Eric Pelzl (Penn State) – Investigating foreign-accented speech in a tonal language
October 30, 2020
9:00 am
ZOOM Virtual Room (Link will be provided)

Eric Pelzl (Penn State) – Investigating foreign-accented speech in a tonal language

Investigating foreign-accented speech in a tonal language

People who learn new languages as adults usually speak with some degree of foreign accent. Accented speech, however, does not necessarily cause problems for listeners, especially if they have time to get familiar with the speaker and their accent. Most research on foreign-accented speech has focused on segmental features, that is, the consonant and vowel sounds that are affected by accent. Dr. Eric Pelzl and his collaborators are building on such work to address foreign-accented speech in lexical tone languages, with particular focus on Mandarin Chinese.

Frequent tone errors are broadly recognized as a hallmark of foreign accent in adult second language Mandarin speech. A somewhat distinctive quality of second language tone errors is that they are often unsystematic, that is, where and how the errors will occur in speech is largely unpredictable. Listeners cannot be certain what words will have errors, nor can they be certain of what tone will replace the appropriate one. To the degree that tone errors are unsystematic, listeners may have no effective way to adapt to them. Dr. Pelzl will share recent and ongoing studies in which he and his collaborators tested whether listeners might learn to simply ignore all tones from a foreign-accented speaker, and whether there are more subtle ways in which tone errors might interfere with accent adaptation. He will consider implications of this work for theories of speech perception and word recognition, as well as possible practical take-aways for tone language teaching.