Hugo Quené & Rosemary Orr
Convergence of speech accents of English
Partners in conversation tend to converge in their prosody and in their speech accents, presumably in order to reduce the social distance. This has been demonstrated for L1 Dutch, English, and French. If English is used as a lingua franca (by L1 and L2 speakers), there may be larger accent differences to bridge than in an L1, while speakers might be more willing to accommodate their own accent to their partners’ accents. In a longitudinal study, we have collected speech from students at University College Utrecht, both in L1 and English, at 5 occasions, yielding almost 1100 interviews. Preliminary results of phonetic analyses of this corpus indicate that students’ accents of English do converge. However, the convergence seems to be towards “lingua franca” varieties of English, and not towards a native variety. The converged accents are indeed easier to understand (for UCU students) than unconverged accents. In this talk I will also discuss individual differences in the students’ patterns of convergence (as well as their acquisition and loss of phonetic contrasts). These findings are relevant for understanding and explaining patterns of phonetic convergence, in which speech production and speech perception are intertwined.