Document Type

Dissertation

Publication Date

Spring 5-28-2004

Abstract

This dissertation examines training methodology for improving native English speakers’ comprehension of foreign-accented speech. The training tasks, imitating and paraphrasing accented speech, were developed out of theoretical considerations about bottom-up and top-down processes in speech perception. Paraphrasing speech encourages a focus on the meaning and leads to practice of top-down processing, whereas imitating speech promotes attention to the accented pronunciation and allows practice of bottom-up processing. Additionally, the tasks support active, implicit learning. Results show an improvement in the comprehension of accented speech after about an hour of training. The imitation task primarily improves understanding of relatively short, decontextualized utterances with few semantic and syntactic cues, which suggests that attention to accented pronunciation helps with perception of discrete segments of speech. In contrast, the paraphrase task tends to improve perception of longer speech samples, implying that attention to meaning may be more beneficial for comprehension of conversational speech. There is evidence that training is durable and transferable, but the exact nature of its durability and transferability needs to be explored in future experiments.

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