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Vol. 64, No. 2-3, 2007
Issue release date: August 2007
Phonetica 2007;64:145-173
(DOI:10.1159/000107914)
Original Paper

The Influence of Ambient Speech on Adult Speech Productions through Unintentional Imitation

Delvaux V.a,b · Soquet A.b
aFonds National de la Recherche Scientifique, Bruxelles, Belgique; bUniversité de Mons-Hainaut, Mons, Belgique

Abstract

This paper deals with the influence of ambient speech on individual speech productions. A methodological framework is defined to gather the experimental data necessary to feed computer models simulating self-organisation in phonological systems. Two experiments were carried out. Experiment 1 was run on French native speakers from two regiolects of Belgium: two from Liège and two from Brussels. When exposed to the way of speaking of the other regiolect via loudspeakers, the speakers of one regiolect produced vowels that were significantly different from their typical realisations, and significantly closer to the way of speaking specific of the other regiolect. Experiment 2 achieved a replication of the results for 8 Mons speakers hearing a Liège speaker. A significant part of the imitative effect remained up to 10 min after the end of the exposure to the other regiolect productions. As a whole, the results suggest that: (i) imitation occurs automatically and unintentionally, (ii) the modified realisations leave a memory trace, in which case the mechanism may be better defined as ‘mimesis’ than as ‘imitation’. The potential effects of multiple imitative speech interactions on sound change are discussed in this paper, as well as the implications for a general theory of phonetic implementation and phonetic representation.

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