Ben Munson, University of Minnesota

Friday, November 2nd, 4pm, Stevenson Fireside Lounge

Perceived gender and fricative identification

The acoustic form of speech sounds vary systematically across different social groups.  One of the most significant and influential findings in speech perception research in the last 20 years is that individuals appear to use their knowledge of socially meaningful phonetic variation when identifying phonemes.  This talk focuses on a series of experiments that attempt to understand whether this process of talker normalization relies on knowledge of socially stratified variation accrued across a lifetime of language use, or social stereotypes about the way that different groups (women vs. men, gay vs. straight) talk.  Two conclusions emerge from these studies. First, it is exceptionally difficult to disentangle real-world knowledge from knowledge of stereotypes.  Second, insomuch as we can tease these apart, we find evidence that these effects seem to be driven by stereotypes rather than by real-world experience.