Does short-term phonetic accommodation lead to long-term sound change? Not directly

TitleDoes short-term phonetic accommodation lead to long-term sound change? Not directly
Publication TypePresentation
Year of Publication2019
Conference NameDag van de Fonetiek 2019
AuthorsVoeten, Cesko
PublisherNederlandse Vereniging voor Fonetische Wetenschappen
Conference LocationAmsterdam, The Netherlands

The change-by-accommodation model (‘CAM’; [1,2]) suggests that sound change is caused by phonetic accommodation ([3,4]). This is tested empirically via longitudinal experiments using three on-going sound changes in Dutch: the diphthongization of /e:,ø:,o:/ ([5,6]), the blocking of diphthongs before coda /l/ ([6,7]), and the gliding of coda /r/ to [ɹ] ([8]). These have effectively completed in the Netherlands, but have not affected Flanders. This makes it possible to perform empirical studies of the CAM via sociolinguistic migrants (‘SMs’): Flemish speakers of Dutch who migrated to the Netherlands to start their university studies.

Over the course of nine months, ten SMs and ten controls participated in three sessions of experiments focused on their production and perception of the three sound changes. The low number of participants is compensated by a high number of experimental items combined with the repeated-measures design, resulting in sufficient power. Results show robust differences between the groups, that do not convincingly diminish over time.

This is problematic for the CAM, especially because a follow-up cross-sectional experiment over multiple years’ time did find changes. Since phonetic accommodation is known to be extremely rapid ([3,4]), the result that nine months were not enough, but decades are, casts doubt on the change-by-accommodation model.

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