Persona-based information shapes linguistic perception: Valley Girls and California vowels

Annette D'Onofrio*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


This paper investigates the effect of persona-based information on implicit linguistic perceptions of a sociolinguistic feature - the backed trap vowel. trap-backing is associated both with macro-social region (California) and with a particular persona that inhabits this region (the Valley Girl). An eye-tracking paradigm is used to examine these associations in early, automatic stages of perception. One group of listeners was told the speaker was from California, while another group was told that the speaker had been described as a Valley Girl. Findings demonstrate that both the California information and the Valley Girl information caused listeners to expect the speaker to exhibit trap-backing. While previous studies have highlighted the influence of macro-sociological categories on linguistic perception, the present study suggests that persona-based social meanings can also serve to influence perception, supporting theories that foreground personae as social constructs crucial to interaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)241-256
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Sociolinguistics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015


  • California vowels
  • Personae
  • Sociolinguistic perception
  • Sociophonetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Philosophy
  • Linguistics and Language
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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