What Makes Spanish-Accented English Sound Spanish-Accented? Acoustic Measures and Listener Cues

Amee P Shah


This study aimed to understand which acoustic parameters of Spanish-accented English are correlated with listeners’ perception of Spanish-accentedness. Temporal differences were analyzed in multisyllabic target words spoken in sentences by 22 Spanish speakers of English and five native speakers of American English (AE). Recordings were presented to AE listeners who judged the degree of accentedness on a 9-point scale. Spearman rank order correlation showed that the listeners’ ratings of degree of accentedness in sentences correlated strongly (r= +0.82) with those in words. Listeners’ ratings of accentedness correlated in varying degrees with various temporal measures, namely Overall word durations (+0.04 to +0.56), Stressed/unstressed vowel duration ratios (–0.01 to +0.35), Voice Onset Time of stops (+0.26 to +0.36), and, closure duration (+0.29 to +0.59). Results suggest that Spanish-accented English is characterized by systematic temporal differences from native AE, and that these temporal differences contribute to the perception of accentedness. Implications of findings in improving theoretical understanding and applied practices are discussed.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5296/ijl.v11i6.15815

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