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The Impact of Segmental Accuracy on Intelligibility

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Title:The Impact of Segmental Accuracy on Intelligibility
Authors:Na, In Young
foreign accent
segmental errors
Korean speakers of English
Date Issued:02 Apr 2021
Abstract:Intelligibility over nativeness has been increasingly argued as an appropriate goal for
second language (L2) pronunciation teaching (Levis, 2005), yet relatively little is known about
the phonological factors that make a nonnative speaker’s speech intelligible. Previous studies on
the impact of nonnative English speakers’ segmental (i.e., consonants and vowels) pronunciation
accuracy on listeners’ level of actual understanding (i.e., intelligibility) are relatively limited,
compared to that of suprasegmental features such as stress and intonation. Therefore, the current
study examined the relationship between segmental accuracy (in terms of target segments in
minimal pairs) and listener-based intelligibility (i.e., rate of accurate word identification across
listeners). Eight native-English listeners were assigned to complete a minimal-pairs forcedchoice
task recorded by twenty Korean EFL learners. The results showed substantial and
negative correlations between segmental accuracy and listener-based intelligibility. Vowel errors
were linked to lower intelligibility overall, but the negative correlation between consonant errors
and intelligibility was stronger. Some sounds were not substituted/produced erroneously by the
speakers, yet still posed intelligibility problems to native listeners. Descriptive analyses of
individual contrasts indicate target phonemes most often misperceived by native listeners. These
findings will help make specific pedagogical recommendations for the teaching of English
Appears in Collections: MA and AGC Scholarly Papers

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