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The relative contribution of segments and intonation to the perception of foreign-accented speech



The present study examines the relative impact of segments and intonation on accentedness, comprehensibility, and intelligibility, specifically investigating the separate contribution of segmental and intonational information to perceived foreign accent in Korean-accented English. Two English speakers and two Korean speakers recorded 40 English sentences. The sentences were manipulated by combining segments from one speaker with intonation (fundamental frequency contour and duration) from another speaker. Four versions of each sentence were created: one English control (English segments and English intonation), one Korean control (Korean segments and Korean intonation), and two Korean–English combinations (one with English segments and Korean intonation; the other with Korean segments and English intonation). Forty native English speakers transcribed the sentences for intelligibility and rated their comprehensibility and accentedness. The data show that segments had a significant effect on accentedness, comprehensibility, and intelligibility, but intonation only had an effect on intelligibility. Contrary to previous studies, the present study, separating segments from intonation, suggests that segmental information contributes substantially more to the perception of foreign accentedness than intonation. Native speakers seem to rely mainly on segments when determining foreign accentedness.


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ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE Joan Sereno, 425 Blake Hall, 1541 Lilac Lane, Linguistics Department, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66045. E-mail:


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