The Influence of Semantic Context on the Perception of Spanish-Accented American English PurposeIn this article, the authors examine (a) the effect of semantic context on accentedness, comprehensibility, and intelligibility of Spanish-accented American English (AE) as judged by monolingual AE listeners and (b) the interaction of semantic context and accentedness on comprehensibility and intelligibility.MethodTwenty adult native (L1) Spanish speakers proficient in AE and ... Article
Article  |   October 01, 2013
The Influence of Semantic Context on the Perception of Spanish-Accented American English
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Alison Behrman
    Iona College, New Rochelle, NY
  • Ali Akhund
    Hunter College, New York, NY
  • Correspondence to Alison Behrman: abehrman@iona.edu
  • Editor: Jody Kreiman
    Editor: Jody Kreiman×
  • Associate Editor: Ewa Jacewicz
    Associate Editor: Ewa Jacewicz×
Article Information
Special Populations / Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / Speech
Article   |   October 01, 2013
The Influence of Semantic Context on the Perception of Spanish-Accented American English
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, October 2013, Vol. 56, 1567-1578. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2013/12-0192)
History: Received June 21, 2012 , Revised October 20, 2012 , Accepted February 28, 2013
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, October 2013, Vol. 56, 1567-1578. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2013/12-0192)
History: Received June 21, 2012; Revised October 20, 2012; Accepted February 28, 2013
Web of Science® Times Cited: 3

PurposeIn this article, the authors examine (a) the effect of semantic context on accentedness, comprehensibility, and intelligibility of Spanish-accented American English (AE) as judged by monolingual AE listeners and (b) the interaction of semantic context and accentedness on comprehensibility and intelligibility.

MethodTwenty adult native (L1) Spanish speakers proficient in AE and 4 L1 AE speakers (controls) read 48 statements consisting of true–false, semantically meaningful, and semantically anomalous sentences. Eighty monolingual AE listeners assessed accentedness, comprehensibility, and intelligibility of the statements.

ResultsA significant main effect was found for semantic category on all 3 dependent variables. Accents were perceived to be stronger, and both comprehensibility and intelligibility were worse, in semantically anomalous contexts. Speaker data were grouped into strong, mid-level, and mild accents. The interaction between semantic category and accent was significant for both comprehensibility and intelligibility. The effect of semantic context was strongest for strong accents. Intelligibility was excellent for speakers with mid-level accents in true–false and semantically meaningful contexts, and it was excellent for mild accents in all contexts.

ConclusionsListeners access semantic information, in addition to phonetic and phonotactic features, in the perception of nonnative speech. Both accent level and semantic context are important in research on foreign-accented speech.

Acknowledgments
The participants are gratefully acknowledged. Special thanks to the first author's undergraduate research assistants for their contributions to data acquisition: Allegra Bello, Alyssa Calvosa, Patricia Calvosa, Amanda DiCicco, Sophia Gil, Kathleen McGrath, and Amanda Scheriff.
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