, Volume 63, Issue 3, pp 501-513

Strength of German accent under altered auditory feedback


Borden’s (1979, 1980) hypothesis that speakers with vulnerable speech systems rely more heavily on feedback monitoring than do speakers with less vulnerable systems was investigated. The second language (L2) of a speaker is vulnerable, in comparison with the native language, so alteration to feedback should have a detrimental effect on it, according to this hypothesis. Here, we specifically examined whether altered auditory feedback has an effect on accent strength when speakers speak L2. There were three stages in the experiment. First, 6 German speakers who were fluent in English (their L2) were recorded under six conditions—normal listening, amplified voice level, voice shifted in frequency, delayed auditory feedback, and slowed and accelerated speech rate conditions. Second, judges were trained to rate accent strength. Training was assessed by whether it was successful in separating German speakers speaking English from native English speakers, also speaking English. In the final stage, the judges ranked recordings of each speaker from the first stage as to increasing strength of German accent. The results show that accents were more pronounced under frequency-shifted and delayed auditory feedback conditions than under normal or amplified feedback conditions. Control tests were done to ensure that listeners were judging accent, rather than fluency changes caused by altered auditory feedback. The findings are discussed in terms of Borden’s hypothesis and other accounts about why altered auditory feedback disrupts speech control.

This research was supported by a grant to the first author from the Wellcome Trust.