#YouAreWhatYouTweet: Decoding speaker identity & fricative epithesis on French-language Twitter
Phrase-final fricative epithesis (PFFE), often indicated in informal writing with a final -(hh)h or – (c)ch(h), e.g. beaucoup_h, oui_ch, is a sociophonetic variable of Hexagonal French (=from France) in which utterance-final vowels lose their voicing and give way to intense fricative-like whistles, e.g., mais oui_hhh (Fónagy, 1989). Although readily observed in the speech of both native speakers (NS) and second-language learners (L2), PFFE’s percepts remain somewhat elusive. This study uses a matched-guise task to establish PFFE’s perceptual values among NS and L2 French speakers and determines what sociolinguistic characteristics of the listener influence these perceptions. In particular, it was found that NS perceive the variable to be a marker of both Formality and Intense Affect in the speech of users, while L2 speakers perceive the variable only to be a marker of Formality. These perception findings are then compared to a 2060-token Twitter corpus of PFFE occurrences to illustrate the ways in which the variable’s life on Twitter both corroborates previous perception findings and provides evidence of a more iconic, more structurally permissive life on Twitter, conditioned by the creative digital vernacular writing style popular to the medium.