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The effect of perceived ethnicity on spoken text comprehension under clear and adverse listening conditions

Adriana Hanulíková
From the journal Linguistics Vanguard

Abstract

Social information such as ethnicity affects metalinguistic judgments, speech perception and evaluation. This study tested whether previously reported negative effects of perceived East-Asian ethnicity on language comprehension and accentedness ratings would also be found for Moroccan ethnicity and in a socio-cultural environment with a population used to being and communicating with nonnative speakers. The results showed that accentedness ratings and comprehension scores do not depend upon the ethnicity of the speaker. We then tested whether the effect would change under adverse listening conditions and found an effect of perceived ethnicity on accentedness ratings but not on comprehension scores, suggesting that the effect of ethnicity on language comprehension is not altered under adverse listening conditions. Effects of ethnicity on accentedness ratings thus replicate previous findings, but only under suboptimal listening conditions. Although the effect of ethnicity on comprehension was not replicated in regards to Moroccan ethnicity and in a linguistically experienced population, negative correlations between accentedness ratings and the corresponding comprehension scores underlie the contribution of listeners’ characteristics to the comprehension and evaluation of nonnative speech.

Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Laurence Bruggeman for assistance in testing participants and Frank Eisner for help with voice manipulations and for comments on previous versions of this manuscript. This research was presented at the Cognitive Science Conference in Berlin, 2013. This research was funded by the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Germany, and FRIAS.

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Received: 2017-06-06
Accepted: 2017-09-01
Published Online: 2018-02-13

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