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2013 Master's Level Graduate Research Conference

Session I - Session II - Session III

Host Family Speech: An Examination of Stylistic Variation as a Form of Linguistic Accommodation Towards the Speech of Foreign Exchange Students

The theory of linguistic accommodation was originally put forth by Howard Giles in 1973 as a response to William Labov’s “attention paid to speech” theory. While Labov claimed that stylistic variation is motivated by the amount of attention that the speaker is placing on the act of speaking, Giles suggested that the stylistic variation that Labov found in his sociolinguistic interviews was instead caused by the assimilation or harmonization of the interviewees’ speech towards that of their interlocutor (Meyeroff, 2011). This paper intends to corroborate Gile’s theory of linguistic accommodation, by examining the effect of the interlocutor on stylistic variation. To do so, the Spanish of a monolingual Dominican host family is analyzed to identify instances of stylistic variation as a form of linguistic accommodation during interactions with American foreign exchange students, who are non-native speakers of Spanish. Data for this investigation comes from home videos taken by an exchange student during their stay with the Dominican family. An analysis of the data shows that the Dominican host family does employ stylistic variation in order to accommodate the speech of their exchange students. Variation occurs principally in salient phonetic aspects of the host family’s speech, but variation also occurs sparsely in grammatical structures utilized by the host family. Stylistic variation in the speech of the host family members as a form of linguistic accommodation towards the exchange students seems to be intentional and motivated by the innate impulsion to assimilate towards one’s interlocutor.

Presenter: Cecily Corbett (SUNY - Albany) -- ccorbett@albany.edu
Topic: Linguistics & Sociology - Panel
Location: 217 Hartwell
Time: 1:45 pm (Session III)

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