Published online by Cambridge University Press: 22 October 2018
This paper explores the relation between controlled and automatic perceptions of a sociolinguistic variable that yields no metalinguistic commentary—a marker (Labov, 1972). Two experiments examine links between the backed trap vowel and its social meanings. The first, a matched guise task, measures social evaluations of the feature in a relatively controlled, introspective task. In the second, two measures are used that access different points in online processing and different degrees of listener control: (a) lexical categorization of an ambiguous stimulus, measured by a mouse click, and (b) automatic, early responses to this ambiguous stimulus, measured by eye movements. While listeners perceptually link trap-backing with social information in all three measures, specific social effects differ across the measures. Findings illustrate that the task and time course of a response influence how listeners link a linguistic marker with social information, even when this sociolinguistic knowledge is below the level of conscious awareness.
I am grateful to Penny Eckert and Teresa Pratt for feedback on this work, as well as to Rob Podesva and Meghan Sumner for comments on the design and analyses of the eye-tracking study included here. I am also grateful to Kevin McGowan for lending his voice and to Ed King for advice in the eye-tracking setup and analysis. Audiences at New Ways of Analyzing Variation 2014 in Chicago, Linguistic Society of America 2015 in Portland, Stanford University's Sociolunch, and Northwestern University's Sound Lab also provided valuable feedback on earlier stages of this work. I would also like to thank five anonymous reviewers for comments and suggestions that very much improved this article.