Phonetic Detail and Grammaticality Judgements
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis investigates predictions of an exemplar account of syntax, by testing whether manipulating socially salient phonetic detail can alter the grammaticality judgements given to morpho-syntactic constructions in New Zealand English (NZE).
Three experiments are were conducted as part of this thesis. The first tested the social saliency of different phonetic variables in NZE, and found phrase final /t/, which can be realised with or without a release, to be strongest. In the second experiment, phrase final /t/ was tested further, and manipulating the release significantly altered both the age and class ratings given to speakers. The way in which it did this reflected the patterns documented in production.
In the third experiment, participants were asked to rate the grammaticality of the same sentences. When the results of the previous experiment were included in the statistical model, an effect of the variant came out as significant. The more participants had rated a speaker as older with the released variant in the previous experiment, the less they rated the sentence as grammatical with the released variant. That is, only the most socially salient realisations were able to alter perceived grammaticality.
Overall, the results of this thesis suggest that speaker information and pho- netic detail can affect grammaticality judgements. This supports an exemplar model of syntax. Regardless of the theoretical implications of the findings however, the methodological ones are clear. If speakers and realisations of certain phonetic variables can alter grammaticality judgements, then they must be controlled for in the presentation of stimuli to participants.