Foreign Accent and L2 Speech Rhythm of English a pilot study based on metric and prosodic parameters

Leônidas J. Silva Jr., Plínio A. Barbosa


This research is under development and it aims to carry out a comparative study between L1-L2 English (American and Brazilian speakers respectively) speech rhythm, from the some of the classical rhythm metrics and prosodic-acoustic parameters measured during production, perception and factor discrimination, and then project which classes of parameters (metrics and prosodic-acoustic) best model foreign accent degree of English. As for the Methods, a group of L1 (four Americans) and L2 (ten Brazilians) speakers read a phonetically-adapted version of the Aesop’s fable “The Lion and the Mouse”. For the acoustic analysis, phonetic data were segmented and labeled into six different units; vowels, consonants, pauses, (phonetic) syllables, sentences and higher units. For the perceptual analysis, ten American raters listened to chunks of L1-L2 English and scored through a 7-point Likert scale the speakers’ foreign accent degree (the higher the score, the higher foreign accent degree was). For the statistical analysis, we ran one-way ANCOVAs, cross-setting the classes of parameters, and for the perceptual scores. We also ran discriminant analysis statistics to check the most robust parameters in the classification of the groups. Preliminary results confirm our hypothesis and point out to significant acoustic and perceptual differences between groups, such as: i) lower speech rate, ii) lower consonantal, syllabic and melodic variability, dispersion, and modulation produced by the Brazilian speakers, as well as a normal distribution between the classes of parameters. Even preliminarily, this study comes to fill a gap on studies of L2 experimental prosody in Brazil.

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