28 Oct 2003
Paul Warren (Victoria University of Wellington, NZ)
We have fears to suit every traveller -- effects of sound change on word recognition In this talk I will present data from a collaborative project being carried out in Wellington and Christchurch that looks at the consequences for word recognition of a change-in-progress in the pronunciation of New Zealand English. The change is the on-going merger towards NEAR of the front-centering NEAR and SQUARE diphthongs. Our production data confirms that the merger is very advanced for young New Zealanders, though a comparison of data from the two centres shows a more complete merger for the Wellington group. The Christchurch group shows more variability in their realisations of the SQUARE vowel, but this variability is correlated with the same participants^? scores in an identification task for minimal pair words with these diphthongs. The Wellington group fails to distinguish the two vowels in production but scores extremely well in the identification task. Response times from this same group in an associative priming task indicates an asymmetry in lexical access processes that mirrors the asymmetry in the progress of the merger. Words with a NEAR vowel (^?cheer^?) prime associates of words with the SQUARE vowel (^?sit^? as an associate of ^?chair^?) as well as those of words with the NEAR vowel (^?shout^?), while words with a SQUARE vowel only prime their own associates (^?chair^? primes ^?sit^? but not ^?shout^?). I will discuss the implications of our sets of findings for issues in spoken word recognition, and outline some of the further questions raised in our research project.