Suprasegmental measures of accentedness and judgments of language learner proficiency in oral english

Okim Kang, Don Rubin, Lucy Pickering

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

183 Scopus citations


In high-stakes oral proficiency testing as well as in everyday encounters, accent is the most salient aspect of nonnative speech. Prior studies of English language learners' (ELLs') pronunciation have focused on single parameters of English, such as vowel duration, fundamental frequency as related to intonation, or temporal measures of speech production. The present study addresses a constellation of suprasegmental characteristics of nonnative speakers of accented English, combining indices of speech rate, pause, and intonation. It examines relations between those acoustic measures of accentedness and listeners' impressions of second-language oral proficiency. Twenty-six speech samples elicited from iBT TOEFL® examinees were analyzed using a KayPENTAX Computerized Speech Laboratory. Monolingual U.S. undergraduates (n = 188) judged the speakers' oral proficiency and comprehensibility. A multiple regression analysis revealed the individual and joint predictiveness of each of the suprasegmental measures. The innovative aspect of this study lies in the fact that the multiple features of accentedness were measured via instrumentation rather than being rated by judges who may, themselves, be subject to rating biases. The suprasegmental measures collectively accounted for 50% of the variance in oral proficiency and comprehensibility ratings, even without taking into consideration other aspects of oral performance or of rater predilections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)554-566
Number of pages13
JournalModern Language Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


Dive into the research topics of 'Suprasegmental measures of accentedness and judgments of language learner proficiency in oral english'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this