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This article examines the role of sociolinguistic expectations in linguistic convergence, using glide-weakened /aɪ/—a salient feature of Southern US English—as a test case. I present the results of two experiments utilizing a novel experimental paradigm for eliciting convergence—the wordnaming game task—in which participants read aloud (baseline) or hear (exposure) clues describing particular words and then give their guesses out loud. Participants converged toward a Southern-shifted model talker by producing more glide-weakened tokens of /aɪ/, without ever hearing the model talker produce this vowel. Participants in the control (Midland talker) condition exhibited no such response. Convergence was facilitated by both living in the South and producing less-weakened baseline /aɪ/ glides, but attitudinal and domain-general individual-differences measures did not reliably predict convergence behaviors. Results are discussed in terms of implications for the cognitive mechanisms underlying convergence behaviors and the mental representations of sociolinguistic knowledge.
sociolinguistic cognition, convergence, individual differences, experimental sociolinguistics, Southern US speech, glide-weakened /aɪ/