July 11, 2021

July 15, 2021, 12:30-1:30pm

Andrew Cheng, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of California, Irvine

What it Means to "Sound Asian American": Phonetic and Sociolinguistic Considerations

Abstract: The traditional perspective on "ethnolects" -- varieties of a language that are primarily spoken by racialized minority groups in a multiethnic society -- has been challenged in recent years by sociolinguists who seek an approach to race and ethnicity that is better informed by critical theory (Jaspers, 2008, inter alia). At the same time, linguists and non-linguists alike have provided some evidence that a "new" variety of English that is recognizable as "Asian American" (but not Asian L1-accented) has emerged along with the rise of Asian American identity in the past few decades (Newman and Wu, 2011, inter alia). In this talk, I will review the literature on sociophonetic perception of Asian American voices. This includes some of my own recent work, in which I show that Korean Americans are identifiable by their voices alone, but that rates of identification depend greatly on the identity (and background experience) of the listener. I connect these results to the need for more focused and sustained research into minority varieties of speech, as well as more critical analysis of the role of listener bias in the perception of language.

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