Keynote talks

Understanding the role of sociophonetic variation in L2 phonology

Ellen Simon, Ghent University

The aim of this talk is to present a state of the art of research on the role of phonetic variation in the acquisition of a second language (L2) speech system. As such, it is situated at the cross-section between phonetics, phonology, second language acquisition and sociolinguistics. It addresses two main questions: How do second language learners acquire L2 phonological representations in the face of variation, and how do they acquire phonetic variation in an L2? Drawing on empirical studies on the acquisition of L2 speech sounds, I will discuss to what extent laboratory L2 studies can shed light on fundamental issues in L2 phonological theory. Finally, methodological opportunities and theoretical challenges in the field of L2 sociophonetics will discussed in light of new avenues for future research in this area.


From paradox to paradigm: The role of the experimenter in uncovering children’s language attitudes

Thomas St. Pierre, Utrecht University

Sociolinguists have long been aware that the identity of an interviewer can influence the behavior of an interviewee. Conversely, in experimental work in Psychology, researchers rarely consider how the identity of the experimenter might influence participants’ behavior. Rather than mitigate the influence of observer (as sociolinguists do), or ignore it altogether (as psychologists do), I will discuss how systematically investigating the influence of experimenter identity—including the way they speak—can provide new insights into children’s developing social cognition and sociolinguistic competence.


Real-time attention to linguistic features

Chris Montgomery, University of Sheffield

This talk will discuss the need to understand how linguistic features play a role in how speakers are perceived. It will argue that bottom-up approaches to this question can be effective for developing this understanding.

I will review approaches that permit exploration of real-time reactions to speakers, and assess their ability to tie reactions data to instances of linguistic features. Understanding the link between features and their potential meanings is an important goal of sociolinguistic research. Although we know that manipulating short and controlled stimuli by splicing in particular variants can demonstrate the importance of the features in question (see Pharao et al. 2014; Pharao & Maegaard 2017), it is not clear if respondents notice the features (and if it matters if they do/do not), or what the effect of these features might be in longer stretches of talk. It is also unclear if features chosen for perception studies by linguists on the basis of production data, are always those that might be used by non-linguists to make some sort of judgement about speakers. For example, Labov et al.’s (2011) study examining the perception of (ING) in the USA appeared to produce robust patterns, but Levon & Fox’s (2014) replication in the UK did not.

Rather than selecting features on the basis of production studies, or on what a researcher thinks should have an effect, I will argue in this talk for a maximally open bottom-up approach to the study of the perception of linguistic features. Such an approach adopts the tenets of perceptual dialectology (Montgomery 2022) and places respondents at the centre of the research, allowing features of interest to emerge. I will discuss the benefits of slider-based methods (e.g. Watson & Clark 2013; Watson & Clark 2015; Levon, Sharma & Ye 2022) for accessing real-time evaluation, whilst also pointing out, after Austen & Campbell-Kibler (2022), that these methods are less suitable for precisely locating the features that drive evaluations.

The remainder of my talk will focus on data collected using an approach that seeks to capture discrete points of listener attention in real time, and uses a listener review system to add certainty to this record of attention (Montgomery & Moore 2018; Moore & Montgomery 2018). In three data analyses, I will discuss the ways in which the topic of talk can condition listener attention to features, the interaction between speaker evaluation and feature attention, and the features that listeners use when trying to geographically locate a speaker (Montgomery, Vriesendorp & Walker 2023).

The talk hopes to demonstrate why measuring real-time attention is important for our understanding of speaker perceptions, linguistic features, and socio-indexical meaning.



Austen, Martha & Kathryn Campbell-Kibler. 2022. Real-time speaker evaluation: How useful is it, and what does it measure? Language 98(2). e108–e130.

Labov, William, Sharon Ash, Maya Ravindranath, Tracey Weldon, Maciej Baranowski & Naomi Nagy. 2011. Properties of the sociolinguistic monitor. Journal of Sociolinguistics 15(4). 431–463.

Levon, Erez & Sue Fox. 2014. Social Salience and the Sociolinguistic Monitor: A Case Study of ING and TH-fronting in Britain. Journal of English Linguistics 42(3). 185–217.

Levon, Erez, Devyani Sharma & Yang Ye. 2022. Dynamic sociolinguistic processing: Real-time changes in judgments of speaker competence. Language. Linguistic Society of America 98(4). 749–774.

Montgomery, Chris. 2022. Perceptual dialectology. In Ruth Kircher & Lena Zipp (eds.), Research Methods in Language Attitudes, 160–181. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Montgomery, Chris & Emma Moore. 2018. Evaluating S(c)illy Voices: The effects of salience, stereotypes, and co-present language variables on real-time reactions to regional speech. Language 94(3). 629–661.

Montgomery, Chris, Hielke Vriesendorp & Gareth Walker. 2023. How good are people at recognising Northern English accents? Poster presentation at UKLVC14, University of Edinburgh.

Moore, Emma & Chris Montgomery. 2018. The dialect of the Isles of Scilly: Exploring the relationship between language production and language perception in a Southern insular variety. In Laura Wright (ed.), Southern English Varieties Then and Now, 39–73. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Pharao, Nicolai & Marie Maegaard. 2017. On the influence of coronal sibilants and stops on the perception of social meanings in Copenhagen Danish. Linguistics 55(5).

Pharao, Nicolai, Marie Maegaard, Janus Spindler Møller & Tore Kristiansen. 2014. Indexical meanings of [s+] among Copenhagen youth: Social perception of a phonetic variant in different prosodic contexts. Language in Society 43(01). 1–31.

Watson, Kevin & Lynn Clark. 2013. How salient is the NURSE~SQUARE merger? English Language and Linguistics 17(02). 297–323. https://10.1017/S136067431300004X.

Watson, Kevin & Lynn Clark. 2015. Exploring listeners’ real-time reactions to regional accents. Language Awareness 24(1). 38–59.