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Applied Linguistics Review

Editor-in-Chief: Wei, Li

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IMPACT FACTOR 2017: 1.286

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1868-6311
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Rethinking perceptions of fluency

Anja Marie Dressler / Mary Grantham O’BrienORCID iD: http://orcid.org/0000-0001-5873-4013
Published Online: 2017-10-31 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/applirev-2017-0026

Abstract

The term “fluency” is used in two different ways in relation to second language speech. Whereas laypeople often equate fluency with proficiency in a given language, researchers define fluency as a speaker’s ease or fluidity in producing spoken language at a specific time point. This discrepancy in definitions has been problematic, especially when relying on ratings provided by naïve raters. This study seeks to determine whether “fluency” ratings differ from “fluidity” ratings assigned to 48 speech stimuli produced by native and non-native speakers of German. Samples were rated by participants from three distinct listener groups: native German listeners, second language (L2) German listeners, and non-speakers of German. On the surface, results reveal no significant differences along the two continua (“fluency” or “fluidity”). All groups rated native speakers as more fluent, and second language listeners were harshest in their ratings. Nonetheless, L2 listeners who rated speech samples along the “fluency” scale relied upon speech measures not associated with ease of speaking when compared with L2 listeners who rated the same samples for “fluidity.” Although listeners in all groups were most sensitive to speakers’ speech rate and use of filled pauses, native listeners and non-speakers relied more on temporal measures when they rated speech along the “fluidity” scale. These combined results thus indicate that “fluidity” may be the better term to use in future research relying on naïve listeners’ ratings of perceived fluency.

Keywords: fluency ratings; fluidity ratings; German as a second language; speech measures; rater background

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About the article

Published Online: 2017-10-31


University of Calgary PURE Award.


Citation Information: Applied Linguistics Review, ISSN (Online) 1868-6311, ISSN (Print) 1868-6303, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/applirev-2017-0026.

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