Department of Linguistics
University of Pennsylvania
Co-occurrence, extension, and social salience: The emergence of indexicality in an artificial language
We investigated the emergence of sociolinguistic indexicality using an artificial-language-learning paradigm. Sociolinguistic indexicality involves the association of linguistic variants with nonlinguistic social or contextual features. Any linguistic variant can acquire “constellations” of such indexical meanings, though they also exhibit an ordering, with first-order indices associated with particular speaker groups and higher-order indices targeting stereotypical attributes of those speakers. Much natural-language research has been conducted on this phenomenon, but little experimental work has focused on how indexicality emerges. Here, we present three miniature artificial-language experiments designed to break ground on this question. Results show ready formation of first-order indexicality based on co-occurrence alone, with higher-order indexicality emerging as a result of extension to new speaker groups, modulated by the perceived practical importance of the indexed social feature.