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Auteur: Brian LOUDERMILK

The neural dimensions of attitudinal input

Abstract/Résumé: Variationist sociolinguistics has always focused on the relationship between the language forms of a speech community and how they are mediated by social structures. For Labov (1972), the defining characteristics of a speech community are (1) a shared set of sociolinguistic norms that can be observed in linguistic behavior and (2) a shared set of evaluative behavior or language attitudes to these sociolinguistic norms. Recently, a number of researchers have begun using implicit measures of language attitudes in order to bypass some of the limitations of traditional methods such as self-report and matched-guise techniques. In this talk, I present an experiment examining the real-time neural consequences of processing the social dimensions of speech and show how this response is modulated by implicit stereotypical attitudes towards sociolinguistic variation. Specifically, I recorded participants’ (n=19) event-related brain potentials (ERPs) while they listened to passages that varied by speaker dialect (Californian English vs. Southern English) and sociolinguistic variant (ING vs. IN’). In addition, participants were given an IAT task to determine the strength of their implicit stereotypical attitudes towards (ING) variation. Results showed that the strength of participants’ stereotypical attitude modulated an early, N400-like ERP component. Low, but not high, stereotype listeners showed increased negativities when listening to passages with mismatched dialects and variants. These results suggest that speakers with strong stereotypical attitudes are attending more to the emotional and attitudinal aspects of speech at the cost of shallower lexical semantic and social processing.