The Acoustic Correlates of Stress-Shifting Suffixes in Native and Nonnative English: Some Preliminary Findings

  • Paul R. Keyworth (St. Cloud State University)


Although laboratory phonology techniques have been widely used to discover the interplay between the acoustic correlates of English Lexical Stress (ELS) – fundamental frequency, duration, and intensity - studies on ELS in polysyllabic words are rare, and cross-linguistic acoustic studies in this area are even rarer. Consequently, the effects of language experience on L2 lexical stress acquisition are not clear. This investigation of adult Arabic (Saudi Arabian) and Mandarin (Mainland Chinese) speakers analyzes their ELS production in tokens with seven different stress-shifting suffixes. Stress productions are then systematically analyzed and compared with those of speakers of Midwest American English using the acoustic phonetic software, Praat. In total, one hundred subjects participated in the study, spread evenly across the three language groups. Nonnative speakers completed a sociometric survey prior to recording so that statistical sampling techniques could be used to evaluate acquisition of accurate ELS production. The speech samples of native speakers were analyzed to provide norm values for cross-reference and to provide insights into the relative salience hierarchy of the three acoustic correlates of stress. The results support the notion that differences in lexical stress production in varieties of L2 English can be directly attributed to differences in the L1 sound system; hence, nonnative ratios of the acoustic cues lead to accented speech. Furthermore, the findings suggest that native-like command of ELS can be acquired by proficient L2 learners via increased L2 input.

How to Cite:

Keyworth, P. R., (2013) “The Acoustic Correlates of Stress-Shifting Suffixes in Native and Nonnative English: Some Preliminary Findings”, Pronunciation in Second Language Learning and Teaching Proceedings 5(1).

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Published on
31 Dec 2013