Foreigner-directed speech is simpler than native-directed: Evidence from social media

Aleksandrs Berdicevskis


Abstract
I test two hypotheses that play an important role in modern sociolinguistics and language evolution studies: first, that non-native production is simpler than native; second, that production addressed to non-native speakers is simpler than that addressed to natives. The second hypothesis is particularly important for theories about contact-induced simplification, since the accommodation to non-natives may explain how the simplification can spread from adult learners to the whole community. To test the hypotheses, I create a very large corpus of native and non-native written speech in four languages (English, French, Italian, Spanish), extracting data from an internet forum where native languages of the participants are known and the structure of the interactions can be inferred. The corpus data yield inconsistent evidence with respect to the first hypothesis, but largely support the second one, suggesting that foreigner-directed speech is indeed simpler than native-directed. Importantly, when testing the first hypothesis, I contrast production of different speakers, which can introduce confounds and is a likely reason for the inconsistencies. When testing the second hypothesis, the comparison is always within the production of the same speaker (but with different addressees), which makes it more reliable.
Anthology ID:
2020.nlpcss-1.18
Volume:
Proceedings of the Fourth Workshop on Natural Language Processing and Computational Social Science
Month:
November
Year:
2020
Address:
Online
Venues:
EMNLP | NLP+CSS
SIG:
Publisher:
Association for Computational Linguistics
Note:
Pages:
163–172
Language:
URL:
https://www.aclweb.org/anthology/2020.nlpcss-1.18
DOI:
10.18653/v1/2020.nlpcss-1.18
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PDF:
http://aclanthology.lst.uni-saarland.de/2020.nlpcss-1.18.pdf