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LINGUIST List 23.1407

Tue Mar 20 2012

Diss: Lang Acq/Phonetics/Psycholing: Isaacs: 'Issues and Arguments in the Measurement of Second Language Pronunciation'

Editor for this issue: Xiyan Wang <xiyanlinguistlist.org>

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Date: 18-Mar-2012
From: Talia Isaacs <talia.isaacsbristol.ac.uk>
Subject: Issues and Arguments in the Measurement of Second Language Pronunciation
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Institution: McGill University
Program: Integrated Studies in Education
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2011

Author: Talia Isaacs

Dissertation Title: Issues and Arguments in the Measurement of Second Language Pronunciation

Linguistic Field(s): Language Acquisition
                            Applied Linguistics

Dissertation Director:
Carolyn E Turner

Dissertation Abstract:

This thesis examines systematic sources of variance in raters' judgments of
second (L2) language speech, including rater cognitive and experience
variables, rating scale properties, and characteristics of the speech, in
order to better understand influences on raters' scoring decisions. The
thesis culminates in the development of an empirically-based L2
comprehensibility scale that describes, with greater precision, the quality
of speech that is characteristic at different comprehensibility levels.
Study 1 examines the effect of individual differences in raters' cognitive
abilities on their ratings of L2 speech. Thirty music majors and 30
non-music majors rated 40 L2 speech samples for comprehensibility,
accentedness, and fluency and were additionally assessed for musical
ability, phonological memory, and attention control. Results showed that
music majors assigned significantly lower ratings than non-music majors
solely for accentedness, particularly for low ability learners. However,
phonological memory and attention control did not influence their
ratings.Study 2 examines the effects of two additional sources of
variance—rating scale length and rater experience—on raters' judgments of
L2 comprehensibility, accentedness, and fluency. Twenty experienced and 20
novice raters judged 38 L2 speech samples using 5-point or 9-point
numerical rating scales. In addition, raters' perceptions of the rating
process were elicited through verbal protocols and interviews. Results
showed that experienced and novice raters achieved high consensus about the
highest and lowest scoring L2 speakers but had difficulty differentiating
between scale levels in the absence of guidance from the rating instrument.
Finally, the goal of Study 3 was to construct an L2 comprehensibility scale
rooted in raters' perspectives of influences on their judgments, and
characteristics of the L2 speech. To this end, 19 speech measures used to
analyze 40 L2 speech samples were examined in relation to 60 raters' mean
L2 comprehensibility ratings and three ESL teachers' indications of their
most salient scoring criteria. Overall, a wide range of measures
contributed to listeners' comprehensibility judgments, with vocabulary and
fluency measures distinguishing between low-level learners, grammatical and
discourse-level measures distinguishing between high-level learners, and
word stress distinguishing between all levels. Taken together, these papers
advance our understanding of raters' perspectives in L2 pronunciation

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