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Jan Volín, Mária Uhrinová and Radek Skarnitzl

Abstract

The study investigates the impact of glottal elements before word-initial vowels on the speed of processing of the phrases taken from natural continuous speech. In many languages a word beginning with a vowel can be preceded by a glottal stop or a short period of creaky voice. However, languages differ in the extent of use and functions of this glottalization: it may be used to mark the word boundary, for instance, or to add special prominence to the word. The aim of the experiment was to find out whether the presence of the glottal element can influence reaction times in a word-monitoring paradigm. Users of different languages - Slovak and Czech learners of English, as well as native speakers of English - were participating in perception testing so that the influence of the mother tongue could be determined. The results confirm the effect of both glottalization and the L1 of the listeners. In addition, a significant effect of test item manipulations was found. Although the phrases with added or deleted glottal stops displayed no obvious acoustic artefacts, they produced longer reaction times than items with naturally present or absent glottalizations. We believe that this finding underlines the importance of inherent stress patterns, whose alterations lead to the increase in processing load.

Open access

Radek Skarnitzl and Pavel Šturm

Abstract

This study focuses on the production and perception of English words with a fortis vs. lenis obstruent in the syllable coda. The contrast is mostly cued by the duration of the preceding vowel, which is shorter before fortis than before lenis sounds in native speech. In the first experiment we analyzed the production of 10 Czech speakers of English and compared them to two native controls. The results showed that the Czech speakers did not sufficiently exploit duration to cue the identity of the word-final obstruent. In the second experiment we manipulated C and V durations in target words to transplant the native ratios onto the Czech-accented speech, enhancing the fortis-lenis contrast, and vice versa. 108 listeners took part in a word-monitoring task in which reaction times were measured. The hypothesized advantage to items in which the target word (with a fortis or lenis obstruent) was semantically congruent with the following context was not confirmed, and subsequent analyses showed that the words’ frequency of use and the collocations they enter into strongly affect speech processing and correlate to a large degree with the reaction times.

Open access

Dagmar Hanzlíková and Radek Skarnitzl

Abstract

This study reports on research stimulated by Lev-Ari and Keysar (2010) who showed that native listeners find statements delivered by foreign-accented speakers to be less true than those read by native speakers. Our objective was to replicate the study with non-native listeners to see whether this effect is also relevant in international communication contexts. The same set of statements from the original study was recorded by 6 native and 6 nonnative speakers of English. 121 non-native listeners rated the truthfulness of the statements on a 7-point scale. The results of our study tentatively do confirm a negative bias against non-native speakers as perceived by non-native listeners, showing that subconscious attitudes to language varieties are also relevant in communication among non-native speakers.

Open access

Radek Skarnitzl and Pavel Šturm

Abstract

Czech and English are languages which differ with respect to the implementation of voicing. Unlike in English, there is a considerable agreement between phonological (systemic) and phonetic (actual) voicing in Czech, and, more importantly, the two languages have different strategies for the assimilation of voicing across the word boundary. The present study investigates the voicing in word-final obstruents in Czech speakers of English with the specific aim of ascertaining whether the degree of the speakers’ foreign accent correlates with the way they treat English obstruents in assimilatory contexts. L2 speakers, divided into three groups of varying accentedness, were examined employing categorization and a voicing profile method for establishing the presence/absence of voicing. The results suggest that speakers with a different degree of Czech accent do differ in their realization of voicing in the way predicted by a negative transfer of assimilatory habits from Czech.

Open access

Jan Volín, Kristýna Poesová and Radek Skarnitzl

Abstract

The perennial question as to how perceived otherness in speech projects into listener assessment of one’s personality has been systematically investigated within the field of foreign accentedness, vocal communication of affective states and vocal stereotyping. In the present study, we aimed at exploring non-native listeners’ capacity to respond to differences in natural and modified native speech, particularly whether the manipulation of temporal structure in both stressed and unstressed syllables gives rise to any changes in the perception of the speaker’s personality. The respondents’ intuitive judgements were captured in the domain of the ‘nervousness category’ taken from the five-factor model of personality. Our results indicate an effect of temporal modifications on the listeners’ judgements. Analysis of variance for repeated measures confirmed a highly significant shift of personality evaluations towards the undesired traits (e.g., nervousness, anxiety, querulousness). Several interesting interactions with the semantic contents of the utterances and with the intrinsic qualities of the speakers’ voices were also found. We argue that the effects of accented speech go beyond conscious willingness to accept “otherness” and suggest a method for studying them.

Open access

Jan Volín, Lenka Weingartová and Radek Skarnitzl

Abstract

The English central mid lax vowel (i.e., schwa) often contributes considerably to the sound differences between native and non-native speech. Many foreign speakers of English fail to reduce certain underlying vowels to schwa, which, on the suprasegmental level of description, affects the perceived rhythm of their speech. However, the problem of capturing quantitatively the differences between native and non-native schwa poses difficulties that, to this day, have been tackled only partially. We offer a technique of measurement in the acoustic domain that has not been probed properly as yet: the distribution of acoustic energy in the vowel spectrum. Our results show that spectral slope features measured in weak vowels discriminate between Czech and British speakers of English quite reliably. Moreover, the measurements of formant bandwidths turned out to be useful for the same task, albeit less direct