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    Second language comprehensibility revisited: investigating the effects of learner background

    Crowther, D. and Trofimovich, P. and Saito, Kazuya and Isaacs, T. (2015) Second language comprehensibility revisited: investigating the effects of learner background. TESOL Quarterly 49 (4), pp. 814-837. ISSN 0039-8322.

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    The current study investigated first language (L1) effects on listener judgment of comprehensibility and accentedness in second language (L2) speech. The participants were 45 university-level adult speakers of English from three L1 backgrounds (Chinese, Hindi, Farsi), performing a picture narrative task. Ten native English listeners used continuous sliding scales to evaluate the speakers’ audio recordings for comprehensibility, accentedness, as well as 10 linguistic variables drawn from the domains of pronunciation, fluency, lexis, grammar, and discourse. While comprehensibility was associated with several linguistic variables (segmentals, prosody, fluency, lexis, grammar), accentedness was primarily linked to pronunciation (segmentals, word stress, intonation). The relative strength of these associations also varied as a function of the speakers’ L1, especially for comprehensibility, with Chinese speakers influenced chiefly by pronunciation variables (segmental errors), Hindi speakers by lexicogrammar variables, and Farsi speakers showing no strong association with any linguistic variable. Results overall suggest that speakers’ L1 plays an important role in listener judgments of L2 comprehensibility and that instructors aiming to promote L2 speakers’ communicative success may need to expand their teaching targets beyond segmentals to include prosody-, fluency-, and lexicogrammar-based targets.


    Item Type: Article
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): Comprehensibility, accentedness, L1 Influence, pronunciation learning
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Creative Arts, Culture and Communication
    Depositing User: Kazuya Saito
    Date Deposited: 04 Nov 2015 12:43
    Last Modified: 09 Aug 2023 12:37


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