Phonetic Training Significantly Mitigates the Stress ‘Deafness’ of French Speakers

Angela C. Carpenter


Stress ‘deafness’ refers to the inconsistent perception and/or processing of phonological stress by speakers of fixed stress languages such as French. This paper briefly reports on the results of a study in which French and English participants performed an ABX word stress task, similar to Dupoux et al.’s (1997) Experiment 1. One group of French and a group of English speakers received phonetic training designed to improve perception while two other groups of French and English speakers received no training. The training was an adaptation of the perceptual fading technique, which exposes listeners to stressed syllables that exaggerate the durational correlate of stress, then gradually reduces the durations of subsequent stressed syllables to increase participants’ overall ability to accurately perceive stressed syllables. The trained French group performed significantly better than the untrained group with fewer errors and lower response times. As expected there was no difference in accuracy between the trained and untrained English groups. We argue that by exaggerating the duration cue for stress, the phonetic training led to increased overall perception, perhaps even beginning to build an abstract phonological representation of stress that was then carried into the ABX task. Although trained on artificially manipulated stimuli, participants were able to perform well on naturally-produced novel stimuli.

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International Journal of Linguistics  ISSN 1948-5425  Email:

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