Thesis

Social factors influencing foreign accent

This study investigates the relationships which exist between the degree of foreign accent present in the speech of a group of Hispanic immigrants and nine variables in the areas of education, motivation and life experience. The amount of accent was determined by rating taped speech samples obtained while the subjects performed three tasks which represented three different levels of formality of speech styles. The first and most formal task was the reading of a word list, the second, less formal, task was the reading of a series of short stories, and the third, most informal task, was a brief spontaneous talk on a subject of the speaker’s choice. The first two samples of pronunciation were analyzed by the investigator, and the informal talks were rated by two groups of native English-speaking judges. These four ratings of accent served as the dependent variables which were then correlated with the following nine independent variables: age of arrival in the U.S.; length of residence in the U.S.; amount of English spoken at home, at work or school, and with friends; age formal study of English began; number of years of formal study of English; amount of integrative and of instrumental motivation. The correlational analysis showed the variables which were significantly related to pronunciation were: age at arrival, amount of English spoken at home, at work or school, and with friends. There were also a significant relationship between the degree of accent and the number of years of formal instruction and the amount of integrative motivation. However, in the two latter instances, the variables were inversely related. No significant relationship was found between pronunciation and length of residence, the age formal instruction began or the amount of instrumental motivation.

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