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Speaker and listener variability in the perception of non-native speech

Kermad, Alyssa Anne Digirolamo (2018) Speaker and listener variability in the perception of non-native speech. Doctoral thesis, Northern Arizona University.

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With the ever-increasing demands for success in second language (L2) English speech, applied linguistics research has been critical to uncovering important characteristics for communication in a global world where non-native English speakers (NNSs) must interact with a variety of interlocuters in many different contexts (i.e., English as a second language (ESL), English as a foreign language, English as a lingua franca. Yet speaking skills, especially pronunciation, are known to vary greatly from one learner to another. Furthermore, the way in which listeners perceive non-native speech is also known to vary from one listener to another. Therefore, the success of the L2 speaker-listener interaction can be impacted by how speech is produced by the speaker and how speech is perceived by the listener. Focusing on this L2 speaker-listener interaction, the current dissertation accounts for sources of both speaker and listener variability vis-à-vis non-native speech. Speaker variability was explored through individual differences (IDs) of motivation, aptitude, anxiety, and language contact. Listener variability was investigated via a listener’s novice/trained status. Twenty NNSs in an ESL context were recruited. Data collected from the NNSs included a speech sample; survey responses for motivation, anxiety, and language contact; and production tests of non-word repetition. The speech samples were instrumentally analyzed for segmental deviations and measures of rate, pausing, stress, pitch, and intonation. Sixty native English-speaking listeners were divided into two groups of 30—a novice group who rated the non-native speech impressionistically, and a trained group who underwent evidence-informed, construct training and calibration. The novice group provided their impressionistic ratings using 5-point impressionistic scales for accentedness, comprehensibility, and intelligibility, and the trained listener group used evidence-based rubrics to rate the same speech criteria. For speaker variability, hierarchical multiple regression analyses showed that IDs predicted large portions of variability (50-86%) in segmental and suprasegmental performance. Motivation and aptitude were associated with higher-proficiency pronunciation performance, while anxiety had a debilitative effect. Non-interactive language contact had a positive effect on L2 fluency, while interactive language contact was associated with more monotonous speech patterns. IDs did not have a predictive effect on Dynamic Prosody, reinforcing the need for pronunciation instruction of pitch and intonation. For listener variability, differences in novice and trained listeners were compared using indices from Multi-Faceted Rasch Measurement (MFRM). While both groups rated accentedness most severely, novice listeners displayed fundamental deficiencies with respect to their rating behavior. Additional multiple regression analyses revealed that novice listeners’ ratings were influenced by smaller portions of trait-relevant variance, and overly influenced by fluency-related speech phenomenon. Finally, multiple regression analyses further confirmed the effect of IDs (motivation, aptitude, anxiety, and language contact) on speakers’ accentedness, comprehensibility, and intelligibility for both novice and trained listeners, with a consistent effect from motivation and aptitude. Implications of these results advance areas of L2 acquisition, pedagogy, speech perception, pronunciation, and assessment.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Publisher’s Statement: © Copyright is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the Cline Library, Northern Arizona University. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PE English
NAU Depositing Author Academic Status: Student
Department/Unit: Graduate College > Theses and Dissertations
College of Arts and Letters > English
Date Deposited: 05 May 2021 20:05
URI: http://openknowledge.nau.edu/id/eprint/5444

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