Using IAT to Understand the Relationship between Variant Usage Patterns and Social Meaning
Hilton, Nanna H. × Rosseel, Laura Smidt, Eva M. Nota, Amber Van der Meulen, Sophie Coler, Matt #
Sociolinguistics Symposium edition:21 location:Murcia date:15-18 June 2016
This study employs the Implicit Association Task (IAT) to understand the relationship between the changing social meaning of a linguistic variant, and the usage patterns of the variant within a speech community. The IAT measures the strength of association between a binary social construct, here ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’, and two variants of a sociolinguistic variable, here [r] and [ɻ] to understand whether the association between females and a language change in progress weakens as the change reaches near-completion.
One of the most striking changes in progress in Dutch in recent decades has been the innovation and spread of variant [ɻ], the approximant bunched realisation of coda /r/, popularly referred to as a ‘Gooise r’. In a large-scale study Sebregts (2014) concludes that factors age, region as well as gender predict the use of the variant, with female speakers using the highest proportion of the [ɻ]. This finding supports those of previous studies who also show that the sound change is led by young female speakers (Stroop 1998, van Bezooijen 2005).
Whilst [ɻ] has diffused to many peripheral areas of the Netherlands, Koppers & van Bezooijen, 2008 indicate that the sound change in coda environment is yet in its initial stages in areas where speakers are proficient in a regional language such as Limburgish and Frisian alongside Dutch. In our study we hypothesise, from an exemplar theory perspective, that the strength of association with a female gender is stronger in communities in which the variant is still on the rise, than in communities in which the language change is completed and the variant is used categorically by both genders.
Our study compares results from a production study with 30 informants born and raised in Friesland to results by 20 informants from urban areas in which the sound change to [ɻ] ought to be completed, such as ‘het Gooi’ and urban areas in the North and West of the country. As predicted, results show the sound change is not complete in the Dutch of young Frisian speakers, but is especially used by young female speakers. In the 20 urban informants the variant is used near-categorically by all younger speakers, without a significant gender difference in usage.
Whilst the analyses of the IAT data is currently ongoing, preliminary results indicate there could be a relationship between 1) the strength of association between variant [ɻ] and the social construct gender, and 2) the usage patterns of [ɻ] in the speech community the informants hail from. This study furthers sociolinguistic theory by informing us of the process of indexical ordering of linguistic variants, or the relationship between language use on the one hand and the development of social meaning on the other.