Roadrunners and Eagles
Languages of publication
Our previous research on perception of gated casual English by university students suggests that ceteris paribus, Polish students are much more accurate than Greeks. A recent pilot study of casually-spoken Polish leads us to the conclusion that many shortcuts found in English are also common in Polish, so that similar perceptual strategies can be used in both languages, though differing in detail. Based on these preliminary results, it seems likely that perceptual strategies across languages tend towards the “eagle” approach - where a birds-eye view of the acoustic terrain without too much emphasis on detail is found - or the “roadrunner” approach, where phonetic detail is followed closely. In the former case, perceivers adjust easily to alternation caused by casual speech phonology while in the latter, perceivers expect little variation and possibly even find it confusing. Native speakers of Greek are “roadrunners”, since there is little phonological reduction in their language there is little difference, for example, between stressed and unstressed syllables. We suggest that native speakers of Polish join English speakers as “eagles”, which gives them a natural perceptual advantage in English. There is a conceptual similarity between this idea and that of the stress- or syllable-timed language, and we hypothesise that as in this case, there is a cline rather than a sharp division between eagles and roadrunners. As usual, more research is called for.
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