The effect of speech rhythm and speaking rate on assessment of pronunciation in a second language
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Polyanskaya, L., & Ordin, M. (2019). The effect of speech rhythm and speaking rate on assessment of pronunciation in a second language. Applied Psycholinguistics, 40(3), 795-819. doi:10.1017/S0142716419000067
The study explores the effect of deviations from native speech rhythm and rate norms on the assessement of pronunciation mastery of a second language (L2) when the native language of the learner is either rhythmically similar to or different from the target language. Using the concatenative speech synthesis technique, different versions of the same sentence were created in order to produce segmentally and intonationally identical utterances that differed only in rhythmic patterns and/or speaking rate. Speech rhythm and tempo patterns modeled those from the speech of French or German native learners of English at different proficiency levels. Native British English speakers rated the original sentences and the synthesized utterances for accentedness. The analysis shows that (a) differences in speech rhythm and speaking tempo influence the perception of accentedness; (b) idiosyncratic differences in speech rhythm and speech rate are sufficient to differentiate between the proficiency levels of L2 learners; (c) the relative salience of rhythm and rate on perceived accentedness in L2 speech is modulated by the native language of the learners; and (d) intonation facilitates the perception of finer differences in speech rhythm between otherwise identical utterances. These results emphasize the importance of prosodic timing patterns for the perception of speech delivered by L2 learners.