Nonlinguistic Factors that Affect the Degree of Foreign Accent in Second Language Mandarin

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Previous research findings have established that a number of nonlinguistic factors can influence the strength of perceived foreign accent in second language (L2) speech. However, the majority of past studies have predominantly considered foreign accent of Indo-European languages, notably English. Therefore, it remains unknown whether the same factors influence foreign accent in other languages, such as Mandarin. This article reports findings from a study on nonlinguistic factors affecting the degree of foreign accent in Mandarin as an L2. Seventy L2 learners of Mandarin Chinese recorded speech samples and completed language background questionnaires. Speech samples were rated by 15 native Mandarin speakers for the degree of foreign accent on a 9-point Likert scale. Stepwise multiple regression analysis resulted in a 3-predictor model of pronunciation accuracy: self-rating of foreign accent, Hànyǔ Shuǐpíng Kǎoshì (HSK) proficiency level, and motivational reasons. Results suggest that (1) foreign accent in L2 Mandarin may not be affected by the same factors as in previous L2 accent studies and (2) the concepts of accentedness and comprehensibility may be more intricately linked in lexical tone languages such as Mandarin, in comparison to nontonal languages. These findings have wider implications for the field of L2 acquisition, which is dominated by studies of L2 English.

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