Cross-linguistic perceptions of /s/ among English, French, and German Listeners

Zac Boyd, Josef Fruehwald, Lauren Hall-Lew

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This study reports the results of a cross-linguistic matched guise test examining /s/ and pitch variation in judgements of sexual orientation and non-normative masculinity among English, French, and German listeners. Listeners responded to /s/ and pitch manipulations in native and other language stimuli (English, French, German, and Estonian). All listener groups rate higher pitch guises as more gay- and effeminate-sounding than lower pitch guises. However, only English listeners hear [s+] guises as more gay- and effeminate-sounding than [s] or [s-] guises for all stimuli languages. French and German listeners do not hear [s+] guises as more gay- or effeminate-sounding in any stimuli language, despite this feature’s presence in native speech production. English listener results show evidence of indexical transfer, when indexical knowledge is applied to the perception of unknown languages. French and German listener results show how the enregistered status of /s/ variation affects perception, despite cross-linguistic similarities in production.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-191
Number of pages27
JournalLanguage Variation and Change
Issue number2
Early online date8 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • sociolinguistics
  • sociophonetics
  • phonetics
  • second language
  • perception
  • matched guise
  • cross-linguistic
  • indexicality
  • social meaning
  • sexual orientation
  • gay identity
  • English (language)
  • French language
  • German language
  • attitudes
  • language attitudes
  • linguistic variation


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  • Phonetic Variation and Self-Recorded Data

    Hall-Lew, L. & Boyd, Z., 4 Nov 2017, p. 85-95, 11 p. (University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics; vol. 23, no. 2).

    Research output: Working paper

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