The interaction between phonological and lexical variation in word recall in African American English

AbstractPhonological characteristics of a voice, such as th-stopping (pronouncing them as “dem”) associated with African American English (AAE), provide indexical sociolinguistic information about the speaker. Word usage also signals this social dialect, i.e. usage of crib to mean house. The current study examines the effect of these sociolinguistic characteristics on word recall, as well as the interaction between the phonological and the lexical levels of variation. In a modified word recognition task, listeners displayed more accurate veridical word recall of AAE lexical items and voices. Furthermore, there was an interaction between phonological and lexical variation: listeners were even more accurate at recognizing AAE-specific lexical items heard in an AAE voice. This study adds to a growing body of work finding that sociolinguistic information influences word memory.

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