On Phonetic Convergence During Conversational Interaction

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Following research that found imitation in single-word shadowing, this study examines the degree to which interacting talkers increase similarity in phonetic repertoire during conversational interaction. Between-talker repetitions of the same lexical items produced in a conversational task were examined for phonetic convergence by asking a separate set of listeners to detect similarity in pronunciation across items in a perceptual task. In general, a listener judged a repeated item spoken by one talker in the task to be more similar to a sample production spoken by the talker's partner than corresponding pre- and postinteraction utterances. Both the role of a participant in the task and the sex of the pair of talkers affected the degree of convergence. These results suggest that talkers in conversational settings are susceptible to phonetic convergence, which can mark nonlinguistic functions in social discourse and can form the basis for phenomena such as accent change and dialect formation.



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