Canadians in Alabama: A perceptual study of dialect acquisition in adults

Academic Article


  • Anecdotal evidence suggests that adults who move from one dialect area to another begin to acquire some of the speech characteristics of the second dialect (or "D2"). We put this observation to an empirical test in the present study by examining the speech of Canadians who have moved to Birmingham, Alabama. Speech samples produced by these people, as well as by native Alabamans and Canadians who had not emigrated were rated by two groups of listeners. This form of evaluation allowed us to determine whether dialect acquisition, if any, was perceptible. The fact that listeners from both Canada and Alabama reliably rated the speech of Canadians who had moved to Alabama as exhibiting an intermediate degree of "American accent" indicates that adults can indeed acquire the phonetic aspects of a D2 to the extent that listeners from both the first dialect and D2 areas can distinguish them from other native speakers of either dialect. A follow-up analysis allowed us to pinpoint some specific phonetic properties of the migrant group's speech that may have played a role in the listeners' judgments. In several respects these findings parallel the results of studies of second-language phonetic learning in adults. © 1999 Academic Press.
  • Authors

    Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Munro MJ; Derwing TM; Flege JE
  • Start Page

  • 385
  • End Page

  • 403
  • Volume

  • 27
  • Issue

  • 4