The social meaning of a merger: The evaluation of an Andalusian Spanish consonant merger (ceceo)

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Abstract

This study analyzes the social evaluations of the Andalusian Spanish ceceo merger and its split, distinción. A matched-guise experiment was created by digitally manipulating spontaneous speech from twelve Western Andalusian speakers, varying only in syllable-initial [s̪] and [θ] for <s> and <z,ci,ce>, creating ceceo and distinción guises. Based on 221 listeners from Huelva and Lepe, Spain, mixed effects linear regression models found that speakers with distinción guises were evaluated as being of higher social status, more urban, and more formal than speakers with ceceo guises. Additionally, listeners' comments referred not only to the sounds and graphemes, but also to the merger itself and its social connotations. The implications are two-fold: (i) consonant mergers may be subject to more overt social evaluation than vocalic mergers; and (ii) a merger can acquire social meaning, and this meaning in turn, may promote its split.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)481-510
Number of pages30
JournalLanguage in Society
Volume51
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 15 2022

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