monthsin Brazil. In addition, the talkers VOTs in both Brazilian Portugueseand English had lengthened after her stays in the US, convergingtoward the average VOTs in English. This nding was surprisingbecause adjustments were made in the language that the talkerhad not been using while in the US, indicating a process that issuper-ordinate to a particular language.

    1.2. Vowel convergence

    Other studies have extended phonetic convergence to mea-sures of vowel formants (Babel, 2009, 2010; Evans & Iverson,2007; Pardo, 2010; Pardo, Cajori Jay, & Krauss, 2010). Forexample, Babel (2009, 2010) has assessed variation in the rstand second formants of vowels in shadowing tasks. Overall, inter-talker distances in vowel formants were reduced from baseline toshadowed tokens for some of the vowels, and the degree ofadjustment was related to the talkers implicit attitudes towardthe race or nationality of the model talker. In a longer-term studyof accent change similar to that of Sancier and Fowler (1997),Evans and Iverson (2007) reported that Northern British Englishstudents shifted pronunciation of some of their vowels as a resultof spending up to two years at school in Southern England. Afteronly three months, some of the talkers had started to shift someof their vowels, but after one and two years, most of the talkershad adopted the shifted dialectal variants. Moreover, their rateddegree of southern accentedness also became stronger over thecourse of two years in school.

    In both approaches, vowels were found to change, but the onlyindication that the changes were perceptible derives from ratingsof accentedness, which relates to global dialect convergencerather than individual phonetic convergence. In two studies ofphonetic convergence during conversational interaction, Pardo(2010; Pardo et al., 2010) found that talkers converged on somevowels while diverging or not changing on other vowels, and thatthe degree of vowel convergence/divergence was related to therole of the talker. Furthermore, Pardo et al. found that the degreeof vowel convergence (measured as reduction in inter-talkerdistances) was moderately related to the perceived convergenceof receivers to givers (r(10)0.59, p0.04). However, therewere other patterns of perceived convergence that were notreadily attributable to vowel formants or to articulation rates,which indicates that perceived phonetic convergence is likely to

    result from multidimensional impressions of phonetic variation.1.3. Conversational convergence

    The ability to converge to another talkers word pronunciationor to a linguistic environment suggests detailed perceptualresolution and closely coupled perception and production. How-ever, it is necessary to delineate the factors that modulate thisprocess in more natural settings of language use, such as during aconversational interaction (Pardo, 2006, 2010; Pardo et al., 2010).Although interacting talkers have been found to converge inacousticphonetic form, the degree of convergence was subtleand was consistently inuenced by the sex of the pair of talkersand a talkers role in the conversation. Indeed, talkers convergedon some acousticphonetic dimensions at the same time thatthey diverged on others (Pardo, 2010; Pardo et al., 2010; see alsoBilous & Krauss, 1988). Therefore, phonetic convergence is notan automatic consequence of detailed perceptual resolution,but has variable effects on different speech attributes and isunconsciously modulated by each talkers interpretation of thesituation.

    At present, accommodation has been established as a preva-lent yet variable phenomenon in the speech of interactingtalkers (Giles et al., 1991; Shepard et al., 2001). With respect todialect acquisition and change, Labov (1986) has found thatindividuals employ different vowel variants across differentsocial settings, and that the use of local dialect markers is relatedto an individuals attitudes toward the area (Labov, 1972; see alsoBabel, 2010; Eckert, 1989). Moreover, because the location ofdialect boundaries coincides with geographical boundaries thatreduce opportunities for direct social interaction, Labov (1974)has proposed that dialect variation and change result fromopportunities for direct social interaction. Yet, despite an explicitdesire to accommodate to an ambient linguistic environment,long-term opportunities for social interaction with native speak-ers, and an unconscious tendency to imitate speech, most talkersfail to eradicate a foreign accent or to lose all markers of aregional dialect. Even though the talkers in previous studies oflong-term change made adjustments that were perceptible aschanges in relative accentedness, they never sounded fully South-ern or unaccented (Evans & Iverson, 2007; Sancier & Fowler,1997). In order to understand the limitations of these processes, itis necessary to examine phonetic convergence at the level ofindividual pairs of talkers. To date, the dynamics of linguisticvariation that result from continued contact with the sameindividual have not been studied empirically.

    1.4. The current study

    The present study attempts to ll this gap by examiningphonetic convergence among talkers who interact on a daily basis,college roommates. In order to assess phonetic convergence,speech samples were collected from previously unacquaintedcollege roommates at four intervals during the academic yearand were used to elicit measures of perceptual similarity from aseparate set of listeners. In addition, measures of item duration andvowel spectra were collected and compared to perceptual assess-ments of phonetic convergence. According to CommunicationAccommodation Theory and ndings of phonetic convergenceduring conversational interaction, the roommates ought to exhibitphonetic convergence relatively early in the academic year. Ifphonetic convergence follows a similar trajectory to the gesturaldrift observed by Sancier and Fowler (1997), then convergenceshould increase prior to winter break and decrease after theroommates return from winter break. However, the current studyis being conducted on individuals who do not undergo cross-language alternation, so the roommates might not show a decrease

    in convergence after returning from winter break. If vowel

  • 2.1. Participants

    American English vowels embedded in hVd/t words in the carrier

    In order to assess the quality of the roommates relationship,they completed a Roommate Relationship questionnaire at the

    recording session individually at each time point. The question-

    J.S. Pardo et al. / Journal of Phonetics 40 (2012) 190197192end of their rst semester together. The questionnaire includedrequests to estimate the amount of time spent with their room-mate throughout the rst semester, the number of hours perweek the two spent in the same room, and the number of mealseaten together per week. Other questions asked about the qualityof their relationship and how much they liked their roommate.Specic measures included the closeness they felt toward theirroommate (on a 7-point scale), the amount in common they feltthey shared with their roommate (on a 7-point scale), and theInclusion of Other in the Self Scale (IOS; Aron, Aron, & Smollan,1992). The IOS uses a series of seven paired circles that rangefrom showing no overlap to showing almost complete overlap.Each talker selected the circle combination depicting the overlapsentence, Say ___ again (mixed with ller items). In addition, eachtalker provided two utterances of two sentences prompted byprinted sheets, She had your dark suit in greasy wash water all yearand Dont ask me to carry an oily rag like that. These sentenceswere chosen because they include phrases that are phonologicallydiverse, that include the four point vowels, and that exhibitvariation across US dialect regions (dark suit, greasy, oily rag,and wash water). For example, Clopper and Pisoni (2004) reportedthat New England talkers were more likely than others to producean r-less form of dark and Southern talkers were more likely toproduce a voiced fricative in greasy.

    2.2.2. Relationship qualityA total of 10 male Columbia College undergraduates (5 pairs ofroommates, aged 1921) provided speech samples. All talkers werenative English speakers with no report...


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