Requests for reprints may be sent to the author at Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, The George Washington University, 625 Gelman Library, Washington, DC 20052.
Foreign Accents Revisited: The English Pronunciation of Russian Immigrants*
Article first published online: 27 OCT 2006
© 1991 Language Learning Research Club, University of Michigan
Volume 41, Issue 2, pages 177–204, June 1991
How to Cite
Thompson, I. (1991), Foreign Accents Revisited: The English Pronunciation of Russian Immigrants. Language Learning, 41: 177–204. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-1770.1991.tb00683.x
- Issue published online: 27 OCT 2006
- Article first published online: 27 OCT 2006
This study investigated factors associated with the acquisition of L2 pronunciation and methodological problems associated with the study of foreign accents. Thirty-six native speakers of Russian fluent in English read specially constructed English sentences and a prose passage, and talked spontaneously about their daily routine. They also filled out background and attitude questionnaires. The three speech samples were rated for accentedness by linguistically inexperienced native speakers of English representing “the person in the street” and by language experts. The best model of pronunciation accuracy included Age at Arrival in the U.S., Sex, Ability to Mimic, and Global Speaking Proficiency in English. Sentences “seeded” with difficult sounds were judged to be more accented than was spontaneous speech. Experienced raters were more reliable and more lenient in their assessments of accent than were inexperienced ones. Subjects who came to the U.S. between the ages of 4 and 10 years were judged to have a slight foreign accent. Results suggest that factors which affect the acquisition of L2 pronunciation depend on type of primary exposure to L2, and that perception of a foreign accent depends on language samples presented for judgment and on the linguistic experience of listeners. The study also raises the possibility that the acquisition of fully accentless speech in L2 may not be possible if L1 is maintained at a high level of proficiency, no matter how young the age at which the individual started to acquire the second language.