Chris Montgomery at LEL Research Seminar

Posted on January 8, 2018 by


The first LEL Research Seminar of 2018 features Dr Chris Montgomery, senior lecturer at the University of Sheffield. Montgomery is an expert in perceptual dialectology, and studies the perceptions of non-linguists. In his talk, he will do exactly that, focussing on Scilly.

Evaluating S(c)illy Voices: The effects of salience, stereotypes, and co-present language variables on real-time reactions to regional speech

This paper will investigate the real-time reactions to vocal stimuli, assessing the linguistics features naïve listeners react to and their understanding of the social meaning of these features. In so doing, the paper will explore the relationship between salience, stereotypes, and co-occurring language variables in language perception.

Following previous work, I will argue that language perception is dependent upon the ability of listeners to map the linguistic cues contained in a speech signal to stereotypes (Hay, Nolan & Drager 2006; Campbell-Kibler 2008; Campbell-Kibler 2016; Levon 2014; Drager & Kirtley 2016). However, it is contended that the understanding of which language features contribute to those stereotypes, and how they do so in the specific context of talk, has been limited because of the tendency to focus on pre-selected variables and control for the context in which they occur (e.g. Labov et al. 2011).

The paper advances an account of the role of stereotypes in language perception by using a new tool for capturing, visualising, and querying listeners’ real-time reactions to voice samples. The survey instruments collects reactions to two topically distinct guises from the same speaker (taken from the Scilly Voices corpus (see Moore & Carter 2015)), both of which contained a similar number of regionally distinctive accent features. As the survey instrument includes a review function enabling listeners to provide information on why certain features were notable to them, listeners’ ability to respond to unspecified linguistic features is able to be interrogated. This ultimately enables a more nuanced account of the interaction between a range of linguistic features and their relationship to message content to be built, and allows a demonstration that both do evaluative and perceptual work.

The findings of this research have potentially important implications for those interesting in understanding the situated meaning of linguistic features, and in particular how researchers might continue to develop exemplar models of the ways in which social information is indexed to linguistic features. It is argued that no experiment can be context-free and, as a result, researchers must consider ways of modelling the effects of co-present variants on a given exemplar, not only the social indexes of specific exemplars themselves.


Campbell-Kibler, Kathryn. 2008. I’ll be the judge of that: Diversity in social perceptions of (ING). Language in Society 37(5). 637–659.

Campbell-Kibler, Kathryn. 2016. Towards a Cognitively Realistic Model of Meaningful Sociolinguistic Variation. In Anna M. Babel (ed.), Awareness and Control in Sociolinguistic Research, 123–151. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Drager, Katie & M. Joelle Kirtley. 2016. Awareness, Salience, and Stereotypes in Exemplar-Based Models of Speech Production and Perception. In Anna M. Babel (ed.), Awareness and Control in Sociolinguistic Research, 1–24. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hay, Jennifer, Aaron Nolan & Katie Drager. 2006. From Fush to Feesh: Exemplar Priming in Speech Perception. The Linguistic Review 23(3). 351–379.

Labov, William, Sharon Ash, Maya Ravindranath, Tracey Weldon, Maciej Baranowski & Naomi Nagy. 2011. Properties of the sociolinguistic monitor. Journal of Sociolinguistics 15(4). 431–463.

Levon, Erez. 2014. Categories, stereotypes, and the linguistic perception of sexuality. Language in Society 43(05).

Moore, Emma & Paul Carter. 2015. Dialect contact and distinctiveness: The social meaning of language variation in an island community. Journal of Sociolinguistics 19(1). 3–36.


The event details are as follows:

Room Booked: Sam Alex_A101
Date: Tue 30 Jan 2018
Time: 16.15 – 17.30

As usual, the talk will be concluded with a wine reception. We look forward to meeting you there!

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