14th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS-14)

San Francisco, CA, USA
August 1-7, 1999


Tracking the Emergence of Sociophonetic Variation

Paul Foulkes (1), Gerry Docherty (2), Dominic Watt (1)

(1) University of Leeds, UK; (2) University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

A previous study in Newcastle revealed patterns of variation and change in consonants and vowels correlating with sociolinguistic, phonological and lexical factors. This paper describes an investigation of the speech of children aged 2;0 to 4;0 in the same community, which aims to understand how variant patterns come to be acquired. We focus on four children's productions of (t), a particularly complex variable in adult speech. The children demonstrate a sophisticated mastery of adult patterns, producing different variants in appropriate phonological contexts. The acoustic qualities of the allophones resemble those of adults, but both boys and girls adhere closely to the patterns of local women. This suggests that at this stage of development they are most influenced by the phonological/phonetic patterns of their mothers. We conclude that it is problematic to view acquisition of language-specific phonological units separate from the accent-specific variation which is important to construct of sociolinguistic identity.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Foulkes, Paul / Docherty, Gerry / Watt, Dominic (1999): "Tracking the emergence of sociophonetic variation", In ICPhS-14, 1625-1628.