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Academic Paper


Title: Operationalising Salience: Definite Article Reduction in the North of England
Author: Péter Rácz
Institution: Universität Freiburg
Linguistic Field: Sociolinguistics
Subject Language: English
Abstract: 'Definite article reduction (DAR) is a dialectal variable confined to the North of England. In DAR dialects, the standard article alternates with a reduced one, which is mostly realised as a glottal stop and sometimes as a voiceless fricative before vowels. DAR is a salient sociolinguistic marker in the sense of Labov (1972) and Trudgill (1986). This article argues that its salience is derived from its status as a good boundary marker that listeners can utilise in order to segment the speech stream.
Salience is the property of a variable which makes it cognitively or perceptually prominent both for speakers of the dialect and for speakers of other dialects. DAR is a salient marker inasmuch as it shows variation and style shifting, can be an identity marker, and has long been recognised by layperson and linguist alike as a typical feature of Northern speech.
It will be argued that DAR is salient since it is a good word-boundary marker. The reduced article constitutes domains of low transitional probability, which listeners exploit to segment the speech signal. It has been recognised that word segmentation plays a major role in speech processing and that listeners use statistical inferences (besides other kinds of information) to locate word boundaries. The conclusion is that the salience of DAR can be derived from its distributions, as these distributions result in the variable's perceptual prominence.

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This article appears IN English Language and Linguistics Vol. 16, Issue 1, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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