It’s not what you say, but how you say it: Children predict others’ social relationships based on accent

Jocelyn Dautel, Katherine Kinzler

Research output: Contribution to conferencePoster

Abstract

Children express social preferences for native speakers of their language, yet little is known about how linguistic information may serve as a marker of social categorization to guide inferences about other’s social relationships. Across six experiments, 5-6-year-old monolingual English-speaking children were presented with a target individual, and two potential friends of the target, whose language varied. In an initial experiment, children predicted that a French-accented English speaker would be friends with an individual who spoke French, rather than an individual who spoke English with an American accent. Additional experiments revealed that children predicted positive social relationships between individuals who spoke with a common accent, even if one of those individuals did not communicate with conventional semantic meaning or grammatical structures. A final set of experiments demonstrated that children attended to information about conventional semantics and grammar when predicting understanding between individuals, yet their inferences about social relationships nonetheless hinged more reliably on individuals’ shared accent. Taken together, we find a robust pattern for children’s friendship predictions based on a common accent, even if there is little to no potential for communication between individuals. Thus, accent serves as a marker of social categorization that guides individuals’ expectations about third-party social relationships.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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