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Auteur: Shiri LEV-ARI

Co-Auteur(s): Sharon PEPERKAMP, Laboratoire de Sciences Cognitives et Psycholinguistique, France

An experimental study of the role of social factors in loanword adaptation

Abstract/Résumé: The vocabularies of most languages contain foreign words, and these often contain foreign sounds. Retention of these foreign sounds can lead to sound change (1), but there is great cross-word and cross-situational variability in whether such sounds are adapted. Past research has shown that word frequency, and speakers’ and communities’ level of bilingualism, account for some of this variability (2). We propose that social factors also influence adaptation rate, and introduce a novel experimental way to study it. Borrowing is often driven by a wish to affiliate with the prestige of the donor culture (e.g., 3). Sound adaptation might therefore be sensitive to the donor culture’s prestige, and decrease with greater difference in prestige. Adaptation rate might also depend on the adaptation rate of one’s interlocutors, either via interlocutors’ accommodation to each other (4) or via the emergence of a group norm. To test the role of these social factors on sound adaptation, groups of 3-4 French speakers played a card game which revolved around a novel Italian ice-cream/beer, whose name contained a foreign sound. Afterwards, participants rated the prestige of Italy and France in the product’s domain, and indicated their motivation to have accent-free pronunciation in each of the languages they know. Results show that adaptation rate decreased the higher Italy’s relative prestige was. Adaptation rate also decreased with higher Pronunciation Motivation, and the two factors moderated each other. Furthermore, participants’ adaptation rate indicated accommodation, which was directed at the entire group rather than at their specific addressee, and this adaptation led to the emergence of a norm, as the variation among participants was significantly reduced by the last round. These results show that sound adaptation is influenced by both situation-independent and situation-specific social factors. They also illustrate how effects at the individual level can lead to effects at the language community level. 1.Winford, D. (2005) Contact-induced change: classification and processes. Diachronica, 22, 373 – 427. 2.Poplack, S., Sankoff, D. & Miller, C. (1988) The social correlates and linguistic processes of lexical borrowing and assimilation. Linguistics 26, 1. 47-104. 3.Weinrich, U. (1968) Languages in Contact. The Hauge: Mouton. 4.Giles, H., Coupland, N. & Coupland, J. (1991) Accommodation theory: Communication, context, and consequence. In: Giles, Coupland & Coupland (eds.) Contexts of accommodation: Developments in applied sociolinguistics (pp. 1–68). Cambridge University Press.