Sentence Durations and Accentedness Judgments
Z.S. Bond, Verna Stockmat, Dace Markus
Ohio University, University of Latvia
• Major (1987) found that native speakers could distinguish Brazilian
Talkers in a second language can frequently be identified as FIGURE 1
Portuguese accented English from American English using Both Latvian and Russian listeners
speaking with a foreign accent. It is not clear to what degree a pronunciations of two contrasting vowels, // and /ae/. who knew the target language could
foreign accent represents specific deviations from a target identify talkers as native or non-native
language vs. more general characteristics. We examined the Native listeners employ multiple sources of information, from paralinguistic speakers with a high degree of
identifications of native and non-native talkers by listeners with to phonetic, in making foreign accent judgments. accuracy.
various amount of knowledge of the target language. Native and American listeners identified accurately
non-native speakers of Latvian provided materials. All the non- • Cunningham-Andersson and Engstrand (1989) found that the more native speakers and Russians who
segmental deviations in a passage, the more likely listeners are to indicated that their proficiency in
native talkers spoke Russian as their first language and were
identify the speech as accented. Latvian was low. They failed to identify
long-term residents of Latvia. A listening test, containing • Magen (1989) found that listeners were sensitive to a variety of relatively high proficiency Russian
sentences excerpted from a short recorded passage, was presented segmental and suprasegmental properties such as syllable structure, talkers.
to three groups of listeners: native speakers of Latvian, Russians vowel and consonant quality, and stress placement.
for whom Latvian was a second language, and Americans with no • Munro (1995) reports that listeners were able to identify foreign- FIGURE 2
knowledge of either of the two languages. The listeners were accented speech even without clear information about segmentals. Latvian listeners gave native Latvians
asked to judge whether each utterance was produced by a native • Munro and Derwing (2001) found that listeners could make reliable the highest evaluations and
judgments of accentedness based on speaking rate. distinguished between low-proficiency
or non-native talker. The Latvians identified the non-native and high-proficiency Russian talkers.
talkers very accurately, 88%. The Russians were somewhat less
accurate, 83%. The American listeners were least accurate, but Russian listeners gave high
evaluations to Russians and relatively
still identified the non-native talkers at above chance levels, 62%. low evaluations to Latvians.
Sentence durations correlated METHOD
• Sentences read by ten ethnic Russian talkers and by ten native
Latvians. Russian talkers represented different levels of proficiency.
Fluency provides a basis of judgment for both native and non-native listeners.
Talkers were both males and females, ranging in age from retirees to
Our objective was to vary listener knowledge of the target language in order
high school students.
to obtain an assessment of language-specific vs. universal indicators of Phonological knowledge is available only to speakers of a language.
• Two sentences for each talker. The forty sentences were randomized
on a test recording; practice items were included.
The Russians’ imperfect phonological knowledge may have lead to divergent
Latvian was the target second language; listeners evaluated speech samples evaluations.
produced either by native speakers or by ethnic Russians for whom Latvian PROCEDURE
is a second language.
• Thirty-one monolingual Americans, students at Ohio University
evaluated each speech sample as produced by a native or non-native REFERENCES
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• Scovel (1995) reports greater than 95% accuracy in distinguishing • Twelve ethnic Russians and 28 Latvians, long-term residents of Riga. Language Acquisition 9 (1987) 63-82.
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• Flege (1984) found that listeners were able to recognize accented Munro, Murray J. and Tracey M. Derwing, Modeling perceptions of the accentedness and comprehensibility
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spoken samples of their native language within 30 ms, basing evaluated speech samples on a 7-point scale of L2 speech: The role of speaking rate, Studies in Second Language Acquisition 23 (2001) 451-468.
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Research for this project was supported by a grant from the International Research & Exchanges Board, with funds provided by the US Department of State (Title VII).