Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Sociophonetic Accommodation as a Function of Interlocutor Target Language Competence: The Case of New York Dominican Spanish
by Corbett, Cecily, Ph.D., State University of New York at Albany, 2017, 105; 10274751
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation contributes to the variationist understanding of the process of phonetic accommodation through the analysis of syllable-final consonant weakening in the speech of native speakers of New York Dominican Spanish (NYDS) during their interactions with second language learners of Spanish. The principal objective is to examine the inner workings of the accommodation phenomenon by using Dominican Spanish as a medium. The data analyzed in this dissertation come from conversations between the informants—native speakers of NYDS—and four different interlocutors, one of whom is a fellow native speaker of NYDS and three who are second-language learners of Spanish with varying degrees of Spanish-language competence. Not only does this dissertation help to fill a large gap in the current research regarding the phenomenon of accommodation as it happens in Spanish by analyzing natural speech in dyadic conversations, but it will also track the accommodative process as it happens in real time by taking measurements from various time points during such conversations.

The informants in this study are bilingual first- and second-generation Dominicans currently living in New York, and their interlocutors are one fellow native speaker of NYDS and three second-language learners of Spanish. The L2 Spanish-speaking interlocutors are divided into three categories based on their proficiency in Spanish: Intermediate interlocutors (those who have taken two years of university-level Spanish), Advanced interlocutors (those who have declared Spanish as a major, have studied abroad in a Spanish-speaking country, and have taken four to five years of university-level Spanish) and Superior interlocutors (those who hold advanced degrees in Spanish and teach Spanish classes at the university level). Data are collected through a series of interview-based conversations between each informant and their four interlocutors. Each conversation is divided into three sections and a maximum of 350 contexts in which variation could occur in the articulation of syllable-final consonants /s/, /l/, /r/ and /n/ are extracted from each segment of each recorded conversation. The articulation of each token is impressionistically coded as either weakening or retention based on a series of auditory and acoustic cues. Once coded, the data are input into statistical analysis software for descriptive statistical analyses.

The results from this dissertation study show that during interactions with the most- and least-proficient speakers of Spanish, NYDS speakers nearly exclusively retain syllable-final consonants, but the same speakers frequently weaken final consonants during interactions with fellow NYDS speakers and with mid-proficient nonnative interlocutors. The principal contribution that this dissertation makes to the field of language study is that speakers in fact do meter their use of highly salient, emblematic speech features to navigate social relationships and index their belonging to a given group, both with native and nonnative speakers of the language variety in question. In the general study of language varieties in contact, studies such as these that quantify accommodation in real-time conversations are paramount for furthering the discussion of contact phenomena, such as dialect levelling and cross-dialectal convergence.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Sayahi, Lotfi
Commitee: Bickmore, Lee, Westmoreland, Maurice
School: State University of New York at Albany
Department: Spanish
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 78/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Sociolinguistics, Language
Keywords: Accommodation theory, New york dominican spanish, Target language comptence
Publication Number: 10274751
ISBN: 978-1-369-77594-5
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