The Effects of Accent Familiarity and Language Attitudes on Perceived English Proficiency and Accentedness




Carnicle, Jocelyn
Huang, Becky

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Office of the Vice President for Research


If accents are a permanent indicator of difference, to what degree do our accents determine how we are perceived by others? The goal of this project was to examine the relationship between raters' accent familiarity, attitudes toward non-native accents, and their judgments of non-native speech. This project was designed to extend the Huang, Alegre, & Eisenberg (2016) study with several methodological improvements. The study included five groups of raters who vary in their familiarity with Korean and Arabic accents (No Familiarity, Korean Heritage Raters, Korean Non-Heritage Raters, Arabic Heritage Raters, Arabic Non-Heritage Raters). There were 10 raters in each group (n = 50), and all participants consisted of undergraduate or graduate students who were born in the U.S. or immigrated to the U.S. before the age of twelve. Participants listened to 24 speech samples selected from Educational Testing Service's TOEFL iBT public database, and rated each sample on magnitudes of perceived proficiency and accentedness. After rating the speech samples, participants completed a survey on their demographic background information, attitudes toward accents, rating tendency, and beliefs/perceived cultural factors. Finally, two participants from each group were randomly selected to participate in a face-to-face think-aloud follow-up study to discuss their cognitive processes during rating. Because foreign accents can be subject to negative perceptions and linguistic profiling, understanding the potential sources of biases is critical for removing such biases and improving human communication and interactions.





Modern Languages and Literacy