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Eger, Nikola Anna and Reinisch, Eva (2019): THE ROLE OF ACOUSTIC CUES AND LISTENER PROFICIENCY IN THE PERCEPTION OF ACCENT IN NONNATIVE SOUNDS. In: Studies in Second Language Acquisition, Vol. 41, No. 1: pp. 179-200

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The speech of second language learners is often influenced by phonetic patterns of their first language. This can make them difficult to understand, but sometimes for listeners of the same first language to a lesser extent than for native listeners. The present study investigates listeners' awareness of the accent by asking whether accented speech is not only more intelligible but also more acceptable to nonnative than native listeners. English native speakers and German learners rated the goodness of words spoken by other German learners. Production quality was determined by measuring acoustic differences between minimal pairs with "easy" versus "difficult" sounds. Higher proficient learners were more sensitive to differences in production quality and between easy and difficult sounds, patterning with native listeners. Lower proficient learners did not perceive such differences. Perceiving accented productions as good instances of L2 words may hinder development because the need for improvement may not be obvious.

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