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University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics

Abstract

Listeners are sensitive to the frequency at which speakers produce sociolinguistic features in utterances, and this can influence their social evaluations of those speakers. Instances of metalinguistic discourse also shows that women's voices face greater social scrutiny than men's voices. However, the ways that a speaker’s gender may modulate a listener’s sensitivity to the frequency of sociolinguistic variants remains to be explored. Using the stable, well studied sociolinguistic variable (ING) (ex. "running" versus "runnin'"), a matched-guise task was conducted to compare listeners' evaluations of male and female speakers producing varying proportions of the "non-standard" '–in' variant, investigating whether listeners evaluate men and women differently for using '–in' at the same rates of production. Findings show that speakers' greater usage of the '–in' variant faces more negative evaluations from listeners on a series of social attribute scales, but this trend did not differ between different speaker genders. We ultimately suggest that notions of binary gender may not exhibit a straight-forward effect in processes in sociolinguistic perception and evaluations. Rather, investigations of listeners' evaluations of speakers using stigmatized features may be conditioned by the ways in which individual speakers' voices uniquely package together socially indexical linguistic features in performances of their own gender identity.

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