Recency effects in spoken New Zealand English

Project Leader:

  • Lynn Clark NZILBB and Linguistics Department, UC

Past Post-Doctoral Fellow

  • Dan Villarreal (Dan is now at the University of Pittsburgh)

Royal Society of New Zealand - Marsden Fund

  • $300,000
  • March 2014 - December 2017

When we talk, we have a strong tendency to repeat the same grammatical structures that we have recently produced or heard. This phenomenon is known as ‘recency’, ‘persistence’, ‘repetition’ and ‘priming’, and it shows that where variation exists in language, an alternative form, once used, persists in working memory and has a greater chance of reuse next time. This finding is very important because it tells us more about the cognitive processes operating on language. It also sheds light on aspects of how languages vary and change. However, most previous research in this area has focused only on grammatical variation. This project examines the role of recency in pronunciation. I explore accent variation in two large spoken collections of New Zealand English – one of monologues and one of conversations. Specifically, I ask: can recency effects help explain patterns of pronunciation variation and change in speech? This work will shed light on the nature of speech production, sound change, and speech in interaction.