LOT Dissertation Series 144
How Friendly are the Natives?
An Evaluation of Native-speaker Judgements of Foreign-accented British and
This study is the first ever to employ a large-scale Internet survey to
investigate priorities in English pronunciation training. Well over 500
native speakers from throughout the English-speaking world, including North
America, the British Isles, Australia and New Zealand, were asked to detect
and evaluate Dutch pronunciation errors in sentences read by bilingual
actors. Through the application of up-to-date statistical procedures, these
assessments were analysed and then used to construct hierarchies of error
for pronunciation training in the most commonly taught varieties of British
and American English.
The attitudes of the various groups of native speakers towards error
detection and evaluation were found to be strikingly different.
Nevertheless, the findings indicate that almost all natives attach
considerable significance to pronunciation errors that impede
intelligibility. In those cases where there is no loss of intelligibility,
they often respond negatively to features that are socially marked in
native varieties of English. This effect of stigmatisation was found to
differ considerably, for example, between countries such as the United
States and Britain. Even non-native pronunciation errors that are very
similar to features actually attested in respondents' own accents are not
necessarily judged more leniently.
In addition to discussing the effects of linguistic background on the
judgements of native speakers, this study also considers the error
assessments of Dutch teachers and students of English, and provides a brief
overview of pronunciation training in the Netherlands.
This research will be of interest not only to phoneticians and
sociolinguists with an interest in second language acquisition, but also to
teachers and students of English pronunciation and accent varieties.