Professor Paul Warren
Victoria University of Wellington
In keeping with the congress theme on The Dynamics of Language, this contribution considers recent trends in psycholinguistics that remind us that language and language users are fundamentally evolving and adaptive systems. In particular, I will focus on research that demonstrates that both life-long learning and recent experience shape how we process language. Since social indexicality is an important aspect of this experience, it has been increasingly recognised that our processing systems have to be sensitive to socially stratified variation. As a consequence we have witnessed greater collaboration between psycho- and sociolinguists in the area of variation and language processing. As an example of research in this area I will present some of my own research findings in the production and perception of a particular socially-stratified form of intonation, the high-rising terminal or ‘uptalk’ found in New Zealand English and other varieties. This research demonstrates amongst other things listeners’ sensitivity in their interpretation of intonational form to social characteristics conveyed by the speaker.