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Language Attitudes Affect Perceived Intelligibility, Proficiency, and Accentedness of Non-Native Speech

Poster

Language Attitudes Affect Perceived Intelligibility, Proficiency, and Accentedness of Non-Native Speech

Abstract

Previous research (Dmitrieva et al., 2015) showed that Mandarin speakers of English modified acoustic properties of their English speech as a factor of both the interlocutor (native vs. non-native speakers of English) and their own attitudes towards Mandarin and English. The present study investigates whether these acoustic modifications are perceptible to native speakers of English. Seventy-two native English listeners rated short English speech samples from twenty-four Mandarin learners with respect to speaker’s intelligibility, proficiency, and accentedness, on a 7-point scale. The results showed that the interlocutor condition was not reflected in listeners’ ratings. However, speakers’ attitudes significantly predicted listeners’ ratings. Participants who were more positively oriented towards Mandarin than English were perceived as less intelligible, less proficient, and more accented. The results suggest that the effects of language attitudes on second language speech are salient and perceptible to native listeners.
Language Attitudes Affect Perceived Intelligibility,
Proficiency, and Accentedness of Non-Native Speech
Amy E. Hutchinson1, Joshua D. Weirick1, Suzy Ahn2, Olga Dmitrieva1
1 Purdue University
2 University of California, Los Angeles
19th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences- August 5-9, 2019 (Melbourne, Australia)
L2 learners with a more positive attitude tend to achieve higher proficiency
(Dörnyei, 2014; Gardner & Lambert, 1972; Shuy & Fasold 1973; inter alia)
A more positive attitude in the L2 helps the learner achieve target-like
pronunciation (Elliot, 1995; Huensch & Thompson, 2017; Lord, 2008; Shively,
2008)
L1 Mandarin speakers with a more positive attitude towards English made
acoustic adjustments in their English speech (Dmitrieva et al., 2015), including:
hyperarticulated vowel space
faster articulation rate
higher pitch
Participants (Raters)
70 speakers of American English (mean age 20.7, 7 male 63 female)
Materials
Stimuli: ~10 second sound clips of 24 L1 Mandarin speakers giving directions to a
confederate in English using a map (from Dmitrieva et al., 2015)
Confederates (3) in Dmitrieva et al., (2015) were a native speaker Mandarin,
a native speaker of Midwestern American English, and a native speaker of
Russian
English/Mandarin attitude ratio calculated for each participant
Independent Variables: Speaker English/Mandarin attitude ratio, interlocutor L1
(English, Mandarin, Russian) (Dmitrieva et al., 2015)
Dependent variables: Native speaker ratings of Intelligibility, accentedness, and
proficiency (Fig. 1).
Presentation: Each participant (rater) rated 24 clips of non-native speech using
three, 7-point scales (Fig. 1).
Participants rated all conditions and all Mandarin speakers, but did not rate
a single speaker in multiple conditions
Recording of Mandarin
speaker completing map-
task
Intelligibility
rating
Accentedness
rating
Proficiency rating
Figure 2: Attribute score variability across speakers
Figure 3 (below left): Average Mandarin/English attitude ratio across speakers
Figure 4 (below right): Average attribute scores by interlocutor condition
There is a clear connection between L2 attitude and success in L2 acquisition, but
it is unclear which precedes the other
Attitude towards the L2 modifies L2 speech (Dmitrieva et al., 2015) and these
acoustic modifications are perceptually salient and detectable by native listeners
A positive attitude can improve L2 pronunciation, showing the benefits of a
positive and supportive environment during the language learning process
*Since intelligibility, proficiency, and accentedness scores were highly correlated, a
global evaluation score (GES) was created by averaging the three
Figure 1 (above): Sample item and rating scales
Research Questions
1. Does the interlocutor factor (L1 background of the person the
speaker is addressing) affect judgments of Mandarin speakers’
intelligibility, accentedness, and proficiency in English?
2. Does the speakers’ language attitude affect judgments of their
intelligibility, accentedness, and proficiency?
All speakers were rated as fairly
intelligible and proficient
All speakers were perceived as
accented
Intelligibility and proficiency
were significantly correlated,
while accentedness was
negatively correlated with both
16/24 speakers indicated a more positive attitude towards Mandarin (Fig. 3)
Speakers were rated the most proficient, intelligible, and least accented when
addressing the Russian interlocutor (Fig. 4)
Speech to the Mandarin interlocutor was rated the most accented (Fig. 4)
Attitudes covariate was a significant predictor of GES (p < 0.05):
Speakers who had a more positive attitude towards English were perceived as
more intelligible, more proficient, and less accented
Figure 5: Correlation between Mandarin/English attitude ratio and GES*
STATISTICAL RESULTS
CONCLUSIONS
DESCRIPTIVE PATTERNS
METHODS
BACKGROUND
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