Prosodic rhythm, cultural background, and interaction in adolescent urban vernaculars in Paris: Case studies and comparisons
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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This paper presents the results of a corpus study of prosodic rhythm in the urban vernaculars of twenty-four female and male adolescents featured in the MPF corpus (Gardner-Chloros et al. 2011). Using canonical rhythm metrics, among them the normalized Pairwise Variability Index (nPVI), we show that there is no clear effect of gender and only a small effect of cultural background on the variability of adjacent vocalic and consonantal duration intervals, typically correlated with more or less syllable-timed rhythm. However, female and male teens with multicultural background who clearly dominated their conversational exchanges with their peers and also used multiple phonetic features attributed to adolescent urban-vernaculars in French tended to show more variability in interval durations, pointing to more stress-timed rhythm. We discuss these findings in comparison with other urban contact varieties in Europe and North America. We speculate that rather than the leveling of phonological contrasts, as in London English, or societal pressures to conform to monolingual norms, as in French spoken in minority contexts in Ontario, Canada, rhythm-type differences in the present corpus are tied to speakers’ allophonic repertoires and best thought of as elements of interactional styles.