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LINGUIST List 23.4047

Mon Oct 01 2012

Diss: Applied Ling/ Language Acq/ Phonetics/ Phonology/ Spanish: Schoonmaker-Gates: 'Perception of foreign accent...'

Editor for this issue: Lili Xia <lxialinguistlist.org>

Date: 01-Oct-2012
From: Elena Schoonmaker-Gates <egates2elon.edu>
Subject: Perception of foreign accent in Spanish by native and nonnative listeners: Investigating the role of VOT and speech rate
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Institution: Indiana University Bloomington
Program: Hispanic Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2012

Author: Elena Schoonmaker-Gates

Dissertation Title: Perception of foreign accent in Spanish by native and nonnative listeners: Investigating the role of VOT and speech rate

Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
                            Language Acquisition

Subject Language(s): Spanish (spa)

Dissertation Director:
Kimberly L Geeslin
Isabelle Darcy
Manuel Díaz-Campos
Erik W Willis

Dissertation Abstract:

Previous research on the perception of foreign accent has focused on
the ratings of native and near-native listeners and few studies have
explored the perception of degree of foreign accent by nonnative
listeners, despite the fact that it could shed light on what language
learners perceive as foreign-accented and potentially tell us about their
developing system. The present dissertation aims to investigate the
perception of degree of foreign accent in Spanish by both native and
nonnative listeners, exploring the effects of various listener-specific
characteristics, including proficiency, on listeners' perception. This
thesis also explores the role of VOT and speech rate in nonnative
listeners' perception of foreign accent in Spanish, two cues that have
been found to influence native listeners' perception of foreign-accented
English in previous studies.

In order to accomplish these goals the read speech of 2 native and 2
nonnative Spanish speakers, in addition to 11 distracter speakers, was
recorded and Praat's duration tool was used to create VOT and rate-
modified versions of the read sentences. A total of 26 native speakers
and 140 nonnative learners of Spanish heard and rated 210 modified
and unmodified utterances on a 9-point scale of degree of foreign
accent. The statistical analyses revealed significant differences
between native and nonnative listeners' ratings of unmodified speech.
In the analyses that compared listener ratings of modified and
unmodified utterances, both sets of listeners rated speech as more
accented when it had longer (less native-like) VOTs and when it was
slower. Conversely, listeners also rated nonnative speech as less
foreign-accented when it was reproduced with shorter VOTs and at a
faster rate. A number of listener-specific factors including proficiency,
course enrollment, pronunciation training, comprehension, and native
dialect exposure were also found to be significant predictors of
listeners' foreign accent perception. The results show that both
linguistic and listener characteristics affect the perception of foreign
accent by native and nonnative listeners of Spanish, and that contrary
to previous findings these two listener groups do not necessarily
perceive degree of foreign accent the same.

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