Title

Metathesis of /ɹ/ and /ǝ/ as a Language Variation in American English Speech

Presenter Information

Maree Herron

Presentation Type

Presentation

Abstract

Language variation exists in all facets of human languages, and can be influenced by a number of factors, including but not limited to age, geographical location, and social class. Often, these variations can be overshadowed by an idealized language standard that prescribes how people should speak rather than how they do speak. My research project focuses specifically on the factors that make /ɹ/ and /ǝ/ metathesis more or less prevalent in spoken American English. I first became aware of the existence of this particular metathesis through observation of my own speech and how words that I pronounced differed from the dictionary pronunciation (as defined by the phonetic pronunciations listed on dictionary.com). I discovered that I pronounced over 50 words beginning with the letters pro and pre with the initial /ɹ/ and /ǝ/ metathesized. To test the prevalence of this metathesis in American English, I created three data sets each containing five different words of the above criteria. I then placed the words into sentences to mimic a more natural form of speech, and listed the lone words below the sentences. I then had 21 anonymous participants read the sentences and then the lone words below them, and I recorded if the /ɹ/ and /ǝ/ metathesis was present in the participants’ speech. I discovered that gender had no influence on the rate of metathesis, and that age also had minimal influence. Overall, participants metathesized the the words consistently in in the test sentences, indicating that this metathesis is a feature commonly found in natural speech, and should not be perceived as a pronunciation error.

Category

Social Sciences

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Apr 28th, 1:40 PM Apr 28th, 2:00 PM

Metathesis of /ɹ/ and /ǝ/ as a Language Variation in American English Speech

UC 326

Language variation exists in all facets of human languages, and can be influenced by a number of factors, including but not limited to age, geographical location, and social class. Often, these variations can be overshadowed by an idealized language standard that prescribes how people should speak rather than how they do speak. My research project focuses specifically on the factors that make /ɹ/ and /ǝ/ metathesis more or less prevalent in spoken American English. I first became aware of the existence of this particular metathesis through observation of my own speech and how words that I pronounced differed from the dictionary pronunciation (as defined by the phonetic pronunciations listed on dictionary.com). I discovered that I pronounced over 50 words beginning with the letters pro and pre with the initial /ɹ/ and /ǝ/ metathesized. To test the prevalence of this metathesis in American English, I created three data sets each containing five different words of the above criteria. I then placed the words into sentences to mimic a more natural form of speech, and listed the lone words below the sentences. I then had 21 anonymous participants read the sentences and then the lone words below them, and I recorded if the /ɹ/ and /ǝ/ metathesis was present in the participants’ speech. I discovered that gender had no influence on the rate of metathesis, and that age also had minimal influence. Overall, participants metathesized the the words consistently in in the test sentences, indicating that this metathesis is a feature commonly found in natural speech, and should not be perceived as a pronunciation error.