The effect of varying intercepts on findings in sociophonetic data

Some observations from Caleño Spanish


  • Michael S. Gradoville Arizona State University
  • Earl K. Brown Kansas State University
  • Richard J. File-Muriel University of New Mexico



mixed-effects models, varying intercepts, sociophonetics, Spanish /s/, Colombian Spanish


Mixed-effects models have been advocated to account for the hierarchical nature of most data used in variationist studies. This study uses a corpus of eight speakers of Spanish spoken in Cali, Colombia to test the effect of two varying intercepts, one for speaker and one for word, on the fixed effects obtained for three dependent variables relevant for the study of variable s-realization. Although the inclusion of varying intercepts generally does not affect the sign of the fixed effects, results show that significance of a number of fixed effects is greatly affected by the varying intercepts, especially the word varying intercept, on which many of the fixed effects depend. The speaker varying intercept, on the other hand, only affected the significance of fixed effects whose p-value was already near the threshold of 0.05.

Author Biographies

  • Michael S. Gradoville, Arizona State University

    Michael Gradoville is a Lecturer in the School of International Letters and Cultures at Arizona State University, where he teaches Spanish. His research, focused on varieties of Spanish and Portuguese, includes topics of language variation, usagebased linguistic theory, sociophonetics, research methodology, and frequency effects. Much of his recent research has focused on different facets of the form variation of para in both Spanish and Portuguese. His recent work has appeared in Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory and Sociolinguistic Studies. Results of his studies have also appeared in edited volumes and refereed conference proceedings.

  • Earl K. Brown, Kansas State University

    Earl K. Brown received a PhD in Hispanic Linguistics in 2008 at the University of New Mexico. He currently works as an Associate Professor of Spanish (Linguistics) at Kansas State University. His research centers on language variation in Spanish, especially its sound system, and often utilizes corpus linguistics techniques. One recent publication is: Brown, Earl K. In press. ‘On the utility of combining production data and perceptual data to investigate regional linguistic variation: The case of Spanish experiential gustar “to like, to please” on Twitter and in an online survey.’ Journal of Linguistic Geography.

  • Richard J. File-Muriel, University of New Mexico

    Richard J. File-Muriel is an Associate Professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of New Mexico. He holds a PhD and MA in Hispanic Linguistics from Indiana University, a BA in Spanish from Illinois State University, and an AA from Heartland Community College. His research focuses on how frequency of use impacts the production and perception of language, with a focus on sound patterns.


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How to Cite

Gradoville, M. S., Brown, E. K., & File-Muriel, R. J. (2016). The effect of varying intercepts on findings in sociophonetic data: Some observations from Caleño Spanish. Journal of Research Design and Statistics in Linguistics and Communication Science, 2(2), 105-130.