The Sociophonetics of /r/ in Bozen: Modelling Linguistic and Social Variation

Lorenzo Spreafico, Alessandro Vietti


How do speakers reconstruct the boundaries of an allophonic system? In our paper, we address this question and examine how speakers organize into consistent groups of allophones the array of /r/-variants that are used in South-Tyrol Italian (STI). In addition, we discuss that this process of grouping is based on two intertwining sources of variation: the linguistic source and the socio-indexical source. We argue that the indexical dimension is not disconnected from the linguistic one, but it contributes in an essential way to its structuring.

Our investigation is based on a sample of two thousand tokens of /r/. These occurrences are extracted from a corpus that includes the (semi)spontaneous productions of 14 Italian-German bilingual speakers. The analysis concerns the identification of possible relationships among the allophones with respect to (a) distributional, (b) stylistic and (c) biographical factors. Data are analyzed using a multivariate exploratory technique, namely the multiple correspondence analysis approach. The results clearly show how the aggregation of indexical and linguistic factors determines the emergence of two different allophonic subsystems, that is the Italian of Italian-dominant speakers (STI-i) and the Italian of German-dominant speakers (STI-d).

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