The Effects of Cognates, Word Frequency, and Listeners’ Language Experience on Accented Speech Perception
Past research focused on accented speech perception demonstrated that nonnative speakers who speak a particular language with foreign accent often times could be stigmatized and be perceived as incompetent, even though accents do not necessarily hinder efficient communication. The purpose of this study is to explore different aspects that could possibly influence listeners’ perception of accented speech, including listeners’ overall language experience, word frequency, and cognate status of words. A total of 47 listeners participated in this online study, which included a group of monolingual English listeners and a group of L1 Spanish/L2 English listeners. Listeners in both groups transcribed a total of 106 English words read by 3 native English talkers and 3 native Spanish talkers with moderate Spanish. Thereafter, listeners rated their perceived accentedness level of each talker and completed two questionnaires about their personal language experience and language use in their predominant social groups. I hypothesized that all listeners would have similar transcription accuracy for the unaccented words and that Spanish listeners would have higher accuracy than English listeners for accented words. Results revealed that English listeners overall had higher accuracy than Spanish listeners for both accented and unaccented words. I also hypothesized that high frequency words in general would enhance accuracy, which was confirmed. However, in contrast to our hypothesis, listeners transcribed noncognates more accurately than cognates. With regards to listeners’ accentedness ratings of Spanish and English talkers, Spanish listeners rated unaccented words to be more heavily accented compared to English listeners’ rating, whereas English listeners rated accented words to be more heavily accented compared to Spanish listeners’ rating.