Sociophonetic knowledge is the ability that speakers have of adapting their pronunciation to the situation in communicative interaction. This knowledge is displayed in the use of the different modes of pronunciation called styles. It is widely assumed that native speakers of a language control the stylistic range of their language. This assumption is contradicted by the fact that variationist statistics for groups of speakers normally show the presence in formal situations of allophones associated with informality. For instance, many educated speakers of Puerto Rican Spanish (PRS) show lateralization of the flap phoneme (a highly stigmatized feature) when discussing formal topics. Assuming a constraint-based phonology and constraint ranking, lateralization can be seen as the outcome of an 'all coronal liquids must be lateral' constraint—Cor-Lat—being ranked over Faith (requiring that flap phonemes be pronounced as flaps). However, since lateralization is variable, the faithful flap allophone is the outcome of Faith being ranked over Cor-Lat. Therefore, PRS speakers who lateralize variably show rank switching (a phenomenon analogous to syntactic code switching among bilinguals), which can be interpreted as switching between sub-phonologies coexisting in the same mental phonology. Since there are educated PRS speakers who do not lateralize, the degree of control over the more conservative sub-phonology may be a matter of individual aptitude.
Selected Proceedings of the Second Workshop on Spanish Sociolinguistics
edited by Lotfi Sayahi and Maurice Westmoreland
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